My #METOO Story

DISCLAIMER: This post has adult content and may have triggering language.

I know I’m not alone in saying this: Every day seems like an assault on my body, my rights and my femininity. New info is released daily about another woman coming forward against her violator and every day people find excuses for the violator. “He was drunk,” “she was asking for it,” “it was just that one time.” It seems like there is more time spent defending the character of a man who is accused of sexual assault then there is protecting and defending the words and story of a woman who is asking to be heard.

My story is not a secret. If you know me, you most likely know that I have a history of sexual abuse. If you don’t it’s because until about 3 years ago, I never really felt comfortable talking about it openly. For fear that I would be judged, from experience of losing friends for telling them and for my own shame that has since been healed. I was driving to work this morning and felt a call to share. Not for attention, not for sympathy, for empowerment. Because if me sharing my story inspires ONE person to share their own story, to feel less alone or to help them heal, then it is worth it.

When I was 3, I was raped. It was not a one time thing and it was by someone I knew. I was terrified to tell anyone, but when my mom ask me, I told her. My story is a little different because I was heard and believed. I had parents who immediately put me in therapy, took me to doctors, talked to me daily to ask me how I was feeling. Does it make what happened to me any better? No, but it did help me to heal. What I want to make perfectly clear is that when you are sexually violated, it is not something that you just “get over.” It takes A LIFETIME of continued work. Triggers and PTSD come often and sometimes out of nowhere and you will have no idea why. You will constantly question yourself because we live in a country that constantly questions women when we tell our story. You see, when the outside world does not reflect what you KNOW inside yourself, it’s called “gaslighting.” What is happening in this country is a collective gaslighting. Women are coming forward with their stories and instead of believing them, we question them, tell them they are wrong of that there is no way THAT person could have done that. This not only makes us second guess what happened to us, but it also makes us second guess our entire reality and let me tell you, that is a real mind fuck. What’s worse about all this? When women attack other women for coming out about their violation.

Because I was given a voice and heard, I was able to start my healing process from a young age. Does healing from sexual violation come naturally? No. Do I still have things come up when I could have sworn I was done dealing with it? Yes, regularly. Healing from any trauma takes hard work. I like to explain it like an onion: peeling back each layer one by one and exposing a deeper level of healing. I had all the usual symptoms and behaviors or a sexual abuse survivor. I thought it was my fault, I thought I was broken and unloveable, I disassociated from my body, I was angry, sad, mad confused. These were very complicated emotions for a 4 year old to feel, but I was feeling them and I had to learn how to deal and move through them.

What did healing look like for me? It looked like talk therapy, art therapy, long conversations with my mom. It looked like yoga, meditation, screaming, crying, yelling, confronting my violator, telling them I hate them. It looked like forgiving my violator. It looks like continuing to bring myself back into my body every day. It looks like no longer fearing my sexuality but creating a healthy and beautiful relationship with a body I once thought betrayed me. It looked like taking it slow when I was ready to have sex. It looked like picking partners who felt safe to me, Who didn’t scare me. It looked like journaling. It still looks like dealing with PTSD and triggers as they come, learning how to recognize them and practice an extreme form of self care to bring me back into myself and out of fear. It looks like being afraid to walk alone at night, being afraid when a man walks behind me on the street, being afraid when I am home alone at night. It looks like continuing to heal every day. Continuing to empower myself by knowing that I am no longer a victim, but a survivor. Someone who survived something really fucking horrible and who is thriving.

What has gotten easier? Talking about my story in a more open and empowered way. Knowing that what happened to me had nothing to do with me or my actions. Understanding that this is a life-long healing process. I take each day as it comes and I am beyond grateful for the support system I have and have built along the way.

I am aware that I have an exceptional story. That the majority of young girls, boys, men or women who are sexually assaulted or violated do not get treatment right away, they do not get listened to right away and sometimes they never even get a chance to utter the words. Sometimes this weighs on me. Why me? Why was I given avenues and opportunities to heal that so many others aren’t? But, overtime, what I realized is that this is MY story and nobody else’s. It doesn’t matter why I had this life and others don’t. Because questioning it and having guilt over it is not empowering myself or anyone else. I’ve learned to take those thoughts and emotions and turn them into compassion and support for other survivors. For all the survivors who couldn’t come forward, who couldn’t say the words, who are no longer with us. I am speaking for you and I am here for you. I feel your pain, I know your pain and I am sorry. I am sorry that not only did you survive one of the most horrific things that can happen to a person, but that you also went through it alone. I am here to tell you you’re not alone. That every day more and more women come forward with their stories and that we are STRONGER in numbers.

If you got this far, thank you for sticking with me. Thank you for listening. This was not easy to write but quite cathartic and healing in its process.

If you are or have been sexually assaulted and feel like you have no one to talk to, you do not have to go through this alone. Please reach out to RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network). It’s a place to start.

How I've learned to cope with anxiety

This post has been a long time coming. I often get messages from people via instagram asking me if I deal with anxiety and if so, how do I cope. I thought it would be most beneficial to write it all down in one place. 

Disclaimer: I am not a doctor. I am speaking from my own experience and providing tips in hopes that it will help someone. If you deal with severe anxiety and anxiety attacks and feel it is interfering with your life, please reach out to a mental health professional. 

The short answer is, YES! I do have anxiety. Is it all the time? No. Is it more than the average person? Maybe. I remember being a very young child, maybe 2 or 3 and telling my mom I had a "funny feeling in my tummy." Looking back, I realize that was anxiety. The way it manifests may have changed throughout the years, but I have lived with anxiety most of my life. As a result, I have collected different tools and ways to cope that have helped immensely. I still deal with anxiety: Some days are better than others and sometimes I am freaking out inside when I look like I have it together on the outside. It's not about perfection, but progress and helping yourself to feel grounded and safe. 

Anxiety comes in so many forms and with so many different names. It can range from butterflies in your stomach to being doubled over, not being able to breath and feeling like you're having a heart attack and everywhere in between.

Figuring out the why can be helpful, but it can also engage the mind and make things worse. For me, if I can track the trigger, then I immediately know the why. This doesn't come as easy for everyone. If you find your mind racing to find the why, then maybe that doesn't matter in the moment. That is when I will start with my first suggestion...

Meditation and Breathwork:

For me, my anxiety is the worst when I am not in my body. When my mind goes to worst case scenario and I start to future trip like I'm getting paid. This is where I use my yogic training to get back into my body and bring me into the present. The first thing I do is either sit in a chair with my feet flat on the floor or in a crosslegged position on the floor. Place your palms face down on your thighs. I take 5 deep breaths (as deep as I can get). The intention is to make each breath longer then the previous. I then do a body scan from my toes to the top of my head. Checking in with each part of my body and bringing myself fully into the present moment in my body. If I'm still feeling anxious after this, I will do some spine circles or cat cows and I will mentally chant the words "Sat" (pronounced saht) on the inhale and "nam" (pronounced nahm) on the exhale. "Sat" means truth and "nam" means name or identity so you are connecting with your true identity. It is impossible for your mind to focus on more than one thought at a time so focusing on a simple mantra (you could even use "let" on inhale and "go" on exhale) will keep you focused just on that and hopefully help to relieve some of the anxiety

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Move your body and get outside:

For me, exercise has been one of the biggest components in helping me to cope with my anxiety. Hard cardio works best for me, but sometimes just getting outside for a walk, breathing the fresh air and feeling the circulation moving in my body does the trick as well. When I get a good sweat in 3-5 times a week, overall my anxiety is significantly better the on weeks when I just don't get it in. It really doesn't matter how you move your body, it's just important that you move. On days when I just don't have the time, I will get out for just a 10 minute walk or hop on my rebounder for a few minutes just to move the stuff around. When endorphins are released, it interacts with receptors in your brain that reduce pain and trigger a positive feeling in your body that is similar to morphine. Have you have done a really hard workout and halfway through start crying for no reason? Its because your body is moving emotion that has been stuck. I find that stuck emotion causes anxiety so get your body moving and move it regularly!

Journaling:

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Having a place to put your anxious thoughts is powerful. There are three ways we move emotion through out body: breath, sound and movement. Journaling is considered movement as you are moving your hand to get the words out. When our minds get the best of us, sometimes the best thing, for me, is to sit down and let it ALL out on paper. Without judging myself or editing myself. All the dirty, ugly, neurotic, catastrophic thoughts. There is nobody there to judge you or tell you you're wrong. There is nobody there to tell you you are too much or that you need to "calm down." It can all come out on those pieces of paper and when you are done you can close it up, put it somewhere safe and move on. If those thoughts come back, you go back and write some more. You write until you have nothing more to write.

Journaling has always been one of my most powerful tools. One of my favorite exercises to do it to grab 4-5 different colors pens and start writing on one page. I then write horizontally, diagonally, words over other words. When you're done you are left with a beautiful mess of colors and I always feel lighter. 

Products that help:

For me, managing my anxiety has been a lifestyle change. One of self care, checking in with myself, meditating, exercising and listening to what my body needs. I am going to share a few supplement and products that I have found to be very helpful. 

Ashwagandha: 

Ashwagandha is an Ayurvedic adaptogen (an herb that helps the body adapt to stress) used to strengthen the adrenal and nervous system. It has a wonderful calming effect. In a study, ashwagandha was used in place of lorazepam and found to be just as effective as the prescriptions drug. My favorite brand of ashwagandha is Sun Potion. This company tests three times throughout the process for toxins and heavy metals (which are common in things grown in India and China). They are also certified organic and has been most effective, for me. I simply put it into my morning drink and enjoy. 

Reishi:

Reishi is a functional mushroom and is also an adaptogen. It is known as the Queen of Plants. It has been used in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) for centuries. When used regularly, the mushrooms effects build in the body and can be quite effective. My husband says that he feels the effects of reishi immediately and that it works better than anything else he has tried. In studies it has been shown to effectively reduce anxiety with 4 to 6 weeks of regular use. It can also combat depression and fatigue. The only reishi I use is from Root and Bones. Use code "bodyblisslife" for a discount. 

Rescue Remedy:

This is a product I have been using as long as I can remember. My mom always had a vial (or 5) of it. It's a homeopathic remedy and it truly works. If you feel an anxiety attack coming on or just have that low grumble of butterflies in your stomach, you take a few droppers full and within a few minutes start to feel the calming effects. Since then, the company has released several other Rescue Remedy infused products. If you can't do alcohol (as it is alcohol based), the pastilles are a good alternative. They even have a sleep formula. 

Integrative Therapeutics Lavela:

These little lavender pills have changed the game for me. I keep a strip of them in my purse and as soon as i feel anything come on, I pop one in my mouth. Within 20 minutes, I feel a sense of calm wash over me. When I'm having a hard time, I will take one each morning preventatively. I am so grateful I found these and that they have made their way into my life. I have recommended them to several clients and they all report back that they work. They also give you a lovely essence of lavender in your mouth. :)

Plant Therapy "Worry Free":

This lovely essential oil blend has all the properties to relax the body and mind. I love to use it before meditating, before bed, in the morning or whenever I am feeling a little anxious. I place several drops in the palm of my hand, run my hands together to warm it up and then cup my hands around my nose taking several deep inhales. I take the remaining oil and rub it on the back of my neck, my chest and inside my wrists. 

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Anxiety is different for everybody. Learning to cope with or live with it is a journey and may look different from person to person. These are just a few things I have found to be effective and lasting. I still deal with anxiety, but I have found a good self care system that works for me. Recognizing when it's coming on and knowing what will be best for me to help calm and ground myself. Sometimes I do all of these things and sometimes a simple walk in the fresh air helps. I hope that you find these suggestions helpful and, as always, if you have any questions please leave a comment or email me. 

 

How Body Bliss Life was Born

Happy Friday! I realized I just jumped into the whole blog thing and didn't do a post introducing myself, what I do and why I do it. So here goes:

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Hey! My name is Amrit-Sadhana, I live in Portland. I'm originally from Central Oregon and have lived in LA, Italy, Vietnam and spent extended time in India. I grew up in a yogic home (which you've heard me say before), but what does that mean? It means that I was raised with Kundalini yoga and meditation from a young age, we didn't wear shoes in our house, it constantly smelled like chai (totally ok with that), chant music was played non stop and we had a yoga room (yes, a whole room dedicated to yoga). This does not make my childhood extra special or void of trauma, but it did provide me with some tools that I carry with me to help me to cope. In fact, it's what helped me to heal from trauma. This lifestyle is the seed/foundation of why I created Body Bliss Life. I wanted a place where I could share my knowledge and experience of Ayurveda, yoga and mediation. Where you could find inspiration to create yummy and healthy vegetarian meals and a place where being a woman is 150% celebrated. Living consciously and blissfully is my passion because I feel that we all deserve it. It's a birth right. 

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    When I discovered feminine movement, I feel like the missing piece of a puzzle was found. When I lived in LA, I met Sheila Kelley (the creator of S Factor). She invited me to come take a class (me?! pole dancing... I don't think so). Took me about 3 months to take her up on her offer and of course I was hooked from the moment the class started. Never had I been given permission to move my body without judgement or shame. I could spend 10 minutes to get from the floor to my feet and it was celebrated. Too often, we are rushed and don't allow our bodies to just move in a way that feels good. Thus began my journey. When we moved away from LA, my body missed the movement so much. I traveled back several times for teacher training so I could become a teacher. Discovering my style of teaching took some time, but I found that it works best for me to fuse my upbringing with yoga and meditation with the movement, thus was born Body Bliss Movement. 

    I have a lived a lot of life in 31 years. There is so much more to tell but for now I will leave you with a few fun facts about me:

    1.  When I was young, my father was a professional shepherd. I spent many of my childhood days on a farm "helping." In high school/college, I milked cows. You could say that I am a farm girl at heart
    2. I am semi-fluent in Italian (used to be fluent) and miss Italy every single day
    3. I have my Bachelor's in Voice Performance and sang with Los Angeles Metropolitan Opera for 2 1/2 seasons.
    4. I did a 1000 day meditation (1000 days in a row without missing one day. A minimum of 11 minutes a day and no more than 31. In Kundalini yoga when you do a meditation for 1000 days in a row, you master it.). I did bound lotus, which is when you sit in full lots and wrap your arms around to grab your toes and then bow your forehead to the ground. 
    5. Elephants are my most favorite animals in the entire world!
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    2018 Intention Setting

    "So it is Christmas and what have you done? Another year over, a new ones just begun." -John Lennon

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    Let's talk about New Year's resolutions. For one, we give them so much power, when in reality we can create change in our life whenever we wish. We do not need the permission of a new year to do so. My experience with them is that they can lead to self-shame, guilt and disappointment. When I was about 16 years old, I decided I was no longer setting resolutions, but goals or intentions that I wanted to accomplish for the year. These did not determine my worth if they were not met and I did not get down on myself if I "broke" them, the following day would be a new opportunity for me to continue to change I wished to see. 

    This is not to say that resolutions or bad or not helpful. Some people find them to be extremely successful. I personally find that it is a more positive experience to sit down, connect with myself and dream big. I get personal and I write down my deepest desires. 

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    But how do I do this? I like to light a candle, burn some palo santo and sit down with my journal either in front of my altar or in a quiet space. I put on music that makes me feel happy and positive. First I close my eyes, taking a few breaths to set myself. Then I open my journal and begin to write. Here is an example of what it could look like:

    2018 Intentions and Manifesting:

    • Spend less time on my phone
    • Spend time with women who light me up
    • Travel more
    • Teach at least 1 workshop each month
    • Teach at at least 1 retreat

    Do you see how these are intentions and things I want to manifest, not restrictions. There is more of a flow and room for breath, rather than "lose 15 lbs," "stop eating sugar," etc. It isn't that these are bad goals but I want to create less rigidity in my life and more room for flow and magic. When we open ourselves up to the flow of the universe, things beyond our imagination begin to happen. 

    I always encourage people to dream big! Reach for the stars, because you never know how the universe will respond. How are you setting intentions for the new year?