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Yoga and Body Image: 25 Personal Stories

October 8th, 2014

Last fall, I was given the opportunity to contribute an essay to an anthology on yoga and body image. I am very excited to share with you all that this book, Yoga and Body Image: 25 Personal Stories About Beauty, Bravery & Loving Your Body, is now available for purchase. With these inspiring personal stories, you can learn how yoga not only affects your body but also the way you feel about your body. A list of contributors to the anthology is: Anna Guest-Jelley, Melanie Klein, Alanis Morrisette, Seane Corn, Bryan Kest, Melody Moore, Nita Rubio, Claire Mysko, Shana Meyerson, Audrey Bilger, Teo Drake, Kerrie Kauer, Rosie Molinary, Dianne Bondy, Linda Sparrowe, Sara Gottfried, Chelsea Jackson, Vytas Baskauskas, Kate Clere McIntyre, Joni Yung, Marianne Elliott, Dawn Dalili, Rolf Gates, Ryan McGraw.

Each author offers their own unique perspective on how yoga has shaped his or her life and provides tips for using yoga to find self-empowerment and a renewed body image. By bringing together a diverse collection of voices that span the spectrum of human experience, this anthology showcases the power that comes from embodiment.

It was such an honor to be included among these amazing people sharing their personal experiences through the gift of yoga. I know for me yoga is a way of life affecting the way I live, breathe, think and feel. It has influenced my work as an activist, writer and a teacher of chair yoga. The practice has helped me develop my self-awareness, mindfulness and to be positive. Peek inside the pages and grab your copy of the book here:

http://yogaandbodyimage.com/

Depression

August 11th, 2014

Today we suffered a great loss actor Robin Williams has passed away. He
spent years making us laugh and cry with his tv shows and movies. Even though
Robin loved entertaining he also suffered from depression. To honor him I am sharing
my story.

In today’s world we have a lot to deal with, ranging from stress, violence, substance abuse and peer pressure. Our life can be filled with as good times, as well as frustration and stress. During these times life stresses can bring about depression caused by unrealistic expectations and overreaction to rejection. My young adult years were filled with confusion, embarrassment and discontent with myself. I had trouble accepting my disabilities and tried to hide them from others. I felt very alone and unable to accomplish anything because of my disabilities. I also suffered from low self-esteem and lack of confidence. These feelings caused me to go through crying spells, withdrawing from others and self- doubt.

There are many signs of depression but if two or more signs persist professional help needs to be sought. The symptoms are as follows:
1. Poor performance in school
2. Withdrawal from friends and activities
3. Sadness and hopelessness
4. Anger and rage
5. Overreaction to criticism
6. Feelings of being unable to satisfy ideals
7. Poor self-esteem and feelings of guilt
8. Indecisiveness, lack of concentration and forgetfulness
9. Restfulness and agitation
10. Changes in eating and sleeping patterns
11. Substance abuse
12. Problems with authority
13. Suicidal thoughts

There are several techniques that can be used to combat depression before the symptoms become too severe. Firstly, making new friends and contacts can be enriching and broaden your social horizons. Joining sports, organizations and doing volunteer work can give self-confidence and raise self-esteem. Learning new skills and taking up new hobbies can be rewarding to the soul.

The key to surviving anything is positive thinking. There are three important parts to positive thinking. I call them the three c’s commitment, control and challenges. The first is to make a positive commitment to your life and dreams. After many different experiences I found a way to make my dream come true through my writing career. The second one is controlling your destiny focusing on your goals. The last part is not to be afraid of taking on new challenges since they keep life interesting and exciting. Every day can be a new beginning and yesterdays can be a stepping-stone to tomorrow.
One of the methods I have used to combat depression is writing regularly in a journal. I would write down my feelings as a way of bringing closure and expressing myself. In every situation I always weigh the positives against the negatives, making the best of what I have. I always keep a list of my positive characteristics and accomplishments to review daily.

More importantly, a strong support system of family and friends is essential. I am very grateful to have my family there to remind me of my strengths, give me support and never let me slip too far into depression.
Now I wake up each day with a renewed positive attitude ready to take on new challenges.
Resources
National Suicide Hotline
1-800-suicide

a positive body image

June 10th, 2014

begins with learning to love and respect yourself. Body image refers to a person’s perception of their physical appearance. They are influenced by their experiences, society, the media, the fashion industry and finding the ideal weight. It has a direct impact on our self-image and self worth. Having a poor body image can lead to serious problems like depression and eating disorders.

I have always struggled with body image issues in my life. Some examples are that I was very self-conscious of how cerebral palsy has affected my body from having a hump back, hunched shoulders, crooked arm and surgical scars. For years I have also always been battling with weight issues.

The practice of yoga can help you discover your true self while becoming aware of your needs and wants. The first step is to slow down and look within yourself to find what makes you tick. Meditation and deep breathing exercises help you see how you want your life to play out live in the present. Yoga poses teach us to accept our flaws because everyone does each pose in their own way in their own time with no judgment. Through yoga we can learn to remove negative emotions by focusing on the positives in life. The practice in many ways can open our hearts to love and happiness by teaching us to show gratitude and express ourselves to those around us. The yoga belief system teaches us to practice non-violence, honesty and selflessly helping others.

self Awareness

June 4th, 2014

I absolutely hate it when people claim to know me better then I know myself. At times I have found it be offensive and insensitive. I remember being in school feeling very sheltered with everyone telling what my needs were. It wasn’t until after graduation I learned to take charge of my own life and needs.

Having self-awareness is the key to being independent. For me being my own person has always been my top priority. Over the years I have cultivated my self-awareness by being mindful of my mind, body and surroundings. I have also found that keeping a journal of lists of my strengths, weakness, interests, goals and my roles to remind of me what is important and focus is helpful.

My daily yoga practice has empowered me to advocate for my self and others with disabilities. Yoga is about unity and equality we are all beautiful individuals with talents and gifts. Yoga enlightens us to get off our mats inspired to share our love, truth and passion with world. Within yoga there are some key values to guide you through your adventure in life. One example is love and showing it to others and yourself. Another one is learning how to forgive yourself and others. The goal is to learn how to live and move on from the past with love and forgiveness. The third value is to always have faith in you, others and a higher power that everything will work out the way it is supposed to. The fourth one is to treat yourself and others equally and remember that we are all different and unique in our own ways. It is also important to always be honest with yourself and others.

With these values, self-awareness can be fulfilled with the following strategies, such as meditating to bring your mind to focus on what is important to you and what you want out of life. Another method is to be creative in how you want to achieve your purpose and goals. It is important to know your purpose, set your goals with an action plan and always dream beyond horizons.

self advocacey

June 1st, 2014

As an individual with disabilities, one of the most important skills I learned was how to be an advocate. This means the ability to stand up for yourself and others to protect our equal rights. It is an important lesson to learn because we are the guardians of our own rights.

I consider my self a self-advocate, something I have done for years from school to adult life. It is second nature to me. Both the Americans With Disabilities Act and state law require public and private establishments to provide reasonable accommodations to a disabled individual so long as it does not pose an undue hardship. The first step is to know what the disability issues are and what accommodations are needed. These needs will vary widely based on each person’s disability and the degree to which it affects them.

The next step is to educate yourself on disability laws and protected rights such as the ADA. A good advocate has excellent communication and listening skills. It is also important to keep good records while becoming a master at negotiating. In order to promote positive change through activism we must work together while respecting one another.

Another point is to know what your recourse is if you are denied a reasonable accommodation. These options can range from informal discussions with the other party, mediation, filing charges with anti-discrimination agencies, or as a last resort, legal action.

Self-advocacy is learned through life experiences. It helps us understand ourselves while becoming aware of our needs. There is no better feeling than being able to speak up for yourself or others to make a positive impact.

inspiration

May 1st, 2014

As a writer, it is always a nice surprise to receive positive feedback from a reader. I received a letter written by a reader complimenting my columns. She included a quote from Guidepost magazine: “Everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about. Be kind. Always.”

One of my favorite books is “The Fifth Agreement” by Don Miguel Ruiz and Don Jose Ruiz. The book talks about five rules we should follow in life. The first one is “Be impeccable with your words.” This means to always speak truthfully with love. The second rule is related to the above quote, “Don’t take everything personally.” The third rule, my favorite, is “Don’t make assumptions.” We need to remember that each individual has their own struggles and stories that should be respected and honored. The fourth agreement is to always do your best because that is all you can do. The fifth agreement is to listen with your heart. When we take time to observe and listen we can uncover many truths.

Nothing is more important than believing in something, from spirituality to non-spirituality because it will never fail you. I believe in the power of love stemming from the heart. Whenever I meet someone, and I feel their unhappiness, I always say a small prayer of love to them because the best thing to do for anyone is to love them.

Happy New Year resolutions

January 1st, 2014

This has been a whirlwind year for me with both good and bad things, such as dealing with a broken ankle to losing my beloved granny. It was also year of great accomplishments, with the first being that I am in good health after fully recovering from heart surgery. The biggest highlight of the year was fulfilling my goal to become a yoga teacher. Being a long time yogini I have always wanted to share my passion for yoga since it’s such a big part of my life. Over the past years I have shared my yoga experiences through my column and blog but now I have a new avenue to share my yoga experience with those with physical limitations like myself.

This is the time to recommit and make new goals to lead to new adventures. One of my commitments is to stay fit with eating healthy and my daily yoga and Pilates practice. I also vow to continue empowering people through my column and blog talking about disability issues and my life.

As for my goals I will be working to build my new venture of teaching chair yoga. I began this journey in October when I was a faculty assistant for teaching a seminar at Kripalu for the students to become certified to teach chair yoga. I very much look forward to helping others enjoy the benefits of yoga.

I have also decided its time to start writing a book about living with disabilities with the hopes of inspiring people with my experiences. I am excited to see what this New Year brings.

I am a LV chair yoga teacher

June 19th, 2013

My Carrie Writes Column printed in the Republican 6/19/13

I’m very excited to announce that I’m officially a chair yoga teacher, one of my greatest accomplishments. I was certified by the Lakshmi Voelker chair yoga program. I took the certification class over Skype from my living room. It consisted of six video classes, along with self-study. I learned chair asanas such as salutations, warrior series, balance poses. I also learned breathing techniques, meditations and yoga philosophy.

Chair yoga is the adaption of yoga poses to be used in a chair to help minimize limitations and inflexibility for those facing physical challenges. Chair yoga also incorporates breathing techniques to calm and heal the mind and body. Chair yoga is perfect for those with disabilities and health challenges. The belief is that any pose any pose can be adapted to each individuals’ needs, bringing the full benefit of yoga practice while creating a safe haven for their minds and bodies.

Lakshmi created the chair yoga program in 1982. She is dedicated to creating a yoga practice for anyone to use with modifications. She has brought a way of exercise to those who are unable to do physical exercises. In 1999, she created a Sitting Mountain Series CD, and in 2007 she produced her own chair yoga DVD. Lakshmi has been studying, practicing and teaching yoga since 1969. She is a certified instructor at Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health in Stockbridge and is a member of the Yoga Alliance. She has certified many individuals across the United States and Canada.

In conclusion, it is my goal to bring Lakshmi’s teachings to individuals across Western Massachusetts to help spread the joy of yoga to individuals with physical limitations like myself. I am beyond overjoyed to be able to share my passion in a teaching manner. I will be combining my roles as a teacher, columnist and activist with the same purpose of helping and inspiring people with disabilities. Please visit my chair yoga page on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/carriechairyoga , and Lakshmi’s web page is http://www.getfitwhereyousit.com .

Self Advocacy

May 22nd, 2013

This week I am giving a presentation on my favorite topics the self-advocacy age where people with disabilities are becoming independent participants in their communities. Having a disability doesn’t limit our understanding, but in fact empowers us to be involved in issues that affect us and make changes through voting. It is important for people with disabilities to be aware of issues that directly affect them while getting an opportunity to be part of the process and discussion. Nothing is more empowering then using your voice to advocate change. The first step is to know what the disability issues are and what is needed. The second one is to educate your self on disability laws and protected rights. A good advocate has excellent communication and listening skill. Also keeping good records while becoming a master at negotationing will also help. In order to promote positive change through activism we must work together while respecting one another. There is no better feeling than being able to speak up for your self or others to make a positive impact

Peace Boston Strong

May 8th, 2013

On April 15th, just before the finish line at the Boston Marathon two explosions took place, causing widespread despair and destruction. The bombing claimed three lives including that of an innocent child and causing many injuries. In the aftermath many professionals, volunteers and bystanders rushed to help the victims. In one of the largest manhunts in history, law enforcement officials tirelessly worked around the clock to bring those responsible to justice. The manhunt brought the Boston area to a standstill, from events being cancelled, stopping transportation to putting several cities on lockdown.

In a short time victory was achieved in catching the responsible party, causing a collective sigh of relief. During through the whole ordeal Boston stayed strong and determined.

As a pacifist I have been opposed to violence and believe in finding peaceful resolutions to problems. Sadly there is much anger and hate in this world. We need more love, understanding and forgiveness. As individuals we need to think, feel and see with our hearts, the key to our true power. We are all equals and united through spirit. Patanjali is reffered to as the father of yoga, who wrote his thoughts and ideas on how a yogi should live in his book, The Yoga Sutra of Patanjali. This book is considered a sacred text for the yoga practice. There are eight parts to the way of living the yoga lifestyle. The first one is yama, which refers to how you socially interact with others around you, such as practicing non-violence against any living creature.

As avid Red Sox fans my husband and I watched the game on April 20. During the opening ceremony the PA announcer reminded us in part to “never quit and persevere. We will always prevail. We are Boston Strong.”