Episode 21 Feel your Bliss with Restorative Reiki Yoga with Mandy Bernard and Amy Sawyer

Jul 28, 2021

How can yoga practice aid therapy? Can you combine restorative yoga and reiki? What benefits can you experience when you practice restorative yoga?

MEET AMY SAWYER AND MANDY BERNARD

Amy Sawyer has been practicing yoga on and off for most of her adult life. She fully embraced yoga after a personally challenging year in 2015 and enrolled in yoga teacher training with the intention of invoking self-care and deepening her own practice. After experiencing the profound personal and spiritual growth that a regular practice had in her life, she felt called to teach and share yoga with others. Amy considers herself a lifetime student and is a strong believer in “we teach what we need to learn.” She leads a soulful, heart-opening practice that inspires students to bring awareness to their lives on and off the mat and to honor the teacher within.

Mandy Bernard has worked with yogis of all ages. She has trained in trauma-based yoga with David Emerson, Ayurveda with Hilary Gilvaltis of Kirpalu, and Thai Massage with Deon DeWitt. Her classes combine a blend of movement, mindfulness, reflection, and alignment often with the theme of self-love woven throughout. She co-leads international and national women’s yoga and wellness retreats and is the owner of Salty Dog Yoga & Surf. When she isn’t teaching yoga you will most likely find her wearing overalls hanging in nature, doing an art project, or hanging with her family.

Find out more on Salty Dog website. Connect on Instagram and Facebook.

Visit Amy’s website. Connect on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook

Subscribe to the YouTube channel.

IN THIS PODCAST:

  • Benefits of yoga and therapy
  • Combining restorative yoga and reiki
  • Advice to holistic counselors

BENEFITS OF YOGA AND THERAPY

In Western society many people come to practice yoga for the physical benefits, there are multitudes of emotional and mental benefits as well.

I think just being on our mat and being present with our breath and with our body and observing where we are allows us to come into a deeper place of peace and acceptance no matter what we’re going through in life. (Amy Sawyer)

Yoga can benefit you whether you are using it to overcome trauma, move through a difficult transition in life, or simply to strengthen your body. Its benefits can adapt to what you need it to do for you at that moment.

It is also through the practice of yoga that you can learn to come back to the present moment, which is also a pillar in therapy: noticing where you are now and being present in the moment instead of living in your memories or in a reality that is not real.

COMBINING RESTORATIVE YOGA AND THERAPY

Restorative yoga and reiki are complementary practices. Restorative yoga gives your body the chance to relax and come down from the constant high that most people in Western society are encouraged to chase.

The idea of “no pain no gain” and “hustling” constantly leads to many people going about their lives without presence or awareness because they are too busy doing as many things as they can.

Combining reiki and restorative yoga is a practice where you can ground your body and mind into the present moment.

Reiki, even though it’s a specific type of training, we all know that if we bump our toe on something our immediate thought is to grab our toe and rub it, that is sending energy to where you feel pain, and reiki is the same concept. We’re intentionally sending energy to help calm down, relax and heal. (Amy Sawyer)

ADVICE TO HOLISTIC COUNSELORS

It is a journey: you might start one day and fall out of your routine, but it is more about getting back up and continuing to practice even when you may miss a day.

It is about being kind and compassionate to yourself and remembering that there is no end destination. One minute can be enough to reset and connect.

Come back to the present moment. Do not live in the past or too far into the future: being in the present reminds you that you have the power, you are alive, and that you are enough

Connect With Me

Resources Mentioned And Useful Links:

Transcript

[CHRIS McDONALD]

The Holistic Counseling Podcast is part of the Practice of the Practice network, a network of podcasts seeking to help you market and grow your business and yourself. To hear other podcasts like Behind the Bite, Full of Shift and Impact Driven Leader, go to www.practiceofthepractice.com/network.

Welcome to the Holistic Counseling Podcast, where you discover diverse wellness modalities, advice on growing your integrative practice, and grow confidence in being your unique self. I'm your host, Chris McDonald. I'm so glad you're here for the journey.

ersonally challenging year in:and Mindfully Made [inaudible:

[AMY+MANDY]

Thank you

[CHRIS]

So glad you guys could be here. So can you tell my listeners more about yourself in your work? Who wants to start?

[MANDY BERNARD]

me into teaching yoga back in:

[CHRIS]

Oh that is wonderful.

[MANDY]

Yes, it's probably one of my favorites to teach people obviously in the studio and then even in fitness centers and such, but for me, yoga has just been such a healing journey that love to share it with as many people as possible.

[CHRIS]

Thanks. Amy.

[AMY SAWYER]

holistic path. So that was in:was in a bad car accident in:

[CHRIS]

I'm so excited that you guys were still open because I was so sad around this area and the triangle. In North Carolina and a lot of yoga studios have closed because of the pandemic. I'm so happy to see you guys are still open.

[MANDY]

Yes. We are seeing ---

[CHRIS]

I'm sure you are. Yes, it's been a rough year in yoga, hasn't it?

[MANDY]

We are all 100% better at Zoom than we were this time last year.

[CHRIS]

Isn't that true? So you guys do some Zoom classes in addition to in-person?

[AMY]

Yes We even do now what we call hybrid. Pretty much all of our classes are Zoom and in-person. It's totally different than how we started as yoga teachers. Like typically we were always taught or in my line of training, not to be on the mat and to be walking around the room. And then with COVID we're not really walking around the room and we're more demoing our class while we're teaching it and trying to take a look at the students and all that. So it's just, we're practicing non-attachment.

[CHRIS]

Yes. It seems like it's really changed the face of how yoga is brought to students. And unfortunately I know a lot of people are more isolated with the pandemic, so I'm glad to hear you guys have some in-person and I know you have beach classes too are amazing.

[MANDY]

Yes. It's been a nice way to stay connected to community. I can't remember how long it was that it was just virtual classes. So it was really nice to still connect with students. And I know a lot of them have voiced to us that's been a lifesaver for them to really stay connected to their yoga community.

[CHRIS]

Yes, exactly, because I think we all need that connection, don't we, through yoga?

[MANDY]

Yes, for sure. That's been a big theme for us too. It was a theme of our yoga retreat last year and yes, it's a super important for wellbeing.

[CHRIS]

Are you guys planning yoga retreats in the future?

[MANDY]

Yes we are.

[AMY]

We are.

[CHRIS]

I know we're afraid to say something like that with COVID.

[AMY]

o a day retreat to [inaudible:

[CHRIS]

That's o uplifting to hear too, because I know so much has been shut down and then be able to get out in nature with yoga is so powerful.

[AMY]

Yes, absolutely.

[CHRIS]

Amy, can you tell me what are the benefits of yoga, as an adjunct therapy with traditional medicine and energy?

[AMY]

Yes. So with yoga, so many people, especially in our Western culture come to yoga for the physical part. And I believe, at least in my experience, the reason we end up staying is because, so there's just something that kind of switches in us. I like to call it yoga magic it's. So we just slowly begin to realize that we can manage life a little bit better. Like we don't get so angry in traffic or just our day-to-day challenges. And I think just being on our mat and being present with our breath and with our body and observing where we are just allows us to come into a deeper place of peace and acceptance, no matter what we're going through in life. So yoga is one of those modalities that whether you're healthy or you're whether you're suffering from some kind of illness or life change, it can benefit you.

It doesn't interfere with any medicine. It doesn't interfere with any other thing that you may be doing for your health. It just provides an extra bonus. And yes, I think that's what kept me with yoga after I really started to go down the yoga path of more than the physical practice. And I think it's what keeps so many other people coming back to their mat because it's just magical in the way that it makes you feel and move through life.

[CHRIS]

I like what you said too with combining it with the regular medicine energy works. So it's not like you're discounting Western medicine. I think the combination together can be so powerful and helpful to people.

[AMY]

Yes, absolutely. I worked in the pharmaceutical field.

[CHRIS]

That's true. That's what interesting too.

[AMY]

Yes, for 13 years and that definitely value medicine when it's needed. I, of course feel that there's some things that are over prescribed and that a lot of people just kind of want to fix things right away. And we have to realize that we have to put in the work for lasting change and yoga gives us the opportunities to do that.

[CHRIS]

Oh, definitely. And Mandy, I know you talked about present moment awareness and what you sent to me. So how do you bring present moment awareness to yourself each day?

[MANDY]

I always say in my classes that it's always a practice and I think that it's important to remember that there's no end destination in mind. So we have the ability at any moment to practice that present moment awareness. The easiest way for me to recalibrate so to speak is to just bring my hands on my heart. And when I bring my hands on my heart, I can feel my heart beating. I can feel my breath flowing. It brings me back to my body and back to the moment. One of our teachers here, Kathleen who teaches meditation, she always says that when we're doing something, just do it. So for instance, if you're chopping vegetables, be present chopping vegetables. If you're folding the laundry, be present folding the laundry. So I think it's just those moments of awareness. The mind starts to wander and we just come back.

[CHRIS]

Come back to that present moment. I love that, that mindfulness practice of everything, because most people are doing several things at once.

[MANDY]

I would put that on my resume, multi-tasking and now the real skillset is to be present and to be in this moment.

[CHRIS]

And I think that's so powerful what you said with your hand on your heart and that's something as a counselor, and I know a lot of other counselors therapists use that as well to tell clients, just put your hands on your heart and just stay there. And that can be very self-soothing. That can bring you back to yourself and help ease anxiety as well.

[MANDY]

Yes, for sure. So powerful,

[CHRIS]

Mandy you teach pranayama as well?

[MANDY]

Yes. I would say that all of our teachers here at Salty Dogs, so we don't, I don't hire a teacher from a specific training. What I love is that it's a melting pot of teachers from all different backgrounds, all different schools of yoga, but I will say that we have a great dynamic group of teachers and pretty much all of our teachers, I feel like include pranayama in our classes.

[CHRIS]

That's wonderful.

[MANDY]

Yes, because I think so much of what we think today of yoga is just that physical us in a practice, the breath work, the meditation, like it's all a component of yoga.

[CHRIS]

It is. And I think people forget that for sure and always just see it as movement or, and I'm not sure what kinds of yoga you teach there, but they see it sometimes just as like power yoga that you have to do it really fast and hard and sweaty, but it doesn't have to be that way.

[MANDY]

No, we actually started during the pandemic. I called it mental Mondays and it was via Zoom and all it was was breathwork exercises. Every week we would introduce a different breathwork exercise in the hopes that what might resonate for me might not work for you and that we have all these tools though, that we can put in our toolbox and come back to, as we navigate into every day living.

[CHRIS]

I love that because that's what I do with clients too. I teach breathwork and I always tell them that not everything I teach you is going to work for you, so let's try some different things and see what works specifically for you. And as an individual, everybody's so different. Is there a favorite pranayama practice you have?

[MANDY]

I love alternate nostril breathing, but I also love box breathing. Amy, what's your favorite?

[AMY]

Yes. I've been experimenting with so many different breath practices lately. Mine is just right now I'm just building breath capacity, like working to just build my Prana and life force. So I can play with different ratios and holding inhales and exhales or doubling my exhale and just trying to really expand. One of the things that came to my mind when you all were talking was, I think it's from Christian Macharia who's like from the lineage that I'm learning through yoga therapy, who said that if you can breathe, you can do yoga. Another guest teacher here, Dr. Sundar from Charleston, who said that the Pranayama is the most important component of your practice. It is really the key to longevity. So that's definitely a big thing for me and my practice and what I like to teach others as well. But there's so many different options to choose from. You can find something, I tend to go back to Ujjayi a lot, just that ocean sounding breath that helps you to slip on your breath and tune into your body. So that's one of my favorites.

[CHRIS]

So Mandy, can you share what alternative national breathing is for those who may not be aware?

[MANDY]

Yes. So alternate nostril breathing is actually, you take turns breathing in one side of the nose and then the opposite. So you would, if I were to guide you through it right now, I would tell you to put your two fingers where your eyebrows meet and cover your right nostril with your thumb and then you'll take an inhale through your left nostril. And then you would pause and just cover the left nostril with your ring finger, release the thumb and exhale out, and then inhale through the right, exhale left. What I love about that is it's a slowing down in a focusing, but also breathing in the right and the left helps to balance out the right and left hemisphere of the brain, so like the thinking and feeling. And I can just instantly feel a shift and a difference when I practice a few rounds of it.

[CHRIS]

It really does calm your nervous system because I've taught that as well. It's pretty powerful. So Amy, was there any other, I know you said the breathing practice was the ratio breath. So can you share how you teach ratio breath?

[AMY]

It's very individual specific. So you always want to assess where your normal breath is and try to bring it to that kind of equal breath; so finding an equal inhale and exhale. So maybe that's a four and a four, maybe a six and a six and eight, just depends on what your breath is. And then I would start by just extending the exhale. So if my breath were, let's just say a six, six. If I could get it to a six inhale and a six count exhale, then I would just slowly try to start to double the exhale. And one of the main things about the breath we always want to maintain is keeping it smooth and fluid and not where it creates anxiety. So we know that when we start to feel a little anxious because we're holding our exhale too long, that we've reached our maximum for that day.

So it would just be a general kind of inhaling for six, exhaling for six, for a couple of rounds, and then inhaling for six, then exhaling for eight for a couple of rounds and inhaling for six, exhaling for 10, for a couple of rounds. And hopefully getting up to that, inhaling six and exhaling 12, and maybe maintaining that for about six breaths and then dropping it back to that equals six, six, and then just allowing your breath to just be natural. So just starting to build up to that capacity, build your exhale first, because we can't take in more than we give out. And that's just one of the ratios and then there's holds and things you can work with that box breathing. And there's some magic ratio from some ancient teachings that has a really long inhale hold, but it's really challenging and it takes years to work up to [crosstalk] Moving in that direction.

[CHRIS]

Yes, that's great. So yes, I think a lot of mental health therapists who listen also teach some breath work. So that's good to know that there's so many different ways to teach pranayama and breath work. So helpful. So I was wondering, and I don't know who wants to answer this, but what made you want to combine restorative yoga and Reiki together in a training?

[AMY]

I think they're just really complimentary. One thing about restorative yoga, and Mandy's been teaching restorative yoga for a long time, so she can speak to this, but there's so many people who are like, "I can't do restorative yoga. It's a waste of my time." They want that physical practice. So restorative yoga to me is the ultimate self-care. It's being present, letting your body rest and be supported. So many of us in our culture, especially are just like more and more and more, no pain, no gain. Like we don't take the time to slow down and just allow everything to integrate. So to me, that's, what's beautiful about restorative yoga.

And then Reiki is just such a gentle healing modality that it just makes sense for them to come together. Reiki, even though it's a specific type of training, we all know like if we bump our toe on something, our immediate thought, other than maybe a curse word is to grab our toe and put our hand on our toe and rub it. That is sending energy to where you feel pain. So Reiki is the same concept. We're just intentionally sending energy to help calm down and relax and heal. So I feel like they do the same thing in different ways.

[CHRIS]

So Mandy, can you talk more about what is restorative yoga?

[MANDY]

So restorative yoga, like Amy said is designed to be supportive. So we use props mainly to support the body in yoga posture. It's passive posture. I used to joke that it's, I call it sometimes lay around yoga because you are laying down. I think that's a great point, Amy said we are not really a culture of laying around. It can be challenging for my type of personality. It's very challenging for me, but I also recognize that it's what I need to create balance and that's why I love to teach it because it forces me to slow down and be present. So you use the props to build up around your body and we hold the postures for an extended period of time, which allows us to kind of drop out of that mental state of what's next, what do I need to do now, and to just really be present and in the moment and drop into the breath and to relax.

[CHRIS]

And that's so hard for some people, isn't it?

[MANDY]

It is but I feel like it's kind of like that carving new neuro pathways, the more that we keep showing up doing it, then it's just like anything else. I remember practicing yoga. Like one of my very first classes, the teacher saying down dog is a resting pose. And I was like, What the hell is she talking about?" And now down dog to me, it feels like a resting pose. So I think it's just that we just need to keep showing up for ourselves.

[CHRIS]

So what do you think are the benefits of using restorative and Reiki together

[MANDY]

From our perspective, so I've taught, before we decided to do the training, I taught several just Reiki restorative classes, where people would come in, they'd get in restorative postures, we'd guide them through. We did a lot of these combined. We called it pure bliss where we will guide them into the restorative postures and now we'd go around and give Reiki while they were in these extended postures. So many people would say, "Wow, I'm so relaxed." Or the next day they would say, 'I got the best night of sleep I've had in a really long time." So while one or the other is great, just putting two super healing modalities together just has the pure bliss benefits.

[CHRIS]

Yes, I imagine so. And I could see how mental health therapists, this could really benefit them too, to do some of these strategies with clients to help with the relaxation for anxiety, especially.

[MANDY]

Yes. And that's what's beautiful about Reiki that you can give it to yourself. It gets nicer, like we can get a massage and having somebody else do the work for us, but you don't really have to work at it. You can put your hands on your heart with that intention and you'd get legs up the wall and you're in restorative Reiki and it's so easy to do on your own.

[CHRIS]

Yes. That's the beauty of it, isn't it? So what's a holistic strategy that you like to use, Mandy each day as part of your daily practice.

[MANDY]

I have a few things in the morning. I'd like to try and get up early. I have a little one. So sometimes it's challenging because I feel like I'll get up and she hears me and she immediately wakes up, but I try to get up and, something new I've been practicing is before I even get out of bed, I am practicing gratitude for life, for opening up my eyes for another opportunity in a day. And then I try to just sit and meditate and practice my breath work in the morning. And it just, it creates that piece that I need start off my day. I can feel a difference when I don't do that. I might be a little bit more short with my family or just anxious. So that's probably been the biggest thing that's helped shape and change my life just starting with intention and with time for myself.

[CHRIS]

Amy, what about you?

[AMY]

Yes. I have to say Yogi minds think alike because mine is super similar. I like to have quiet time in the morning to myself to do a little reading and journaling and pranayama and just some quiet time. And I found actually just last week or maybe the week before where my schedule was thrown off and I was pushing it off to the side and by the end of the week, I was just in a foul mood. I just was like, not myself. I was down. I just was like, what is going on? And I was like, I missed my pranayama and meditation practice majority of the week. So it helped me to remember how important it is for me to just get centered and tune in and focus on myself, even if it's just for five minutes.

And I don't have to make it a huge thing and that's where I think I distract myself sometimes by thinking I have to do all the things; I need to do an hour of yoga, I need to do 20 minutes of breathing, I need to do 20 minutes of meditation. I need to journal. I need to do all these things." And then we can just often say, I don't have time for all that so I'm not going to do anything and all. And it's been just such a hard habit for me to break. So it happened this morning. I was like I'm not going to beat myself up about it. I'm going to sit for five minutes. I ended up sitting there and I could've stayed longer, but I needed to come here. I'll find that too if we can just get to our mat or to our meditation cushion in and just, just like you say, like the hardest part is putting your workout clothes on; just making that intentional commitment, whether it's putting on regular clothes or I'm going to put on my workout clothes because now I'm ready to work out for the day. It's the same thing. If we can just go and just commit to like even two minutes to sit down and be present with our breath and with our thoughts, just letting them go and not getting attached to them. It can really change our day.

[CHRIS]

It really does set the tone for the day. I found that as well because once I skip too, I do become more reactive to people and to stress. And I clients it's setting up yourself to have that resource inside so when stressful things happen, you're much better able to handle it in a calmer way. So, Amy, I know you mentioned you're working on your yoga therapy certification. Can you share more about that?

[AMY]

Yes, so it's something that kind of had always appealed to me even when I first did my 200 hour training. I was just like, "Huh, that sounds interesting." I didn't really know a lot about it and toyed with the idea for a few years and then last year, just finally decided to just start really investigating programs. So yoga therapy is therapeutic. It really looks at the whole person. So you're not just kind of looking physically at what somebody might need alignment wise. You're really reading their energy. You're looking at them through many models of yoga, like the chakras, the Doshas, the values, like every kind of ancient model that spans across many different cultures. You're looking at the whole person instead of just tuning in to, "Oh, you've got a knee problem. Let's see what we can do with your knee."

So it uses all of these different tools of yoga, not only Asana, some physical practice, but also breath, mantra, meditation, mindfulness, sound, like many other things to help bring that person back into balance. And one of the things my teacher said recently was that, whereas in Western medicine, we tend to get specialized where you kind of get narrower in the view so if you have an issue, you go to a specialist, whereas in the yoga therapy model, it tends to get broader and broader. You look not just at one small thing, but how everything a person is doing throughout their day might affect what's going on in their body or in their mind or in their spirituality and try to just bring it all together.

[CHRIS]

Oh, I love that. How many hours is that training?

[AMY]

It's 900 hours. So I'm only about halfway through at this point. So my goal is to hopefully finish in the first quarter of next year.

[CHRIS]

That's amazing. That's quite a goal because I know I did the 200 hour and man that takes a lot of time and investment as well.

[AMY]

Yes, it gave me the opportunity to really focus last year. I had a lot of extra time that I was really able to dedicate to it. And this year I'm really pushing through it. Because of COVID, my teacher had rescheduled some things and had to pack a lot more in because so many things had to be rescheduled. So there's an opportunity for me to finish a little bit faster, but we'll see if that happens. I also have to remember patients and making sure that I'm practicing what I preach by taking care of myself.

[CHRIS]

Sure, absolutely. So Mandy, what's a takeaway you could share today that could help listeners who might be just starting their holistic journey?

[MANDY]

One, I already said it, but I think it's something I constantly remind myself of, that it is a journey and we might start at one day and then something happens and we fall off the routine, if we can kindly and compassionately keep inviting ourselves back and just remembering that there's no end destination and Amy was saying, one minute, one minute can be enough to put your hands on your heart and take a deep breath to connect.

[CHRIS]

And that's beautiful. Thank you. What about you, Amy? Is there a takeaway you could share today?

[AMY]

Yes, I mean, I think it all just comes back to coming back to that present moment. Life is hard. We have sickness, we have tragedy, we lose people, our work becomes hard. Like family is hard. There's so many things that challenge us in life. And I like the reminder that when we're not in the present moment, when we're living in the past, it's usually when we feel down or longing for something that is no more. And when we're looking too much in the present, we get anxiety. We want to not be anxious or depressed. We want to be perfectly balanced and we can only really do that when we're right here right now. So there's times when I start to feel overwhelmed, I just bring myself back to my breath and I just keep that mantra in my mind that I'm here right now, I'm breathing, I'm alive and that's enough and I am enough.

[CHRIS]

I am enough. And I think that's a great reminder for everybody to remember that. So what's the best way for listeners to find you both and learn more about you?

[MANDY]

You can join us at Salty Dog Yoga & Surf for a class. Even if you're not in Carolina beach, you can join us virtually. We're on Facebook as Salty Dog Yoga Surf or on Instagram is Salty Dog Yoga Surf.

[AMY]

And I can be found through Salty Dog Yoga Surf. I teach on this schedule regularly. And my business, as you mentioned is in the same space as Salty Dog. If you do visit this year in Carolina beach, you'll see me when you walk in the door. I'm Island Wellness. My website is islandwellnessyoga.com. I'm on Facebook as Island Wellness NC and Instagram Island Wellness Yoga. We've also done separate newsletters and we'd love for you to join in and stay up to date on some fun retreat stuff we have up our sleeve.

[CHRIS]

Absolutely. And hopefully some more people can get down there to Carolina beach and take your classes. I know that I did the one on the beach you have, and it's awesome. It's so cool to be on the beach to do it. It's wonderful.

[MANDY]

Well, there's one now with the sounds of the ocean.

[CHRIS]

The best. I love it. I want to thank you both for coming on the podcast today.

[MANDY]

Thank you for having us.

[AMY]

Yes. Thank you so much for the opportunity.

[CHRIS]

Awesome. And I want to thank my listeners for checking out this episode today. Remember to subscribe, rate, and review wherever you get your podcasts. This is Chris McDonald sending each one of you much light and love. Until next time, take care.

If you're loving the show, will you rate review and subscribe on your favorite podcast platform? We just started this and that helps other people find this show. Also, if you're feeling uncertain about your modalities and you want to build your confidence to be your unique self, why don't you to join my free email course, Becoming a Holistic Counselor over holisticcounselingpodcast.com. In my Becoming a Holistic Counselor course, you'll get tips for adding integrative care into your practice, what training you need and don't, and the know-how to attract your ideal holistic clients. If this sounds like the direction you are headed, sign up at holisticcounselingpodcast.com.

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