Join me on retreat over memorial day weekend, 2017. Continue reading
November 5th, 12th, 19th
December 3rd, 10th, 17th
6:00 – 8:00 pm
with Stephanie Long, MS, LPC, E-RYT
Raise your hand if you’ve ever had mixed feelings about something – as in “I really want to go on vacation, but I’m way too busy and everything would totally fall apart while I’m gone.” Or if you’ve ever felt panicky and anxious for no apparent reason. Or maybe you’ve watched yourself buy 6 pairs of yoga pants in 6 different colors because, “well, they’re on sale, and who knows how long they will continue to make this style,” while, simultaneously stressing about your dwindling checking account, hearing the “NO! DON’T DO IT!” in your head as you click purchase.
These are parts. And yup, we’ve all got ‘em. Other terms for these little buggers might include sub-personality, ego, inner child, conscience, just to name a few. These clusters of thought, emotion, body sensation, and behavior seem to show up together in us when we are put in certain life situations, or are around specific people. Internal Family Systems (IFS) therapy recognizes this multiplicity inherent in us, and uses mindfulness skills to start to become aware of parts, and then offer them loving attention, acceptance, unburdening, and healing with the help of Self.
In yoga, what occurs for most practitioners is an experience of increased Self Energy. “Self-what?” you may wonder. In yoga, we often talk about Prana to refer to this healing energy. Chinese medicine calls this Qi. Anytime we take a conscious breath and tune into our bodies, minds, and souls more deeply, feeling grounded and a greater sense of balance and wellbeing, we are entering into core Self. Atman. True nature. Buddha nature. This state of being in Self is the primary intention of several eastern and western spiritual traditions, including yoga, and is key to IFS as well, as this state gives us access to the healing power of Self Energy.
The intention of IFS therapy is to help Self get back into a leadership position, and from there, heal all the parts, and help the system to function optimally. Benefits of being Self-led include increased emotional regulation, recovery from trauma, decreased symptoms of depression and anxiety, increased ability to be present with, and accepting of oneself and of others, increase intuitive abilities, and healthier relationships with family and friends.
In this 6 week therapeutic program, you’ll be invited to discover more about your Self and your parts through the Internal Family Systems model and yoga practice. This will include some lecture as well as several experiential, therapeutic exercises that will be done individually, in partners, and as a whole group. We’ll start each class with a yoga practice to increase self-awareness, openness, groundedness, and Self Energy. This program offers a chance to explore your own thoughts, behaviors, emotional states, and physical symptoms in a supportive group format that will provide safety and welcoming for your work, but never pressure to do or say anything that you don’t want to.
The investment is $300 for this 6-week experience. This will include 12 hours of valuable group instruction and healing work through therapeutic yoga and IFS therapy. The group will be limited to 12 people, and requires a 15 minute intake phone conversation with Steph in order to assess readiness and fit, and also to discuss any concerns or questions you may have.
A three-week study with Steph Long
Wednesdays from 6-8pm, February 26th through March 12th
At Blossom Yoga, 152 S. 2nd Street, Laramie
My true nature is the heart
The heart is my true nature
I am the bliss of the heart
The heart that I am is the unending
Bliss of oneness
Throughout the course human history, the heart has frequently taken a back seat to the reasoning power of the brain. Though referred to in many spiritual traditions as the seat of our intuition, we most often choose to ignore the heart’s wisdom and advice. Why? Because it has led us astray in the past: trusting – or even loving – someone we shouldn’t have, following a foolish dream that didn’t pan out, or taking on overwhelming feelings like pain, anger, grief, or sorrow.
And yet in the same breath, it sustains us, pumping blood around the body 1,000 times per day without our prompting or even one conscious thought. It allows for feelings of joy, exuberance, compassion, generosity… and love. We could not exist without it. It is a gift.
Yet many of us do not understand its immense power, or how to use this incredible resource for healing, for deeper connection in relationships, or for making a noticeable difference in a world in crisis.
In this three-week study, we’ll dive deep into the center of our being. We’ll explore some of the latest scientific studies related to heart health and the benefits of entering into a state of heart coherence. Together, we’ll engage in heart-centered yoga and meditation practices to benefit both the physical and energetic heart. We will learn to access its healing resources, improve our relationships with friends and family, and even spark global change with the power of our hearts’ collective intentions.
Wednesday, February 26th
Learn how to enter into a state of coherence between the heart and the brain to help reduce the negative effects of stress, increase the body’s natural ability to heal and restore the body, and connect to your intuitive wisdom.
Wednesday, March 5th
The heart emits an electromagnetic field that reaches out several feet away from your body, and changes according to your mood. Entering into a state of coherence with a focus on emotions like compassion and love can reach out to help others on an energetic level, benefiting those around us, including family, friends, coworkers, and even pets.
Wednesday, March 12th
The Global Heart
Every living being is connected. Science has shown how the earth’s magnetic field affects humans and other living organisms in profound ways, but can the opposite also be true? Can our collective intentions truly affect the earth’s environment? We’ll examine the current research and give it a try as we join the Global Coherence movement in meditation.
Click here to link to the Blossom Yoga Studio website where you can pre-register on-line.
Want to dive in early? Click here to watch this amazing video from heartmath.org
Integrating Therapeutic Yoga in Mental Health Treatment
A workshop for helping professionals
1:30 – 3:00 Lecture, Q&A
3:15 – 4:15 Therapeutic Yoga group class
4:15 – 4:30 wrap up
$35 ($25 for UW students) if pre-registered on-line by Friday, November 22nd
$40 ($30 for UW students) at the door
To register, follow this link to the Blossom Yoga Studio “Special Events” page.
If you have any questions about this workshop or anything else, please use my contact page to get in touch.
I often hear from students and yoga teacher trainers that personal practice is something is of a challenge to begin and maintain. Time constraints, distractions, and not knowing “how to do it,” are usually cited as reasons why s/he hasn’t committed to it thus far. Yes, it can be intimidating in the beginning, but the benefits definitely outweigh the struggle: greater self-awareness, confidence, emotional regulation tools, and the usual gains in strength and flexibility tailored to your needs. If you find yourself in this camp, then perhaps these last few weeks of summer are the time to begin. The summer months provide ideal conditions for yogis looking to commune with nature during their asana or meditation practices. Here are my personal top 8 tips for venturing out onto the deck, the back yard, or even the front yard – be ye brave enough.
- Anchor the umbrella: this is a Wyoming-specific instruction. First of all, I am positively spoiled. I have a huge deck and a freestanding umbrella that tilts and swivels to my taste. Granted, it can be tossed about with ease by the Wyoming wind. I use 3 cinderblocks to hold it in place. This is usually not a concern with an early morning practice. The afternoon can tend to be the time the wind really gets going. No umbrella or tree for your protection? Please see number 2.
- Protect from the sun: don’t forget it’s mighty and awesome power. These are practicalities, but important nonetheless. Sunscreen and sunglasses are a must. If you are hoping to make this a sustainable practice, then you must protect from the sun. You won’t practice if you’re uncomfortable. It’s definitely worth the effort. Also, don’t forget to hydrate.
- Pick a private or semi-private space: the caveat here is if you don’t care who sees you. I’ve grown less self-conscious over time, but I still don’t necessarily want to point my happy baby pose straight at my neighbor’s patio as he grills his evening meal. Whenever my personal practice is “exposed,” or out in the open, I think back to my pre-yoga days when I lived in Vancouver where I would swim at the University of British Columbia pool. Every day during the noon swim, this gorgeous elderly woman would practice yoga poolside wearing a swimsuit, a bandana around her neck, and her ear buds to shut out pop music playing over the pool speakers. She had absolutely zero concern for how she came across to any of the swimming public – and not a one of us cared either. So, this one is definitely up to you. Think of what might happen if we all took our practice to the front yard! Oh, the possibilities…
- 4. Leave the phone inside.
- Give yourself enough time: Maybe that’s 15 minutes. Maybe it’s more like 90. Whatever you decide, keep this time sacred. This is a worthwhile endeavor. Your loved ones will notice what a pleasant person you are to be around if you don’t allow this “me time” to be cut short.
- Listen to your body: let yourself move, stretch, shake, twist, rest in exactly the way your body and breath instructs. This is often a sticking point for students – “I don’t have a teacher telling me what to do!” To which I say, “Exactly!” How often have you been in class and started to harbor resentment against your oh-so-bendy yoga instructor, thinking, “Haven’t we done enough plank for today?” The most amazing gift receivable from any personal practice is the chance to move in a healing, therapeutic way, guided from the inside out. To help connect with that inner teacher, try replacing “I should/shouldn’t” or “I can’t” with “I choose.”
- Don’t skip svasana: the clouds, the blue sky, and the rustling leaves are effective focal points to drop into the delicious meditative state of svasana – a pose we often don’t make enough time for. Open your eyes and focus your awareness on the movement, on the earth/grass/mat beneath you, the breeze on your skin, the sun’s warmth on your face…
- Realize your connection: for me – and for many in our beautiful little corner of the planet, being out in nature provides such palpable evidence of the yogic teaching that we are connected – not separate. It happens as I pause and notice how the breeze blows in time with my breath. Or the half-moon still high in the morning sky overhead – part shadow, part light – just like me. Or the great tree with it’s deep, expanding roots reaching down, and it’s massive branches reaching up. We share so much with these elements. They are reflections of our true nature. They can be our teachers if we open our senses in those moments.
But you don’t have to take it from me. This is a chance for your personal practice to start or expand. Personal is the operative word. Go ahead. Get out there. Connect to nature… and to your Self.
Last summer, I attended a 10 day LifeForce Yoga ® Practitioner training at Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health in the Berkshires of Massachusetts. The teacher of our training, Amy Weintraub, presented a very comprehensive and well-planned curriculum intended to help both mental health professionals and yoga teachers develop skills to address the symptoms of several mental disorders – primarily depression and anxiety – through yoga. My fellow students and I sat through many hours of lecture about the brain, the physiological and psychological effects of yoga. We meditated, we chanted, we practiced asana, we examined ourselves, our beliefs, our biases, our inner-critics… as I said, it was comprehensive. And exhausting. And although it was interesting and thought provoking, I found myself tuning out at times due to the sheer volume of information I was putting into my already full brain. Having just graduated with my masters in counseling two months prior, I had reached my saturation point.
On the second day of the training, I met a woman named Amanda. We struck up a conversation while enjoying some iced tea and the view of the mountains from the top floor of the dorms across from the dining hall. It turns out that Amanda is a school counselor who is also in charge of the yoga program in her high school. She lives in a small community near Halifax in Nova Scotia. We had a lot in common and became fast friends.
We continued on through our training, engaging in very serious and deep practices. By Sunday evening, about 3 days in, we were all feeling a little grouchy. Again, the information was fantastic, and those who have taken my Yoga for Mental Health class know that I make use of the tools Amy provided to us on a regular basis; however it was just too much to hold onto at that time. Several of the students and I found ourselves complaining about the rigorous schedule which allowed little time to experience the other classes – the less mentally and emotionally taxing classes – Kripalu had to offer. It was ironic that many of us in Amy’s training were beginning to actually feel depressed and anxious. The saving grace were the noon Yoga Dance classes in the great hall, which we did have time for on most days. A number of us would attend and enjoyed the free-form expression and movement. It was a wonderful feeling to be able to move as I needed after HOURS of sitting, listening, and processing. It was fun, and hilarious, and I got to sweat and roll around on the floor and be a bit ridiculous. I also got to feel utterly graceful, and gentle, and beautiful – all in the course of 60 minutes. This was quite a different experience from my college days when I got a B in Jazz Dance class. This has always stuck with me – this judgment of the way that I move. It was OK, but I didn’t deserve an A. And through these Yoga Dance classes, I was able to let a little bit of that self-consciousness go. One thing yoga has taught me is that it is not about how a pose looks; it’s all about how a pose feels.
And then, on Tuesday, while Amanda and I were sitting at lunch outside on the deck, up the stairs walks Shiva Rea – possibly the biggest yoga celebrity in the world. I had never seen her in person before. Vicky – who did her teacher training at Kriaplu – had told me a story of her Shiva sighting at Kripalu. I believe it involved Shiva running out into the rain with ecstatic joy as a group of students looked on. I have been a fan of her DVDs for a while now, especially her Trance Dance practice. In person, this woman is luminous. She has a glow, which is in part due to her California surfer blond hair, but it’s more than that. I can only describe her as a Goddess. She just glides. She is graceful. So, needless to stay, I was star-struck. Amanda was as well. We were sure to attend her kirtan session with Donna De Lory on Wednesday evening. We danced and sang. When it ended, Shiva stuck around and played DJ as we participated in an impromptu dance party late into the night. It was then that Amanda and I vowed that our next training would be something with Shiva – something not quite so serious.
In July, Amanda and I will meet in Venice Beach at Exhale Spa for a 3 day Global Trance Dance teacher training with Shiva Rea. I’m sure there will be some lecture, but I what I am looking forward to most of all is feeling good in my body and moving as I am inspired without judgment. I believe this can be just as healing as Pranayama and Meditation – maybe even more so. We’ll just have to see…
So, Blossom Yoga fans, look for Global Trance Dance coming home to Laramie in late summer, early fall 2013! But you also don’t have to wait until then either. As Friedrich Nietzsche said: “We should consider every day lost on which we have not danced at least once.”
Thanks to some amazing student feedback, I’ve made some changes to the structure of the class! First of all, I’ve taken some time to pick and choose what information – and which practices – are most important for students to experience over the course of the six weeks. I’ve come up with the following…
Week 1: Orienting, Grounding, and Centering – connecting to the present moment
Week 2: Karuna Compassion Practice – for you, your neighbor, and beyond
Week 3: Tapas – dedication to purposeful, regular practice, and how to set intentions
Week 4: Svadhyaya – developing deep awareness and extraordinary consciousness with Yoga Nidra (“yoga nap”)
Week 5: Ishvara Pranidhana – connecting to your highest Self
Week 6: Mudrasana Practice – “fake it till you make it” vs. taking the shape and becoming it
Each week will include a handout with a reading or YouTube video about the weekly theme, a simple and short home practice (not only asana practices), and a journaling prompt.
The class begins one week from today: Tuesday, March 26th at 7pm. Please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org to register!
I’ve recently returned from Seattle where I completed an 18 hour training with Hala Khouri. You may know her from her Yoga Activism organization, Off the Mat Into the World. If you don’t, check out the amazing work they do:
Hala is a yoga teacher and Mental Health therapist specializing in a modality of treatment called Somatic Experiencing. In private practice, she works with clients one-on-one to heal trauma through this body awareness approach developed by Dr. Peter Levine. For more on SE and it’s development, visit:
Hala Khouri also has a wealth of experience teaching yoga to populations considered “at-risk,” such as adolescents in juvenile hall, prison populations, and people involved in street gangs. She graciously shared her knowledge with those of us who attended the training, equipping us with tools and even her curriculum which she developed for Yoga Ed so that we too could go out into the world and help those in our local communities through the practice of yoga.
Coming from Wyoming, I am always in awe of how many helpers and healers are already using yoga to help the populations they serve. To me, the concept still seems quite new and somewhat misunderstood here, though it is catching on more and more. One of the most helpful and encouraging reminders I took from the weekend was how experiential this work is. When teaching us about how to approach organization directors and administrators about starting a yoga class, she emphasized how crucial it is to present the research, but followed that by saying, “…but don’t believe me because I’m telling you. You have to experience the effects for yourself.” For me, this is too true. Yoga is a mind-body science that teaches us how to ground ourselves in the midst of stress and chaos, how to better regulate emotions and impulses, and it gives us greater connection to our selves and each other. It is a physical practice, which is why I often have trouble putting into words how it helps – how it heals. After this training, however, I feel more prepared to make a convincing case for yoga and its therapeutic effects.
Thanks to all of the organizers and to Hala for beautiful, strong, and inspiring teachings.
Thank you for visiting Soma Spirit Therapeutics.
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