How Increasing Your VAGAL TONE Will CHANGE Your LIFE

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Ok, so this took me WAY TOO LONG to fully get… I have higher hopes for you guys, tbh. Lol. Our breath is the most POWERFUL thing we have to change our bodies and minds. Straight up. The science behind it is astounding-- and if you’re willing to be open and put a little bit of effort in, the personal experience is even more incredible.

 

Angela and I have created videos for you, to specifically teach you how to manipulate the breath to use when/ if you are 1. ANXIOUS 2. ANGRY 3. DOUBTING 4. TIRED 5. SCARED 6. SCATTERED/RESTLESS. These will be available through our online Program but will release a few independently for you to get a taste :)

 

Awesome, right? We are SO excited to share this with you. As it’s changed BOTH of our lives in a BIG way and we’ve also seen thousands of other people, (of ALL ages) benefit from similar techniques. Yeah, the struggle is real, but it really doesn’t have to be such a struggle. We should ALL know how to use these freaking amazing tools.

 

So basically, we have a nerve near the back of the upper throat. It’s called the Vagus Nerve. If you take a breath, pulling in and pushing out the air, from the back of the throat, making a verrrrry light snoring sound-- this is Oujaii Breath. (We recommend getting more one-on-one assistance before using this breath). This is an age old Yogic Breathing Technique. When doing Oujaii, you are stimulating the Vagus Nerve, and strengthening it. It’s called, increasing Vegal Tone.. Think pumping iron at the gym, but for your nervous system.

 

“The vagus nerve starts in the brainstem, just behind the ears. It travels down each side of the neck, across the chest and down through the abdomen. ‘Vagus’ is Latin for ‘wandering’ and indeed this bundle of nerve fibers roves through the body, networking the brain with the stomach and digestive tract, the lungs, heart, spleen, intestines, liver and kidneys, not to mention a range of other nerves that are involved in speech, eye contact, facial expressions and even your ability to tune in to other people’s voices.

 

Operating far below the level of our conscious minds, the vagus nerve is vital for keeping our bodies healthy. It is an essential part of the parasympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for calming organs after the stressed ‘fight-or-flight’ adrenaline response to danger. Not all vagus nerves are the same, however: some people have stronger vagus activity, which means their bodies can relax faster after a stress.”

 

Read more of this really good article that does a great job of explaining more about the Vagus Nerve and how freaking rad it is: https://blog.bulletproof.com/tone-vagus-nerve-hack-nervous-system/

 

Increased Vagal tone is linked to something called the ‘upward spiral’ -- this means you have increased positive emotionality, pro-social behavior and sympathy. More simply- you start to feel better about yourself which increases your self-esteem. Now that your self-esteem is up, you feel better about connecting with other people aka pro-social behavior. And now that you’re more social and reaching out more, you’re feeling more connected and tuned into others feelings aka sympathy/ empathy.

 

OK. So this is huge. It’s like the Holy Grail of the body/mind connection and how to harness its power to feel good.

 

 

We both practice this EVERY DAY. And I can tell you with complete confidence, this tool has totally changed my life and it can change YOURS too. I have overcome so many non-beneficial thoughts and feelings using this and we want you to experience the same relief.

 

Through the last 5 years, assisting on Mindfulness Research Studies, I’ve seen drastic life transformations (anxiety, depression and ADHD all seriously DECREASE) after utilizing these simple breathing tools. They’re so simple, it’s easy not to practice them regularly. You forget you’re breathing all day long so it’s easy to forget to use the breath intentionally. But the GROW program is designed to hold you accountable, offer support and build your practice at a pace that is easily integrated into your life. Don’t postpone living the life you want to live everyday. Your outer circumstances depend on your inner state. Message us for more details. Lots of love <3

Are you the "nice" girl?

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Did you know that you can communicate something that’s not quite working for you AND still be considered, nice.  This was a lesson that I had to learn the hard way.

 

Depending upon your upbringing, from a young age, girls are often taught or conditioned to be, "NICE."  Be polite, be gracious, don't make a fuss, go with the flow, which often translates to keep your mouth shut, look pretty and definitely, absolutely - don't speak what's on your mind.

 

As a young girl and all the way through college, even into my first job, I would always hear, "you're so nice."  I used to take pride in this, I felt good, accepted, and validated.  There is something nice about being labeled nice.  It's a good thing to feel like you’re looked at in a positive way by others.  However, later in life I discovered that I yes, it was true that I was being nice, but often at the expense of my own wants and needs.  

 

Although frequently referred to as the “nice” one, it wasn't until I started meditating and developing more self-awareness that I realized I actually wasn't a truly happy or confident person.  A lot of the time I was going with the flow of things that I didn't feel like doing and sometimes the opinions of those around me actually didn't match the opinions in my own mind - even though I often pretended that they did.  I started to develop a lot of anger during this time in my life and began to feel very separate and isolated from those around me - especially my close friends and family.  

 

I realized that I was afraid to speak up and speak my mind because I was afraid of how it would affect my relationships.  I was afraid of not being seen as "nice,” but instead as difficult, angry or confrontational - not someone that you would want to be around.  I wanted total acceptance by the other and so I was pleasing, easy to get along with and always go with the flow.  My typical response for everything, “I don’t care, whatever you want.”   

 

The more I held in my opinions, the more angry I actually became.  This made it even more difficult for me to speak up if something was bothering me.  When you stifle your expression and hold onto something for a long time, eventually you just EXPLODE or that become passive aggressiveness comes out, which isn’t good for anyone.  You don't communicate well and it actually ends up worsening or creating a conflict in your relationship.

 

Any of this sound familiar?

 

When you're conditioned to, "be nice," it is a really scary thing to take a look at that fear and those feelings that you've been stuffing away and change that conditioning to actually speak up for your own wants and needs.  How do you do it?  What if the person you're expressing to gets upset or angry with you?  What if you create a conflict?  What if you’re rejected?

 

So what.

 

Ask yourself what’s worse - speaking up about something that’s bothering you or repressing and shutting off your own expression - your own wants and needs.  How long will you continue to put yourself second?  The tension and strain that puts on your precious body and mind is literally killing you.  This stress of it can wear you down and become unbearable.  People get sick over it!

 

Speaking up isn’t about being vulgar and crass or constantly yelling at people to have your own way or that they did something to upset you.  Healthy communication and relationships will forever and always always be about balance and compromise, but it’s how effective you are with your communication and the intention you come with while you’re communicating that makes a big difference between being heard or dismissed.

 

Speaking up for myself is something that I’m continuously working on improving - it’s a practice.  However, as I started to speak up more and more, I began to notice a difference in my own peace of mind.  I feel better about myself and my confidence and self-esteem increased.  I’m also happier because I’m living my life with more truth and following what’s important to me.  

 

The biggest surprise - this authenticity has actually deepened my relationships versus creating barriers.  I’m more real in myself and my communication, which means that I’m developing more truthful and real relationships.  

 

It’s important to recognize that sometimes speaking up does cause a conflict and that’s OK!!  Gradually, you learn how to deal with that conflict in a skillful way where both parties are being heard and getting their needs met.  You’re not shy to express your needs and you’re open to hearing what the other has to say.  It’s a reciprocal relationship that is healthy for both you and the other.

 

If the person you’re expressing yourself to gives you a hard time or doesn’t honor your needs and respect your boundaries, well that’s a clear indicator (red flag) that this may not be a true or authentic relationship.

 

If you’ve been conditioned to not fully express yourself, if any of the words in this writing ring true for you - take small baby steps.  One day at a time to express yourself.  It could be something as simple as saying that you would rather stay home than go the movies.  Put yourself first, speak your truth and you honor both yourself and the other in the process.    










 

Relationships AKA Relating

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This post dives into a topic that carries a bit of heaviness, but is SO important to talk about openly and honestly - especially as women finding our way in this world.

 

Life is all about connection.  This is what makes the world go round, this is what we need and crave as humans as part of our happiness.  But, what happens when there’s a relationship that, well, just isn’t so nourishing for you?  You know, that relationship that doesn’t feel so good – it can be with a friend or your girlfriend/boyfriend.  Sometimes we don’t even realize that this relationship is becoming toxic or unhealthy.

 

We’re rarely taught in school or even talk with friends about the warning signs of toxic or unhealthy relationships, let alone how to navigate our way through them if we become entangled in one.  As someone who was in an extremely toxic and emotionally abusive relationship for about five years, over the course of that time, my soul knew that what was happening wasn’t good for me and knew something was wrong, but the abuser has a way of being so manipulative, that I didn’t REALLY know how bad things had gotten.  A few months after I had finally mustered up the courage to leave him, still not even fully aware of the trauma I had gone through, I stumbled across a Facebook article that listed the warning signs of abusive relationships.  Reading through this article, I began to feel the emotions stirring inside of me like a tidal wave – fear turned to anger, turned to humiliation, turned to sadness, turned to rage.  Bullet point after bullet point, this article resonated with me and I sat there sobbing at my desk, feeling so alone and ashamed of myself.

 

Over the course of this abusive relationship, especially when things were becoming more extreme and painful, the times when I needed support the most, I began to isolate myself from my friends and my family.  I was too embarrassed to let anyone know what was really happening, although people who were really close to me started to suspect that something wasn’t quite right.  About a year before I ended the relationship, I had a group of close friends ask me to dinner over pizza AKA to have an “intervention” and tell me how worried they were about me.  Well, I listened to what they had to say and then proceeded to shut them down pretty quickly, saying what I knew would get them off my back, things like, “He’s changed,” “We’re really happy,” and “You don’t really know him” - just as most victims do to cover up their feelings of being ashamed or trapped and in denial of what is really happening in their life – fearful about how much it has become out of their control and not knowing how to reach out for support.      

 

Connection is such an important part of life, but boundaries are just as important. Getting to know yourself and what you will or will not accept in your relationships is critical to your own self-development.  For me, this toxicity came with a romantic partner, but manipulative, emotional and verbal abuse can come in friendships too.  It’s so important to learn how to distinguish the difference between what is nurturing for you and what feels hurtful and then how to use your own voice to express when something doesn’t feel safe or healthy for you. People who are abusive or manipulative are very good at shutting down the expression of YOUR feelings and in that process, making your own intuitive distinction between healthy and harmful blurry, so blurry in fact, that you start to mistrust yourself and your own judgment.  You feel like you’re the one doing something wrong!

 

Oftentimes, we think that abuse is only physical, but it can take on many other forms. Emotional abuse is so tricky because you can’t see it, there’s nothing tangible there to know what’s really happening.  It takes on this push and pull with the other – you want to be so close to them and they have a way of drawing you in, making it feel safe and then they do something that is so hurtful, you just can’t believe it, but then they turn around again and give the illusion that you are loved.

 

Lauren, GROW’s other co-founder experienced a form of manipulation and emotional abuse during her high school relationship. This kind of manipulation masqueraded in the beginning as concern and care from her then boyfriend. He would make sure to check up on her while she was out, sometimes several times in one night and made sure she made it home okay. At the time, she felt that her boyfriend was just an involved and caring person. It felt good to have someone who was thinking about her and wanting her to be safe. This behavior increased and evolved over time and began to take on more controlling and possessive qualities. He wanted to know who she was spending time with at parties and tried to limit which ones she went to. He wanted to have a say in her friend choices and the clothing choices she made when she was going out. This lead to him eventually isolating her from her other support systems which did not feel truly supportive or caring, but rather possessive and unhealthy. Behavior like this is NOT ok. These are big red flags that are important to be aware of AND to know how to take action around. (Read to the end for specifically how to identity additional abusive behaviors.)

 

This type of manipulation is confusing!  My ex-boyfriend would say incredibly mean and cruel things to me and when I would start to cry or try to “explain” myself, he would apologize for hurting me, but always follow it up with a, “well, you made me do this” or “it’s your fault I got so angry.”  When really, that outburst of his had absolutely NOTHING to do with me.  I just became the punching bag for his own pain and anger he had accumulated over his lifetime and had never dealt with.

 

I’ve been out of this relationship for four years now – still working on healing my heart and especially my mind.  Toxic relationships take a toll on our feeling of self-worth, especially our feelings of deserving love and trusting others.  I’m lucky that I have incredibly supportive, loving and nurturing friends who have helped me through this healing process.  They listen to my stories without judgment, cry with me and many of them share their own stories of being in similar relationships or having similar experiences.  I’m learning to trust myself again and to realize that wounds can’t be extracted from our system, we have to take the time to heal them, to accept and forgive ourselves and continue to focus on the things we want to grow in our life.  

 

If you’re going through something like this, it’s important to know that you’re not alone! The first step is to identify the warning signs and then ask for help, reach out to a trusted adult like your parents or school counselor.  You will be ok.  There are people who care and it is NOT your fault.  And remember, these behaviors don’t just show up in romantic partnerships, they can also come from friends too.  

 

Check out this super informative article, “22 Warning Signs of Emotional Abuse.”

https://www.theodysseyonline.com/emotional-abuse-signs

 

To increase teen and adult awareness:

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 To increase teen awareness:

 

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Thoughts...

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So, first of all- let me be trite and say, you ARE NOT your thoughts. What does this even mean? There is something unchanging in you. It IS you. It is the observer who witnesses you thinking your thoughts. This separate and unchanging, infinite part of you is called, the Self. I know, deep, right? The Self is the part of you that knows you are hurt or getting mad, but is not actually mad because it is just witnessing the drama of anger happen.

 

Thoughts, ‘good’ and ‘bad’, come and go...all the time. Like ALL DAY LONG. If you begin to identify with these thoughts, you’re buying into an illusion. If you let them pass like clouds in the sky, you won’t get hung up on any of them. This may be easier said than done... but we can help show you how.

 

With that said, action and behavior mostly stems from thoughts. So, they are important. Thoughts influence our energy level, our mood, and ultimately what we decide.

 

Now for the science: NEUROPLASTICITY. Bam. This simply means: the brain can change; it is malleable. Which means, 'YOU' can change! If you’re thinking thoughts like, “I’m not good enough. No one will love me” -- This thought is creating a neural pathway or ‘road’ in the brain. The more you think this thought, the deeper the channel/road or pathway gets. Similarly to, if you drove a car over the same dirt road every single day, the grooves from the tires would become deeper. It would create a track which would make driving down that same road easier and easier. The more you think the thought “I’m not good enough. No one will love me”, the easier it gets for your brain to go there, to drive down that ‘thought road’. The road or pathway is deepening. SO you may find yourself in a good mood, but all of a sudden having this thought come up, as if you’re on autopilot. NOT COOL BRAIN. 

It's SO important to understand the link between thoughts and beliefs. If you keep thinking the thought, I'm not lovable, most likely, you may start acting accordingly or in alignment with this thought. Your behavior will begin to match this thinking, like surrounding yourself with people who may not fully love or appreciate you. Then you see your outer world and environment match this thought of "I'm not lovable". Abracadabra! Like magic- now you have 'PROOF'. When we have 'proof', "well, look, see-- I told you I was unlovable..!", then our thought just became a belief we adopt.

But it can be countered! STEP 1: Awareness-- just being aware, “Hey, this thought doesn’t make me feel good… I want to choose a different thought” - is HALF THE BATTLE!

 

STEP 2: If you choose a different thought, one that feels better or is maybe the opposite, “I’m awesome and totally lovable”, (even if you don't fully 'believe it yet)-- you’ll begin to create that new pathway. And the less you use the old, “not good enough” road, it’ll loose it’s depth and start to fade. (If these thoughts have become beliefs for you, where your reality is supporting the negativity of the mind, then it's important to ask yourself-- if I knew I was lovable (or whatever positive spin is true for you... smart, successful, safe, needed, etc.) HOW WOULD I BE TREATING MYSELF RIGHT NOW? And then take those small potential actions and actually act on them.

 

This is a practice, for sure, that requires commitment and patience. I personally practice this every day. We know, if you practice it consistently and with compassion, you WILL change your life- by changing your brain and thought patterns. WILD, we know. And totally worth experimenting with.

 

It also helps to know a bit about how your nervous system works. Because some thoughts, if they are upsetting and hurtful, may increase your levels of cortisol- it helps to take some specific deep breaths while working on changing these thought patterns. This is STEP 3: The breath-work is like plowing the snow off of the roads so you can drive down them more easily. If you’re in a calm state, the positive thoughts will resonate more deeply- you won’t be working against your nervous system. (or fighting the weather conditions) However, MOST people, kids and adults, breathe incorrectly. You may actually be breathing in a way that triggers a stress response from your body!

 

Angela and I have been teaching Social Emotional Learning and specifically, very powerful breath-work and mindfulness tools for over a decade, collectively. Both of our backgrounds are in psychology and we use this rich knowledge to empower ourselves and course correct all the time. Send us a DM or email to work with us so YOU can learn research-backed, POWERFUL breathing mindfulness and meditation tools that will change your life, and your nervous system! ;)



 

Periods. PERIOD.

Now this is the story all about how, a few period products flipped, turned our worlds upside down...

Angela: “Thinx underwear and the Diva Cup have totally changed the way I get my period. It’s like I don’t even have it.  I don’t even change my Diva Cup all day!!  It’s freedom.”

 

Lauren: “I know. I totally agree. It’s amazing.  Um... I think this topic NEEDS to be our first blog post.”

 

Ready. Set. PERIODS.

 

I’m Lauren, 28 years old, and this is Angela, 34. We live together in Brooklyn, NY.

 

We’ve been roommates, colleagues and best friends for only about 3 years now, although our friendship is deep rooted and has a familiarity that makes us relate more as sisters than friends (Ang says it feels like lifetimes).

 

Over the last few years, we’ve done some deep healing together, which has included a lot of soul searching and developing into strong women. There have been crazy highs and lows, that provided us with incredible stories to share, some almost surreal.  You’ll find out about our house catching fire later...

 

During this period of growth, we embraced many things that once felt uncomfortable, icky, shameful - some things that we were suppressing for much of our lives.

 

Something that we’ve begun to celebrate is our PERIOD. Yup. That thing that happens to ALL WOMEN, EVERY WHERE, EVERY MONTH, but for some reason, still has that taboo feeling associated with it. Shhhh…. Don’t mention your menstrual cycle...someone might hear you!!  You know that feeling? Yeah.

 

Many girls (and women) want to get rid of this monthly happening from ever gracing their underpants again. We get it - it’s messy and sometimes inconvenient. Well, mostly inconvenient. But, TO BE HONEST—we don’t feel that way anymore. WHY??? Because another awesome woman said, why the heck aren’t there better, more modern products made for women with periods?  Alas, Thinx was born, underwear made just for your period, you free bleed right in them, they’re amazing!   Same deal with the Diva Cup, an environmentally friendly and chemical free alternative to pads and tampons. Up until recently, men have been creating our menstrual products. Ahem, this makes no sense. Now, I haven’t ruined a pair of underwear in months!!

 

For a long time, women haven’t had open and honest conversations about our periods - the most natural and IMPORTANT part of life. Because maybe not everyone gets this, but your menstrual cycle = life. That’s sacred and beautiful, something that doesn’t have to be painfully hidden every month, where we whisper in public bathroom stalls, in school or at work to another girl, “Um, this is so gross, but do you have a tampon?”

 

LADIES: Periods are not gross.

 

It’s actually a phenomenal occurrence that is influenced by the moon and directly links women to nature and cycles. Pretty cool stuff right there.

 

There are so many tips and tricks to making your period easier on the body and mind. Essential oils such as Lavender, Ylang Ylang, Peppermint and Patchouli are something we recently found that have been incredibly powerful in decreasing PMS symptoms like cramping. You can also find delicious hormone balancing teas that lift your mood.  We had to wait years to figure these things out?!?!  Why?  Because women DON’T TALK ABOUT PERIODS.  (check the bottom of our page for more period, “tips”).

 

We both work in schools and many of the girls we see everyday feel scared, embarrassed, confused or are simply uninformed about what’s really happening with their own bodies. Sound familiar?  How many of you have ever gone to the bathroom, only to realize that your period came out of nowhere and you need a pad or a tampon - immediately - this happens to everyone!  Girls will come to our office with the look of terror in their eyes to ask for a pad, quickly wrapping it up in a paper towel or stuffing it in their pocket before anyone sees them.  Ladies - this is something that should be honored, not something that makes you feel ashamed!  

 

Did you know there were ancient tribes that would celebrate women who were menstruating?  The sacred menstrual blood was used in ceremonies and these women were sought after for their advisement when important decisions had to be made.  They were thought to be more connected and in-tune with nature and the natural flow of life during their menstrual cycle.  This time of month is also a beautiful time of release - like a snake shedding their skin.  If there’s something you want to let go of that may not feel so good for you anymore in your life, you can set the intention to let thing, person or negative thought go.  

 

Even though my mom tried to prepare me, (back in the 90’s, yikes), about the day I would get my period, I still thought I was dying when I looked in the toilet and saw red, instead of yellow.  Seriously, dying.  I’ll never forget that 4th of July.  I thought in that moment, “OMG, did I get hit by a firework and not realize?!”  The possibility of internal bleeding was the first thing that crossed my mind.  Then I realized, could this be my period?  Oh mannnnn, do I have to tell my mom?!  The embarrassment hit, flooding me with thoughts that now I had something to hide. It was the first time that I felt shame around being a girl and my own body. I was also the first one in my grade to get my period, so I didn’t feel like I could talk about it with anyone, especially because some boys would make jokes about periods saying, “GROSS!” or “That’s disgusting!”

 

Where do some boys get these feelings and ideas as early as 10 or 11 years old that girls are gross or even disgusting when they have their period?  Even though most boys have likely lived with a menstruating woman their whole lives, it is still an uncomfortable and not familiar or accepted monthly occurrence or topic of discussion.  On the contrary, it’s met with awkwardness and disgust. The knee jerk reaction is to make fun of and put girls down, making them feel bad about well, just being a girl!  (and to be clear, we’re definitely not characterizing all boys/men - we give major props to our men that support and uplift women, not just during their menstrual cycle, but always).

 

We need to talk about periods more - as friends, sisters, mothers, daughters, women and girls. Our natural response needs to start shifting back to a celebratory, “SO WHAT! Yeah, I get a period, get over it.”  It’s natural and awesome and means that I have the ability to create life at some point, if I want to!

 

So let’s just chill about the whole period thing, OK? No need to be ashamed, your body is incredible and so are you.  

 

Check out some of our period hacks which have made that time of month, a whole lot more comfortable!

 

Tips and Tricks!

 

Wellness Mama- Essential Oils for PMS

https://wellnessmama.com/59952/essential-oils-for-hormone-balance/

 

To replace tampons/pads: Diva Cup

http://divacup.com/how-it-works/your-first-questions/#12hour

 

Underwear that you can bleed in and it’s totally not gross! I know. Game changer:

https://www.shethinx.com/

 

Video - “Thinx - For women with periods.”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ob0N5GYj7OY

 

For cramps and period fatigue:

http://www.delune.co/