Reversing PTSD with Mindfulness

By Dorian Martin for Jennyoga

The term post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) has been in the nation’s vernacular for a while, thanks to movies such as American Sniper, Saving Private Ryan, Born on the Fourth of July, Forest Gump, The Deer Hunter and Coming Home. While these films’ focus on the mental and emotional health of our military veterans is important, PTSD’s grasp actually extends far beyond those tested in war situations.

PTSD’s Prevalence in the U.S.

In fact, approximately 24.4 million Americans suffer from PTSD at any one time, according to PTSD United, Inc. That’s because 70 percent of all U.S. adults have experienced some form of traumatic event – such as rape, child abuse, spousal abuse, violent crime or natural disaster — at least once during their lifetime. Up to 20 percent of these adults will develop PTSD, which involves feeling greater stress or fright even when the person is no longer in danger. And contrary to what popular culture portrays, women are twice as likely as men to develop PTSD; approximately one in nine women suffer from this condition.

PTSD and Yoga

While the main treatments include psychotherapy, medication or a combination of both, researchers are starting to find that a regular practice of yoga may benefit people with PTSD. For example, one small study in 2014 evaluated the effect of taking a 10-week trauma-informed yoga class on women who had chronic PTSD that wasn’t responding to treatment. The researchers’ analysis found that participating in this type of yoga statistically reduced PTSD symptoms. In fact, slightly more than half of the women in this study who were in the yoga group no longer met PTSD-diagnosis criteria by the study’s end.

Trauma-informed yoga, which is being pioneered at Houston’s Menninger Clinic, uses specific methods to create a safe environment in which participants make their own choices and, thus, regain control over their own bodies. For instance the teacher does not make hands-on adjustments without getting a participant’s permission since nonconsensual touch can trigger a PTSD episode. Yoga teachers also use specific words – “invited” instead of “instructed” and “form” instead of “pose” – that are more inclusive and less threatening. The classes also do not discuss the actual trauma that triggered the individual’s PTSD.

This approach also has implications for yoga classes that are not specifically tailored for PTSD patients. “When yoga teachers neglect to inform themselves about trauma phenomena they can inadvertently create signals that, to the student who has suffered a traumatic injury, are processed as danger,” Margaret Howard, a human trafficking policy advocate and mental health professional, wrote in a 2013 blog for The HuffingtonPost. “When that happens, the student can become ‘triggered’ — thrown into a physiological response to that perceived danger, because his or her body has been conditioned to respond that way by the traumatic event(s).”  Therefore, yoga instructors should be even more mindful of creating an inviting and safe environment for their students, some of whom may be quietly dealing with PTSD.

Primary Sources for This Blog:

Howard, M. (2013). Part I: Trauma Training Should Be Mandatory for Yoga Teachers. Huffington Post.

InspireMalibu.com. (ND). Here’s a List of 10 Films About PTSD.

Jones, J. (2015). ‘Trauma-Centered Yoga’ Helps Patients With PTSD and Chronic Pain. Houston Chronicle.

National Institute of Mental Health. (ND). Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.

Trauma Center at Justice Resource Institute. (ND). Yoga as a Complementary Treatment for Chronic PTSD.

Gratitude Leads To All Things Great

By Dorian Martin for Jennyoga

The holiday season often is a time spent expressing gratitude. The season of thanks begins this week as families and friends gather together around the Thanksgiving table to express gratitude. They often cite blessings such as strong familial relationships, good friends, jobs, homes and a sumptuous meal. Many people continue their focus on gratitude through December as part of celebrating the deep traditions of their religious faiths and cultures.

The regular practice of gratitude easily can extend beyond the holiday season and arguably is one that offers an immense return on the minimal time investment that it takes to maintain this practice throughout the year. For instance, researchers link a regular practice of gratitude to numerous emotional health outcomes, including greater happiness, more optimism, a greater appreciation of good experiences and the creation of strong bonds with others. This practice even boosts physical health, including fostering a stronger immune system and lowering blood pressure.

Interestingly, gratitude may come more naturally for some people. In a recent New York Times opinion column, Arthur C. Brooks points to research that indicates a genetic variation is associated with an individual’s ability to feel deeply grateful. However, we can also mindfully cultivate gratitude even if we don’t have a genetic predisposition toward thankfulness.

Developing a Gratitude Practice

Experts suggest a number of strategies that can help foster gratitude. These include:

– Meditation focused on gratitude. Jack Kornfield suggests focusing a meditation practice on gratitude in order to acknowledge the blessings and good fortune in our lives. He encourages individuals to focus their meditation on feeling how “year after year you have cared for your own life” and then think about the other parts of the world –a person, plant, animal or insect — that have enhanced your life. Kornfield notes that an increased focus on gratitude is linked to increased joy and an open heart.

– Write regular thank-you notes. Taking time to write detailed thank-you notes to acknowledge people who make a difference in your life can have a significant impact on happiness levels a month later. Furthermore, the potential health benefits expand if you deliver the letter in person and read it to the recipient. Not surprisingly, sending a thank-you note also can improve and deepen your relationship because the recipient understands his or her value to you.  

– Think about all that you’re grateful for at the end of each day. The Greater Good Science Center recommends spending 5-10 minutes each evening describing three positive things for the day as well as why you think they happened. Researchers have found that doing this exercise for one week leads to greater happiness during the following six months.

– Keep a gratitude journal. Writing in a journal about what you appreciate on a regular basis also can have a significant effect on your quality of life. These entries can include past events as well as anticipation of future blessings.

To achieve long-term health benefits from a gratitude practice, individuals need to make these efforts more than a seasonal occurrence. Incorporating different strategies can help keep your gratitude practice feeling fresh throughout the year – and can make you grateful for the benefits it brings to your life.

Sources for This Blog:

Braines, J. (2015). Four Great Gratitude Strategies. Greater Good Science Center, University of California Berkley.

Brooks, A. C. (2015). Choose to Be Grateful. It Will Make You Happier. New York Times.

Greater Good Science Center. (ND). Expanding the Science and Practice of Gratitude. University of California Berkley.

Harvard Mental Health Letter. (2011). In Praise of Gratitude.

Kornfield, J. (2014). Meditation on Gratitude and Joy.

Age – It Matters What You Think!

By Dorian Martin for Jennyoga

Western culture often doesn’t paint a pleasant picture of aging. Advertisements focus on incontinence, sexual dysfunction and plastic surgery while actresses are considered “over the hill” by the time they reach their 40s. And when older adults are featured in television shows or movies, their characters usually are used for some level of comic relief through showcasing their physical or mental decline.

Those cultural norms may have an even more devastating effect than we realize since researchers increasingly are finding that our views of aging influence how we physically and mentally age. In fact, The Wall Street Journal recently published an article that noted that if we think of aging as a time of decline, our health will follow suit. However, our bodies will respond with vigor if we believe that aging offers new adventures and opportunities to grow. In her recent book, “Goddesses Never Age,” Dr. Christiane Northrup noted that studies show that our perceptions of aging can have a greater effect on our longevity than low cholesterol, low blood pressure, low body mass index and not smoking.

So what are some of the ways you can counter aging? Here are three easy ways to fight this battle:

– Be aware of cultural messages about aging. Dr. Northrup recommends identifying and closing all cultural portals that disparage aging in order to embrace new ways to remain ageless. Her advice ranges from rejecting a merchant’s senior discount to reviewing one’s self-talk in order to root out disparaging thoughts and comments about aging.

– Embrace meditation and mindfulness. A blog by Seth Segall and David S. Black for the American Society on Aging points to studies indicating meditation and mindfulness affect how people age. For instance, a mindful practice is proven to aid people suffering from pain or depression; this practice also improves brain and immune system function. Furthermore, meditation reduces age-related decline in several parts of the brain, including the cerebral cortex, gray matter and white matter. Mindfulness and meditation also has been linked to longer telomeres, which are segments at the end of chromosomes that become shorter with age and chronic stress. Scientists use these telomeres as biomarkers for cellular aging. The best news is that researchers now believe that meditation may not only slow the aging process, but even be able to reverse these declines at both the neurological and chromosomal level.

– Focus on balance. Many people find they lose their sense of balance as they age. One of the reasons is an impaired vestibular system. To counter this issue, Dr. Northrup recommends regularly standing on one leg while closing your eyes, and then repeating this exercise on the other leg. Practices such as tai chi, Qigong and yoga also can enhance balance.

While aging is a natural part of life, much of what we experience is based on our own state of mind. By changing our mental patterns and embracing a few new habits, we can take charge of how we age and make strides toward becoming ageless.

Primary Resources:

Northrup, C. (2015). Goddesses Never Age: The Secret Prescription for Radiance, Vitality, and Well-Being. Hay House.

Segall, S. & Black, D. S. (2014). Can Meditation Slow the Aging Process? American Society on Aging.

Tergesen, A. (2015). To Age Well, Change How You Feel About Aging. The Wall Street Journal.

To My Best Friend – a poem by Christine Pfeffer

Jennifer Buergermeister

I don’t know how it feels to be you
and when you come to me seeking comfort
I promise I won’t act like I do
of if you shout at me in anger
rooted from the pain of so much we do in vain
I will step into your worn shoes
and be there to hear your heart speak out
As it seeks to try and understand why
Why so much pain in the world…in our hearts?
How can you help? How can I help?
How can WE help ease the sorrows that flow so effortlessly through the currents of our minds?
Drowning out the pleasing, the happy & the positivity
that yearns to reach out into the world
and lift the spirits of all who suffer
of all who store this dismay deep inside the soul…
Our soul…the collective soul
contained…not contained
here
on this planet…in our hearts
that…

View original post 56 more words

Our Savior IS Yoga

John 14:6 – “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.” ~King James Version

Perhaps Jesus (Yeshua) wanted us to understand that he is  “yoga” when he said, the way to the father is through me. I had an epiphany thinking about this tonight! Yeshua was yogic in every way – through his parables, actions, love and universality.

Practicing yoga opens us to The Almighty because it is so breath-centered.

The word “spiritus” means to breathe. The breath is our spirit, and brings life. It awakens us and helps us to remain healthy, calm, and compassionate.

We become awakened to our connection to God by yoking in breath-centered practices – yoga, mindfulness, meditation.  In the experience of anything that brings us into the now, there is an absolute presence of beauty and connection.

Presence is through feeling, not thinking. Thinking is the opposite of focus and can bring us away from being present. Our brains change when we practice presence. With mindfulness, we build the prefrontal cortex and reduce the stress producers in the limbic system, specifically the amygdala.

Yeshua is the embodiment of Christ energy – the universal consciousness that brings all parts of our existence into great meaning and purpose.

The statement could easily read, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Breath.”

💘

Love For Ever – Emuna Where Are You?

Jennifer Buergermeister

Timing is truly everything. In a world of chaos and order, some things just take time to develop and show up in our lives – the perfect job, the health you aspire to achieve, the love of your life finally arriving. I know it sounds cliche’ but it’s all about faith, or Emuna in Hebrew. It’s a feeling you hold inside without rhyme or reason as your soul speaks through your heart vibrating and signaling similar energy to make its way home.

Faith has its roots in the beginning, when Adam and Eve were in the Garden of Eden. Understanding the roots of your spirituality can bring you deeper faith and connection to not only the universe and each other, but to ourselves. Faith is a beautiful thing to hold. It can make a difference in how healthy we are mentally, emotionally, spiritually and physically.

I suppose with faith naturally comes patience. If you…

View original post 677 more words

Hearts Burning on the Trail of Tears

Jennifer Buergermeister

IMG_1156

Love is not a victory march. It’s a cold and it’s a broken hallelujah. Leonard Cohen

In life, especially where love may grow, there is never effort without error and shortcoming. Vulnerability, the prerequisite to developing a relationship, is not owning victory or defeat when a relationship begins or ends. It’s about engaging. As Brene’ Brown said, “It’s being all in.”

Brown suggestsin her bookDaring Greatlyrelatingrequires “less thinking and more feeling.” Sometimes when you’re allowing yourself to become vulnerable it’s excruciating, not exquisite, and a scary thing for some of us to do. She calls it leaning in. Leaning into unpredictability helps us grow.

Let’s face it. We’re not perfect. We do not have it all figured out, especially if our brains get in the way…literally.

Brain organization is positively correlated to how we relate and form our relationships. Involvement with someone in a relationship…

View original post 6,385 more words

Mend It Or End It? Tips in De-Masking The Relationship

Jennifer Buergermeister

Mend It Or End It? Tips In De-Masking The Relationship

By Jennifer Buergermeister © 2015

Have you been that person in the relationship who broke it off partly in fear and/or anger, and wondered if you gave it its proper chance to mend? As my yoga teacher once shared, “It isn’t over, until it’s over.” Nothing could be closer to the truth. When we want to avoid pain or shame, we put the mask on either ourselves or on others. Masquerading pain only leads to more pain. It’s a way of living in the delusion that we are somehow going to be better on the other side of the fence. Don’t end it if you can mend it.

Haven’t we all been at the masquerade ball during some point in our lives? Our obligations and expectations can serve as distractions to relating. Relating of any form takes engaging in communication…

View original post 689 more words

East Meets West – Yoga as a Metaphor for Western Life

East Meets West – Yoga as a Metaphor for Western Life

By Jennifer Buergermeister, MA © 2015

On 21 June – the new International Day of Yoga– Narendra Modi, India’s prime minister, hopes the world will join in the biggest single yoga session ever held, with up to 45,000 people running through a 35-minute routine. The grass near India Gate will be transformed into the venue to lead the masses into a day of yoga.

“Yoga is an invaluable gift of India’s ancient tradition. It embodies unity of mind and body, thought and action, restraint and fulfillment, harmony between man and nature, a holistic approach to health and wellbeing. It is not about exercise but discovering the sense of oneness with yourself, the world and nature,” said Modi.

North America has become a metaphor for yoga. The word yoga has had various meanings over the ages, and people still debate in scholarly circles, “What is yoga?” Does yoga mean to yoke? Is it a chariot? Does it completely signify unity?

People have emigrated from nearly every country in the world to live in the USA. We have always been fascinated by the philosophies shared by the early yogis who visited here. We have made them into celebrities and we have an exponential number of stars still rising.

Yoga, Brief History of an Idea by Professor David Gordon White, PhD. said, “Over the past decades, yoga has become part of the Zeitgeist of affluent western societies, drawing housewives and hipsters, New Agers and the old-aged, and body culture and corporate culture into a multibillion-dollar synergy.“

In the United States, yoga has indeed become a commodity. Statistics show that there is a growing 16 million Americans practicing yoga every year. Yoga entrepreneurs have branded their own styles of practice, from Baptiste to Bikram’s “hot” yoga.

Yoga has become an art form, each practitioner bringing their own spin to their style and branding. Roger Rippy, cofounder of the popular yoga studio chain YogaOne Houston said, “The most popular form I see is athletic styles of yoga. Instagram and social media are changing how yoga is practiced in a big way. There are people who have practiced for years now solely through Instagram and online.”

Atypical to Indian traditional yoga, Westerners have opened franchises, branded their yogic art style, and invented logos. But this may be changing. There is growing interest now in India to brand and franchise Western Yoga!

For most people, practicing yoga means going to a westernized yoga studio. They have their yoga mats, yoga clothes, and yoga accessories from the hottest and best retailers. They practice in large groups under the guidance of a yoga teacher or trainer. It has become a social trend if not social status. Yoga is mainstream and has morphed into a mass culture phenomenon. And quite frankly, I do not think yoga is every going away.

Rippy said, “It is branching out and diversifying and fusing into something indefinable, which I kind of like. Yoga, like humans, evolves. I love seeing people connecting on the level of practicing yoga. At the same time, I see silos forming where people do not move out of their immediate circle, studio, patterns, and teachers. In my mind, it is all good yoga and it’s nice when we can acknowledge and appreciate each other, and see the beauty in other people’s practices and methodologies.”

I’ve seen the community change a lot over the past decade. There were once very few studios, many of which no longer exist for various reasons. The trend, especially with current real estate prices, is to franchise or diversify.

It’s beneficial to practice yoga. I have not found relevant evidence to prove contrary to the health benefit claims. Breathing and stretching, mindfulness, and stress reductive practices increase total wellbeing. Yoga is in the schools, prisons, military, and medical centers. In Houston, we have birthed the Texas Yoga Conference and now the initiative of the Consul General of India’s International Day of Yoga, a free event to be held this month all day Sunday, June 21, 2015 at the George R Brown Convention Center. Register or become a vendor at iyogadayhouston.org

Raye Lynn Rath, owner of The Yoga Institute in Clear Lake and Houston said, “There seems to be way more cohesiveness within the yoga community in Houston, more appreciation for what each teacher/studio has to offer and a much bigger collective community that is showing up for workshops, trainings and events, and it is really good to see.”

Houston is now a mecca for yoga in the USA where east truly meets west. “Presence is the way we experience true connection – with ourselves, with each other and with the power that holds us all – Love,” said Rath, “I think that the International Day of Yoga is evidence of this and will also contribute to its growth.  It is a breath of fresh air.”

We hope to see our community support and join in the metaphor representing diversity and union, letting Yoga become a part of each of our lives as we unite in one common goal – to bring awareness to the world about yoga’s rich offerings handed down to us from thousands of years ago by the great saints and rishis of our time. Namaste’