"However beautifully we carry out an asana, however flexible our body may be, if we do not achieve the integration of body, breath, and mind, we can hardly claim that what we are doing is yoga. What is yoga after all? It is something that we experience inside, deep within our being. Yoga is not an external experience. In yoga we try in every action to be as attentive as possible to everything we do. Yoga is different from dance or theatre. In yoga we are not creating something for others to look at. As we perform the various asanas we observe what we are doing and how we are doing it. We do it only for ourselves. We are both observer and what is observed as the same time. If we do not pay attention to ourselves in our practice, then we cannot call it yoga."
by T.K.V. Desikachar "The Heart of Yoga: Developing a Personal Practice"
Luckily my first exposure to yoga in 1995 was by a Kripalu teacher who was already informed of this wisdom. After practicing asanas for now over 20 years, I can assure you, it is not about the postures. Every morning when I wake to do my practice, it becomes a journey into a moving meditation of me and all my parts. Some days the internal critic is loud and other mornings, less noisy. Either way, I return time after time on my mat to see what I bring to my day and by savasana, make peace and accept my experience.
Another beautiful passage by Rolf Gates about observing and allowing things to pass through us like fear, versus latching on and becoming defined by them.
"Sober, I could no longer lie to myself about how things felt. Sober, I was stuck with the many ways I was afraid and the need to work honestly with this fear. There were a number of years in which I tried to talk around my fear or explain it away. This was an unrewarding process. My teachers did not get into it with me; they just asked me to bring my attention into my body and my breath. As I learned to do this I began to see the true nature of things. I saw that I was the sky and my fear was the weather. Just as the sky is not the weather, nor does it need to respond to the weather, neither was I my fear — nor did I need to be defined by it. It is enough for the sky to hold the weather effortlessly with wisdom and compassion as it passes through."
by Rolf Gates " Meditations on Intention and Being"
A passage worth sharing by Max Strom, a yoga teacher I studied with many years ago. I suggest reading then pausing and read again and again:
"Sometimes when our life falls apart it is because it is not held together with consciousness, it is held together by illusion, and so it crumbles, and what is left is actually a clearer vision of what is real and of value. So many have found their life path only after what they had formerly perceived as their life crumbles to dust. In other words, it is the illusion of our life which crumbles, leaving reality in it's place."
by Yoga Teacher, Max Strom
In our world of constant distraction and instant gratification, we begin to ingest the words, ideas and images around us and fuse with them, become them, react to them, be defined by them. Inevitably, your thoughts create your reality. So how do we find peace amongst the storm? Ideally we do a dance between noticing our thoughts, separating from them, witnessing them and sitting in the nothingness, the pure awareness. Rolf Gates writes articulately about his in Meditations on Intention and Being.
"To live with equanimity is to develop an inner life that is independent of whatever circumstances we find ourselves in. What grants us our freedom is not a devaluing of the world around us, it is the understanding that we are not our thoughts. The practice of mindfulness is the first step in this process, teaching us to reflect on the mind rather than to react from it. In time we come to see the space around our thoughts as being more important than our thoughts themselves, and we learn to rest in that space. The practices of the heart teach us that standing in this space with kindness and compassion is the true practice of yoga, and to let go of the rest. What follows is the ability to welcome whatever the moment brings." (Rolf Gates, "Meditations on Intention and Being")
If you want to learn more about how to do this, contact me when you're ready. I'll take you there.
This passage by Rolf Gates is so rich in beautiful imagery and simplicity that I just had to share it:
"The habits of her mind that create suffering are like deer trails in a forest; if she does not use them, the forest will slowly erase them. Mindfulness allows her to patiently unlearn the trails she has contracted around to create new ones that lead out of suffering.
Where once she lived within the narrow parameters of her conditioning, now she is feeling into the possibility of conscious choice making. Everything is now on the table. She busies herself cleaning up her inner and outer life, and one day, as she is putting her house in order, she finds something she did not know was lost. Resting in faded glory in the back corner of a forgotten cupboard is her heart. She spends an entire afternoon turning it over in her hands wondering what it means to have her heart back."
by Rolf Gates in Meditations on Intention and Being
I see more and more people of all ages, all genders, who have no idea they have anxiety because it's just their "normal." Yet they're in my office for a reason and they know at times they don't feel exactly at ease, happy, or calm in their world and feel unwell in their physical bodies. See if you relate to the list below and if so, find the GROUNDING EXERCISE at the bottom.
Common anxiety signs and symptoms include:
Several types of anxiety disorders exist:
Agoraphobia (ag-uh-ruh-FOE-be-uh) is a type of anxiety disorder in which you fear and often avoid places or situations that might cause you to panic and make you feel trapped, helpless or embarrassed. Anxiety disorder due to a medical condition includes symptoms of intense anxiety or panic that are directly caused by a physical health problem.
Generalized anxiety disorder includes persistent and excessive anxiety and worry about activities or events — even ordinary, routine issues. The worry is out of proportion to the actual circumstance, is difficult to control and affects how you feel physically. It often occurs along with other anxiety disorders or depression.
Panic disorder involves repeated episodes of sudden feelings of intense anxiety and fear or terror that reach a peak within minutes (panic attacks). You may have feelings of impending doom, shortness of breath, chest pain, or a rapid, fluttering or pounding heart (heart palpitations). These panic attacks may lead to worrying about them happening again or avoiding situations in which they've occurred.
Selective mutism is a consistent failure of children to speak in certain situations, such as school, even when they can speak in other situations, such as at home with close family members. This can interfere with school, work and social functioning.
Separation anxiety disorder is a childhood disorder characterized by anxiety that's excessive for the child's developmental level and related to separation from parents or others who have parental roles.
Social anxiety disorder (social phobia) involves high levels of anxiety, fear and avoidance of social situations due to feelings of embarrassment, self-consciousness and concern about being judged or viewed negatively by others.
Specific phobias are characterized by major anxiety when you're exposed to a specific object or situation and a desire to avoid it. Phobias provoke panic attacks in some people.
Substance-induced anxiety disorder is characterized by symptoms of intense anxiety or panic that are a direct result of abusing drugs, taking medications, being exposed to a toxic substance or withdrawal from drugs.
Other specified anxiety disorder and unspecified anxiety disorder are terms for anxiety or phobias that don't meet the exact criteria for any other anxiety disorders but are significant enough to be distressing and disruptive.
No matter the type of anxiety, a simple grounding exercise done in the moment can help reverse the increase of symptoms.
Look around you.
Find 5 things you can see.
Find 4 things you can touch.
Find 3 things you can hear.
Find 2 things you can smell.
Find 1 thing you can taste.
"It is breathtaking to realize that human anger amounts to anger at ourselves that we project onto the world and onto one another. That how we treat Earth is a reflection of how we treat our bodies, that how we treat one another is a reflection of how we treat ourselves. Unable to manage the experience of the self we have created, permanently disturbed by what we have or have not done, we attack anything we see that reminds us of our own disowned shadow. Without this identification there would be no hatred.
Now imagine the possibility of resolving our relationship to ourselves, a process that ends not in perfection but in acknowledgment, acceptance, and understanding. Imagine if there were no one to hate."
This passage by Rolf Gates from Meditations on Intention and Being is a profound one I had to share. I see so much of this in my clients and society. People are very unhappy with themselves and at worse, even hate themselves. When you take a moment to slow down and get quiet inside, are you aware of being unsatisfied or even angry with yourself? Frustrated with where you're at in life, your body, your choices thus far? And do you tend to take it out on those around you? Think about it. Notice. Breathe. What if instead you inserted a sentiment of compassion towards yourself and replaced that ugly voice with something softer. A sentiment like: "It's all ok." "You are enough." "There is no getting to, you're already here."... and "I love you." Would you then be less prone to treat the world around you with venom? I dare you to try.
Creating a better world is an inside job. Inside YOU, first.
“When the power of love
overcomes the love of power,
the world will know peace.”
• When a person drowns himself in negative thinking,
he is committing an unspeakable crime against himself.
- Maxwell Maltz
(Adapted from Alcoholics Anonymous)
Negative thoughts can rule our lives as compulsively as an addiction. The feelings of power we get from holding a dismal and gloomy outlook deprive us of the positive and pleasant parts of life. Some of us have said, "If I expect the worst, I won't be disappointed. If I think the worst about myself, no one else can cut me down." It is like taking a driving trip and looking only for trash and garbage in the ditches, ignoring the beauty beyond. Indeed, what we see may be real, but it is a very limited piece of the picture.
When we have relied on negative thinking, it feels risky to give it up, to hand over that power to the risk of the bright side. So, we cannot turn to being totally Pollyanna all in one day. We CAN begin by imagining ourselves with a more open attitude toward ourselves and the world. Then we can try it out as an experiment in little ways. Small steps. I recommend starting with trying to first WITNESS your negative thoughts rather than identify with them. Can you observe yourself thinking negatively vs BE negative? Can you notice what it feels like energetically, physically when thinking negatively? Once you can accomplish this, try next replacing that thought with something totally different and positive, possible gracious or at least neutral and also notice the shift in your physical, energetic body.
• Walking to work having the thought:
"I'm not going to get the credit I deserve for finishing that work project because the boss has her
favorites and never acknowledges me."
• Notice the fact that your mind is having that negative thought.
• Notice how this negative thought impacts your physical body: possibly heavy, constricted, lack of
breathing, tense, deflated.
• Consciously and deliberately change to a more positive thought:
"I love the fact that I get to have old friends from out of town visit this weekend because they love me."
• Notice how this positive thought impacts your physical body: possible lightness, ease, expansion
deeper breathing, smiley energy.
The Goal of Yoga
(No, it's not handstand)
The yoga pose is not the goal.
Becoming flexible or standing on your hands is not the goal.
The goal is the create space where you were once stuck.
To unveil layers of protection you've built around your heart.
To appreciate your body and become aware of the mind and the noise it creates.
To make peace with who you are. The goal is to love, . . . well, you.
Shift your focus and your heart will grow.
My mother who was recently reacquainted with yoga after about a forty year hiatus, shared this post with me she found on Facebook. She doesn't quite understand it, yet, but she sensed I would. Guarded, hypervigilant, barely breathing and wound up tight, I first got exposed to yoga just shy of turning 21. I haven't stopped practicing since. Over two decades later, the practice continues to inform me from the physical to the subtle to the meditative, to the deep awareness, uncovering, disarming and acceptance of me. I fell into teaching group classes originally by happenstance across the MidWest and intentionally in the San Francisco Bay area for nearly fifteen years. I stopped after feeling disenchanted with my ability to get this message (above) across to my students. It seemed most students were showing up for a workout and less interested in the emotional and psychological journey. I can appreciate and teach a strenuous physical class to a group, but it is the healing journey that is of primary interest to me. It was challenging as a teacher in these crowded classes, to reach the individual in their unique process as they struggled or eased with their mind and body from posture to posture. Their truth, their wounds, their trauma, their emotions, their trials were evident in their bodies, in their breath, in their reactions to a posture. I could see it more than they themselves were aware. This witnessing, plus my own healing journey diving inward, were largely my motivation to pursue a Masters Degree in Somatic Psychotherapy. Today, I often use yoga asanas in individual Somatic Psychotherapy sessions. This allows the safe space to explore and dialogue with the physical sensations, stuck places, the emotions encapsulated in the tissues not to mention the limits we might place on knowing and accepting ourselves. In the slowing down, paying attention and letting go of the getting to a perfect handstand, we reveal ourselves to us.
This is where I share MY TRUTH.... authentically, some of my thoughts, inspirations and insights that might be of service for whomever has interest and need.