Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Part Two: How To Stay On A Permanent Vacation

In my last blog, I was on my way to Philadelphia to speak at a national conference. But what was perhaps most important about the conference was the promise I made to my Self and to all of you: to work hard to remain in a vacation state of mind, long after the actual vacation ends.

In other words, how can I maintain a state of blissful, calm, reflective, meditation - despite no longer being in a meditation cave, beautiful cathedral, temple, or place in nature conducive to clarity of vision and thought?

For those of you who might not have read "How To Stay On A Permanent Vacation," you might want to read it first. Here it is.

So did I keep my promise? Yes, I did. Practicing this mantra - "I will remain in a vacation state of mind," has helped me remain in that grateful state.

How does it work? Well here is an overview of my Philly attempt:

  • My first flight of the day, at 7:20 AM, was uneventful - it took off on time and arrived early (actually!). The flight attendant was happy to be there, which definitely bolstered my "attitude of gratitude." I told him so when I deplaned (thanks for being so positive and upbeat!) to which he responded, "thank you, you don't know how much that means." Wow, I thought to myself. This "vacation state of mind" is working wonders.
  • Then came the connecting flight. Delayed. Two and a half hours. Ugh. What to do? I did not want to risk missing my own presentation (vacation). But, instead of getting stressed, I relaxed. I happily informed my mind, body, and soul that it did not matter that my flight was delayed. I had plenty of time. In fact, that's all I had was time. There was no reason to rush. So, I didn't rush OR stress. I appreciated the extra time to relax, which I also used to prepare final comments for my presentation for the Philadelphia conference.
  • I did (finally) get to Philadelphia. I was able to take it all in stride - from the not so stellar hotel room in the less desirable (safe) location to the last minute changes to my presentation to the video production company that was making a live DVD out of my presentation to the anticipation of a job well done. Not to mention the heartache and difficulty that naturally arises when you leave your young family (two toddlers) behind so often to "work." Ahh - that struggle of balancing personal and professional life. That last one is enough difficult to tear down anyone's state of equanimity.
  • However, I persisted. I was, after all, doing this for the good of my family and my profession. In fact, the morning of my presentation, at 5:45 AM, the speaker ready room attendant remarked at how bright eyed and positive I was (for that time of day). I guessed my "vacation state of mind" was rubbing off on all those around me.
  • Mission accomplished, I told myself. The presentation was well received and attendance was full, standing room only. My journey home was safe and uneventful, and most of all, my contentment did not diminish while I was gone, despite several stellar opportunities for it to be derailed. I had successfully kept my vacation state of mind.

What is the take home message?

You. Can. Do. It. Too.

How To Stay on A Permanent Vacation:
  1. Don't confuse the impermanent for permanent.
    Problem: Your plane is delayed. Again.
    Vacation State of Mind Answer: I remind myself in this situation that whether or not my plane leaves on time for a business or vacation destination ultimately has no eternal value.
    All ancient religious and spiritual texts of this world agree on this point. Suffering comes from mistaking the temporal for the eternal. During your next stressful situation, ask yourself if the outcome will matter in a year, 5 years, 10 years, and ultimately, eternally. If not - there is no reason to stress over it. Let it go.

  2. Focus on the permanent.
    My 3 year old found me in my office early one morning last year. I was (as usual) feverishly working trying to empty my inbox in the wee hours of the morning (or night?) before he and his brother awoke. He knew where to find me that morning though, like all others. He put his tiny arms on my desk and leaned into me and said, "mommy you wuk (work) too much."

    Oh, was I ever convicted. If my son recognizes the signs of "workaholism" at a mere 3 years old, something must change. If he feels neglected or rejected because I am absent too often for work - then I have affected his soul. And a soul has eternal, permanent value. I needed a reordering of priorities, and quick. It is way too easy for all of us, living in this break neck paced world, to get sidetracked and focus on the things which have no permanent value.
    Vacation State of Mind Answer: Stop it. Stop working so much.
    Make an active decision to be different than everyone else. Americans suffer from more chronic disease than any other industrialized nation. Add to that insult we have the longest work week, the least amount of paid vacation and a maternity leave policy that rivals third world countries. Think there's a connection?
    We can change. We can heal our country, our families, and our Self if we choose to work smarter, not longer or harder.
    Start by only taking on projects with eternal value or meaning. I am now in the (hard-core and difficult) process of making that seismic shift in work ethic. Yes, it may mean (but not always!) reduced income and learning how to say "No" to people and opportunities.
    I am a health care "healer" by profession. A physical therapist, a professional yoga therapist and educator, and a performance artist (music heals perhaps better than PT or yoga!). But as a healer, I have recognized that I am not doing the most permanent good on earth if I am healing others at the expense of my family's (and my own) health. Be the change you want to see, and do it today, in the words of Gandhi.

  3. Act (and react) Positively.
    Problem: Drivers with road rage who won't let you merge, rude clerks (or airline attendants!) who offer poor customer service, children (or adults!) who bully others, coworkers with self-centered ambition, friends or family who have lost their sense of priority in life or have self destructive behaviors...the list goes on. Of course you must realize that these people are not just OTHER people, they are also YOU.
    Vacation State of Mind Solution: Choose the proverbial "high road" in stressful situations. It is not just how we act, but also what we say that matters. Both your words and deeds will echo through eternity, to borrow from the words of Russell Crowe in the film Gladiator.
    Choose to act and react positively. If you know you have "volcanic tendencies" when pushed into a corner - take a more proactive approach. When stress is "in your face," take 5 (or at least 1!) long, deep breaths before you act.
    Think back in your life to hurtful words from others which have settled into your soul like a damaging, deep scar. You don't want to perpetuate those words.
    Act wisely by being slow to act and speak. Breathing is key. Poor breathing habits amp up your nervous system, causing the "fight, flight, or freeze" process to take over. Here's a free breathe practice - to get you started on your permanent vacation.
*First photo: My presentation at the 61st Annual National Athletic Trainers' Association Convention. See more here.
*Second photo: Visiting the Liberty Bell, cognizant of its importance, what it represents, and how it can all help us on our path to peace and self-liberation.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

How to Stay On A Permanent Vacation

Hello Dear Readers,

I am bound for Philadelphia, so I am taking a vacation this week - but not really.

You will find me vacationing, not in Philly although there are some great sights to see there, while making a "first ever of its kind" presentation to a national audience. I'll be speaking on the unique methods that medical professionals can use to employ medical therapeutic yoga in athletic training and rehabilitation settings.

Turns out, last year The National Athletic Trainers' Convention invited me to speak on the very topic I have been practicing since 1995. So this Thursday I'll be in vacation mode while presenting: Complementary and Alternative Medicine in Practice: Using Evidence Based Yoga to Evaluate the Athlete.

For those of you who have a professional interest in my work you can find me here:
Location: NATA Annual Convention June 24, 2010 Thursday, 7-9 am Philadelphia, PA
Presentation: Complementary and Alternative Medicine in Practice: Using Evidence Based Yoga to Evaluate the Athlete
Author: Ginger Garner MPT, ATC ERYT-500, PYT, Founder & Executive Director of Professional Yoga Therapy
Assistants: Terersa Donahue, PTA, PYT, and Eleanor Liebson, OT, PYT

Otherwise, what's your take home message?

A vacation is a state of mind. Although I did just return from a much longed for but surprisingly last minute vacation with my husband, I am working on remaining in this "vacation state of mind" as long as I can sustain it. (kind of like trying to stay in a meditative, calm, serene state long after your meditation or yoga class has ended).

You know, it's tough work staying this relaxed all the time - trying to stay in vacation mode - but it is working! But now faced with making this presentation, I am going to have to take the commitment level up a few notches. It will be rather hard to stay in my "vacation state of mind" while making a first ever presentation to a huge group of medical professionals - an ever intelligent but also healthily skeptical group of human beings (this won't be easy for me to do).

However, I am committed to the task. After years of trying (sometimes succeeding, sometimes failing, but always picking myself up, dusting myself off, and trying again) to stay on the Constant Prayerful Meditation Wagon, I realize that I don't need to wait for years to get on the Constant Vacation Wagon. I just need to go there in my mind, and realize that, in the words of Jon Kabat-Zinn, "where ever I go, there I am."

In other words, I don't have to be touring a cathedral in Europe (my kind of vacation) or lounging on the white sands of some distant Pacific island (not as enjoyable as Europe for me) to be able to relax, renew, and restore. I just need to flip the "vacation" switch in my mind.

So here it goes - this week I am working in the trenches of the "healing arts field" 7 days in a row. The first part of the week I gave my all in "administering the healing arts" through back to back vocal performances at concerts in North Carolina. The latter part of the week will find me trying to do the same but through a very different channel - physical therapy, athletic training, and medical yoga.

I am determined, though gently and steadily, that I will retain the joys of touring that Cathedral in Europe (yes, I actually did do that two weeks ago on my real, physical vacation) or eating a great Italian meal in Tuscany (jeez, it has been 12 years since that vacation) - no matter where I am.

So when you get mired up in the drudgery of your work week - remember that you can choose to be determined too. Take yourself where ever you must travel in your mind in order to stay present, focused, pleasant, calm, and content. Whichever imagery works best for you, whether it is a "Vacation State of Mind" or a getting on the "Constant Prayerful Meditation Wagon," remember that at any time, any place, and in any circumstance - you have the power to source those deepest feelings and memories that bring you great joy, great healing, and a great inner (and outer) peace. I believe that is yoga's greatest gift.

*photo was taken just outside the Bath Abbey, in the square, two weeks ago. Bath, England

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Developing Emotional Balance with Therapeutic Yoga

Developing Emotional Balance with Yoga
guest blog by Amber Keating LCSW, PYT-C

Through my studies in Ginger’s Professional Yoga Therapy program, I have witnessed how the use of breath & movement can be deeply healing to women. In our fast-paced world, yoga benefits us by helping us to slow down and take time for ourselves. We give so much to those around us and often forget to refill our own energy stores. Here are three ways yoga can improve your emotional balance:

  1. Breathing through life’s challenges
    Breath is essential for life; so essential that the body just does it for us most of the time. Even more than a necessity, our breath can help us to self-soothe and remain steady in whatever emotional storms life might have for us. Yoga teaches us how to focus on our breathing to make it deeper, longer, slower. You may have noticed that when you are stressed, your breath becomes shallow and fast, and your heart rate speeds up. Using yogic breathing techniques, you regain control of your body’s stress response and calm your nervous system. While the stressful event may still be present, by using yogic breathing, you are better equipped to respond calmly.
  1. Improving self-confidence
    Yoga is powerful tool to bring greater confidence into your daily life and reconnect you with your inner strength. Many people think yoga simply teaches flexibility. What they do not realize is yoga’s strength-building qualities. From establishing good posture, strengthening core muscles, building outstanding breath techniques, developing greater balance, increasing strength and stamina, and overcoming fear in a challenging pose, yoga reminds us that we are far stronger than we realize. Every time you go to the mat with the weight of the world on your shoulders and practice your Warriors and Trees and Cobras, you are sloughing off what is no longer needed and reestablishing your knowledge of how amazing you really are.
  1. Regulating emotions
    Much of my work as a mental health clinician and yoga therapist involves assisting people with emotion regulation. Our emotions can be a source of information about ourselves, others, & the situations we encounter, but they can be a hindrance when they overtake our best judgment. Yoga increases your ability to manage your emotions by allowing you to notice how you feel. We often function on auto-pilot and don’t realize we’re flooded with feelings. When you focus on your breath and movement, you become more aware of your emotions, where they are stored in your body (worry manifesting as tight belly muscles, for example), and how they are affecting your thoughts & behaviors. From this place of greater awareness, you can make choices about which emotions to foster and which ones to release. In addition, the practice of yoga creates space between your urges and your behaviors, turning reaction into conscious action.
Yoga is a perfect complement to any woman’s life. It can be practiced anywhere (think Mountain Pose in line at the grocery store) and for any amount of time. Whatever challenges you face, I wish you slow exhales and conscious decisions informed by thoughtful contemplation of your mind & emotions.

Be well,


*photo is of Amber Keating, hugging the General Sherman Tree in Sequoia National Park, April 2010

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Labor & Delivery Tips, Part Three

As promised, here is the third and final installment in the Labor & Delivery series. Today I need to elaborate on post #3 from the 5 Absolute Must Have Tools For Birth.

Here is last week's excerpt from Tip #3.

3. Partner Assisted Therapy Techniques. There is a short but very effective list of manual (hands on) techniques to help relieve pain and open the pelvic outlet during labor. I teach coaches to use these while moms are either on a birthing ball or a sidelying position in bed. For the mom: Asymmetrical lunges have long been used to help open the pelvic outlet and facilitate birth. In general, I use 3 specific yoga postures to assist with pelvic opening, which also help with pain relief, which I will share in future blogs.


My complete program for using yoga to ease labor pains and assist with labor & delivery will be shared in my upcoming book, Fit & Fearless Birth. However, here is a sneak peek of important points to prepare you and your birth coach for labor and delivery.

Before we get started, there is one important point to share. There are two tools you can use to your advantage during labor. They are:
  • Visual Imagery
The visual image you want to imagine is that your pelvic outlet is widening to allow baby to pass through and be born. Visual imagery is a powerful tool, and has been proven to change neurophysiological pathways and promote motor learning in absence of physical work. What does this mean? It means that by just imagining you are doing something - your mind and body can respond physically in kind. Read my past blog on how to use visual imagery to get fit and help with birth. It is this same kind of visual imagery that will help you through labor and can help baby be born easier. In short, imagining success can help you have a successful birth.
  • Mantra
I strongly suggest this to all first time mothers. I was well prepared for my first birth - so much so that I was able to labor through 36 hours for a natural birth. However, for my second birth - I decided I could equip myself even better - emotionally, spiritually, and physically - if I had a mantra.

A mantra is not associated with any religion. It is simply a phrase you choose that empowers you. For me, my mantra was also my prayer. It helped me work through every contraction with a fierce determination. If labor took another 2 days this time - I was ready for the challenge. I was ready for the long race.

What was my mantra?
Give me strength, give me endurance, give me courage. I repeated it over and over during my entire labor - sometimes to myself and sometimes out loud - probably hundreds, perhaps even thousands of times.

Other than speaking to my midwife, the attending nurse, and my husband once - the words of my mantra were the only ones I spoke during my entire labor with my second child. Those words were a powerful help to me in my greatest time of need.

Now on to the three main yoga postures I use for laboring moms. In addition, I'll cover a few methods that your birth coach can use for pain relief and for widening the pelvic outlet.

DOWNLOAD a free copy of the Labor & Delivery excerpt from my book,
Fit & Fearless Birth, here.

Download other book excerpts
from my website here.

*Photo was taken during my second pregnancy at week 35.