Tag Archives: support

“wow! what a class!” – Healthy Lymph Workshop Feedback and Afterthoughts

lymph (lĭmf) n.
2. Archaic A spring or stream of pure, clear water.
[Latin lympha, water nymph, from Greek numphē, young bride, water nymph.]
a small stream.
“wow! what a class! Brooke, that was an amazing workshop… I left feeling that I wanted to go to a few more lymph workshops, or a series so that I could integrate this practice more into my own daily life. I really felt that I didn’t know what I was there to learn, that I was following an intuition to be there, and that I was generally disconnected with my lymphatic system, poor overlooked and overworked system, no more! Whatever happened in there was kind of mysterious… The exercises were subtle and yet I felt worked. I went really deep in the savasana, I felt so much more integrated with all levels of being: physical, mental, emotional and the subtle body. Thank you for all of the print outs, I had no idea that there is such a subtle intercellular path for clearing toxins.
Thank you for helping us to awaken our lymphatic systems and for awakening us to supporting it. You inspire me!” -JH

I have just discovered a poem by Alfred Lord Tennyson called The Brook. It is about the transience of human life and the eternity within which life flows.


The Brook

I come from haunts of coot and hern,
I make a sudden sally
And sparkle out among the fern,
To bicker down a valley.

By thirty hills I hurry down,
Or slip between the ridges,
By twenty thorpes, a little town,
And half a hundred bridges.

Till last by Philip’s farm I flow
To join the brimming river,
For men may come and men may go,
But I go on for ever.

I chatter over stony ways,
In little sharps and trebles,
I bubble into eddying bays,
I babble on the pebbles.

With many a curve my banks I fret
By many a field and fallow,
And many a fairy foreland set
With willow-weed and mallow.

I chatter, chatter, as I flow
To join the brimming river,
For men may come and men may go,
But I go on for ever.

I wind about, and in and out,
With here a blossom sailing,
And here and there a lusty trout,
And here and there a grayling,

And here and there a foamy flake
Upon me, as I travel
With many a silvery waterbreak
Above the golden gravel,

And draw them all along, and flow
To join the brimming river
For men may come and men may go,
But I go on for ever.

I steal by lawns and grassy plots,
I slide by hazel covers;
I move the sweet forget-me-nots
That grow for happy lovers.

I slip, I slide, I gloom, I glance,
Among my skimming swallows;
I make the netted sunbeam dance
Against my sandy shallows.

I murmur under moon and stars
In brambly wildernesses;
I linger by my shingly bars;
I loiter round my cresses;

And out again I curve and flow
To join the brimming river,
For men may come and men may go,
But I go on for ever.

Alfred Lord Tennyson

“Gratitude for you…this is the most profound medicine I have ever experienced.”

Hi Brooke,
Thanks for today’s session.  And thanks for taking such good care of JT, he felt really nurtured and safe.  We both needed that.
I’m bummed that I will be missing meditation tomorrow night.
I’ve been wanting to share with you how profoundly restorative yoga has affected my life and well being, and to share my gratitude with you for offering this, and being willing to do the ground-breaking work.  Thank you!  You are so beautiful!
I have been incorporating some of the soul and body nourishing techniques that you shared with me on our individual session.  I will never forget that night, the deep peace I felt inside me.  I have a little altar at the door, with flowers from the garden that I had not “bothered” to bring inside since I see them out in the garden.  But it has been transformative to bring some beauty into my home.  I have some beautiful things that I have gathered, crystals and shells and things that I leave there.  And I light a candle to offer prayers.  It has transformed how I feel in my home, grounded and at peace, not restless, like I should be outside working.  Tending to my little altar helps to calm the voice of criticism I have had about my housekeeping habits.
I’ve also been practicing some meditation and gratitude prayers in the morning, waking up just before sunrise.  I have felt recently uninspired and unmotivated, and waking up after a solid night’s sleep just feeling unrested, but mostly uninspired and unmotivated.  And I’ve listened to the voice in me that says that sunrise is the medicine I need.  So I’ve been going up the hill behind the tiny house and sitting in the chaparral listening to the bird’s morning chorus and giving my gratitude, trying some affirmations and short meditations, including breathing techniques and mudras, and journaling.  When I finish this practice I feel at peace and full of gratitude, and inspired and energized.  I am so grateful to have so many tools to connect me to the present moment, and the peace that can be found there.
JT and I have both been enjoying the warm oil self massage, what a nurturing practice, and with the amount of time we spend in the elements we both immediately felt the energetic shielding or buffer from exposure, and the ability to tend to the inward calm.
In combination with the restorative yoga postures and the beautiful, safe and nurturing space that you create at the yoga center, this is the most profound medicine I have ever experienced.
I did want to write something that you could use on your website as well.  “With Brooke’s gentle guidance, I have come to know a profound peace within my body.  I am deeply grateful.  Restorative yoga is the most holistic medicine I have ever experienced.”
Congrats on your presentation and the amazingly supportive response you got in funding!  I am so grateful to be one of your guinea pigs 🙂 I’ll be seeing you soon and often!
Much love and peace,
August 11, 2015
AUM peace AUM

Yoga as Medicine for Bipolar Disorder and Substance Abuse Disorders: Twelve Pain Management Suggestions To Practice On and Off The Mat


I was born and raised in Los Angeles. My sisters and my friends and I grew up in an affluent community in the Hollywood Hills. Most of our parents were a part of the entertainment or fashion industries: creative, educated and driven.

As a college student on the central coast of California, my extensive manic episode offered a clear-cut diagnosis of bipolar disorder. My father and my older sister, D’Arcy, lived with bipolar disorder but both went undiagnosed and untreated.

Though brilliant, all her life my dear sister suffered with terrible depressions, social problems, substance abuse issues that began in her teens, financial issues and low self-worth. Without an obvious manic or suicidal episode in her early twenties, she continued to suffer in her own way until her suicide, by way of a drug overdose, at the age of 30.


Two years after D’Arcy’s crushing death, I somehow found my way to the Yoga mat. I enjoyed greater self-awareness because of my practice. Because of this awareness, I became better able to self-advocate, which was especially important when negotiating with my doctors about which medicine would be best for me. These secondary benefits of my Yoga practice: self-awareness, self-advocacy – beyond strength, heart-rate variability and weight-loss – were key to finding and trusting both a doctor and medication that worked for me. I was then able to thrive while managing and nearly arresting a chronic, progressive and potentially deadly disorder.

My Yoga teachers encouraged me to become a Yoga teacher. They saw a spark in me.

I made my way to Yoga Teacher Training. I surprised myself by becoming a talented and well-liked instructor.

I had not set out to become a teacher.

I naively trusted that, in Yoga Teacher Training, I would learn why Yoga brought my bipolar symptoms back to balance. I was compelled to find others engaged in this conversation. I wanted to talk about what was happening to me, and about how others could be helped through the model of Yoga, people like my sister, who seemed to struggle under every circumstance, despite gifts and talent and beauty… despite access to the best medical care in Los Angeles.

In searching for a salon, my curiosity and courage began to outweigh my shame, my fear and my grief.

Shame, fear and grief began to change their effect on me. They began to feed my courage.

My willingness to explore and to serve tugged at my flexibility. It stretched me in ways that I could not have predicted.

This phenomenon of the secondary benefits of Yoga must be acknowledged by the bipolar wellness community as part of the journey of recovery.


A childhood friend from my old L.A. neighborhood passed away last month, the same way that my sister, D’Arcy, died: by a drug-overdose. Both my sister and Susie experienced untreated bipolar disorder-related addiction.

This week, Robin Williams committed suicide. He, too, suffered from bipolar depression and struggled with addiction at the time of his death, which came the day after D’Arcy’s suicide’s fifteenth anniversary. Our family was deeply moved by the loss of Robin Williams.

Susie’s affluent, educated Hollywood friends did not have the language skills to address Susie’s behaviors in the last couple of years when things were escalating. My family was the same when D’Arcy died: baffled and stammering and traumatized by years of suffering and unexplainable behavior. Susie and I had communicated via internet in the last few years but the shame that she and her family felt about the disorder overrode the possibility of Susie seeking treatment. Shame was generationally engrained and, for them, it wasn’t considered polite to discuss mental illness.

Susie is survived by a six-year old daughter.


Bipolar disorder knows no bounds. It affects all races, religions, social classes and both genders equally. Bipolar disorder symptoms are ragefully painful. Though street drugs may alleviate the discomfort of symptoms, there are safer alternatives and they must be made widely available to those who suffer.

• Practice Ahimsa or No Animosity, first for yourself and your feelings, for your body and for your mind. This will transfer to your behavior toward others.

• Sit with the pain, stay with the pain, breathe through the pain, and allow the pain to subside. Find a breathing technique that you love, like exhaling longer than your inhale.

• Be mindful of the effects of the disorder, both on and off the mat. Paths to emotional stability and sobriety often merge from several sources.

• Be mindful of the breath in all charged situations, and especially in emotional situations.

• Seek out trauma-informed therapists for self-reflection and to stop emotional and physical gripping. Encourage your vital energy to flow through you, naturally.

• Fill your life with people in whom you can confide.

• Be honest with yourself.

• Strengthen and enliven your body gently.

• Move your breath to nourish and cleanse your organs, glands, bones, blood and brain.

• Let your breath do the subtle, healing work. You do not have to be responsible for everything.

• Remember that your experiences are not your nature.

• Indulge in true rest wherever possible, including in Restorative Yoga poses, time spent in silence and time spent in nature.

To your comfort and serenity on and off the mat~


A similar article appears on the International Bipolar Foundation website, along with my other original blogposts for IBPF: http://ibpf.org/blog/yoga-medicine-bipolar-disorder-twelve-pain-management-suggestions-practice-and-mat#comment-10032

Reinvention, Full Circle-Style

I found out that the hiring process has begun: Cal Poly is bringing me on as a Restorative Yoga instructor in their new, state-of-the-art Rec Center. I am thrilled! I am so excited to have the chance to really turn down the stress levels of the students there – the tension is indescribable when walking around on the campus: fundamental tension, stress like bedrock on campus. Restorative Yoga will serve many there.

I left Nevada County last month after a year of study and landing this job in my hometown feels like a sign that moving home, though difficult, was the right move.

My experience at Cal Poly was rough. I dropped out of school my second year there, cracking from the pressure. One week later, I was admitted to the local Mental Health In-Patient Unit, and the thinking became, I must be crazy, Cal Poly must be OK, it must be me. Like 75% of all sufferers of mental health disorders, I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder by the age of 25. I was 23: ahead of the game.


California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo

It took me two quarters – six months – to recover enough from my first (of two) hospitalization to return to school. Because I had been grievously over-medicated by the county psychiatrist, my weight ballooned and I put on almost 60 pounds, going from 125 to 179 while convalescing. My hair fell out in swaths in the shower, and I was so stoned that I could not advocate for myself. I was baffled, having never heard of bipolar disorder before my hospital experience, even though, I would come to find out, it runs in my family.

I didn’t fit into any of my clothes when it was time to go back – because I was going back, my mother insisted, despite my medicated protests that I had been lucid in my decision to quit.

So the tally was now up to this: Due to illness, I had lost my figure, my hair, a half-year of school instruction, my power to choose the route of my life and my voice.

I wore my ex-boyfriend’s boxer shorts to school the first day back, with my underwear underneath, and a big t-shirt I had used as pajamas because that was all that fit. I remember the horror on people’s faces who had known me before I became ill, checking my doughy legs as they came at me in the hall, scanning their eyes upward. I felt that I had, overnight, become some sort of big, fat ugly zombie, defective on the inside, too, and that my gifted-and-talented brain had turned to pharm rot. I felt absolutely powerless, impotent, sad.

Still baffled, still stoned, I now had Priority Registration through Disabled Student Services and could register for classes with a little bit less anxiety. The teachers in my department were either really, really nice to me or acted like I was from another planet and kept their distance. Their behavior as mentors traumatized me and I feel the effects of that special-discount kindness, rejection and fear to this day. It adds to my personal story of stigma.

Everything was really weird. I remember watching the O.J. Simpson verdict in my Women In Lit class that first, lonely, uncomfortable quarter back to school, an attitude of injustice pervasive while I tried to summon the girl within back to the surface.

Had I had an instructor on campus who offered relaxation techniques to me back then, tailored to the college student’s anxious mind, who knew a thing or two about mental health disorders, who reached out to the girl obviously struggling with a new identity, I may not have spent the past 18 years reinventing the wheel, figuring out what it means to be successful and whole while living with a health challenge. I may not have spent so much time groping to recognize resources for personalized wellness. I might have spent more time trusting and using my voice.

I like the idea that, today, I can be that instructor, potentially.

I am so stoked that I get to chill people out in a way that feeds me, no matter where I teach. I have taught in jail, mental health facilities, colleges, Yoga studios, in people’s homes and in ashram settings. I am so grateful that my eyes have been opened to mental health and to be able to apply my knowledge and experience to promote mental and behavioral health in myself, on campus and wherever I teach.

This job opportunity makes me feel like this: I am so excited to be able to appreciate the beauty of Cal Poly’s campus today without the personal stress of mid-terms, Dead Week and finals – stress so blinding that I missed how beautiful a campus it was while I was a student. I can’t wait to be at Cal Poly feeling beautiful, articulate and strong.

You’d better believe that I’m not doing this for the money, but for the full-circle reinvention, the karma, the dharma… and for all the laps that I am going to swim in that sweet, state-of-the-art, Rec Center swimming pool! Living redemption is an opportunity to continue to practice humility and to maintain the progress achieved.

“Matchsticks strike
When I’m riding my bike to the depot
‘Cause everybody knows my name
At the recreation center”


Promote Your Greatest Well-being

Hi, Brooke, Have you led your prison yoga class yet? Love, Avital

Yes, I attended, shadowed, assisted and modeled for the yoga and meditation classes in the San Luis Obispo County Jail on Saturday, October 13, the morning after leaving Ananda (having been there for 10 days and meeting you for lunch). They asked me if I wanted to teach that morning but, once inside, I realized that I was happy to observe as had been indicated for me and to support the teachers and students and to interact on a more casual level among the women, for us to become familiar with one another.

It is quite an intense experience being in there: the girls have only their red short-sleeved jumpsuits, no sweatshirts (we practiced outside in a concrete and gated cage at 8:30am after a rain = cold), some had socks, though not all, and most seemed grateful though some were chatting (the lead teacher told them she would separate them like in Kindergarten). One from Maximum Security had tattoos on her scalp and looked like a man (I mean, I thought she was a man and had to look hard to convince myself. She seemed happy for Yoga.). These girls are tough, survivors of everything. It shows in their eyes, in their skin, in their posture, in their need to connect, in their defiance of their vulnerability. It is a privilege to witness such survival anywhere, after any catastrophe or trauma. We all embody this. These women wear it on their sleeves, in their scars and ponytails. Everything’s been taken from them and yet they have friendships and spunk and willingness. They are human, they are us.

We taught 3 groups that morning, one 1-hour and two 30-minute groups. The first group was about 11 strong and the Protective Custody group was only two women. There were two leaders, one for Yoga and one for meditation, and two of us shadowing to learn the ropes. I was prepared to teach meditation (over Yoga) that morning but, to respect the meditation leader who had come prepared (and to chicken out a little, to be honest), I thought to leave it to her (she had a reading picked out and read to the women while they were in Savasana). The ladies groaned in gratitude going into balasana (Child’s pose). The Yoga taught was sophisticated, in my opinion, up to poses like chakrasana (Wheel pose). It left a few of the girls behind, unfortunately. The meditation was from an Al-Anon book, a piece on forgiveness. Each teacher is different, with their own, valuable approach.
I’m the rare bird that can teach both Yoga and meditation.

I go back November 3 to shadow once more, then December 15 to teach “for real.” It was good to see how the others taught, how differently I teach (!) and the vibrational momentum that I am accustomed to creating. I heard that they try to get everyone to teach right away, or, encourage it, anyway. I’ll be better prepared next time if they try to coax me. I hadn’t been in a “random” Yoga class like that in a long time- like, years. I could keep up! I was surprised, actually. Then I dropped into meditation on my mat in the middle of the yard, almost without choice and as personal retreat, while one group waited to be taken in and another was to be brought out. I needed the medicine of it, the spaciousness and stillness. I was still in the Ananda vibration. The sanctuary felt like a balm.

My anxiety was probably greater than the fear factor needed to be but one does need to be on their toes in there. We are the specially-cleared few who can enter the facility as we do. We have a special dress code to adhere to (no jeans, no blue, no jewelry, closed toed shoes, no tight pants, high-collared tops…) There was no drinking water for us – for any of us. There was only one exposed, stainless steel toilet for us all to use, on-camera. It was definitely a different scene than the Expanding Light Retreat at Ananda Village… in some ways.
To volunteer in the San Luis Obispo County Juvenile Hall and Women’s and Men’s Jail, contact http://www.restorativepartners.org. Volunteer as support or to offer any skills that you might have. People are needed to interface with this culture to help reintegrate the imprisoned once they are released back into “the world.”

…Bring Your Awareness Back To The Breath…

“I’ve been meaning to e-mail you and tell you how much I enjoyed your
class.  It was absolutely wonderful and relaxing!” -D. Dornan

Restorative Yoga classes and workshops are offered to relax the body and soothe the mind. Here are some tips for any Restorative Yoga class:

Please dress in comfortable, layered clothing to keep the body warm as
you relax.
Mats, eye pillows and blankets will be provided, though feel free to
bring your own.

Slow the activity of your mind as you rest cradled in postures for two
hours of calm retreat, but try not to fall asleep! If you hear someone
snoring, it might be you. Staying awake is part of the practice.
Hover in that place of non-waking and non-sleeping to stimulate your
body’s healing response in passive poses that will calm and refresh
the mind.
Please RSVP so that a station may be prepared for you.
All of my classes are taught in the Ananda style. Ananda Yoga can be made
accessible to anyone willing to try, no matter health issues. No
experience is necessary.

I look forward to seeing you very soon!

AUM Shanthi!
Brooke West

“Be steadfast in yoga, devotee. Perform your duty without attachment,
remaining equal to success or failure. Such equanimity of mind is
called Yoga.”
-Paramhansa Yogananda