Holistic Healing Hour: Welcome Yoga Instructor Linda Bielskis

Our Holistic Healing Hour kicks off this Wednesday, April 25 at Odyssey Recovery Chapel from 5:30pm-6:30pm. This free event is for recovery coaches, clinicians, and anyone who helps the underprivileged in Genesee County. Each Wednesday we will feature a holistic approach to “fill up your cup.” The first Wednesday of each month we will offer aromatherapy along with free essential oils to take home with you. On the second and fourth Wednesday you can enjoy free reiki and/or chair massage services and every third Wednesday you can enjoy a slow flow yoga class with Flint’s own Linda Bielskis.

Linda comes to yoga as a person in long-term recovery having spent her career in the nonprofit sector. After experiencing firsthand the limitations of conventional therapy models working with issues such as pain management, addiction, trauma and anxiety, she has implemented the complimentary practice of yoga personally and professionally.

Linda found Yoga to be effective for managing pain in the body and mind. With a focus on breath, movement and mindfulness, students learn to use these fundamental yoga tools to cultivate peace and wellness.

Her classes are designed to provide a safe atmosphere for self-exploration and deep awareness. Suited to all levels, her students are guided to use the practice to meet their individual needs.

For more information on our holistic healing hour, visit our website at www.flintserenityhouse.org and check out our calendar of events.

Chakras – What you Should Know

By Sarah Shaw
There are seven main chakras, which run along the spine, each of the body’s basic chakras are associated with specific locations on the body, such as the heart and crown of the head. To visualize a chakra in the body, imagine a swirling ball/wheel of energy. These swirling wheels of energy correspond to the major organs and nerve centers within our bodies. Additionally, each of the seven main chakras also surround the endocrine glands, which are a vital part of our immune system. The chakras are important for one to address and maintain because they affect our psychological, emotional, and spiritual states of being. Therefore, it’s essential that our chakras stay open, aligned, and in motion. If there is a blockage, energy cannot flow, and this can greatly impact overall health and well-being.

The Seven Main Chakras
The Root Chakra (Muladhara) associated with the color red, is the embodiment of safety, grounding and ones right to live. This is the chakra of stability, security and our most basic needs. When this chakra is open, we feel safe, fearless and grounded. When this chakra is closed we experience fear, anxiety, uncertainty, physical disconnection and can experience bone/joint pain.

The Sacral Chakra (Svadhisthana) associated with the color orange, is the area related to our sexual center and is responsible for our creative expression. When this chakra is open we experience pleasure and become more open to our creative pursuits. When this chakra is closed we experience boredom, lack of inspiration, stiffness, and can experience impotence and uterine/bladder/kidney issues.

The Solar Plexus Chakra (Manipura) associated with the color yellow, is the embodiment of our will, or social self and is our source of personal power. When this chakra is open chakra we feel powerful and we trust in ourselves and our decisions. When this chakra is closed we experience a feeling of being trapped, weak, powerless, vulnerable and can to experience digestive disorders.

The Heart Chakra (Anahata) associated with the color green, is the center of our compassion, love, is our source of lasting and meaningful connection to ourselves and others. When this chakra is open we feel bliss, love and an openness to life. When this chakra is closed we feel disgust, emotional disconnect, judgment and can experience physical ailments such as heart disease and asthma.

The Throat Chakra (Vishuddha) associated with the color blue, is the area that encompasses our personal truth, our physical expression of self and is our source of verbal expression and the ability to speak our highest truth. When this chakra is open we are comfortable with expressing ourselves and our inner truth. When this chakra is closed we feel an inability to communicate, we neglect self-care, lack personal boundaries and can experience thyroid problems or colds.

The 3rd Eye Chakra (Ajna) associated with the color indigo is the center for our extrasensory perception, our intuition, our inspiration. When this chakra is open we have a deep connection to our intuition and are able to see situations clearly and without confusion allowing us to avoiding illusion. When this chakra is closed we feel deep confusion, make poor decisions and can experience headaches and eyestrain.

The Crown Chakra (Sahasrara) associated with the color violet is the center of our wisdom and relates to our sense of transcendence and an overall feeling of being one with all things. This is the chakra of enlightenment and spiritual connection to our higher selves, others. When this chakra is open we experience clarity, we feel connected to not only the physical world, but the spiritual world as well. We also experience a wholeness and oneness with all things. When this chakra is closed we exhibit a lack of knowledge, and tend to be more apathetic, and small-minded.

Chakra Care
The foundation to an open and balanced chakra system consists of clearing them and maintaining them in order to promote health and wellbeing and create a sustainable, harmonious flow of energy. There are several ways in which this can be accomplished, the first and one of the most common being through meditative practices where one focuses on each individual chakra and visualizes clearing them. Another great way to maintain a balanced chakra system is through reiki. Reiki is a spiritual and physical healing practice that originating in Japan that uses hands-on energy healing to promote energetic balance and promote the body’s ability to self-correct. In addition to meditation and energic medicine, eating a healthy and well-balanced diet with colors that correspond to each specific chakra can also benefit them greatly.

Ultimately, when you balance the chakras and the energy that encompasses, you will gain a deep sense of health and well-being for mind, body and spirit. Getting in the habit of addressing and maintaining one’s chakras is an excellent step in creating a personal care routine. When starting out addressing your chakras, just remember to listen to your body and feel where any disconnect may be coming from. Doing this can be a good indication of where some energetic work needs to be done. With continued maintenance you will see and feel a difference in the way you feel, think and behave, and overall you will have gained a deeper awareness into yourself and your precious energy.

Yoga’s Emotional Healing Component

Dear Yoga,
You are a good friend of mine. Quite possibly you have saved my life many times. How can I
repay you for your kindness?
Love, Amber

I was 19 and just starting to be rebellious. Definitely one of those Rod Stewart songs applied to
me, the one about Catholic girls. The evening I broke my back and ankle my parents were
states away visiting family. I did something illegal, well a couple things. And then I fell 20 feet or
so onto cement and it changed my life forever. At the time and for many many years after I grew
in guilt and shame over what happened. The first time I rebelled and this happened! I found
yoga 5 years after these injuries. What it did for me was help peel away physical and emotional
layers that had built up. As every layer of anger, sadness, shame, guilt was surfacing I was
taught about the of the part of me that could actually observe my reactions. At first this was
challenging as I held a yoga pose that created so much sensation in my body it was like a
megaphone screaming in my ear “LOOK WHAT YOU DID TO YOURSELF!” But with practice I
could start to really see and accept the totality of my experience. This included the part of me
that could hear the screaming but still observe another part that was continually and had always
been there connected to my highest and true self. This was not the screaming or the shame.
That blew my mind and created an immense amount of freedom from suffering for me.
My yoga practice has given me context to accept myself for who I am completely. I have
practiced through tears, stood steady during times I couldn’t even stand myself, and on
occasion found a place of deeply compassionate confidence. Yoga has helped me understand
that physical well being and emotional stability are not sprints but a mountainous long distance
journey. It has showed me that our body and mind are connected like our arm is connected to
our shoulder. When we have a physical injury or illness it effects our mind and emotions.
When we have emotional injuries it affects our physical body as well. The physical body
affecting emotions and emotions affecting the physical feels like that age old question, what
came first the chicken or the egg? Ultimately I don’t think it matters so much when something
originated it is more about validating how you feel. How you feel is not wrong.
I was 13. In one year I saw one man shot and dying in a convenient store parking lot, my sister
was raped, we had a bomb threat on our house, and a gang fight that was broken up by a gun
being fired in the air. Honestly, my teenage years growing up in Flint was riddled with things like
this until I left at 19 years old, right after my injury. I have flashes of memory that still come up
from time to time. Kevin Clark, a man I never met, rolling around on the ground that summer
day. I wanted desperately to run out to him. Opening the bathroom door to my sister laying in a
puddle of her own blood that trailed from her bedroom. She looked up at me in fear as she laid
there not knowing what was going to happen to her and said, “don’t worry Amber everything is
going to be ok.” Countless encounters with family, random men, and teachers doing and saying
inappropriate things. Then in my 20’s, right before I found yoga I started to have severe panic
attacks that I attribute to post traumatic stress.
I don’t think my experiences are uncommon. From conversations I have had with multiple
students and friends over the years I know they aren’t. What yoga has taught me is to look at
my shadow, the darker sides of my psychology, my emotions, my mind, and my physical being,
instead of looking away from it. To sit with what is arising at any given moment. We are intuitive
beings. Time has taught me that we are given what we can handle. This includes navigating the
dark. If we push something away or down into hiding it is still there.
In Yoga we learn to breathe. To take longer, slower, smoother breaths. When we do this it has a
positive affect on our nervous system. It is calming. When we are calm we can observe more
clearly how we are doing. How we are REALLY doing. How are you doing?
Our ability to sit with an uncomfortable posture makes us able to handle the uncomfortable
situations or relationships in our life with more perseverance and compassion. This practice
increases our compassion for those around us in physical or emotional discomfort. We start to
understand more clearly that we are more alike than we are not. We can see others in ourself
and ourself in others. Remembering that we are all connected.

Amber creates a safe environment for students to discover their bodies physically and emotionally through yoga. She mindfully guides students through intelligent physical alignment and breath awareness in strong vinyasa and hatha classes. For more information on Amber, visit www.ambercookyoga.com

The Opioid Crisis – A Personal Message

By Sarah Shaw

This week I have heard of three new deaths attributed to substance abuse and the opioid epidemic within our community. More than 64,000 individuals died in 2016 in the United States due to substance overdoses. More than 30,000 of those deaths attributed to opioid drugs, consisting of prescribed medications, with heroin being the lower of the two in terms of lethality. These numbers are staggering, especially when most of these deaths could have been preventable.
When hearing the statistics, many people place blame on things like over-prescribing and pharmaceutical companies because it helps us to recognize what’s wrong and what needs changing, but too often this can become the main focus, while the real issue sits on the back burner. We advocate so fiercely for change and we fight against what we believe to be a broken system for so long, that eventually all we can see is the fight, and we forget about what truly matters, and that is people. People and how we can better serve them, aid them in their life, in their recovery, lessen their collective burden, this is what matters most. When the system fails, and it seems like an uphill battle, where do we begin? How do we turn our focus to what truly matters most? We start by going within to see how we are contributing to the issue. We become aware of our own actions, behaviors and beliefs in order to gain a better understanding of how we relate to the issue at hand, and in this we gain insight into how we can change for ourselves and others. Without looking deeper within ourselves, and how we effect the world around us, true healing cannot happen.
Essentially, everyone has coping mechanisms for their stress and pain, but when that coping mechanism hurts us, when it causes us to hurt others, that is when it becomes truly dysfunctional. Additionally, when we start to rely too heavily on this dysfunctional behavior as an emotional release, that is when we are in danger of becoming addicted. These behaviors are exactly what we need to be aware of in order to make a lasting effect on individual selves and the issue as a whole.
Substance abuse, and addiction of any kind, is a symptom of a deeper issue; it is about the fact that we are in so much pain, under so much stress, and have suffered so much trauma, that we must look to the external world for any kind of release. By not seeking out positive and healthy coping skills for emotional distress we have created the perfect conditions for substance abuse and addiction to thrive under. While our current system remains lacking in its response to the opioid crisis facing our society, there is still much we can do individually. We are not powerless, and we can absolutely make impactful changes that can aid in healing the epidemic collectively. We could place blame all day, and we would be correct in stating that several things within our system are broken, but to truly make a positive impact on this issue, each one of us must look inward at ourselves in order to see how we effect our own mental health, and how we project that out into the world. How are we coping with pain, hurt, stress, trauma? What behaviors are manifesting due to this inward emotional landscape? Are we hurting ourselves more, in order to “feel better”? And what beliefs do we carry within ourselves that are maintaining this behavior?
Over the years I’ve had many friends and family taken to soon from substance abuse, and any age is too young to die because of drug dependency. So, after inward reflection, what steps can we take as a collective to change this, other than what we’ve already done? We can start by stopping the placing of blame, and, we stop shaming those addicted. Perhaps we can reach out to one another in a more organic way, talk to one another, ask how your neighbor is doing, offer help to those who may need it and even if they don’t want to accept it praise yourself for trying. That is more impactful than blaming and shaming, more impactful than lawsuits and political scapegoating. Yet while we do this for others, we must continue doing it for ourselves. Personal awareness and reflection are essential here, and they are necessary actions that can aid us all in coming up with healthier solutions to our emotional outlets on an individual level and a collective level as well.
We are all human, here to have a human experience; to learn, love and evolve, so why not reach out to one another? You will never know the life you could be changing just by simply being kind and taking an interest in someone else’s story. It seems now more than ever we are missing the bigger picture here, that people are what matter, not the politics, not the ego or being right, not the back and forth rhetoric, but actual people who are struggling, and how we can help lesson each other’s burdens.
As a collective, there remains much work to be done. We must come together and do more to heal this epidemic if we wish to see any positive changes, but first the work must start within. This is everyone’s issue, not just the recovery community. We need to come together absent of ego, shame or blaming to heal this epidemic and this has never been more imperative. In order for true positive transformation and healing to occur, it all starts with within. So take care of yourself mentally, physically, and emotionally, and spiritually so we can begin to change the world from the inside out.

What is Grounding?

By Sarah Shaw

Grounding or Earthing is the practice of energetically and physically connecting oneself to the earth. Anything electrical is typically grounded to the earth for overall safety and stability of the connection, and this is no different for us. Being grounded applies to us because as bioelectrical beings, our bodies emit electrical frequencies, which is why grounding is essential to our maintenance of health and wellbeing. When we are properly grounded to the earth, amazing things happen to our bodies, and almost instantly we tend to notice that we are more anchored and centered, we feel stronger, and feel less tension and stress.

The Benefits
Current research is revealing that contact of the human body with the surface of the earth produces several effects on the body and its health. So far, the benefits of grounding that have been measured and studied include a major reduction in pain and inflammation, heightened immune responses, enhanced wound healing, improved circulation, improved sleep patterns and an overall prevention and treatment of several chronic inflammatory and autoimmune diseases.
Grounding Practices

There are numerous ways that one can ground to the earth. Essentially, it involves physically connecting with anything natural or of the earth itself, such as water, soil, sand, stones etc. There are many options out there that will enable you to ground, and all of them are effective in establishing a good connection with the Earth. The most common method used to ground is through barefoot contact with the earth. Walking on the earths soil, sand or water is a great way to connect to the earth, however this option isn’t always available to everyone or practice. Below is a detailed list of additional methods used for grounding practices.
Establishing a Connection

• Drink water. Drinking plenty of pure spring water or alkaline water allows the energy within your body more thoroughly and water is an effective electrical conductor, which means its essential in keeping energy channels running smoothly.
• Sit in sunlight. Regardless of whether you are indoors or outdoors, sitting in sunlight can boost your connection to the earth.
• Touch gemstones. Kyanite, hematite, garnet and smoky quartz are all good choices for grounding crystals, but any will do, especially those associated with the root/base chakra or the earth chakra.
• Engage in physical activity/exercise. Being in the moment and staying present in your body is an excellent way to grounding because it allows for a more continuous and uninhibited flow of energy throughout the body. Yoga, Pilates or Martial Arts can be very effective in this regard because they tend to center the energies of your mind, body, and spirit.
• Eat a plant based diet. Foods that are closely linked to nature and more specifically root vegetables (beets, potatoes, etc.) which grow under the soil are a great way to ground yourself because they carry potent earth energy.
• Take a salt bath. Salts and water have natural healing capabilities, therefore combining the two makes for an excellent way to connect to the earth.
• Visualize connecting with the earth. One common practice involves visualizing yourself growing roots from your feet that extend deep down into the earths soil. This exercise can establish a connection with the earth while also aiding in meditative practices.
• Purchase or create grounding objects. The use of grounding mats and grounding chairs can help you to maintain a connection with the earth and allow you to stay grounded throughout the entire day, especially if going outdoors into nature is not an option. Additionally, you can also run a wire from your favorite or most used area, out through the window and into the ground, this will enable you to maintain a connection to the earth that is fairly easy to create and inexpensive.

Grounding in general is an excellent way to connect with nature and promote lasting health and wellness for mind, body and spirit, and with more and more evidence stating the physical benefits of grounding, there is no reason not to give it a try and see if you can spot the differences within yourself. Regardless of which method you choose, remember to do what resonates most with you and have fun with the process of connecting with mother nature and taking better care of yourself in the process.

Introduction to Meditation – The Benefits and 5 Easy Tips for Success

By Sarah Shaw

Meditation has started to become more mainstream and utilized as a fantastic addition to ones personal care routine within western culture, but it has been an enduring practice used for thousands of years all over the world. There are several forms of meditation that one can choose to learn. Some of the more common meditation practices include Mindfulness meditation, Concentration meditation and Transcendental meditation, just to name a few. However our purpose here is to discuss the benefits of meditation to beginners and a few easy steps to take in order to gain more focus and achieve a solid meditative foundation in which to build upon.

Medical professionals are finally starting to recognize the benefits of adding meditation to ones health and wellness routine. Some of the major benefits of meditation include,increased immune function, decreased pain and inflammation, decreased depression, decreased anxiety, reduction of stress and so much more. There are countless benefits to meditating with new ones being recognized all the time. Overall, the benefits of meditation and its simplicity make it a great addition to anyone’s personal care routine.

During the beginning phases many individuals often find it difficult to attain the focus required for effective meditation. However using these five easy tips during each session can greatly improve your results.

The first is finding a comfortable, quite space where you will not be disturbed for the duration of your meditation.

The second is becoming present in the moment. Take a few deep breaths, take in your surroundings, and get into a comfortable position that leaves no strain on any areas of the body.

The third is to close your eyes and begin to focus on your breath, breathing as deeply as you can, using your diaphragm; in through your nose and out through your mouth slowly. (Many suggest a count of four when inhaling, holding for a count of 2, and exhaling for a count of 6, but I suggest doing what feels comfortable to you and your body).

The fourth is feeling your body. While maintaining your position, breathing and spatial awareness, try focusing on what your body is doing, how it is reacting. This will help you to gain additional focus and remain in the moment.

The fifth is to take your time and practice. If you can only remain focused for a minute, then meditate for a minute and build on that. After several attempts, you should be able to add more time into each session effortlessly. There really is no wrong way to do it, as long as your are putting in the time, remember that the only bad meditation is no meditation at all. So be patient with yourself and keep practicing, because as long as you are doing it you will see the benefits and begin to improve.

As a recap when beginning, remember to:

1. Find a Comfortable, Quite and Distraction Free Area
2. Become Present in the Moment
3. Close your Eyes and Focus on your Breath
4. Listen/ Feel your body
5. Practice

Additionally, finding specified time during ones busy day can also be a challenge when one begins to implement meditation into their daily routine, However, remember that when starting out you do not need to push yourself into hours of meditation. Simply taking 5 to 10 minutes a day to sit in silence is a great start to developing an effective meditative practice; its very similar to strength training, meaning the more repetition the stronger one becomes. Therefore, all it takes is a bit of determination, and consistency, paired with the five easy tips for meditative success discussed above, and you will be well on your way to developing your own solid meditative practice.

For the beginning meditator, finding a certain level of focus can be challenging, but like with most things, practice makes perfect and the benefits truly are amazing and can make a dramatic difference in ones health and wellness. There is no good reason not to start.

Reiki for Recovery

Sarah performing Reiki at a health fair in Flint. Sarah is a reiki master and a person in long-term recovery.

By Sarah Shaw
The traditional western medicine that we are all accustomed to has become integral to our daily lives and our own community and has helped many individuals with countless health issues, and continues to do so. However, a great deal of individuals–myself included– feel that there are essential aspects missing when it comes to the health and wellness of addiction recovery patients today, and that is where holistic alternatives come in. With the ever growing opioid crisis and the rate of individual substance use skyrocketing across the country, many individuals are starting to see the value in a holistic approach to addiction recovery.
My journey onto holistic alternatives for recovery began after my 5th year of sobriety through an outpatient addiction recovery center that focused primarily on patients with opioid dependency. A patient here could receive replacement medication therapy, counseling, and group sessions, and while these can be very helpful and beneficial to an individual’s recovery, the treatment itself is limited. This realization is what led me to look outside of contemporary methods for addiction recovery, methods that aid in the health and wellness of the mind, body and spirit. My search to feel better and to aid my recovery efforts led me to reiki (a form of energy medicine and healing that promotes self-healing within the patient’s body). These treatments were beneficial to me and I saw a shift in my health, my emotions and my mental clarity, which dramatically helped my recovery efforts. After the success that I found with Reiki, I decided to look into several other holistic alternatives that would aid in my health and recovery such as Meditation, Massage, Auricular Acupuncture, Yoga, Aromatherapy, Art Therapy, Sound Therapy and plant-based nutrition, just to mention a few.
What I found after incorporating many of these alternative practices into my life was a decrease in stress, a decrease in emotional trauma, an increase in energy and productivity, better sleep pattern, and so much more. By slowly incorporating these alternative methods into my daily routine, while still utilizing my previously learned addiction recovery skills, I managed to transform my life by healing the mind, body and spirit, all of which gave me the necessary tools to promote and continue my own health, wellness and recovery efforts in a very manageable and independent way that I had not realized possible. These alternatives are not meant to replace traditional treatment methods, they are meant to work with them in order to give each individual the best possible chance at a positive outcome. Holistic alternatives for recovery are here to bridge the gap between traditional recovery treatment and what many in this community feel is lacking.
For this reason, I now work primarily in holistic recovery with The Serenity House of Flint, which is a holistic recovery community that advocates on the current addiction crisis and educates on holistic alternatives for addiction recovery. The Serenity House of Flint is changing the landscape of addiction recovery and our community as a whole by providing education, resources and all of the services discussed and countless others to the people of this community who may never have had the opportunity otherwise.
It is my hope to pass on the knowledge of the countless benefits of holistic alternatives in regards to addiction recovery and overall health and wellness because they make a great difference in an individual’s life and addiction recovery efforts.

Why Holistic Options

By Tara Moreno–When I began my journey towards recovery I started with 20 days in a rehab facility in Saginaw, Michigan. Rehab was the place where I learned about the 12-step program. This was the only program that was offered to me for recovery. During my stay, I knew that I never wanted to be in rehab again so I took the suggestions.
When I came home I did as many meetings as I could in 90 days. For about a year I was able to stay sober three months at a time. It wasn’t until I sat down to do a fourth and a fifth step that I was able to maintain a level of sobriety that was good enough for me at the time. Although I considered myself sober, I was still on a plethora of medication for anxiety and bipolar depression. Regardless, I was able to get some of my life back. I started seeing my daughter regularly–after losing custody of her while in rehab–and I returned to school to get a master’s degree and begin my career in jounrnalism.
It wasn’t until 2012, when my second child was born, that I would find an answer to why I had been suffering the way I had despite the AA suggestions, multiple fourth and fifth steps and psychotherapy and psychotropics. After my son fell ill, due to multiple food allergies, we started seeing an RN in West Bloomfield Hills. She was recommended by a midwife who told me she cured her son of a food allergies. The type of energy medicine she practiced is called NAET or Nambudripad’s Allergy Elimination Technique.  After few sessions with her I noticed a clearing of emotional and mental symptoms that were result of certain foods I had been eating. Miraculously, my son was able to eat dairy and eggs again without rashes, GERD, and other colic issues. One thing that stoood out though was that the practitioner said I was holding onto a lot of “negative” energy at the emotional level that was causing the imbalances to occur.
After finisihing a few months of NAET treatments, I became clearer and clearer in my search for a deeper kind of healing and stumbled upon a YouTube video by Teal Swan called “How to Heal the Emotional Body.” I followed the suggestions she outlined on Inner Child Work–this is a process where a person goes back in time in the mind’s eye and experiences any trauma associated with childhood from a first person perspective. I did the process for about a week and I noticed even more healing. I had more peace than ever.
After these revelations with energy medicine and Inner Child work, I knew I had to help the other people in my area who were suffering from addiction. That was when the Serenity House of Flint was born. I began the switch from being a journalist and started the process of organizing Serenity House. That was almost three years ago.
Since we have started operations, we have had three walk and rallys and we are coming up on our third arts and music. We have also been part of multiple local heath fairs, the Unite to Face Addiciton-Michigan event and other festivals and events across Michigan. Our mission at Serenity House is advocate on the current public health crisis of addiction and to inform the community on holistic options for recovery. We also want to provide transitional housing in the future.
Our programming will consist of recovery/holistic coaching, free yoga, reiki and auricular acupuncture, sound healing, aromatherapy, art therapy and massage, as well as workshops and classes on nutrition and empowerment. We also want to provide opportunities to grow food. Essentially, we will be a community creating a healthier and more natural way of living.
We hope to provide regular programming very soon and we are working with other community members who believe in Serenity’s mission and who want to help.

We hope to see you at our events soon!