Tag Archives: testimonials

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

icybrookandmossyrocks1jan2012
lymph (lĭmf) n.
2. Archaic A spring or stream of pure, clear water.
[Latin lympha, water nymph, from Greek numphē, young bride, water nymph.]
bro͝ok
noun
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.

www.youtube.com/watch?v=X5L0ih3RLjw

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

…may I ask what you experience while teaching?

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Credit Maxfield Parrish

From an email received March 1, 2015:

Yogini Rishi,  much appreciation for illustrating the practice of Ahimsa…My thirst for this practice at an experiential level is being quenched.
I am experiencing cumulative benefits from practicing while you guide your classes,,.As I should be;-)))
…may I ask what you experience while teaching?
I am asking because I have yet to teach an active meditation. (Obviously:-)) I know each of us have unique experiences and the whole of the practice is still unified.
As teachers, we understand and appreciate the vital benefits of regular yogic group practice.Therein lies the pathway for individuals to comfortably integrate deeper levels of consciousness into their unique personal daily activity.
Equally interesting is the exponential effect of group meditation with it’s ability to raise the level of collective consciousness within societies.
When we gather together in a group meditation that practice alone, and in and of itself, contributes to the elevation of collective consciousness. This in turn opens the door for all to play within the field of all possibilities.
  -Om Namaste
-MJB
 ~~~~~
Thank you for your beautiful interpretation from the mat, MJB.

It is difficult – impossible, really, to describe what it is like for me to teach meditation.

You know when you speak to an innocent 5-year old child and they ask, “What does that word mean?” and you are able to give them a very good description of what the word means, from your own heart, knowing that eventually they will come up with their own personal context and interpretation with time and experience? It is from that same wisdom, humility, surrender and joy that I teach meditation.

Without my own teachers and practice, I would not be able to guide students.

There is a releasing effort (which is a paradox) when I teach. Some call it “becoming a channel,” a practice of getting “out of the way” to let the Higher thing through, without attachment, with moderation (bramacharya) while doing my very best, staying focused and wanting to lead people through the Yamas and Niyamas to get to the final Niyama, ishwara pranidana: Surrender to the Divine.

You are Divine. Once you are comfortable, you can remember (smriti) your oneness with Divinity, including peace and wisdom and calmness and joy and love and be that in a state of relaxed awareness of those aspects of God. Ahimsa (non-animosity) and satya (truthfulness) are the foundations to ultimately achieve ishwara pranidana.

My classes have an intended pace. I believe that the way that I speak (my tone and choice of words) and the rhythm with which I instruct affects the heart rate in a therapeutic way. The group becomes unified on a physiological level – much like they would in a more actively physical and synchronized group Yoga class. This style of Yoga that I teach (Raja Yoga) is effective on a more subtle level than the average group Yoga class. This brings us to “meditation,” having withdrawn our senses from the world with the lead-up techniques that I impart.

Teaching Yoga and meditation is a personal practice – though not my sole or primary practice – which I take seriously. My entire lifestyle aims to support the focus that I bring to each class to guide chelas (students) in their own practice. When I eat, what I eat, my sleep hygiene and the quality of my personal relationships all have an effect on how well I can guide students to calmness.

Yoga is fractal experience and everyone benefits from meditation in groups with those less practiced and more practiced than them. In this way, we evolve one another.
This email has encouraged me to pursue teaching healthy meditation more regularly. Thank you for the inspiration!
In Joy

Fresh Testimony Rolling In

parrish02

Maxfield Parrish

20 February, 2015

Brooke,

I am so pleased to have been introduced to you and your fine restorative teaching skills.  I have been doing yoga for a good part of the past 17 years, and your class takes me on such a deep, inner journey.  I so appreciate your skills and wanted to personally thank you and express my gratitude.

-C.S.

Yoga Teacher Trainee

The Latest: Testimony and Promise

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Credit unknown

I received an email yesterday from a Restorative Yoga group-class student. She survives bipolar disorder and trauma and is in recovery for addiction disorder. She is in her 50’s.

“I recently (in the last few weeks) experienced a panic attack in the middle of the night and woke up with my heart pounding and shallow breathing. For the first few minutes it was very scary and disorienting but for the first time in my life I didn’t reach for medication. I sat up with my legs crossed and tried breathing. It took I don’t know how long but eventually I was able to calm myself down and then go back to sleep. My awareness of what I was experiencing and the little bit of yoga I know about really saved me! I’m a total believer!

” – J.
Out of curiosity, I checked her record of visits on the studio website. She has practiced 36 times total in six months: 29 times with me (ninety minute sessions) and seven times with other teachers (seventy-five minute sessions) since August… on average, six times per month, less than twice per week.

My Testimonial on Bikram Yoga and Bipolar Disorder

A similar version of this was submitted to the Bikram Yoga College of India website earlier this evening. www.bikramyoga.com/

How It Began
I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder at the age of 23. I began the Bikram practice at the age of 29, 11 years ago. I was overweight, isolated and living months at a time with depression that kept me in bed for most hours of most days every winter.

I began practicing Bikram Yoga and knew immediately that this practice would be good for me, if not just socially and for weight management but also for my circulation (I have had lymphedema since the age of 12) and for the relief of anxiety, hypo-mania and depression, all symptoms of bipolar disorder. I was fat, swollen, depressed, miserably sad, misunderstood and lonely. I was also grieving the death of my beloved older sister, D’Arcy two years earlier. She, too, had bipolar disorder. She went untreated and died a drug addict.

I have used Bikram Yoga successfully to manipulate and to help manage my bipolar mood changes. I have minimized my hypo-manic, anxious and depressive symptoms since beginning the practice in 2002 and have been without any extraordinarily unusual moods since 2005 (with the exception of once, after a break-up. I admit that I was angry and heartbroken.  I did some things that I should not have done. At least I didn’t set his bed on fire like my not-bipolar friend did when her boyfriend cheated on her! Yikes! ).

Yoga disrupted the cyclical and predictable mood changes that I had struggled with for years, leaving a smoother, more reliable energy level from which I could draw in order to live well, while still, more easily and more quietly, privately “entertaining” a mental illness.

How It Works
This practice regulates the rhythm of my days, my metabolism, my sleep/wake cycle, my appetite, my outlook, my confidence, my socializing, my feeling of connectedness to self and to others, and my weight fluctuations.

The practice of twenty-six postures and two breathing exercises in a room heated to 105′ ultimately relaxes me by lowering my heart rate, increasing my blood-oxygen level, synchronizing my respiratory, endocrine and nervous systems and realigning my musculo-skeletal system. It is detoxifying and purifying. The practice enforces self-confidence by practicing in the mirror for the entire ninety minutes. (“Look into the eyes of your own best teacher.”)

The practice provides an opportunity to cultivate the discipline and energy that it takes to manage a chronic and persistent mental illness.

The practice can help one cultivate a deeper awareness of oneself for the better management of both gross and subtle mood changes, with or without the diagnosis. It has done that for me.

It produces, in the end, over-all feelings of contentment, known as santosha in Sanskrit.

What Happened As A Result of My Daily Yoga Practice
Today, I am an Ananda Yoga and Meditation Instructor, in the same lineage as Bikram Yoga. I am also a disciple of Paramhansa Yogananda, Bishnu Ghosh’s brother (who was Bikram’s teacher). I continue to use the therapeutic, Yogic tools that I have learned for mood management on myself and I teach these to others now – with great success!

By the regular practice of Bikram Yoga, people living with bipolar disorder can practice self-discipline, self-study, and devotion (tapasya, swadhyaya and ishwara pranidana in Sanskrit, respectively), just by showing up, all of which are helpful and applicable conducts of behavior that apply to everyone… but that are especially therapeutic for a disorder of mood inconsistency. These tenets of Yogic philosophy have been especially important in my personal recovery.

Yoga is like a miracle. I can’t believe that there aren’t any other testimonials about Bikram Yoga as mood management for bipolar disorder. Hopefully there will be more, soon! (We are a shy and stigmatized, self-protective bunch, by necessity. Bipolar is commonly misunderstood and can be scary. It can be dangerous and it can be deadly.)

Conventional Therapies and Clarity
Medication was the only treatment plan for me at diagnosis. I was irresponsibly over-medicated at onset. I gained 50 pounds, my hair fell out, I was like a zombie. I had to drop out of school for 6 months, though I was expected to (and did) graduate from college. I went off of medication after one year. I was horrified by the results.

I resumed medication in 2005: Three years of a daily, 90-minute Yoga practice gave me the clarity to understand that my brain needed something to steady the shifting tides, something that my will alone could not provide, and I recognized that I was working as hard as I possibly could at this hot, sweaty, crazy Yoga thing – that definitely helped steady my moods, more than anything else that I had ever tried – but it didn’t help all the way. I was no longer willing to spend my energy controlling – or trying to control – all of my brain’s activities on my own. The illness was just too in-born for me to completely manage on my own. I gave in to the temptation for a higher quality of life.

After years of hot, sweaty contemplation and observation, wearing next-to-nothing and twisting my body in the mirror morning, noon and night, I could finally surrender to this understanding of a certain powerlessness and to the possibility of a finding a proper doctor to prescribe proper medication in proper dosages.

What a gift to have such clarity.

Adjunctive Therapies, Breakthrough Symptoms and Bad Genes
I finally had the energy and well-being to seek out and find a doctor whom I trusted. This took about a year, if I recall, going through a quacky doctor or two before finding dear Dr. Olson. I have also had a talk-therapist since 2004, Ruth. She practices Yoga and understands its therapeutic value. Talk-therapy, including Cognitive Behavior Therapy and Dialectical Behavior Therapy, is the only adjunctive treatment to medication therapy that is universally recognized as treatment for bipolar disorder (though still not completely reimbursed by insurance companies). Yoga research is needed to reveal Yoga’s therapeutic value and potential for this population. Yoga needs to be made widely available to those who suffer.

A common attitude of doctors is that those with bipolar disorder can live a high-quality life once medicated. Yet it must be understood that breakthrough symptoms occur no matter the medication, because stress triggers symptoms. I found my breakthrough symptoms greatly neutralized only with a combination of the regular practice of Yoga and proper medication. Bikram Yoga is highly stress-reductive. It is demanding, yes  but, also, the posture series is complete.The spine is manipulated in a sequence that calms the nervous system. The practice has transformed my breakthrough symptoms to make them more infrequent and ever-so-gentle.

Bipolar disorder has high rates of co-occurring suicide, homicide and substance abuse associated with it. My older sister committed suicide. My father, who self-medicates with alcohol and prescription drugs, and my aunt both have this disorder of the brain. With this close genetic influence, it is understood that my health is “delicate” and that I need therapies and support for the rest of my life to stay active and to lead a normal life. Yoga helps me remain watchful and stable.

From Survival To Recovery
Without Yoga, I might not be alive today. This sounds dramatic, but it is the truth.

In 2002, when my friends and surviving sister suggested that I go to my first Bikram class, I had been in bed, for about four months straight, with my usual seasonal depression, for the third winter in a row. I was having suicidal thoughts at the time. Yoga literally saved my life – Bikram Yoga literally saved my life, actually – because of its popularity, its accessibility, its encouragement of a consistent, daily practice and because of its effects on the brain.

Within 24 hours of that first class, I noticed a shift in my mood that lasted from… that lasted from about twenty minutes into the class, from about the second set of half-moon pose (“I can do this!”) to hours later and into the next day, when I decided to go for another class.

Like most people, I do not hear voices as a general rule. That is not one of my illness’ symptoms, not for me, anyway. However, I find it notable that during my third class, while in savasana, I heard a voice that said, “This is the thing.” I knew then and there to keep showing up.

And so I did.

The stormy seas of my mind calmed and stayed calmer. The jabs of anxiety weren’t so sharp and they finally subsided altogether (they did return ten years later when I couldn’t practice for other health reasons. I had been out of the studio regularly for over nine months. Mood instability became detectable, first subtly and, over time, more loudly, illustrating the long-term buffering effect Yoga had on my moods, biochemically). The deep depressions disappeared immediately.
I lost weight, I gained strength and flexibility and I made friends and developed a community.

I practiced eight days of the ten of my original ten-day trial-package. After 2 1/2 years of practicing anywhere from five to ten times a week (a week of doubles!), in 2004 I recognized that not only did I want to attend a Yoga teacher training program to learn more about Yoga and why it was so fulfilling and therapeutic for me, but also that I was ready to try a new medication.

I went from working two days a week to currently teaching six classes a week, independently (I am not affiliated with any studio, unusual for this region) and teaching twice a week privately to a client with bipolar disorder.

I have not been hospitalized since taking medication and practicing Yoga. My focus has shifted from my illness to my wellness.

I plan to offer more Yoga/Bipolar Therapy group and private classes both locally and, hopefully, at conferences nationally and internationally, to continue to represent those living with bipolar disorder in a respectful and enlightening way and to share the healing potential that Yoga offers to the mental health community.

I hope also to inspire the conduct and publication of scientific research on this subject, if I cannot execute it myself. No research currently exists on Yoga therapy and bipolar disorder.

I may be the world’s expert on Yoga and bipolar disorder – I have found no others – at least, that’s what three different people suggested to me, just in the last week!

I used to spend months crippled in bed by this disorder. “Like a flower petal blooming,” through Yoga I have become a Yogini, an advocate for Yoga and bipolar therapy and research, a teacher and a more confident woman. I continue my outreach, education, teaching and personal practice to share the therapeutic effects of Yoga to those in need and to help break the silence that veils mental illness.

…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!
Namaste,
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