It’s NOT a tumor! (Starting off holiday weekend revisiting disco lights of migraines past!)

By | 2018-04-07T23:19:13+00:00 May 27th, 2017|anxiety, anxiety disorder, anxiety relief, art, artists, children, coffee, creativity, dining, dinner, gratitude, health, Life, mental health, mind/body, stars, stress, stress relief, totems, Uncategorized|

Update:Today marks my second experience with these super bizarre migraines, but at least now I know what it is! Enjoy the weekend all!

 

Arnold Schwarzenegger in Kindergarten Cop, that was the scene running through my mind the other night, when I was convinced I had a brain tumor.

Thankfully, Arnold’s words mirrored the doctor, who also said “It’s not a tumor, it appears to be a migraine.” Good news! So good, I started to cry with relief. Here’s the scene: My boys and I were getting ready to sit down to dinner and I was doing a last check of email on my phone. There was a smudge on the screen that I tried to wipe off, but it wouldn’t go away. Oddly enough when I looked away from the phone screen, the smudge followed me. Too much screen time perhaps? My eyes must be dry!  I put some rewetting drops in and waited, and that’s when the technicolor-disco lights-shimmering prisms started dancing before my eyes. Only on the left side of my periphery, but visible when either eye was closed. I sit down at the table, and we are psyched because we have just started the final season of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer”, and I can’t really see the TV with all these lights dancing in my eyes. And there it is, that warm, far-away gurgle, that starts deep in my gut, then buzzes through me with a flash, where for a moment I feel lighter than air. Sounds almost pleasant right? Well, it’s not, it’s the start of a major panic attack because I have just realized that I’m in the middle of some kind of episode involving my brain, and I’m half expecting to drop, right there at the dinner table during Buffy. I get up and head to my room where I can take very slow, deep breaths, in an effort to calm my climbing blood pressure. The visual disturbance meanwhile, is becoming more pronounced. Thankfully my babysitter was still around, as I knew I needed medical attention. I had her do the stroke test with me so I could rule that out, and then I called my mom. By the time my mom came to get me, the disco had pretty much stopped. You’d think I would have been happy about that, but as soon as all the dancing lights faded away, a lovely headache creeped up on the opposite side of my head. Yup, I’m a goner.

There’s an Urgent Care around the corner so we headed there, my stiff upper lip, my headache, and my mommy. One friend had suggested it was a migraine, but I had never really had one before so I was skeptical, but clearly there’s a first time for everything! I experienced what is perfectly described as an ocular migraine with aura! I always knew I had a pretty shimmery aura, but I thought the point was for other people to notice it, not me! I have a sense of humor about it now obviously, but I was terrified, and I have tremendous empathy for everyone I know (and even those I don’t), that suffers from any kind of migraine. I got off easy with this one because I actually was functioning and doing fine considering the dull throb. So fine, that I was able to keep my chaperoning duties with 28 fourth graders for a trip to the Whitney Museum! I saw a piece from the Frank Stella exhibit that reminded me of my disco lights!

Like my migraine, only art!

I’ve read about all the triggers, and of course, most of them are things I thoroughly enjoy (red wine, chocolate, etc.), I might just have to do process of elimination to determine what I can get away with!! It’s scary when something is going on and you feel helpless, I am grateful that Totem Tamers helps to remind me to take deep breaths, because I’m certain those deep breaths kept me from fainting out of fear. I hope I never experience this again, but at least now I know what it is and knowing is half the battle! Would love to hear from all you migraine sufferers, tips, triggers, suggestions!!!

Stay well.

Her-knee-ugh!

By | 2018-04-07T23:19:18+00:00 December 23rd, 2016|animals, anxiety, anxiety disorder, anxiety relief, gratitude, health, holiday, inspiration, Life, medicine, mental health, mind/body, motivation, recovery, stress, stress relief, surgeon, totems, travel, vacation|

I put my pants on ass backwards this morning. No, really, the ass was in the front, they’re not supposed to go on that way, but there I was walking my dog in my ass backwards pants and realizing that I could still put one foot in front of the other even if part of me was facing the wrong direction! I did try to put my hands in the pockets, but that didn’t work out so well. Point is, you never know what life will throw at you (or your country), and even though we can’t necessarily be prepared for every possibility, we can allow ourselves permission to just let it unfold.

Every Christmas, my kids go away with their Dad to see family upstate. They look forward to hanging out with their grandparents and their cousins and hopefully lots of soccer and football in the snow! Every year I convince myself that I am going to take a trip to some exotic location, or Miami, but those trips never quite seem to happen. This year, I was going to finally do it, and this past Monday I decided that I would head to my old stomping grounds in the 305 for a few days of warmth and visiting with friends. Monday night, my hernia, which has been close to me for quite a while, decided it didn’t want to go to Miami with me, so it’s begging to be shoved back from whence it came!

Where’s Sigourney Weaver when you need her?!

Ok that’s not my image, and for all I know that could be a guy, I can’t tell what all those nooks and crannies really are, but at least you can see the hernia there where the arrow is pointing. Mine thankfully isn’t that bad, or big, but it’s a bitch nonetheless and needs to be handled. So why am I telling you all this? Did you know that more than a million hernia surgeries are performed every year in the US? Yeah, I didn’t either, but what that means in all likelihood, is that several of you have probably had the surgery yourself! Mine is umbilical, for information purposes, but no matter your hernia, abdominal laparoscopic surgical recovery is surely somewhat similar. The tips and suggestions those of you, who are now experts might have, is probably very valuable to someone like me! So bring em on! I want to hear what helped you, and what didn’t help you, and what you wish you had known but weren’t warned about. And no, don’t tell me the horror story of your Uncle Sal who ended up bleeding out on the bathroom floor when he tried to pull out a stray nose hair after hernia surgery. But definitely tell me the story about Aunty Sheila whose flatulence was so horrific no one could stay in the room with her while she recovered! Get the drift? Keep it light, keep it helpful, keep it informative, but for goodness sakes, don’t keep it to yourself! We all benefit from shared experiences, so in the interest of helping me stay calm (I’ll have my Totems), please bestow the wisdom of your experiences on me and anyone else who might need it! Thanks and happy holidays!

Stay well.

We are magically sold out of inventory from this holiday season, but restocking shortly!! Put your orders in for Totems now and have them to use and share in the new year! Visit our store and choose your Totem today!

When reality doesn’t feel real…

By | 2018-04-07T23:19:28+00:00 June 5th, 2016|addiction, anxiety, anxiety disorder, anxiety relief, brothers, childhood, children, death, drug use, drugs, family, harm reduction, health, heroin, loss, love, mental health, mind/body, overdose, overdose prevention, parenthood, parenting, prevention, sadness, sharing, siblings, story, storytelling|

My morning started off rather sweetly today. Sure I didn’t sleep well, sure I knew storms were predicted that were going to rain out a school fair I had hoped to attend with my Totems, but that wasn’t going to get me down. I did something I love to do this morning, I baked.

Healthy baking

Homebaked goodness.

That’s my zucchini oatmeal bread with a little twist of chocolate. You can see it’s a hit with my boys as half of one loaf was gone by midday. There’s something about mixing all those ingredients and having it come out into a delicious finished product that is deeply satisfying. The smell in the apartment doesn’t hurt either. I had already been emailing with a friend from the Harm Reduction Coalition about a very informal, and very hush-hush drug education conversation I am going to be having at one of my kids’ schools. Hush-hush because apparently the principal isn’t interested in keeping her student body safe, but that’s clearly for another blog post! In the midst of this emailing, my friend forwarded me a link to an article that is appearing this week in Newsweek magazine. She did this because I’m mentioned in the article, as is my mom, my stepdad, my brother, my stepbrother, her, the head of Drug Policy Alliance, and a young, incredibly aware and caring doctor in Miami, Dr. Hansel Tookes. This article is about my family and the course we have taken since my brother’s heroin overdose almost 13 years ago, and my stepfather’s ironic creation of the drug, naloxone, that could have saved my brother’s life. It’s bizarre to see your story in print, especially when it’s written by someone else, and their spin on it all. I have written about my story many times, just click on the blog page and search anything from overdose prevention, to harm reduction, to heroin, and you can find lots of stories I have written. It’s not the same when you see your own name in print in relation to an event that still makes your breath catch in your throat and your stomach drop out from under you. It’s not the same when someone is retelling the horror that you lived when you showed up at the hospital and witnessed your brother already in a coma because people he was using drugs with were too afraid to call 911 and instead dumped him on the hospital steps. It somehow feels like you’re reading someone else’s story. That’s exactly what my mom said when she called me sobbing this morning after reading the article. It’s a sadness for sure, but there’s also a sense of hope that comes along with it, which is bittersweet because it comes too late for my brother, but it’s not too late for so many others. That’s why so many people have shared the link to the article on Facebook, for example, because there’s power and courage in the telling of our story and there’s much work to be done, and many brave souls doing the work. My brother isn’t here and that’s devastating a lot of the time, but a sweetness happens when I show my mom a picture of one of my boys and she sees a resemblance that is sometimes too overwhelming for me to admit. Yes, my brother’s life ended many years ago, and sometimes it pisses me off that he’s not here for me as a brother should be, that he doesn’t get to enjoy my children and be their uncle as he should be, but I am doing my best to make sure his memory lives on in all that I do to prevent this tragedy from happening again and again, just as I should be.

brother, heroin, overdose

Jonathan in happy times

Stay well.

T(each) his own!

By | 2018-04-07T23:21:42+00:00 April 15th, 2016|addiction, anger management, animals, anxiety, anxiety disorder, anxiety relief, brotherhood, brothers, bulldogs, childhood, children, creativity, death, drug use, drugs, education, family, harm reduction, health, heroin, Life, loss, mental health, mind/body, motherhood, overdose, overdose prevention, parenthood, parenting, prevention, school, sharing, stress, stress relief|

I am fortunate that I get to pick up my youngest kid from school most days. I love the look on his face when he sees me, it’s like an instant heart-warmer. I am also grateful that I can connect with other parents and check in with his teacher when necessary. There are those moments though, that I have to hold my breath. You know the ones I mean, when your child comes up to you and says “Mom, the teacher needs to see you.” Breathe. I always ask my children, and I highly recommend this technique for you, what they think the teacher might want to talk to me about. Sometimes they know, and they tell me right away, and other times, they don’t. Either way it helps me determine potential guilt or innocence. Yesterday afternoon, my sweet boy greets me at pickup and tells me the teacher needs to talk to me. I ask my question, and he has no clue why she wants to talk to me, and I believe him. Finally, most of the kids get dismissed and I approach the teacher. She’s magical by the way and engages children like I have never seen. A smile crosses her face as she sees me, but I can tell that it’s a heavy smile, like we are definitely going to talk about something of substance related to my child. She tells me she wanted to give me a heads up about the stuff my son is working on in class for their poetry unit. Immediate relief washes over me, because I actually already know what my son is working on because he told me. He’s writing poetry about addiction, substance use, overdose, overdose prevention, and family. My son is 9. I smile back at the teacher because I realize that she’s likely telling me because the poetry books will be revealed to all at an upcoming publishing party for the class that includes parents. I reassure her that this subject matter is regular conversation in my house, and that if she had any questions or need for clarification I would be happy to oblige. I did have a moment where I was concerned that it might be too much for the other kids and their parents, but that concern quickly turned into gumption and hope that my son being this open will spur his friends to ask questions and maybe even their parents to ask questions. It’s all about the conversation, and that my 9 year old is talking about Naloxone, “a life saving drug that his grampa made to help people who use drugs”, is miraculous. It’s also heartbreaking.

poetry and lyrics

My kid asked me for a journal the other day which is how I know about the poetry unit in class. He’s calling it a lyric book. He wrote his first poem and it’s called “Quit”. There’s a line in it about my brother who died of a heroin overdose a few years before my son was born. He refers to my brother as “the uncle he never had.” He also uses my regular statement of my brother’s death hopefully saving him from the same fate. I told him how beautiful the poem was and thanked him for sharing it with me. He seemed proud of himself and was eager to write more. This is how I know how important these conversations are with my kids, and how important it is to keep the lines of communication open. I am grateful that my son’s teacher didn’t freak out and didn’t tell him that he couldn’t write about this topic, instead she marveled at his depth and encouraged him along, and let me know what I can expect at the upcoming publishing party. I’m not too worried, I’m pretty good in a crowd, and who knows, maybe I’ll bring my overdose prevention kit for show and tell!

Stay well.

If you have questions, Harm Reduction Coalition and Drug Policy Alliance are wonderful resources. Feel free to email me, too: julie@totemtamers.com!

Do something that moves you!

By | 2018-04-07T23:22:52+00:00 November 3rd, 2014|animals, health, mind/body, running, totems|

About 50,000 people decided to run in the NYC Marathon yesterday. I knew several of them and was thrilled to watch their progress online and see victory photos of medals and exhausted bodies wrapped in tin foil. This wasn’t a decision these people made yesterday morning, it was a commitment they made months ago, if not years ago, that they wanted to train and run a marathon. I sit in awe of the commitment required to do something this intense, and do it safely. A dear friend, who happens to have MS, kicked marathon butt, and made it through! I’m so proud of her!

SLR's marathon medal!! She rocked it!

SLR’s marathon medal!! She rocked it!

A runner I am not, even though several years back I pretended, until my already bum knee became a full bummer. This isn’t about running though, this is about moving, moving yourself, moving others, doing something that at the end of the day, that makes you feel proud. Makes you feel like you have added value to the world, even if it’s just one person’s world, heck even if just for you. Find the thing that motivates you, it could be knitting, it could be yoga, it could be fostering animals, it could be a million different things, but just be motivated. We are blessed to have the chance to live in this great world and it would be a shame to waste that blessing. Totem Tamers moves me, because I know just by being here I am helping. Sometimes it’s helping me, because I get to share my story and my thoughts (which hopefully help others in turn.) Totem Tamers also hopes to help those who struggle with anxiety and stress that can sometimes get in the way of people enjoying their lives! I’m lucky that I have a bunch of things that move me, from my kids, to belting out show tunes in my kitchen. What moves you?

Congratulations to all the movers that were out in the fierce wind and cold yesterday running the marathon! Congratulations to everyone for finding the courage to move today.

Stay well.

Totem Tamers are pocket-sized animal Totems that help in times of potentially overwhelming anxiety and stress. Along with a simple guide, Totem Tamers can help get you moving! Click on any of the Totems on the page, and get moving today!!

Happy National Cat Day!

By | 2018-04-07T23:22:53+00:00 October 29th, 2014|animals, cats, health, Life, loss, mental health, mind/body|

Finding out that it is National Cat Day, made me sad for my two kitties, who are long gone.

"Peanut" & "Butter"

“Peanut” & “Butter”

I miss them a bunch, but have since gotten a very large fluffy dog that rules the roost, so no room for kitties at this point. However, Totem Tamers is always thinking about new Totems to create and we do get requests for cats from time to time. If Totem Tamers wanted to make a feline Totem, what kind of feline would you like to see? A tiger, lion, cheetah, panther, a domestic house cat? Let us know your thoughts and maybe your idea could end up a real Totem!! I’m thinking that’s what I need for sure to help me remember my kitty cats. Hug your cats today!!

Stay well.

Even though we don’t have a feline Totem, we do have several other options for you, so click on any of the Totems on the page and get one today!

Of love and loss.

By | 2018-04-07T23:22:53+00:00 October 26th, 2014|death, drug use, family, health, Life, loss|

I have been wanting to write this post for days, but it makes sense that today is the day I find the strength to sit down and actually do it. I started thinking about this post a few days ago, even when my alarm went off at 4:45 am to get me up to catch a train to Baltimore. I was asked by my friends at the Harm Reduction Coalition if I wanted to come to their national conference, where hundreds would gather for four days to learn, share, educate, understand and “promote the health and dignity of individuals and communities impacted by drug use.” Of course I said yes, though I only had a couple hours to give, I knew this was not an experience to miss, and one that I needed to have. I met a couple of the amazing people from HRC last year, when they came to my mom’s house to do a Naloxone training. Naloxone is an antidote to overdose, and it happened to be created by my stepfather, Jack Fishman. Sharon and Bill from HRC, showed up and shared some of their knowledge and armed anyone who wanted it, with an overdose prevention kit. I wrote about that evening here and even though it was almost a year ago, the shivers still remain. Here was a group of people being given an answer, a cure so to speak, a tool that can help save thousands of lives and has helped countless already. Sadly, it didn’t help my brother, who didn’t have access to Naloxone, who we said goodbye to 11 years ago today. It didn’t help his girlfriend Ashley either, when on this same day ten years ago, we lost her, too.That’s why today was the day for me to get this out.

Mr. Michael Botticelli, ONDCP

Mr. Michael Botticelli, ONDCP

When I first arrived, Sharon was eagerly waiting for me and excited to introduce me to Michael Botticelli, the Acting Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy. He was there to give us all hope that the government is finally grasping that overdose deaths are the leading cause of injury-related fatalities in people aged 35-54, and the second leading cause of death for young people. Botticelli talked about Naloxone, heck, everyone was talking about Naloxone, and I sat there so proud of my stepfather and inspired by all these people who showed up at this conference. I met one man who had used Naloxone to reverse 27 overdoses! That’s 27 lives that were saved, by one person!!! Then I met another man who called my stepfather a hero. Wow, this was overwhelming, then a man walked by me with a t-shirt on, that stopped me in my tracks.

Keep calm and carry Naloxone!

Keep calm and carry Naloxone!

I asked if I could take a picture of the shirt, and he kindly obliged and walked away. My HRC friend Sharon, hopped up and ran after him to whisper in his ear who I was and why I was there. Next thing I knew, this man was crouched down at my side, his big arms around me, shaking, as he whispered in my ear “Your family is so important to me, Naloxone saved my life….twice.” He thanked me and quickly walked away. I started to lose my composure a bit at this point, but truly lost it moments later when the room took a moment of meditation to remember those who had been lost. One by one, names were called out from all corners of the room, and I was done for, no longer in control of the tears. This was also the moment I was informed that I was supposed to get up and say a few words. WHAT?! I did my best to pull it together while this lovely young lady introduced me as a special guest. There I was, standing in front of hundreds of people, some former drug users, some active drug users, many that have been saved by Naloxone or that have used Naloxone to save someone, and many that have lost loved ones, just like me. I was a stranger until I explained that my Stepdad created Naloxone, and then in an instant, I became family. In that instant, the room erupted in hoots and hollers and applause, and people were on their feet and the smiles and the tears enveloped me. Then I told them about my brother Jonathan, and I got the chance to thank them for all the work they are doing to help make sure that not another person has to die from overdose. Needless to say, it was incredible. During a break, I walked around to see the exhibits, and of course to meet a ton of people that Sharon kept wanting me to say hello to. That guy with the t-shirt was there, too.

Mark, a blessing in a t-shirt.

Mark, a blessing in a t-shirt.

The few hours I was able to be there, have changed me forever. I know I will go to the next conference, and I know I will stay longer. I know that I will continue on the mission, like all of these dedicated people, to make sure Naloxone is more accessible to those who need it most. I know that in doing so, the memory of my stepfather lives on, and the memory of my brother and his girlfriend will as well. There was one exhibit that was the hardest for me to visit, but one I knew I had to visit. It was the memorial corner where people could put the names of loved ones they have lost on a board. There were so many names, so many boards, and now, I had to add two more.

For Jonathan and Ashley..

For Jonathan and Ashley…

The hope is that the names will stop adding up, that people who need access to Naloxone can get it, that we are not powerless anymore. There is a lot that you can do and if you’d like to help, visit the Harm Reduction site, or the Drug Policy Alliance site, and take action. No one else needs to die from a drug overdose, no one.

Stay well.

Not the wake up call I asked for!

By | 2018-04-07T23:22:53+00:00 October 22nd, 2014|education, family, health, Life, mental health, parenting, school|

A couple days a week, I get to sleep past my typical 6:15 am wake up call. Only by about an hour, but an hour is a gift to most of us who struggle with getting good quality sleep. So imagine my horror when my phone rings at 7am this morning right when I’m at the denouement of the dream where the guy gets the girl, just as the bomb goes off not injuring anyone, but safely preventing the bad guys from getting to the hero couple! As soon as I looked at the caller ID and read “Board of Ed, City of New York”, I heard the shell casings fall to the floor. “Is this the mother of —-?” Otherwise known as my oldest, the teenager, the kid who breaks my heart when he sings, the baby who was my first foray in to the wonderful minefield that is parenting, my sweet boy who is now towering over me? “Yes, this is she.” Here it was, the phone call that gets threatened to the kids in the honors English class, from the first day of school. It was really happening. My immediate reaction was to defend this child of nicknames and cuteness, but I took a deep breath and decided to listen to his teacher instead. (Let’s not forget that the dream images of Jason Statham carrying me to safety are still lingering in my head, so I was a tad distracted.) This is a teacher whose reputation precedes her. For example, school officially begins at 8am, but she implores her students in first period to be there at 7:30. Trust me, this annoyed the crap out of all of us at the start, but I began to understand her logic. When school starts at 8, she wants kids in their seats ready to go, not just getting in to the room and sorting their desks and checking instagram feeds with their friends. She wants, and deserves, a room full of kids who have gotten their willies out, and are settled in for the lesson of the day. So fine, we push for our kid to get there as close to 7:30 as possible, which coming from Brooklyn a couple days a week isn’t always easy. I knew the phone call wasn’t about that, so why was I chatting with Dr. Teacher so early in the morning? My boy wasn’t doing his best, plain and simple. There wasn’t anything that this teacher said that surprised me, in fact her dedication to these kids, her waking up at 4:30 every morning to make sure she’s in the classroom by 6:45 for those kids who want to get their even earlier, made me frustrated with my kid more than anything! I was then able to imagine the scores of parents who I’m sure challenge Dr. Teacher, and defend their kids and complain about her practices etc.. I was tempted, don’t get me wrong, because my kid is a superstar in my book, but I realized in that moment, he wasn’t a superstar in her book, and that was unacceptable! I thanked Dr. Teacher for the call after we came up with a plan of action, and expressed my frustration that she isn’t getting to see the “superstar” that I see everyday. She assured me that with us collaborating, that “superstar” will make himself evident soon enough. Of course, she didn’t use the word superstar, and neither did I, but I know, you know, just what I mean! We are all parents of superstars, and all we can wish for is that everyone sees our kids for the superstars they are and can be. Working with the teachers, who once our kids hit school age, will spend almost as much time with them as we do, is the best way for our superstars to shine!

Stay well.

PS: He’s totally grounded if he doesn’t get his grades up!

I’ll encourage my superstar to carry a Totem with him for times Dr. Teacher pushes his buttons. Maybe your superstar could use a Totem as well? Order one today by clicking on any of the Totem images to your left!

Le Totem Quotidien!

By | 2018-04-07T23:22:54+00:00 October 19th, 2014|health, Life, mind/body|

I had the best lunch the other day, mostly because I was catching up with a dear friend, which is always a wonderful activity. The lunch however, was topped (literally) by a bonus when my friend asked for a coffee to go!

A latte with a Totem twist!

A latte with a Totem twist!

Le Pain Quotidien, is known for their healthful options (don’t even ask me about the gooey, delicious spreads they have on the table), and their commitment to bringing people together to share their “daily bread.” When I think about their locations, I always think about the natural look of them, with their wooden tables, and muted decor. Needless to say, I was immediately struck by the bubble gum pink top that adorned my friends coffee! Then I realized, not bubble gum pink, but breast cancer pink! Brilliant! In that moment, Le Pain, gained major points in my book and space on the Totem Tamers pages! There are so many resources available in terms of support for those battling breast cancer to the family members affected by those who are battling, too many to list, but certainly easy to google. The Breast Cancer Awareness page on Facebook, is a good place to start, at least! This pink-lidded cup of coffee gave me pause to consider my friends that have either lost someone to breast cancer, or are currently dealing with their own breast cancer diagnosis and wishing that my arms were bring enough to hug them all at once. The best thing I can do for them though, is to schedule my annual mammogram for which I am due this month and had somehow forgotten to do! So in honor of those here and those lost, I am going to get my boobies smushed, and you should too!

Stay well.

I always take my Totems with me to my mammograms because it can be a stressful situation for sure. If you need a Totem to help get you through, order one today by clicking on any of the Totems on the border of the page.

I inhaled…..through my nose!

By | 2018-04-07T23:22:55+00:00 September 30th, 2014|health, Life, mind/body|

Ok cheap shot at grabbing your attention, but it worked!! And it’s true, I did inhale, and I do inhale, because that’s how I help keep calm. I’m talking about breathing and it is one of the simple techniques Totem Tamers reminds you to do, so you can regain calm if you find yourself overwhelmed. The trick is to inhale through your nose and not through your mouth, because once you are taking breaths with an open mouth, your autonomic nervous system gets activated and your mind/body connection will believe you are stressed. Consequently, if you find yourself stressed and overwhelmed, it is very likely that you are open-mouth breathing, taking shallow breaths, or over-breathing. So if you close your mouth and start inhaling and exhaling through your nose, voila, you will immediately start to regulate your nervous systems response to exterior stressors. Doesn’t mean your head won’t still be spinning, but at least your physical response can be relieved and then you can get to work on whatever’s in your head.

Totems on a mat!

Totems on a mat!

The practice of Yoga (whatever method you follow) usually focuses on breathing through the nose. I have been doing Bikram Yoga of late, which is also referred to as “sweaty yoga” or “stinky yoga” depending on the day. Mondays are usually worse because most people increase their levels of toxins over the weekend, only to sweat them out in the steaming hot studio Monday morning. I know, gross. Totally. Now if you’ve never done Bikram, you may not be able to relate to the immediate chokehold of the smell that hits you when you first walk in to the studio. It’s a combination of wet dog and socks that have been worn in the middle of summer for two weeks straight in the tennis shoes of a teenaged boy. Nasty. Don’t forget that you have to breathe through your nose! So imagine little ole me, lined up in a packed yoga room on a Monday morning, sweltering at a comfy 104 degrees with approximately 30% plus humidity. On one side of me is a man I would safely say, was in his late 60’s. Impressive! On the other side of me was a man around my age (the age of fabulous, so be quiet), who was an extremely big dude. I am pretty short, but no shrinking violet, and this guy towered over me. Oppressive! At one point in the middle of class, one of these two lovely gentleman burped. I can’t begin to describe to you the odor that nailed me straight in the face, simultaneously forcing me to close off my nose and breathe through my mouth, mostly so I wouldn’t gag or worse yet, toss my cookies on my already slick yoga mat. In the maybe thirty seconds of mouth-breathing, my heart rate absolutely began to climb and I absolutely began to feel more anxiety. Of course my anxiety was warranted, because where there’s one burp, there’s plenty, and we hadn’t even gotten to the floor postures that kick off with “wind-removing pose!” I know, still gross!! What helped me get through the rest of the class, was the validation that Totem Tamers and the breathing that we remind you to do in stressful situations can help. I also didn’t want to think about any other possibilities for the rest of class, and thinking about my Totems always serves to calm me. Inhale…..exhale. Whew!

Stay well.

Need a Totem? Get one today by simply clicking on one of the Totem images to the left!