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Importance of Self-Compassion in Making Change

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Self-compassion is an important part of overcoming addiction, losing weight, or making any kind of change in your life. American culture tends to emphasize self criticism; we’re driven to be hard on ourselves in order to make lasting change instead of approaching change from a place of self-compassion. People may mistake self-compassion with self indulgence, pity, or overly permissive behavior where making excuses is prioritized over taking responsibility. Research from neuroscience, however, shows that people who practice self-compassion get more done and are able to sustain their work better than those who don’t practice self-compassion.

So what is self-compassion? Dr. Kristen Neff identifies three parts of self-compassion. The first part is self-kindness or the act of being kind to yourself. This includes being understanding and nurturing instead of harshly critical and judgemental of yourself. You are honest and clear about your faults but accepting and tolerant of them while seeking to do better. Self-kindness should not be confused with destructive pleasure seeking. When you are kind to yourself, you don’t engage in behaviors that don’t nurture the body or soul. You choose things which truly make you feel better and support you during dark times.

The second component of self-compassion is common humanity or the realization that it’s not just you–everyone makes mistakes and feels inadequate at times. If you see yourself as part of the whole instead of a isolated outcast, you are less likely to engage in the “poor me” pitfall of self indulgence.

Mindfulness makes up the third portion of self-compassion. Mindfulness is a state of non-judgemental awareness and self observation. How does one develop mindfulness? A great way to become more mindful and tuned in is to spend 3-5 minutes a day working on deep belly breathing in a quiet relaxed state, allowing your mind to focus on nothing more than the breath. This allows you to tune in to your body.

Start to note your internal dialogue, which is the voice in your head running commentary all day long. Is your dialogue helpful? Or is it overly critical and and telling you that you are “screwing up”? How can you change the dialogue to serve you and not cut yourself down? One way is to focus on the process of what you’re trying to accomplish instead of the desired outcome. Instead of being overly critical if you don’t achieve your expected reward, honor your deeper values and accept that the process is rarely, if ever, perfect.

Self-compassion is not an excuse to let yourself off the hook, ignore real problems, or be overly self-centered. People who integrate self-compassion tactics during life changes find they can regulate their feelings, experience less stress, and have less reactive behavior. To quote John O’Donahue, “when you are compassionate with yourself, you trust in your soul, which will let you guide your life. Your soul knows the geography of your destiny better than you do.”

Behind Rakta: The Vision for Health

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As a Physician Assistant, I have seen firsthand the toll of unhealthy lifestyles, addiction, poor choices, and chronic disease. Over my 20 year career, I evaluated patients in the emergency department, operated on some of them, and took care of many more in the ICU. I have witnessed the dying process, and health has become a personal mission for me. Watching people suffer and die from cancer, heart disease, COPD, and trauma made me feel helpless.

A few years ago, I decided to follow a holistic path based on food as medicine, merging this approach with the western medical model I knew and used professionally. This path was inspired by a wonderful medical student from Nepal who I met a few years before I moved to Steamboat.

Sponsored by Denver Health, I was running a medical clinic for the homeless on Thursday evenings. I supervised volunteer medical students and we had minimal supplies for the people we treated. We talked a lot about food choices, supplements, and even yoga. One night this wonderful student from Nepal made a comment and it changed my life forever. He said, “I don’t understand your country. In Nepal, when someone sees a doctor the first question is ‘What can I eat?’ In your country, patients don’t ask about food and doctors don’t talk about diet, just pills.” This student is now a gastroenterology fellow studying holistic nutrition.

I believe if we learn to listen to our bodies, they will tell us what works and what doesn’t. In our culture today, we are so busy that we don’t even know how to tune in to our bodies’ communication until something goes wrong. The media inundates us with so much information about good foods, bad foods, supplements, and diets; it’s overwhelming trying to figure out what’s best for our health.

“Rakta” is one of the seven tissues in Ayurvedic medicine. It refers to the red blood cells and is thought to nourish the body and preserve life. The mission at Rakta Hot Yoga is to provide yoga, fitness, meditation, and wellness to nourish our clients. We use infrared heat for our heated classes because of its therapeutic benefits. We offer non-heated classes for those who don’t like the heat or have medical reasons for avoiding it. We offer fitness classes like kickboxing, bands, and Essentrics as compliments to your yoga practice. We have a strong focus on restorative yoga, gentle yoga, and meditation because we believe in the importance of recovery for active bodies.

The wellness team at Rakta is comprised of experts in many different aspects of wellness including nutrition, Ayurveda, sleep, financial health, and spirituality. We will offer free wellness talks the first Sunday of every month at 5:30pm. In addition, we have a wellness room for massage, Ayurvedic treatments, nutrition coaching, and other services available by appointment.

Rakta was born from my passion to help people on their journeys to health. I love the medical precision of anatomy and alignment. I also love the fidelity with which we can use yoga, pilates, and nutrition to customize treatment for each individual. It has taken great perseverance to see my vision to fruition. For me, Rakta Hot Yoga is “Passion Precision Perseverance.” We support your passion in life and help you connect to it. We use precision in our teaching, wellness talks, and wellness services to give the best information available. We will help you persevere through life’s challenges to achieve your goals.

In light and love, Sandy