Rituals reduce stress, enhance performance, 5 rituals you should try for transformation
by Counseling and Wellness Center of PittsburghJuly 8, 2019 meaning of rituals, rituals for self care, rituals for tranformation, rituals to reduce stress0 comments
Rituals, reducing stress and adding joyful meaning to life
5 Rituals You Should Try For transformation and wellness
Ever wonder why Michael Jordan wore his North Carolina shorts under his Chicago Bulls shorts every game? Rituals have enormous power to sooth and inspire as well as bring back balance to mental health by reducing anxiety and increasing confidence. According to the National Institute of Health, there are 3 primary functions of rituals, to manage emotions, to work towards goals, and to connect with others. From an evolutionary perspective we are creatures who have evolved to perform rituals including those of meditation or contemplation and group rituals. Have you ever knocked over a salt shaker and thrown some over your back? Do you attend church on Sunday? Do you pray? Have feast for the Easter holiday? These are all rituals. Flashback to the biblical era everything from attending Sunday worship, to praying for rain and lighting candles for the deceased, its clear that having a close relationship to spiritual rituals is very much a part of our cultural history. Still, whether we are referring to managing the emotional impact of times of stress, to ignite our faith, or to enhance wellness, many successful and happy people rely on rituals. The science behind why rituals work is compelling according to Scientific America. With some many different kinds of rituals we should really define that there is a difference in the Sunday beer drinking ritual, an obsessive hand washing ritual, versus a morning meditation ritual or a communication ritual with our partner. A ritual should be one that we complete with full attention and the deliberate effort to set an intention, reduce stress, or experience a divine aspect to ourselves, or foster our relationship to the spiritual realm.
Rituals can become a reliable tool for manifesting of our goal’s and enhancing our wonder, rituals have deeper embedded meaning. A beneficial ritual should be life sustaining and it is also true that the repetitive behavior of addiction and psychiatric obsessive-compulsive disorder both have the component of rituals built into them. When performing a ritual we are completing an act that becomes instinctive, our brains go into a flow state that doesn’t require higher order processing, the automatic nature of this state which can reduce our anxiety and promote calm. When we examine singing a hymn in a church, this is group ritual that can promote a sense of unity or connection among group members and with a deeper feeling of connection, these emotional components have clinically been show to reduced expression of aggression.
With so much to gain from incorporating rituals into your life, we are brought to the great burning questions, how do we incorporate more of them into our life? Start small and incrementally by adding a ritual component to something you already do, if you have never prayed or meditated it might be a large leap to attempt that everyday. A more manageable step might is to create a weekly goal. Some couples have a weekly ritual around problem solving and talking through emotional issues at the end of the week. Even meal-time can be a ritual when we bless our food or offer a moment of gratitude for the abundance on our plate. Others find that monthly rituals that set an intention with the full or new moon are the perfect time and space to set a goal for the month. Ultimately, we need to create rituals that are meaningful and manageable for you as an individual.
Meditation Ritual- whether daily, weekly, or monthly, meditation has a massive impact on wellbeing, stress reduction, and positive mood. Even 5 to 10 minutes daily makes a difference.
Love Ritual- Happy Couples have ways to celebrate the passage of time, they have yearly traditions that allow them to connect with the growth and change of their relationship over the years. It is also recommended that couples have a weekly communication ritual to release any residual emotional reactions and better connect.
Meal time ritual- Nourishing our bodies with life sustaining foods in a quiet and comfortable distraction free zone is a great way to enjoy eating. Eating has historically been an activity that is a part of ritual, think of the foods that surround every major holiday. It is also a time where families can connect to each other.
Self Care ritual- Whether it is journaling, fitness, using essential oils, or gardening, doing small things daily is important for your vitality and stress management.
Full Moon ritual- The full moon is the perfect time to release negative thought patterns and the new moon is a time for us to create new goals. Making time for a meditation under the moon light syncs us in to time and space and the greater cosmos. Regardless of your spiritual beliefs, there is something sacred that we experience when we cast out focus on something as grand and magical as the world around us.
Lemon – Essential Oil of The Month
by Counseling and Wellness Center of PittsburghApril 20, 2019 essential oils for wellness, health benefits of essential oils, lemon essential oil uses0 comments
Each month in our quest for the best wellness tips that can be offered, we are sharing an oil and it’s health benefits as well as common uses. Lemon oil should not be rubbed in the eyes or delicate parts of the skin as it will burn and if placing it anywhere other than the soles of the feet or fingers/palms it should be diluted.
Essential oils contain active compounds which interact immediately with the body by entering into the blood stream and activating various parts of the brain. This month, for spring, we are featuring lemon oil. Like the season of spring time, it is known to be revitalizing and has uplifting benefits on mood. It can also help to aid focused attention and accelerate energy and motivation when used for deep breathing meditation! This oil also has a whole team of added benefits.
An added bonus to lemon essential oil is that it is very helpful during a cold or with allergies, with just a small drop on the finger and then placed just on the rim of the inside of your nostril, nasal congestion is instantaneously diminished. It’s pretty miraculous and works faster than any decongestant that we know of. Overall, it fights bacteria and for a very delicious way to sooth a sore throat, you can add some to your tea with honey for a time-tested healing drink. Other sources site that by placing a few drops of medical grade lemon oil in water, the immune system is boosted and it has even further benefits during cold and flu season.
When diluted as a cleaning solution, it is very cleansing for kitchen surfaces and makes a great substitute for those other artificial lemon scents. It also can take tarnish from silver and nourishes cracked leather goods. It also removes scuffs from hardwood floors.
For your beauty regimen, sources indicate that lemon oil can be added to your nighttime beauty cremes, placing just a few drops in your favorite crème will brighten your skin. It is also recommended that it can be added to oatmeal for a fresh and natural skin exfoliant. If your nails have a problem with fungus, try lemon essential oil to rid yourself of the pesky fungi. It also can be diluted and used on rough patches of skin on the foot to smooth out dry spots.
When diffusing lemon oil, it is best to add it to other scents like grapefruit, pine, and even peppermint which will further enhance you with a serious jolt of feel good energy!
The physical health, wellness, and household benefits aren’t the end of the goodness that lemon oil has to offer your foods. We can also consume cooking grade oils by adding them to sauces, pancakes, whipped crème, fish and just about any dish that you want to have a very bright flavor.
It is an all natural way to remove tree sap from the hands! Just try it and see!
A word of caution and this can be applied to your use of all essential oils, they must be high quality and always read the label of your favorite brand before consuming it as some are not meant to be eaten. Finally, be sure to dilute them before putting them on the face or body but generally a drop or two on your hands can be a pleasant way to inhale them deeply on the run. Lemon oil should not be rubbed in the eyes or delicate parts of the skin as it will burn.
For A Counseling or Wellness Consultation, Please call our office to schedule with one of our licensed therapists or wellness providers!
Counseling and Wellness Center of Pittsburgh
Counseling and Wellness Center of Pittsburgh- Monroeville
Counseling and Wellness Center of Pittsburgh- WexfordLearn More
How to Boost Your Brain Health, BDNF!
by Counseling and Wellness Center of PittsburghMarch 12, 2019 bdfn, brain health, healthy food, NIH, Uncategorized0 comments
How to Boost Your Brain Health
If you knew that tweaking some lifestyle habits could act like brain fertilizer, building new connections to reduce your risk of dementia, improve mood and reduce depression, improve heart function, and more, would you want to learn about it? Lauri Lang, RDN, LDN, is here as your licensed nutritionist to help you navigate those changes and learn about the best ways that nutrition can support your wellness.
Then read on! Above I have provided a brief explanation of a protein that impacts all of this, and possibly even lifespan, greatly, and below you will find multiple ways that we can increase its production. This magical protein is BDNF (Brain Derived Neurotrophic Factor) and while some details of our individual levels are genetically determined, and it naturally wanes as we age, we have great agency in boosting its production through lifestyle choices and habits we make.
- Eat more oily fish! Omega-3 fatty acids, particularly EPA or Eicosapentaenoic Acid, a neuroprotective nutrient found in the brain. Also, DHA Docosahexaenoic acid, or DHA, is a type of omega-3 fatty acid, found in fish. Both of these nutrients have many benefits including increasing BDNF (it also has the most anti-inflammatory action). This is an essential nutrient, and studies show up to 95% of Americans are deficient in it. SMASH is acronym for high omega-3, low contaminant fish: salmon, mackerel, anchovies, sardines, herring.
- If fish consumption is not for you, supplements are also available, check for molecularly distilled 3rd party analysis and therapeutic dose levels. Omega-3’s are also found in vegetable sources like flax, chia and walnuts, and while still beneficial, contain ALA which may not convert well to EPA and DHA.
- Increase intake of Turmeric and Curry, Blueberries and Red grapes! Turmeric is the spice that gives curry its yellow color, and has a plethora of health benefits, including boosting BDNF. It has been recognized for many epidemiological aspects of better health in cultures where it is a staple, such as lower Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia, and less inflammation. Try a golden milk recipe, or cauliflower turmeric flatbread. It can be added to many dishes, with a sprinkle of black pepper to increase bioavailability. It is also available in supplement form. The pigment that gives blueberries their color, anthocyanin, and a phytochemical, resveratrol, found in red grapes also raise BDNF levels.
- Avoid sugar, processed foods and HFCS (high fructose corn syrup) these items have the opposite action, as the SAD (Standard American Diet) which are high in these elements, has been shown to result in lower BDNF levels. For optimal brain and all around function, we have to put optimal fuel into the body.
- Intermittent Fasting is another way to increase BDNF, there is increasing evidence that periods of gut rest, as short as 12 hours, can boost our bodies repair mechanisms. While this is not for everyone, there is a growing body of research on the topic.
- Exercise!!! It is the best way to boost our BDNF levels. Find ways that work with your life, and that you enjoy, as developing this habit is a huge key to keeping our brain and hearts functioning optimally throughout our lifespan.
- Social Connection, Stress Reduction and Mental Stimulation! Nurturing relationships with close friends and family members, and spending time where authentic communication, love and acceptance are present provides a boost. People under a lot of stress produce less BDNF, so finding ways to reduce stress including meditation, yoga, exercise and mindfulness practices, getting out in nature, are critical.
- Sun can boost BDNF levels. This can be short amounts daily, while practicing skin cancer awareness and limits.
- Sleep….last but not least! Aim for at least 7 hours of sleep, this is critical to general health. BDNF is reduced with sleep deprivation. If you struggle with this, investigate changing your sleep hygiene habits, including trying a guided meditation for sleep.
So many great choices….where will you begin with your health and wellness goals?
If you are thinking about how nutrition counseling can help you or looking for a near by nutrition counselor, Lauri Lang, RDN, LDN is glad to help. Call us at 412-322-2129 or find our counselors near you at;
Counseling Near ME – Pittsburgh
Counseling Near ME- MonroevilleLearn More
Meditation, Ommmm-my! Getting from Mind-Full to Mindfulness!
by Counseling and Wellness Center of PittsburghMarch 1, 2019 how to meditate, kinds of meditation0 comments
We all have the innate capacity for greater clarity, calm, and focus. Consciousness is in fact a skill that can be sharpened when each day we wipe clean the debris that clouds our minds and trickles even into our physical bodies. Mindfulness meditation is a kind of focused awareness where we become distinctly aware of our selves, the nature of our thoughts, the quality of the sensations coursing within our veins. Yet mindfulness is not merely helpless attention that is splashed around our roving internal focus. It also incorporates the potential to alter the state and being of our consciousness, via our breath and attention. While meditation has so much potential that it can be prescribed as a tool to manage anger, depression, and anxiety, it is extremely trans-formative when used as a spiritual or mindful tool for wellness.
While there are many various forms of meditation, let’s explore some of the most common, starting with Zen Buddhism meditation. In the Zen tradition, the practitioner is seated cross legged or in lotus position, one of the more important components of which is that your spine be completely erect. Your focus then is simply on the sound and motion of your breath coming in and out of your nose. The sound and sensation of each breath is a meditative focal point, very simple but powerful. The drawback is that for beginners it may be very hard to just sit and breathe!
Another common Buddhist style of meditation is Vipassana. It is a style of insight-based awareness when attention itself is used as a tool. To concentrate all of one’s focus on a specific point can be an enlightening and extremely calming experience. For instance, you could place all of your attention on a body part, a thought, or a visualization. The goal is truly to become liberated from the shackles of our own awareness which tends to lack focus and be chaotic in its natural state. This style of meditation takes years of cultivation to improve upon but can be seen as a daily or regular practice. Like polishing a jewel, we clarify our thoughts and mind, as we will notice many different thoughts coming through our consciousness as we are seated. We do not attach to any one of them however, we allow them to slide by and label them as mechanisms of the ego, or desire, or self defeat. We become very aware and curious about our thoughts in this style of meditation.
This is perhaps the most accessible style of meditation for the beginner. It may start with breathing in a seated or lying down position with closed eyes. From there an instructor cues in various visual scenes, sometimes like a story. The practitioner is able to visualize various motions and enactments that can journey them into their unconscious. This is a favored method for beginners because it allows a place for the meditator’s focus to rest and is highly interactive and imaginative. After completing the meditation, if done in a group setting, the practitioners may talk about some of the things that they felt and visualized in the sequence.
This form of meditation is best performed after gaining a basic understanding of each of the chakras by becoming aware of their placement and function through the body. The practitioner then visualizes sending breath and sometimes light to those seven energy centers through the physical and subtle body. The subtle body is the non-visible and esoteric energy centers including the chakras and meridians. This form of meditation can be very effective and energizing to unblock the chakras and re-balance them. Chakra meditation is related to bringing balance to the flow of Kundalini energy which flows from the crown of our skull to the base of our root. This is an ancient yoga style that tends to be more spiritually focused.Learn More
What is an LPC vs LMHC vs LCSW – Counseling has many abbreviations, all the answers here!
by Counseling and Wellness Center of PittsburghJanuary 25, 2019 best counselor for me, what is an lpc vs lmhc vs lcsw, what is lcsw, what is lpc0 comments
If you are trying to find a counselor or therapist, you might start to become overwhelmed with options and confused by all of the abbreviations for credentials. Or maybe you are considering furthering your education in the mental health field but are not sure which degree is the best for you. Allow this helpful guide to take you through the various meanings which make up those abbreviations and this helpful guide will unveil what they all mean.
ACA The American Counseling Association, this is the governing board, they over see the education and the field of counseling on the national level.
APA American Psychological Association oversees the field of psychology and ensures quality and consistency in learning and licensing requirements.
LPC Licensed professional counselor, this person has a masters degree in professional counseling which covers behavioral psychology and the theories of behavioral change as well as many other theoretical approaches. After completing their universities course work, a counselor has completed thousands of hours of supervised counseling, rigorous screening processes and background checks by licensing boards to become licensed. An LPC is often considered a general practitioner who can take up further study to specialize in a variety of topics from addiction, to trauma, anxiety, depression, and relationships to name just a few.
MSPC This is a master of science in professional counseling. This is a person who has graduated with a degree in professional counseling but has not yet completed their supervision hours to become licensed. A person can practice in a variety of settings with a master’s degree, some people do not pursue a license and continue their career with their masters degree. A MS or MA can be used somewhat interchangeably and the difference is only in the amount of math and statistics that are required for the particular program they studied.
LMFT Licensed marriage and family therapist specialized in relationships and family dynamics and typically offers marriage counseling. This is a particular track which focuses on interactions between people and the theories which allow the therapist to help those people in the relationship to become well.
LCSW Licensed clinical social worker, is a person who has graduated with a masters degree in clinical social work and then went on to do supervised hours which gain them a professional license. A licensed clinical social worker is able to manage a variety of mental health issues from anxiety and depression to relationship issues.
MSW This person holds a master’s degree in social work and they may or may not have done any clinical supervision hours. They have graduated from a university after studying a variety of clinical theories on counseling. Social work also provides a comprehensive study of social systems which can offer support and assistance for a variety of issues.
LMHC This describes a person who has a masters degree in counseling and is also licensed, this degree does not exist in Pennsylvania but is the equivalent of an LPC.
PsyD This person holds a doctoral level of study in a given field, for our purposes that will be psychology, this person has studied a university program which emphasized clinical experience instead of research experience. A psychologist can provide therapy or a number of assessments. They also might be active in teaching at the university level or doing research.
PhD This person holds a doctoral level degree, for our purposes we will focus on a person with a PhD in psychology who is refereed to a psychologist, this person has defended a thesis, psychologists have a strong background in research on any number of topics. They may provide therapy and any number of mental health assessments, they can be found working in many kinds of places from hospitals, to clinics, universities, as well as private practice settings.
Psychiatrist This person is generally involved in medication management, they may work in inpatient settings or out patient settings. Other specialized roles might involve sub-specialties such as neuroanatomy and traumatic brain injury recovery.
Other Helpful Terms
LGBTQIA- Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Intersex, Ally refers to this entire of cluster of people who may identify as one of the above and most newly, identify as an ally with promoting the rights and awareness of equality.
AASECT-American Association of Sexual Educators, Counselors, and Therapists. An certifying institution which educates counselors and therapists on sex therapy and sex positive practices.
CAADC–Certified advanced drug and alcohol counselor has achieved a higher level or educational and clinical learning that allows them to offer clinical treatment for substance abuse disorder.
In good health and wellness,
Counseling and Wellness Center of Pittsburgh
South Hills Office
‘5 Awesome and Up-worthy Benefits of A Digital Detox’
by Counseling and Wellness Center of PittsburghJanuary 17, 2019 addiction recovery, counseling wexford, digital detox0 comments
‘5 Awesome and Up-worthy Benefits of A Digital Detox’
Mental clutter, anxiety, ‘fubbing’ and stress related disease are just a few of the human spoils which we can estimate are at least in some part perpetuated by our over-reliance on cell phones and digital solutions. The technology era is here and the evidence is within our aching and gnarled fingers, computer blurred-out hyper-focused eyes, our text neck, and cluttered minds. In fact, cell phones have become a newly added to the expanse of potential behavioral addictions. The more we tune into our personal devices the more we tune out all that is around us. Digital detox is the new mental colonic but with perhaps even greater results and significance. When was the last time that you unplugged? What do you imagine would happen if you tried. We have heard of some texters and cell phone obsessed say that they even get full blown anxiety attacks if they leave their phone at home accidentally. We encourage you to take the digital detox challenge and see for how long you can not use your phone. Even for a few hours a day can make a difference. Here are some of the benefits you will notice fairly quickly.
- Thoughts and feelings become much more calm. Much like a turbulent bay on a stormy afternoon, our thoughts get churned up when we are constantly bouncing from one email, to our search engine, and then to social media. When we step away for a few days, our consciousness and the direction of our thoughts have a chance to become still and reflective.
- Enjoy better concentration with internal stillness. Sometimes we multitask to our own detriment, in an attentionally scattered frenzy we try to do too many things at once and fall short everywhere. Yet, when we are unplugged, we can tune our attention in any direction we chose. There are limitations to our ability to think and pay attention and we deplete those resources shuffling between 10 screens. Yet when we focus on things more deeply we become more aware and productive.
- We see what is around us, for real!! Of course when we are scrolling and trolling we are not very good company and we are missing a lot of the scenery. The people we care about may even become hurt or feel rejected by our obsession with our phone. In fact, cell phone overuse wrecks relationships and even brings many couples into counseling. Sometimes we unconsciously use our devices to avoid who and what is happening around us. When we put down our phone and step away from the screen we become much more aware of the people around us, the raw beauty of the skyline, the gray tinged clouds that roll in before the storm, we are ‘in the now’ and living it all.
- Sleeping more deeply. There is much compelling research from the National Institute of Health that logs the correlation between screen time and disrupted sleep wake cycle. The statistics are so compelling that we can safely suggest that we leave behind our personal devices for at least one hour before hitting the sack. The benefits really peak after several days disconnected, this is when our internal clocks have a chance to reset, the benefits multiply as there are few things which are better for our wellness than a solid nights slumber .
- Higher energy and creativity. When we are sleeping well and tuning into the environment, the next natural result is greater energy and even creativity. Want to finish an important project or just feel more vital? Try a digital detox for a few days and see what happens.
How ready are you to try something new today? If you would like further reading on how to make emotional, or physical changes, read our article ‘How to Slay Anything in 2019.’
With energy and clarity,
The Counseling and Wellness Center of Pittsburgh
Pittsburgh, Monroeville, and Wexford.
Live Your Best Life, How to Slay anything in 2019
by Counseling and Wellness Center of PittsburghDecember 28, 2018 how to reach your goal, new years resolution0 comments
Live Your Best Life, How to Slay anything in 2019.
New year, new you? Well, maybe, whether you will be a wistful dreamer or a winning achiever of your New Year’s resolution really dwindles down to this; ‘How do you mentally prepare yourself for the process of change?’ We all look forward to the prospect of a new year, we start off with a fantastically shiny hope, we can do anything with these next 365 days of our life. Yet, for all of this hope and enthusiasm, why do the majority of New Year’s resolutions fail in the first month? We can explain some of these failed resolutions by applying the theory of behavioral psychology. We wellness warriors, trudging onward to 2019, sails full with the winds of enthusiasm, need to be sure we are beginning our voyage with the right motivations, or we just might end up deflated and completely off course. If we have an internally damaging way of nurturing our New Year’s whispers of inspiration, we can rest assured our achievements will fall as flat as the last sip of kombucha that lines our almost empty cup. Our counselors have worked together to create a sequence of effective pieces of psychological advice which will kick-start any of your New Year’s wellness goals.
Get real with yourself, meaning where are you right now and where do you want to be?
This is about stepping away from the potential delusions of your thinking and recognizing where you are, honestly. If you are an echoing scream away from your goal, it is going to take some time to get there. Using weight as one example, if you are currently 300 lbs, and you aspire to weigh in at 150 lbs, it will take many years and much effort for you to arrive at that destination. Maybe you want to start with making an appointment with a personal trainer and a nutritionist or a dietitian. Another example might be that you want to have better boundaries with other people in your life. Be ‘real’ about while jotting down your list. It takes gusto and strength to record your truth about areas for growth such as your inability to say ‘no’ to others and the amount of inexplicable guilt that you feel when you attempt to draw boundaries. Yet it is by insight that we can make great progress toward our goals.
The second part of this sequence is that after you examine where you are and where you would like to be, your goals must be broken down into achievable units. We humans don’t do well with goals that are too large. If for instance you want to write a book this year, instead of focusing on the larger goal of completing the whole text you will do best by focusing on small goals daily. Writing 500 words a day is a well achievable micro goal that will inch you toward the end result. Why does this work? According to Psyche Study, ‘Behavioral psychology defines the mechanism of ‘shaping’ to describe the slow process of behavioral change where we are rewarded for each step toward reaching the final goal.’ We nudge ourselves toward the finish line. In the process of shaping these small changes, we feel empowered by the daily act of achieving our successes instead of potentially losing focus if our overarching goal is so big that the reward for making it there is too far off.
Give yourself rewards
There is a long standing debate and research query which examines whether punishment or reward is better to help us change our behavior. According to recent research from Harvard Business Review, if you are going to maintain the enthusiasm and hope that is driving your desired progress towards change, you must create rewards for yourself. In this particular study, it was noted that punishment, and the fear that it evokes, can cause people to ‘freeze’ instead of act. Think about the proverbial deer in the headlights. Again, with reference to behavioral psychology and the field of human learning and behavior, humans and animals are more inspired by positive reinforcement than punishment. We move toward what is pleasurable, especially if the reward is well timed to be given right after reaching each small segment of our goal. That means that when we have that internal voice which tells us we are slugs because we didn’t reach our goal, we are not helping our situation. It is the promise of something that is rewarding which really propels us to go harder and longer in the journey to ‘live our best life.’
What is it that you are planning to work on for your New Year goal? Always first ask yourself this, we all want to achieve things but are you ready to put in the work to achieve your goal? If the answer is yes, move onward and use this as a template to assess your goals and move yourself one step closer to where you want to be!
In relation to your goal, where are you now?
What do you hope to achieve, what is your long term goal?
Break the above mentioned goal into daily, weekly, and monthly goals.
How can you reward yourself on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis?
Wishing you and yours a happy and healthy year of wellness,
Counseling and Wellness Center of Pittsburgh
Harvard Business Review, What Motivates Employees More, Rewards or Punishments? https://hbr.org/2017/09/what-motivates-employees-more-rewards-or-punishments
Psychestudy, Online Journal on human behavior and psychology. What is shaping behavior? https://www.psychestudy.com/behavioral/learning-memory/operant-conditioning/what-is-shaping-behaviorLearn More
Hands off-Please Do Not Touch My Body, Yoga and Consent.
by Counseling and Wellness Center of PittsburghSeptember 30, 2018 counseling for anxiety, counseling for PTSD, psychotherapist, touch, yoga for trauma0 comments
Hands off-Please Do Not Touch My Body.
Closeness is sacred and powerful, and we should share it however we would like with a partner or partners with whom we have provided consent. Personally, I am a ‘toucher’, meaning I am a person who enjoys touch with my partner, someone who hugs family and friends and genuinely savors safe closeness. As we all know, touch can feasibly happen in many contexts. A recent trip to a local yoga studio has spurned some inspiration for considering consent and what exactly that means within the context of yoga. Consent is one of the topics of the century, the importance of asking for it, and heeding to it are championed issues with personal, psychological, and legal context. When we are on our yoga mat, we are presumably in a safe zone, we practice yoga to be well, to relax, to be inside of our bodies, to give life and expression to what our physical selves need in the moment to create our highest expression of safety, openness, and comfort. We rely upon the professionalism, understanding, and care of our yoga instructors while we are on the mat. When others take liberties with our bodies, reactions can range from uncomfortable to traumatic, yet we shouldn’t need to rely upon trauma informed yoga instructors to be the only providers who can offer a style of instruction which provides opportunity to say “No thank you, please do not touch my body.’ From chaturanga to shavasana, we find our bodies configuration of the posture as the yoga instructor cues. Without making space for hands off adjustments, one well-intentioned yoga instructor can inadvertently have a negative impact upon his or her student’s practice, day, overall wellness by taking liberties with his or her student’s bodies.
Consent means that one has asked for permission to approach another person in any way, whether that be to touch, to enter an intimate encounter, or even to provide unsolicited verbal feedback, we should always ask before encroaching upon others. After asking for consent, we wait and pause for that person to respond with their response of approach or avoid. A key component of consent is that the other person is truly able to say ‘no,’ if we are in a position of power, or if we are asking a person who is intoxicated, a minor, or incapacitated in any way, then the other can not provide for their own consent. Under normal circumstances, then, if and after we have been given permission to ‘approach’ we take it a step further to check in to be completely sure that non-verbal permission has been granted to continue or deepen the exchange. Physical space, proximity, and closeness are very special, they are exchanges which can lead to bliss, warmth, bonding, relaxation and even orgasm in the right time. When touch is used subversively, to coerce, to control, to harm, physical connection can become shrouded in horror, it also has the potential to instill anxiety, fear, terror, panic, and pain.
Consensual sexual intimacy is the gold standard, we should always be sure that we are well within the green zone of any boundaries of any person who we are touching and to also always note that we are creating safety for others as we strive for mutual enjoyment and pleasure. There are many contexts or situations where touch happens from fitness instruction, personal training, yoga instruction, little league coaching, physical therapy, massage, and medical settings. While there are many of the medical and physical instructors listed above who do check in and ask, ‘is it ok for me to adjust you.’ The best ones who follow this question by ‘does this feel ok for you’ and to them I applaud their insight and wisdom to always, in all settings, to ask first and wait for an enthusiastic ‘yes’ or a clear non-verbal head nod which unambiguously encouraging procession. For other yoga and fitness instructors, it may be less obvious that they should ask for consent before breaking the touch barrier with students. Let us examine consent from a trauma informed perspective and look at some ways that we can be sure we are always providing supportive and caring touch.
Regardless of the setting or context, we do not have permission to touch another person until we have asked for it and they have given it. For a trauma survivor it can be very triggering and alarming to feel a person, even a coach or instructor grabbing at them, or tapping on their body, for another person to move ones legs or touch ones hands. Feeling safe and giving permission for these things to happen is vital and walking into a yoga studio to practice does not provide consent for one’s physical boundaries to be violated. Just as walking into a bar or nightclub in a low-cut blouse is not the same as providing consent for someone to touch our breasts. Being a woman out late having drinks is not an invitation to have sex, we need a society which is built upon making space for ‘Yes’, or ‘No’ by always ask first. Yoga and fitness instructors, we are here, we want to participate in a fun and fulfilling way but ask before touching please. Additionally, for some instructors who may have a style of delivering their teaching that is very directive and assertive, it may feel punitive to some students.
Recently, in an all levels class, the instructor was someone I had never practiced with before. The class was much less than an all level class, it was more of an intro in my experience, we were cued to move into postures without much attention to how we flow through the sequencing. In any event, after 15 minutes or so warming up, we were cued to do some Sun A’s. When forward folding the instructor told everyone to grab a two blocks in anticipation of their hands not hitting the ground. I have long arms, and have been doing forward folds for many, many, years, it does not tax my body to fold forward and I find it delicious and restorative. The teacher stomped back to me and said ‘No! get your blocks, do not go into your deepest fold!’ In knowing my body, and knowing that I did not need the blocks I started to reach for them to appease her as she began grabbing my leg and tapping rapidly and harshly onto the front of my quad with her pointed finger tips and squinted eyes, ‘Move! Move! Move!’ she commanded. What started as a day of wellness, mindfulness, and an attempt to let myself feel peace, quickly became a source of discomfort and anxiety.
Being a yoga instructor is a big responsibility, it is a pathway to open ones consciousness, those blissed out happy vibes and chakras can really open up and make others aware of themselves, their feelings as well as anything happening with the instructor. We should encourage yoga instructors to have a higher level of insight into their style of relating to others so that the instructor is not unconsciously projecting their own unmet needs or style onto all of those who they come into contact with. The yoga instructor should be very aware of how of tone and content of speech particularly as adjustments are being made. If an instructor is simultaneously speaking in a critical or cold tone ‘move!’ ‘faster!’ ‘in, in, in;’ in a style that feels like they are spitting commands to the students, if the instructors speak this way while grabbing at a students body, it may become even more likely that they are making others feel tense, uncomfortable for anyone, and furthermore this kind of tone and motion can even be panic inducing for some trauma survivors.
More than ever, we must seek to create safety, to speak with love, to be sure that we are providing physical touch which is tender, and warm, and supportive or not tender and warm, if that is the kind of touch which is consensual and agreed upon by those who can legally and actually provide consent. Speak and act with awareness and care for other people’s feelings, doing fitness, pilates, doing a forward fold or downward facing dog, or even having a suspicious mole removed from our bodies are things that must happen peacefully and respectfully, and always with particular attention to any person’s ability to state, ‘No thank you- please do not touch my body’.
Stephanie Wijkstrom, MS, LPC, NBCC
Counseling and Wellness Center of Pittsburgh
830 Western Avenue Pittsburgh Pa
Counseling and Wellness Center of Pittsburgh – In Monroeville
2539 Monroeville Blvd Monroeville Pa 15146
For more reading on the ethics of touch in yoga;
What are the benefits of a high fat diet?
by Counseling and Wellness Center of PittsburghSeptember 16, 2018 benefits of high fat diet, blue cross blue shield, counseling wellness, dietician0 comments
What are the benefits of a high fat diet?
Liz Mckinney, CNS, LDN continues to examine the big fat myth and share some more information and sample mean plan to incorporate the dietary changes of a high fat diet into your busy lifestyle. Our last blog post caused quite a stir and we want to be sure that our readers understand the differences between ‘good fats’ and ‘bad fats.’ One big take home point is that not all dietary fats are created equally. So, what does the science tell us about a high fat diet? To recap our last blog article, research is showing that a high fat made up of healthy fats coupled with a low carbohydrate diet can be beneficial for:
- Heart health
- Boosting the immune system
- Brain function (and reduced risk of Alzheimer’s, cognitive impairment and dementia)
- Blood sugar control
- Weight management
High fat diets, and even ketogenic diets are being studied for their efficacy in treating Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, ALS, Epilepsy and even ADHD. More and more, we understand there is a significant effect on our physical and emotional health exerted by our food consumption, even anxiety and depression can be effected by our diet. In particular, of the vital and nourishing micro nutrients, cholesterol is especially protective of brain function. One famous study called the Framingham Heart Study found that those with low serum cholesterol performed less well on cognitive function tests than their counterparts with borderline or high cholesterol levels. We can infer from this correlation that cholesterol does seem to have a protective effect on the brain. Additionally, when we note that their are ramifications for those who take statin drugs to lower their cholesterol. One known side effect of statin drugs are problems with memory and cognition.
What should I eat?
The good news is that it’s easy to start enjoying the benefits of a high fat, low carbohydrate diet. It’s important to limit grains and legumes to maintain the benefits. It is best to try to aim for only about 60 grams of carbohydrates a day. Along with unlimited non-starchy vegetables (think asparagus, cauliflower, broccoli, kale, swiss chard and spinach) and low sugar fruits (grapefruits, oranges, apples, berries, melon, pears, cherries, grapes, kiwis, plums, peaches and nectarines), enjoy ample amounts of these ‘good or healthy fats’ which are foods which will accelerate health and allow you to experience the benefits of a high fat diet:
- Grass fed beef and lamb
- Free range chicken
- Cage free eggs
- Cold pressed oils (walnut, olive, avocado, coconut, and palm)
- Grass fed butter
- Cold water fish (salmon, shrimp, sardines and tuna)
- Nuts (walnut, cashews, macadamia and almonds)
- Cheese (Gruyere, goat cheese, feta cheese, and mozzarella)
Sample One Day Meal Plan*
2 scrambled eggs with 1 oz. goat cheese cheese and stir fried veggies (onions, mushrooms, spinach and red bell pepper)
4 oz. baked chicken or canned tuna with a side of leafy greens dressed in balsamic and olive oil
3 oz. grass fed steak with a side of roasted broccoli and mashed cauliflower
3 squares of 70% dark chocolate
*Adapted from Dr. David Perlmutter’s book Grain Brain
So go ahead and give it a try, of course one should always consult either your PCP or a dietitian or nutritionist before making any changes to your diet, this is especially true if you have preexisting health conditions.
In good health and wellness,
Liz Mckinney, CNS, LDN
Certified Nutritionist, Licensed Dietary Nutritionist for The Counseling and Wellness Center of Pittsburgh
Providing good health and wellness to Western Pennsylvania.
Liz provides nutrition counseling in both our Pittsburgh and Monroeville Locations
Accepting Self paying clients, Out of Network, and Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield.
The Big Fat Myth
by Counseling and Wellness Center of PittsburghSeptember 6, 2018 blue cross blue shield, high fat diet, highmark nutrition counseling, insulin, integrative medicine, Nutrition Counseling, upmc, Wijkstrom0 comments
Open a women’s magazine or examine the back of a food label, you will find the ‘evidence’ there. It’s easy to find ready sources that say dietary fat is bad news for your waist line, cholesterol, skin, mood, you name it. Many clinicians still hold that saturated fats like coconut oil, butter and beef cause weight gain, clogged arteries, high cholesterol and heart disease. But, according to Certified Nutritionist Liz Mckinney, there is much to learn when it comes to the Big Fat Myth, read on to re-evaluate fat’s bad reputation. This blog will fill you in on the facts and research in order to assist your physical health, emotional health, and wellness goals by consuming fat and nourishing yourself with this well known macro-nutrient.
Myth: Saturated Fat and Cholesterol Increases Risk of Heart Disease
Today, a common scenario occurs when a patient walks in for a checkup or health screening and they learn that their cholesterol is high. The patient is then told to limit saturated fat and cholesterol intake. Cut down on foods such as red meats, butter, eggs, and oils like palm and coconut) and often a prescription for a statin drug follows when their cholesterol is over 200 mg/dL. This is probably due in part to misleading evidence that suggested that cholesterol levels are directly correlated to risk of heart disease. One such study was performed by a researcher by the name of Ancel Keys in the 1980’s that looked at 22 countries and found that dietary fat intake was related to increased risk of heart disease. However, data on only 7 of those 22 countries was published – those that fit his hypothesis. Since then, many researchers and physicians have refuted this study, and yet, the recommendations that come down the pipe from the American Heart Association and the USDA continue to perpetuate that dietary fat and cholesterol are bad for us.
Research continues to show that high quality animal fats and eggs aren’t the real culprit in heart disease. One of the most notable studies that shows this was called the Women’s Health Initiative, which studied over 48,000 postmenopausal women and the connection between a low fat diet and the risk of heart disease. Participants were followed for an average of 8 years and then assessed for heart disease. The group that reduced overall fat intake and increased intake of whole grains, fruits, and vegetables did not experience reduced risk of Coronary Heart Disease (CDC), stroke or CVD, over the control group. There are other studies that have found similar results, indicating that low fat diets don’t really have much impact on heart disease risk. A report published in 2010 by the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition stated that there was no substantiated link between saturated fat intake and outcomes of obesity, CVD, cancer or osteoporosis. And, if you need even more proof, a meta-analysis of 21 medical reports and studies also published in 2010 in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition concluded that, “the intake of saturated fat was not associated with an increased risk of coronary heart disease, stroke, or CVD.”
If not fat, then what?
So, if saturated fats aren’t the culprit in CVD and atherosclerosis, then what is? Enter carbohydrates. Most grains and sugars are highly inflammatory. As a society, our diets are high in processed and packaged foods like pastries, fast food, crackers, cookies and cakes. Eating these foods causes surges in blood sugar and taxes the pancreas, whose job it is to produce insulin to shuttle the sugar into our cells to be used for energy or stored for later. Over time, the cells become resistant to insulin and sugar remains in the bloodstream instead of being transported into the cells. Sugar in the blood stream sticks to protein molecules like LDL cholesterol (called “bad cholesterol”). This changes the structure of the LDL and causes an inflammatory cascade which leads to plaques in the arteries and the inability of LDL to carry cholesterol where it’s needed,especially to the brain. So, now we have a simple equation. Too many carbohydrates cause inflammation, which leads to oxidized or damaged LDL and atherosclerosis. This is what leads to heart disease, not eating too much dietary saturated fat and cholesterol.
Read on and look for next weeks post, Liz will share more details about how your health and wellness can be bolstered with fat as she shares all of the well researched benefits to Fat. She will also share a sample meal plan to help you take advantage of the most nourishing food options available.
Liz Mckinney, LDN, CNS
Counseling and Wellness Center of Pittsburgh
830 Western Avenue Pittsburgh, PA 15233
2539 Monroeville Blvd Monroeville PA 15146
Providing Individual, Marriage and Family Counseling, as well as wellness solutions to Western Pennsylvania.
Edited By, Stephanie Wijkstrom, MS, LPC, NCCLearn More