Therapeutic

Why Optic Flow Restores Us

Boosting optic flow is a powerful and effective way to nourish physical and emotional well-being. Optic flow refers to the unique sensation that occurs when you perceive your environment actively moving in relationship to your body’s movements. What’s at play here? As you walk, bike, run, or swim, objects in your environment appear to move. During a walk, for example, objects grow larger as you approach; this lets you know you’re getting closer. During a swim, you perceive the bottom of the pool (or lake or ocean) receding underneath you, or objects on the side moving as you turn your head to breathe. In optic flow your eyes move, continually updating your brain on your location. That’s not all optic flow does for you. Your visual system links closely with (read: is part of) your autonomic nervous system. Activating your sympathetic (fight-or-flight) nervous system ignites the stress response. This dilates …

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Empathic Differentiation Practice

This practice, the Empathic Differentiation Exercise, is the icing on the cake of boundary practices. It’s particularly useful for empaths and highly-sensitive people. It is most effective when you’ve just had an experience of emotional contagion—when you’ve been “infected” by someone else’s emotions and can’t figure out how you feel or what your needs are (a common happening for empaths, as I can attest). This practice depends on doing regular Embodied Check-Ins (directly below) so you know the topography of your own emotions: where they show up in your body, the range of “forms” they can take, and how intense or invasive they feel. Then, when you’ve had a potentially contagious encounter with someone, do the Embodied Check-In.   You already know what it feels like when your own emotions are present in your body, and where they are present. (This isn’t to say that what’s really yours always presents …

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Will the Real Mind-Body Connection Please Stand Up? (Your key to well-being.)

We often speak of a mind-body connection, as though under the right conditions, the mind can talk to the body, and the body can talk back. (This calls to mind the old-fashioned screech of a dial-up modem connection as we try to go online.) But the breaking story in well-being concerns the relationship between the mind and body (and in addition, the brain). One of the most significant relationships we’ll ever have, it determines our physical, emotional, and social well-being. For over a decade, I’ve taught what I call the Mind, Brain, and Body Network. If you’ve studied with me in person or online, you’ll notice that the elements have changed over time as emerging research highlights new areas of study. Here’s an up-to-the-moment picture of how I conceptualize this extraordinary communications network and why it holds the key to well-being. The Mind, Brain, and Body Network. The Autonomic Nervous …

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Lose Your Momentum ~ Before It’s Too Late

Recently, during a therapeutic vinyasa practice at The Yoga Conference in Toronto, the class and I encountered a pivotal learning moment. As we reviewed the transition from Downward Dog into Lunge,  a participant asked about speed. “Intuitively, I get that slow is good,” she said. “But how slow? And is it O.K., sometimes, to practice the old and fast flow?” Her question gave rise to a passionate dialogue about how we use momentum in yoga and in life, and what the consequences are of doing so. Momentum refers to the building up of forward movement that takes us from one well-defined place to the next. It turns out that we use momentum in times of discomfort. We use it in transitions, for instance, when we’re caught between an old place or way of being and a new one. And we do so when the pressure to perform well lends emphasis to …

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The Importance of Going Backwards

In recent weeks, I’ve been struck by the number of healthy, strong yogis in our community that are in the throes of emotional crisis, experiencing panic attacks, anxiety, depression, and grief. At this time, we have more stress and emotional imbalance than ever before. Yet it wasn’t the number of yogis or the nature of their crises that affected me the most. Rather, it was something deeper and more disheartening: their responses to their own pain. Most of my yogis in crisis shared with me some version of a story that they shouldn’t be feeling what they’re feeling. Laced with barely disguised self-contempt, I heard, “Panic attacks–seriously?” Another said, “I thought I was past that.” “Why am I going backwards emotionally?” asked another. “With all the therapy, yoga, and meditation I’ve put in, I should be well beyond this,” proclaimed a fourth. Why are we so quick to be down …

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