Practicing Meditation = Cleaning Your House by Tiffany Coombs

Every so often I embark on a massive cleanup in my home. When I finish, I am filled with this feeling like I'll never have to clean again. 

The next day, since I am a slob by nature, and I have a 7 month old daughter, the house returns to its messy self.

Someday I will learn from this that tidying up a little bit each day is much more valuable and effective than one major cleanup per month. 

Meditation is the same way, no?

Need Guidance? by Tiffany Coombs

When I first started teaching, I was constantly second guessing myself as to whether my classes were halfway decent, if my students were getting anything out of my sequencing, and if my pacing was effective. Students usually made remarks like, "great class" or "I feel great" after the class was over, but these comments didn't answer my questions or help me grow! As a new teacher, I wasn't as easily able to use my own observations in class to get the feedback I was looking for. Lastly, as a new teacher, I felt intimidated by more seasoned teachers and did not feel comfortable asking for help.

Why I love receiving  detailed feedback for my classes:

  • I learn how to best serve my students
  • I learn what to continue teaching and what is not working for my students
  • I learn how I am coming across in front of the students so that I can either keep my body language and tone of voice the same, or if I need to make some adjustments

We all know that we can't please every single person who walks in the studio door, but can we, in the very least, create an experience that teaches everyone something? Can we offer SAFE cues and sequences that will prevent injury? Can we hold the space for our students and get out of our own way? Can we be open and available for our students? With practice, and a little help, I think we can. 

This is why I am so excited to offer my unique mentorship program. I am so excited to help others to build confidence and to offer supportive and gentle guidance to teachers looking for a little nudge forward.

Who is this program for?

  • Brand new teachers
  • The teacher longing for a nudge out of a long time rut
  • The teacher looking for feedback beyond "Great Class"
  • The teacher in need of a fresh perspective

Follow the link below for details! 


Lemme Take a Selfie... by Tiffany Coombs

So I've been participating in Instagram yoga challenges for the past month and a half or so. Part of the idea was to experiment and to find out what the deal with these controversial challenges actually was, and part was to inspire me to get back on my mat after giving birth. I woke up this morning feeling hypocritical, addicted to my phone, and curious of what viewers actually get out of these selfies. 

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What is Buddha Cat Yoga? by Tiffany Coombs

Buddha Cat Yoga, my friends, is a hot new style of yoga. We will provide one (or more!) cat per mat, providing the bonus challenge of concentration that was lacking in all other form of yoga until now! The cats will weave around your legs, give you kisses on your nose, and even try to climb you. This is IT, my friends. Look no further. This is REAL yoga.

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Buddha Cat's Latest Project: Buddha Kitten by Tiffany Coombs

Buddha Kitten is here! Happy Harper is beautifully modeling the two current designs. "Ommeow" and "Buddha Kitten" are available individually at $15 and at $28 if purchased together! Custom colors and various sizes are available. As always, Buddha Cat products are hand-painted with care. Email or message me on Facebook to order!

Am I Good Enough At Yoga...? by Tiffany Coombs

We all have challenges we face when we get on the mat. Tight hamstrings, tight shoulders, loose shoulders that are too weak to practice arm balances, fears, egos, the list can go on and on. These challenges serve as jumping off points for you as a teacher. The challenges you work with daily on the mat can become your specialty. They can help you to become more relatable to your students. 

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Buddha Kittens by Tiffany Coombs

What is a Buddha Kitten? A precious glimpse at our younger, wide eyed selves. We usually call them babies, toddlers, and children, but they are so much more than that. We can remember our own natural needs and wants by observing and learning from these special Buddha Kittens. We all wish to feel safe and secure, comfortable and content. We all wish to be heard, respected, and loved. 

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Modern Yoga by Tiffany Coombs

I want to make it clear that what a yogi looks like, what the diet looks like, even whether the yogi is happy or sad, is not the point. The point is that we practice. We breathe. We pay attention and learn. We get to know ourselves. We BECOME ourselves. 

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I Used to Like Tofu. by Tiffany Coombs

One of the greatest lessons I have learned over the years of practicing yoga is that it is not what you change about yourself on the outside- the clothes you wear, the malas you sport, the food you eat- that matters, it is what you EMBRACE about yourself and are able to express without fear to the outside world that matters the most.

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You Can't Be Better Than Who You Are. by Tiffany Coombs

It's National Eating Disorder Week. Here are some interesting facts about this misunderstood disease:

1. 30 Million Americans will struggle with an eating disorder at some point in their lives.

2. Anorexia is the most fatal mental health issue.

3. Disordered eating is on the rise in YOUNG Americans.

This is not a unique story. It is just an untold one. Or a misunderstood one. Or something. This topic is difficult for me to write about as I feel that it is something I more deeply struggle with than anything else

I am anorexic because... I am. I cannot blame magazines filled with beautiful, airbrushed models, because I never really read them and don't read them now. I don't feel societal pressures to be someone else (as you all very well know!) I can't blame my parents, my siblings, my peers. I can't even blame the pressures of being a young and impressionable dancer. Who do I blame? No one. Not even myself. Blame feeds anger. Anger makes it worse. Love and acceptance make it better. Blame is futile.

The first time I can remember despising my body was in the third grade. For some reason I just started to hate my arms. Then I started to hate my legs. Then it gradually crept over my whole body. I used to write in journals late at night because of some serious insomnia and every day there would be another entry written about how disgusting my body was or how stupid I was, or both. Writing helped me fall asleep, but it also fed these hateful fires towards myself. 

Stereotypically, I was a dancer. I spent 6 nights a week for at least two hours per day examining myself in mirrors. Not good enough. Not good enough. Not good enough. It should be noted that I rarely compared myself to the other dancers at the studio. I compared myself to a version of myself I thought I should have been. Taller, thinner, no freckles, longer neck, more flexible (I was most flexible in my class), stronger, more dedicated... the list could go on and on.  Ironically, the art made me feel both disgusted with myself AND more beautiful than I felt if I were at school or at home. The mind reels. 

While I was dancing, I ate. Enough. I never was a big eater and often left quite a bit of food left on my plate. I felt (and often still do feel) like finishing my plate was some kind of failure. Like I would magically become a fat cow if I ONCE finished a plate of food, no matter how much or little was in front of me. 

Then I  stopped dancing. Too many serious injuries, a bout of mono that left me homebound for over three months, and a dance studio I didn't much care for anymore led me to quit. Panic rushed over me. How will I stay thin and beautiful and graceful if I stop doing the one thing that makes me feel these things? 

I gradually stopped eating full meals. A bite here, a bite there. Anxiety left me feeling nauseous most of the time and so my excuse of feeling sick was truthful, and it got me out of eating my dinners. In times of desperate hunger I would angrily binge on crackers, feel disappointed that I gave into the crackers, and stop eating for some more days. I chewed gum CONSTANTLY to make my body think it was being fueled. By the time I graduated high school, I think I was barely 100 pounds. I'd look in the mirror at night and continue to hate my body. Again, never in comparison to the other girls I knew, but in comparison to someone I thought I should be. Not thin enough. Not good enough. Not smart enough. Not in control. 

I had taken up yoga as a means to maintain flexibility and grace. I did it in my basement before school. In an angry and competitive fashion. Because I wanted it to replace ballet in all ways possible. I wanted to practice hard, be better, be thinner, be more beautiful, not to mention the promise of happiness yoga seemed to offer. The woman on the DVDs drove me absolutely crazy- smiles seemed fake, tone of voice seemed fake, but if that was what happiness was, perhaps I could do the same thing. So I walked around with a smile on my face and "happiness" in my voice. No one suspected a thing. In fact everyone constantly labeled me as "happy." Which then became something I felt I needed to live up to. And because I knew that I wasn't happy, but instead a suicidal, hateful little girl, it made me feel all the worse. 

I saw a psychologist from time to time in order to get my cocktail of anti-depressants and anti-anxiety pills. Every time I saw him, his favorite comment would be something like "I don't understand why you think you are fat." To this day that comment is amazing to me. This doctor of the mind does not understand that this is a mental disease. It is an inability to see things as they are. A desperate need for control that cannot be met. I'm sure other psychologists have more tact. This one just seemed to lack ability to understand his patients. 

James caught on quickly. When we were in school together, I would go to his house and he and his roommates would kindly force me to eat a full meal with them. His roommates never said anything, but I think they all knew. The rest of the time I lived on Venti coffees, pastries, and Chick-Fil-A binges. 

Fast forward about six years. I do not own a full length mirror. I avoid rooms with surround mirrors and abhor trying on clothes at the store- especially when there are mirrors that kindly reveal the dreaded backside. I feel anxious at meal time. I feel anxious when I have to eat with others, but if I am eating alone I am less likely to nourish myself properly. Sometimes I can conquer my mind and make myself something good and nourishing, at which point I realize how good it feels to care for myself. But on many other days I cannot win and struggle to get something, anything at all down. 

Pregnancy has been the number one, greatest therapy as someone with Anorexia. Learning to let go of control has never been so necessary. The extreme nausea that comes from not eating enough forces you to actually eat three full meals a day. If I'm being honest, before I was pregnant I was averaging around 1.5 full meals a day still. Nibbles for the rest of the meals. Now, if I skip breakfast, lunch, or dinner, I get a quick and painful reminder and I EAT. I am not able to do as much rigorous yoga as I could before, and so my arms, back, and legs are less toned. My belly gets bigger and bigger. I have no control over how my body responds to this baby. And I have to let it be. I don't look at the scale at the doctors office, I don't want to know how big my belly is all the way around, but I can find peace with myself knowing that there is a beautiful little girl growing in there. I work daily to keep the peace because I have to bring a healthy, nurtured baby into the world. And I have to be of sound mind and body in order to give her the best life she can have. And that makes me feel happier and more willing to nourish myself.

Before the pregnancy, TEACHING yoga has been a great therapy as someone with Anorexia. If you know me, you think that I am laid back. This is true toward other people. I don't care what other people do.  I am a closet control freak, with the need to control and compete with myself. To be a good teacher, however, guards must be removed, fear of embarrassment or making mistakes must be abandoned, neurosis must be set aside. If you are caught up in your own junk, you cannot provide a safe, mindful environment for your students to let go of their own junk. We all just have to let it all go together. We have to be willing to be completely ourselves. What is "good" and "bad" about ourselves simply become what is. Who we are. Full, rich, vibrant human beings with complexities that make us beautiful and unique.

As you can see, this is something I still struggle with, and will continue to struggle with forever. I know that I will continue to get better, but the inner nagging never stops. If this is YOU, find something that will help you learn to speak more kindly and gently with yourself. Find activities that make you feel nourished and healthy instead of activities done with the sole intention to lose weight or be "better" in some way. Practice yoga with the intention to give and to heal, practice meditation in order to get to know yourself and to recognize that your thoughts are not who you are, and practice caring for others. 

Have your husband take pregnancy photos in bare minimum clothing and post them on Facebook. Have no fear.

Be empowered by your beautiful body as it is. 

http://www.monogramartsphoto.com/blog/2014/2/14/this-is-our-house-her-pregnancy-my-camera

http://www.monogramartsphoto.com/blog/2014/2/14/this-is-our-house-her-pregnancy-my-camera

Check out the rest of these outrageously fun photos here: http://www.monogramartsphoto.com/blog/2014/2/14/this-is-our-house-her-pregnancy-my-camera

Not sure I ever would have done this if I wasn't pregnant, but what a RUSH to feel confident in my own skin... in the snow!!!!!!!!!!! 

Who Benefits from Private Yoga Sessions? by Tiffany Coombs

Sometimes it's nice to treat ourselves to a special gift. A shopping trip, a visit to the coffee shop for a yummy latte, a relaxing day at the spa. Have you ever considered treating yourself to a private yoga session? Here's why you should!

  • There's nothing better than receiving one on one instruction. The teacher can give you all of his/her attention and every hands-on assist is just for YOU!
  • Do you have a million questions about yoga poses, how to breathe properly, or are you curious about meditation? A private session is the perfect setting to get answers! 
  • It is rare to get a chance to refine every single asana- a private session is your chance. Learn special tidbits that might not be mentioned in a full group class!
  • Practice a customized sequence made to suit YOUR needs. This is useful if you have special health concerns or need to address specific muscle groups. 

How do you choose your private teacher? Request to work with teachers you feel a connection to. Ask about teachers' specialties to find out if they can help you with your personal needs. When requesting a private session be sure to indicate what you are hoping to get out of the session, whether you have any injuries or physical limitations, and provide your availability. 

Treat yourself with a private yoga session this year! Email me at info.buddhacat@gmail.com if you'd like to work with Buddha Cat! 

The Doozy- Depression and Yoga by Tiffany Coombs

I have the forbidden disease- Major Depressive Disorder. Twice, I have also been quasi-diagnosed bipolar, but at the mercy of psychologists, they left it off my record. My insurance thanks you :) Along with the constant depression, I've gone through manic states, panic attacks, hallucinations, you name it. Crazy stuff. But, I am not crazy. 

Ok. Maybe I am a little crazy. Fortunately, I have found tools- yoga, pranayama, and meditation- that I use as a way to navigate life in a creative, yet functional way. 

What does it feel like to have Depression with a capital "D" you might ask? Isn't it just feeling sad for a few days? 

I can only speak for myself, but here are some common sensations and experiences, written in a format that might resemble the downward spiral I have so often gone through:

At first you feel kind of blue. Kind of lazy. Sad. The laziness quickly turns into loss of will to do ANYTHING. Showering, changing out of pajamas, getting out of bed or off the couch- all common signals that I'm entering the downward spiral. If I let it go past this, enter the uncontrollable crying spells. Over nothing. Maybe over how pitiful the entire situation is. I don't know. But the crying does not need to be triggered by anything at all. Along with the sobbing comes negative self-talk. "You loser, why can't you get out of bed?" "You are worthless, you can't do anything." "You are not worthy of love or respect." The thoughts come at you at such a fast pace that it's hard to get out of your head. Regrets, fears, doubts, assumptions, judgements, the list goes on and on. Feelings of loneliness and social anxiety are often good friends of mine. Enter more self-talk "Why can't you just go over there and talk to that person, you loser?" "Why can't you express yourself around people, dummy?" Often the depression is cloaked with fake happiness in order to remain socially acceptable. This can only go on for so long. From there, we have two roads. Road one is depression that gets deeper and deeper into the woods. Road two is depression that leads me to anxiety, because I've left too much undone. Or life seems overwhelming. Depression to anxiety typically results in a silent ball of stress version of Tiffany. Until it all explodes, which then results in either more sobbing, or a panic attack. Panic attacks are really fun. If you've never had one, imagine the feeling that you are probably going to die at any moment. Because the entire world is imploding and making it very difficult to breathe. All of your worst nightmares are happening at once. Hopefully when you get one, you are at home. But the best thing about a panic attack is that they come to you at the worst times. Like when you are in school. Or at a store. Or at a concert. Or driving your car. Then your best hope is that you are with someone who can help you realize that you are not going to die. The world is not imploding. That you can breathe deeply. I love panic attacks. They are awesome. ;) Anyway, if the depression remains depression and progresses further, the sadness morphs into numbness. I'd much rather be sad or anxious than numb. At the numb stage it is challenging to feel like a real person. It is challenging to identify with the real world. It is also more likely that you "accidentally" nick yourself with your razer in the shower because you needed to feel something. It isn't' enough to put a funny tv show or movie on. It isn't enough to be surrounded by loved ones. Everything feels impossible. Bed or couch become your home because it is the safest place to be. You cannot be cheered up at this point until YOU can pull yourself out of it or ask for real help. This is the ugliest side of depression. The side that is difficult to admit is a part of you. It makes people uncomfortable. Sorry! Only I am not. Because this is the most important part of depression to discuss and to own up to. The numbness is not the bottom of depression. We have to go even deeper. And I have been there. Past the numbness is losing the will to live. Between 2005 and 2006 I had hit rock bottom. It was painful to be alive. Not like joint pain or a headache. But this strange and indescribable physical and mental pain that I could not stand anymore. I was seeing a counselor and a psychologist for anorexia, depression, insomnia, and psychotic episodes. By then I was taking about 6 different anti-depressions and anti-anxiety medications which from time to time made me hallucinate or unable to function in regular life. I thought to myself, these drugs are powerful. I take enough as it is on a regular basis to be loopy and strange, if I were to take every pill in every bottle, surely it would all be over. I was in college at the time, living with a roommate. I had pulled out my pill box that contained all of the bottles, and set them out as if I were about to start a project. I was about to get started on said project when my roommate walked in and said "what are you doing, Tiffany?" It was then and there that I woke up. I threw out every bottle of medication I had on me and eventually left school. I was suddenly overwhelmed with a sense of LIVING. That I needed to do something for myself and for others that meant something. At that point in time, I was practicing yoga as a means to stay flexible and thin (we'll get to that part later). Something told me that I needed to study, practice, and teach yoga. So I listened. And boy am I glad that I did. And that I am alive.

I have never hit rock bottom again. I've had panic attacks, I've gone numb, I've been depressed many times since the incident (most recently about a week ago!)  I maintain my yoga practice as a means of therapy for these reasons:

  • While I am a yoga philosophy enthusiast, Buddhist philosophy is my saving grace. non-belief. non-attachment. Buddha-nature. no heaven, no hell, other than what we create for ourselves on earth. no good, no bad, wrong or right. loving-kindness towards all beings, INCLUDING myself. most importantly, COMPASSION. I do not need to beat myself up for times of depression. I am currently starting to enjoy observing the process of what it feels like to go into a state of depression, the humanity of sadness and crying, then the process of returning to a more stable condition. The more I view depression as just another state of mind, the less shame I feel about it. The more comfortable I am being depressed. The bouts last for shorter periods of time. 
  • Provides the necessary structure I need every day. I can rely on my practice to be there.
  • If I can achieve a headstand in difficult times, I can probably do the dishes too. And do my life in general. Yoga is a great teacher in facing adversity- it gets you to do things even if they are challenging. 
  • Moving my body just makes everything feel better. Practicing yoga helps to eliminate stagnant energy in my body and mind. It makes more space inside. Being depressed or anxious can feel very crowded. 
  • Any form of exercise creates endorphins. Endorphins make you happy.
  • Pranayama of any kind continues to eliminate stagnant or negative energy from my body and mind. It balances my brain and keeps me centered. 
  • Meditation teaches that beyond the depression and anxiety, there is Nothing. Nothing is spacious, blissful, and constant. I am not depression. It is something that effects me, but it is NOT me. It is not my identity. Meditation also provides a time when I can let go of negative self-talk. Instead of holding on to it and allowing it to fester, I can let that self-talk have its time, then fizzle out. Often tears stream down my face during a meditation practice. But it's good. 
  • Not traditionally yoga, but drawing helps me immensely. Drawings of nothing at all help me get my thoughts out as beautiful images and patterns. Then I have something pretty to look at and my mind feels more at ease!

Common misunderstandings:

  • People who are not actually depressed need to stop labeling their sadness or discomfort as depression. I.E. "I ripped my jeans, I am so depressed." OR "My favorite TV show has been cancelled, I'm so depressed." No. Depression is not just being sad or mopey or experiencing life's unpleasant moments. It is an actual mood disorder which can carry on for weeks, months, years, or lifetimes that needs to be taken seriously. 
  • There is a quote that floats around Facebook that makes me fiery hot angry every time I see it. It was clearly written or translated by someone who is not clinically depressed. "If you are depressed you are living in the past. If you are anxious you are living in the future. If you are at peace you are living in the present." --Lao Tzu  I do not believe Lau Tzu said this. He might have had something similar, but this has to have been altered to be more passive aggressive and oversimplified. Mood disorders are not that simple. If you are clinically depressed, you probably have a chemical imbalance which needs to be remedied with either medication or a strict exercise and diet regimen. Nothing makes a person with depression feel WORSE about being depressed than being told that they are simply living in the past. The future can also be depressing, if you think about it. Nothing makes a person with anxiety feel more anxious than being told that they just need to be present and their anxiety will go away. This will make someone more anxious. You can't just stop being one or the other. You need a plan. Once out of the woods, I do know the power of realistic thinking helps immensely. Staying rational and calm, giving yourself time to think things through instead of snapping right back to negative self-talk or assumptions of what people might think of you makes a huge difference. But you can't do this while you are depressed. 
  • "Snap out of it." Would you tell someone with heart disease to snap out of it? They can't. They are on a regiment that will hopefully lead them back to health. As I stated above, you need a plan to get to a more stable mental condition and to stay in a more stable mental condition. 

My greatest lesson is that while I will always be affected by Major Depressive Disorder, Manic Depression, whatever you'd like to call it, I can do my part to stay healthy. I can move my body, I can remember to breathe and to appreciate my breath, I can do good for others. I can give myself room to be depressed if need be, and I can exercise compassion instead of anger during these times. I do not need to display happiness at all times. Most importantly, I am not ashamed. 

 

 

Living With Sensory Processing Issues... as a Grownup. And How Yoga Helps! by Tiffany Coombs

Sensory Processing Disorder is a fairly new discovery in the medical field. Essentially the disorder results in people feeling extraordinarily uncomfortable with their surroundings on a day to day, minute to minute basis. Common symptoms include extreme tactile sensitivity to their clothing and to tags, extreme sensitivities to bright light, loud or high pitched sounds, touching dirt, glue, or paint, the experience of looking down a long flight of stairs or riding an escalator or elevator, dentist phobias, the feeling of cutting your nails, crowds, etc. This goes beyond general annoyance to a few of these normal, daily activities. These cause people with SPD extreme stress, physical discomfort, anxiety, and worst of all, feeling of isolation. 

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