The Yoga of Quitting (or Future Suffering is To Be Avoided – Sutra 2.16)

Two years ago I was holding it down as a mother to a 5 year old, a yoga studio manager and yoga teacher, a full time safety professional, a part time housekeeper, a sometimes Pintrest mom and I started losing my hair. It fell out in clumps. I was doing way too much and my body was clearly communicating the flashing red sign of STRESS. So I quit doing it all. I QUIT.

c6a2cad04bd5924188ad918b5a512219I didn’t quit all at once, because I still had the wrong headed modus operendi of achieving. I quit small things first – like I quit having fun or I quit socializing or I quit enjoying life. But as my hair kept falling out, and I looked at a big clump of it one day, I decided to quit trying to be all the things. Because WHY? I was bringing suffering into my own life, caused by my own wrong efforts, and exacerbated by a need to always be more.

It was more than hair loss – it was also manifesting as infertility.

After years of struggling to achieve conception and dealing with what I thought was infertility – it turns out I was dealing with stress. Stress was leading to hormone imbalances and medical issues and what I discovered was I wasn’t allowing the joy of living to filter into my body – I was actually blocking life. I was doing that to myself; I’m sure I’m not the only one.

If you read this because you Googled “fertility, yoga, stress, pregnancy” or something similar – what are you so busy doing that you could quit? What’s blocking your life force?

I’m 36 weeks pregnant, about to birth a baby in a month and the busy-life is here calling me again. I’m not answering it. I’m cocooning. My meditative focus is simply on my family. What does this have to do with yoga?

I still look to the Yoga Sutras for those answers:

  • Yoga is the stilling of the fluctuations of the mind – 1.2
  • When that is accomplished, the yogi abides in their own true nature – 1.3
  • The changing states of our mind can be harmful to our focus – 1.5
  • Yoga practice is the effort to be fixed in concentrating the mind – 1.13

I could go on and on with the sutras supporting us to assume a role in life with full force and focus. I can rewrite these sutras to suit my circumstances and goals. Personally, today, I want to still the mental fluctuations and focus them onto birthing and raising this new baby. Right now, my true nature is mother and life vessel. If I take on too much, I might harm my primary focus, which should be a healthy baby. The effort to stay focused on this process is challenging.

Yoga is never the poses you are doing, it’s not a physical exercise, it’s a mental way of living. The Yoga Sutras can teach us about motherhood or painting or dancing or postures or meditation or anything we wish to do well. And yes, we can indeed do more than one thing well,  but we can’t do ALL the things well, ALL of the time, ALL at once. Something will always break down.

If you discover that you begin to do some of your tasks poorly or that your health begins to suffer, you cannot really be truthful to yourself that you are living your life well concentrated – you are then bringing harm to yourself and ignoring what is one of my favorite yoga sutras:

  • 11849790_1642484662630447_540587482_nFuture suffering is to be avoided – 2.16

Bottom line, don’t be afraid to quit something that isn’t serving your highest good. Listen to that nagging voice in your head that is asking you why you struggle – maybe that something doesn’t matter as much as you think. Maybe you can let it go and let yourself be ok without it.

Takeaway: Settle in and take stock of what’s not serving you in life. Make a commitment to quit ONE THING – it can be small, but declutter your life of unnecessary tasks, people, things, or feelings.

Rediscover Joy.

To My Readers and Students: Thank you so much for sticking with me in my absence. Thank you for finding ways to practice and keeping connected even while I’m on a break. I never forget you, I never quit you, and you always inspire me, even when we aren’t face-to-face. 

It’s Hip to Be Square – Except When It’s Not.

10802591_1501415153467456_301750394_n“Inhale, step your left foot forward into Warrior I as you square your hips to the front.” calls the teacher.

Somewhere in the back of the room, a student is sweating, unable to breath smoothly because, dammit – those hips won’t square. Now the student is cussing at himself in the mind because why can’t he do it “right.” That student decides yoga isn’t for him, leaves and from that moment on decides he “can’t do yoga.” That’s BULLS*%T!

If I could say one thing to new students everywhere, I would repeat the mantra “You can’t do yoga wrong.” over and over and over again. Sure we have alignment theory and sequencing theory, but there are generalizations in yoga because we are generally not teaching yoga in the way it was intended centuries ago. Now we have group classes and teacher manuals with a whole lot of big egos teaching it all. (**note** – in case you thought I didn’t have an ego because I was a yoga teacher – WRONG, I’ve got ego to spare).

Yoga was designed to be customized to the student. Traditionally, a student would seek out a reclusive guru – some master teacher that maybe lived in a cave or a forest and learn, one-on-one, from that teacher. The techniques varied based on a student’s physical condition, mental ability, and personality characteristics.

In 2016, we have a modern society based on monetary exchange and yoga is mostly done in a group setting. Obviously the yoga of 2016 is going to have evolved and changed based on the humans teaching it over the centuries. Make no mistake – “classical yoga” as we teach it today, is really only dating back to the early 1900s coming from Master teachers like Pattabi Jois or BKS Iyengar. And it was not developed in some altruistic “healing “manner – money was involved. Please don’t get it twisted – capitalism, American individuality and accomplishment culture have changed or evolved yoga. A public group class is rarely customized because by its very nature, it’s public, open to all and available to any type of body.

finalWhat does this mean to you, as a student?

When yoga teachers, in a group setting, say things like “square your hips,” they are intending to reach all 30 people in the class – it is a cue that works for most bodies and is not customized for you, the individual body. Hopefully the teacher you are with is kind enough to reach you at least once, individually in the class, but not always.

The cue itself is well intentioned, Warrior I is a neutral hip pose (sometimes called closed hips) and the hip bones are intended to be face forward. The cue is intended to cultivate the action of moving the hips TOWARDS that direction. You aren’t doing it wrong if your hips won’t make it forward – you have genetics at play and life experience that lives in your muscles and connective tissue.

tumblr_nka5igNB0h1qzun1ro1_400Please know that some poses won’t be possible for your body. However, you can still benefit from cultivating the actions that move towards the intended posture. This is called a “krama,” or a stage of the pose. I do hope your teacher offers you variations or adaptations, if not – you might seek a different teacher.

Maybe you have short arms and arm balances make you feel like a “T-Rex.” I read my spiritual texts and no where does it say you are going to hell if you can’t master the Crow pose.

Maybe you birthed twins and your middle is not as toned as someone who never had kids – love it, for God’s sake – you made LIFE! That’s way more impressive than someone who can balance on one arm.

Maybe your story is one of abandonment and violence – well of course it will be hard for you to “open your heart,” – my goodness – just-becausesomeone literally trampled on yours! It’s ok to hate heart openers.

Maybe as a kid you were constantly asked to be perfect and now in your yoga practice, you just can’t stop perfecting that asana. Here is your chance to practice being human and allow for “mistake!”

 

The Bhagavad Gita, a classical Indian yoga text, states “no effort on the path is ever wasted.” Work TOWARDS your square hips, maybe someday the hips will square, but you also need to be OK with knowing that maybe they won’t.

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You’ll never be perfect at yoga, so stop aiming for perfection and allow yourself to live in progress. 

 

If you take nothing more from all these words – take this – You’ll never be perfect at yoga, so stop aiming for perfection and allow yourself to live in progress. Practice your potential.

Root to Rise

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I was taking a hike the other morning. It was one of the first hikes I’ve taken since winter released her chilly and isolated grip. The sun was shining, the dappled light streaming down through the branches like sunshine glitter and the robin’s egg blue sky aglow with a promise of warmth. Welcome spring!

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As I walked the trails at Peoria’s Forest Park Nature Center, I came upon a tree that had not made it through the icy grip of winter. I noticed that the root system was fairly shallow and thought back to the ice storm we had experienced in December. The tree had not been rooted strongly enough to weather the challenge of this particular winter. It toppled over.

The root system had been shallow. The foundation had not been strong. The journey of this tree was more broad than deep. And now here is yoga.

y8The breadth of yoga is vast. The methods many. This debate over the right and wrong is pointless – the truth is that there are many paths for many people. Your yoga doesn’t need to be the same as someone else’s. As we begin a yoga journey, exploration is required. How do you know where you want to root if you aren’t sure of into which landscape you wish to plant?

However, at some point the endless wandering does need to pause and plant. The exploring gives you a wide number of roots but the staying is where the depth is found. That’s not to say you can’t replant your tree of yoga, but consider that if you are seeking something specific, it may be hard to discover it if you keep skimming just the surface.

Tree-of-YogaThis analogy can be married to whole host
of yoga topics – what lineage is right for you? What pose do you want to achieve? Anatomy? Meditation? Breath work? Supernatural yoga powers?

The point is that if you don’t plant some firm roots for your goal to grow, at the first sign of a storm, the tree of your practice can be easily uprooted. This is where the practice of setting intention can be helpful. Be clear about what brought you to the mat and then revisit your intention every so often and fine tune it.

Choose your own adventure – study it well – do the practice and all is coming. You can weather any storm. You can root down to rise up. You can.

 

The Space Between: Creating the Creative Mind

Cue up Dave Matthews and let that song run in the background of your mind. I just created a thought wave for you. In yoga speak, it’s called a chitta vrtti, a cool way of saying fluctuation of the mind.

Often times the analogy of an unruly monkey is used with a leash. I prefer the image of the ocean, rising and falling, sometimes turbulent, sometimes calm – that’s just the nature of the ocean – to fluctuate with the weather. Same with humans – the nature of our mind is to fluctuate with each new input. That’s not a bad thing. It’s normal.

Chitta Vrtti

If you have been going to yoga or meditation with this idea that you have to stop thinking – you don’t. That is not the teaching in the Yoga Sutras and it’s not the purpose of meditation. It’s worth clarification because often students will say something like, “I’m not Good at Meditating.” This indicates that thought is bad, which isn’t true, it also indicates that calming yourself is something to be “good,” at doing – logically, the process never ends, therefore, one can never be good at it.

Thinking mind is only troublesome if it gets in the way of living fully. Our thoughts of creativity and even of anxiety are necessary human skills which help us solve problems and also keep us from life threatening danger. The issue is when your thoughts are based on misperception or are redundant, like a broken record. Someone once told me that 80% of our thoughts are the same thoughts we had the day before and someone else said that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over expecting a different result. This is the problem that yoga practice aims to solve.

Repeat

You don’t have a THINKING problem, but you may have a REPETITIVE thinking problem. Make sense?

The techniques of yoga are utilized to create space between your thoughts. This helps you have the time and awareness to notice destructive, non-helpful thought patterns and create the space for enhanced creative thinking.

SPace

Meditation Practice

Let’s try this as a meditation – this is something anyone, anywhere can use. Being good is not a requirement.

  • Sit quietly and comfortably
  • Notice the thoughts in your mind. Are they fast or slow? Are they on one topic or many? Are they a list or are they visual? Just notice your thought process without controlling or stopping it.
  • Before you go further – notice if you are judging your thoughts. Rather than judge, sink into the noticing – nothing is wrong with you, you are sitting safe and still, the only thing moving is your mind.
  • Now notice your breath. Is it fast or slow? Is it rough or smooth? Is it deep or shallow? Is your breath moving as your thoughts are moving?
  • Become aware of the spaces between the breath. Become aware of the spaces between the thoughts. Just notice without control.
  • Do the thoughts impact the breath?
  • Does the breath impact the thoughts?
  • Just notice.
  • Continue fluctuating between breath and thought for about 2-3 minutes, longer if so inclined.
  • As you conclude, notice any difference in the thoughts between the time you began and the conclusion. That’s good information for you to receive.

You’re done! You did great! And if you applied the meditation without just reading through it, now you understand Yoga Sutra 1.2 – Yoga as the process of creating space for clearer thinking.

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If you are interested in more info on the Yoga Sutras, check out my Instagram feed – I am doing a project where I’m posting all the Sutras as images.

Steadiness and Ease: Sthira and Sukha: The Infinity of Practice

I’m in downward dog for what may be the 10,000th time of my practice, but today it still feels like the first. My breath is smooth and even, I feel solid in this pose, but then a draining feeling from my sinuses into my forehead emerges and I know I must leave this position and surrender to child’s pose. I’ve not been well for the past week, I’m tired and infected with a cold. The time for ambition in practice is not now – restoration is needed and my body told me that clearly. Rest, surrender, do less – it’s OK.

In today’s modern yoga practice and through our Western ideals of bigger, better, faster, stronger – we are easily connected with the Sthira or steadiness and strength of our practice but easily swayed from the sukha or ease and happiness of the forms we take. The idea of doing less at any time is somewhat foreign and seems unnatural in a world of bootstrapping up and making our mark.

I’m no stranger to this pull – I have a strong desire to master the handstand and an idea of touching my foot to my head in King Pigeon. However, a pose in which the breath is ragged or labored is not serving the deeper purpose of yoga – a withdrawal of senses (pratyahara) and an all encompassing awareness of every single cell in every single pose. B.K.S. Iyengar, whose teachings greatly influence my personal practice, said that the achievement of asana (postural yoga) is in that moment when you can literally feel every part of your body all at once with no stress or strain.403023_312843125497457_767800096_n

Goodness! That means I have yet to master Tadasana and I can clearly see his quote of “we all want to stand on our heads, but very few of us know how to stand on our feet!.” After 10,000 downward facing dogs, I’m nowhere near the goal of complete steadiness and ease in my practice – I may need 100,000 more.

That’s the point – do not feel the need to rush the practice, allow the practice to come to you. Try the next pose, but if you struggle, be kind to yourself, both mentally and physically and allow yourself to stay in the stage before (vinyasa krama). There was this one day, while in side plank (Vasisthasana) that I felt called to simply lift my leg and reach for my toes – there was no struggle and I had zero intention of doing that, it just arose from within me, as an evolution of my practice. When I stopped forcing myself into a shape, the shape naturally presented itself in my practice. Does that make sense?

In the practice of Astanga, the vinyasa flow does not progress until the prior stages are presented in the body. For example, one must complete, with steadiness and ease, the standing sequence before being permitted to move forward to more difficult floor work. In social media, this aspect is often left out as impressive forms are captured by cameras and as the audience cannot see all the hard work that went into that achievement.

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Pattabi Jois stated, “Do your practice and all is coming.” This quote indicates that you do not force the practice, it comes to you – through steady effort (consistency) and easeful approach (joy in the process).

As Yoga Sutra 2.46 instructs: Sthira sukham asanam – the posture should be steady and easeful. Apply this not only to your practice on the mat – but off as well, where in your life can you find more steadiness and ease, what can you shed to allow more strength and joy in your life?

Further Reading:

Yoga International (Himalayan Yoga Institute): https://yogainternational.com/article/view/sthira-and-sukha-steadiness-and-ease

SwamiJ, Yoga Sutras On-line: http://www.swamij.com/yoga-sutras-24648.htm

Take Time to Make Time: Creating More Joy for the Holiday

The buzzer wails on the nightstand, you roll over and hit snooze.  You rush out of bed, perk yourself up with coffee, and like a busy bee, dive right into your To-Do list. The packages need wrapped, the cookies need baked, the elf needs to come up with an excuse for forgetting to move, and you need to smile and be nice to the kids.

But maybe all you muster is a quick ponytail, a haggard look, and a wistful sigh as you watch all the Merry making that TV families make so easy. All of a sudden you are yelling at the children and a lovely holiday is spoiled by stress. Sound familiar?

I’ve got a solution – take time to make time. I promise you that taking time to reduce stress will make you feel like you have more time and space in your day and you will be a happier, healthier version of yourself.

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How Can Taking Time Make Time?

As we turn an eye towards the quality of the time we spend each day, space is created. Rather than rushing about, with worry and anxiety stealing precious minutes of our day – the anxiety and worry are reduced and we receive those minutes back.

When we prioritize health and wellness – we reduce stress, anxiety, and chaos. Compare this to a hurricane – the winds blow high and when the storm clears, all that is left is a mess.  This is how we treat our Holy-Days? Like a hurricane – rushing about without taking time to notice the light, the people, and the glory of the season. “That went fast,” we cry when it’s all over, and then we rush ahead to diet and fret over cleaning up the mess we made of our “most wonderful time of the year.”  A mountain of wrapping paper and regrets over what we missed and how we acted towards our loved ones – that is not merry making – that’s insanity.

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This year choose to reduce noise and stress; choose to make that commitment to your family for a more focused version of you. When you prioritize your own health and stress management – you gift yourself, but you also gift everyone else around you. Someone needs to be the calm in the storm.

The presents will still get wrapped, the food will still get cooked, the show will go on even if you decide to take time for yourself. No one else in your life is going to prioritize your stress level and well-being, you absolutely must do it for yourself.

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An Invitation to Join the Joy

Join me at Be.You Fitness on December 24, 2015 at 9:00 am for a 75 minute Ode to Joy: Movement and Merry Making. We will focus on stress reduction, boost  immunity, calm anxiety, and open the heart with a specific intention of creating more space and time in our day so that we can experience more of the joy of the season. Regular class fees apply – please pre-register, so I can bring tokens of appreciation for everyone!

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What Happened When I Held Hands With Death

I held hands with death today. The grip suprisingly strong around my hands which were closing so gently around skin, paper thin and velvet soft. In the yoga sutras, Pantanjali tells us that the one suffering no human can escape is a fear of death, or a clinging to life. This hand to hold, clinging to life, I felt that desire in waves not only from a wizened hand – but shuttering throughout my whole body. Tears sprout and I cannot be sure if they are for the fear of death in a loved one, or my own fear of death that lives within me. The hand holds mine and I feel a soft caress, in the repose, I know we connect.

United in this moment, there is love, anguish, and a sharp flash of ego, which haunts the end of a life. Not the ego of the dying, but the ego of the left behind. Ego telling us to hold tight, complete that bucket list, time is short. That’s not it either. There is a space to live between clinging to life and letting it go. The saying is, “You only live once,” but that’s not true.wpid-instaquote-20-03-2015-23-16-45.png

You only die once. We receive life every day we open our eyes and in that moment, opportunity to fully awaken presents itself.

In yoga there is the practice of dying called Savasana. At the end of every class, we allow death for our hurt, our pain, our suffering, and then we reawaken into our potential and possibility. B.K.S. Iyengar says:

Savasana is about shedding. We have many skins, sheaths, thoughts, prejudices, preconceptions, ideas, memories, and future plans. Savasana sheds all of this….threads of tension…like Gulliver imprisoned by the threads of the Lilliputians…to cut tension is to cut the threads that bind us…to find out who we are not.”

Savasana can be scary in this way too. No one is clear on what happens when you cut all that binds you from the material, physcial world. There is a thread of tension that will always linger, tying the soul to the body here on the earth. Since no one can know what happens after death – there is fear in the letting go, slipping into the void. Many master teachers will agree that the practicing of many little deaths, many letting go’s, prepares for the ultimate letting go, the body death.

I find Paramahansa Yogananda’s quotes on death to be helpful in times of death awarenss, I espeically feel drawn to this one on this day:

Natural death—that is, in old age, or whenever the soul is ready to change its mortal form—is just like the falling of ripe fruit from the tree, of its own accord, without the resistance that green fruit exhibits when being pulled down by a storm or other great force.

Final Rest and Relaxation, Practice for Death, Art by Felipe Ikehara

We can use the little deaths of savasana to allow us to release the ties that bind us, then tensions of living, so that we can float through our life aware of the experience, never missing a heartbeat. In that, Savasana is the most important and the most difficult asana in our practice.

I give thanks and honor to the many teachers in my life. Without the shared practice, the shared wisdom, and all the shared love – I cannot hope to progress in yoga or in my life. Om Shanti, Shanti, Shanti. May the peace of the practice shine through my teachers, through me, and into you dear reader. This one light may and must shine in all of us – Namaste.

To Peel or Not to Peel? (Hint: You Need to Peel)

Quick Experiment: Point to yourself.

DO NOT SCROLL DOWN YET

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Where did you point?

I’m going to guess that you pointed at your chest, more specifically, the heart center. Why didn’t you point to your brain?

You pointed to your heart because you are a being created in love, driven by heart, and haunted by a mind of incessant thinking. You are not your thoughts; you are not your brain. Who is the one watching you think? Who is the thinker and who is the witness?

Study of the Koshas in Yoga philosophy can give us a description of what we are doing through practice and where we are headed if we stick with it. Without actually practicing, it means squat. 99% practice.

I drew this in teacher training. My meditation man is winking at you.

I drew this in teacher training. My meditation man is winking at you.

 

This photo is a little misleading (I’m not the best artist) – we aren’t really sitting under a rainbow of layers, all the koshas (energetic layers) weave into one another like a great tapestry. However, breaking them out in this way gives you an idea of how we practice through the layers.

Annamaya Kosha

  • Physical Layer – Earthy, Matter
  • Literally translates to “Food Body.”
  • Penetrate and purify this layer or aspect of ourselves with physical practice like yoga poses, exercises, clean eating, relaxation, and sleep.

Pranamaya Kosha

  •  Energetic Layer – Water, Fluidity
  • Prana means “life force,” so this layer is all about what moves in your body: blood, air, luymph, elimination systems.
  • Work with this layer through pranayama (breath control)

Manomaya Kosha

  • Mental Layer – Thinking Mind
  • Mind is manipulated by our thoughts which turn to words and then actions. We become an accumulation of everything that has come previously through our system and then react according to memory and habit.
  • Purify this layer with meditation especially on aspects such as compassion, selfless service, and forgiveness.
  • This layer causes us deep stress, anxiety. It is difficult to penetrate this layer without the foundations of asana and pranayama.

Vijnanamaya Kosha

  • Intellect and Discernment, Insight and Wisdom
  • This is deeper than just the conscious mind, this is latent, intuitive knowledge
  • This is not what you read in books or others ideas, it is what you experience and know through direct perception.
  • The difference between thinking and knowing is wisdom, vijnana.
  • Deep self-study and reflection on ancient scriptures and philosophy help tap into this layer.

Anandamaya Kosha

  • Bliss – Joy
  • There is a difference between pleasure and joy, pleasure arises from passing experiences and material objects, joy is a state of being, in which you can be joyful when something is difficult and not necessarily experience pleasure.
  • This is the heart center – the very place you pointed when I asked you to point to yourself.
  • All the yoga practices bring us to this place over time and consistent practice. It’s where we discover our personal truth and where we can hear our purpose most clearly.
Maybe this is a more accurate Kosha diagram - peeling back the layers until you get to your heart center - like an onion, you'll probably cry as you peel.

Maybe this is a more accurate Kosha diagram – peeling back the layers until you get to your heart center – like an onion, you’ll probably cry as you peel.

 

Yoga is a never ending journey. Just when you think you’ve mastered something physically, you can come back and add on another layer of work in order to peel back another layer of illusion. Eventually you have revealed your true self. When you wonder just who you are, point to yourself to remember.

 

Happy Birthday Baby Belly.

5 Years Ago my body was injured – slashed through with a surgical knife.  Abdominal walls severed in two by a bulging baby boy in a torso too short to properly accommodate him.  These battle scars the belly carries are from war zones called C-Section and Diastisis Recti.  I have the unfortunate appearance of someone still pregnant (which sometimes people ask!) and as a yoga teacher, it is highly unlikely that I will ever be mistaken for having “nice abs.” And to have people judge me for it still hurts.  diastasis-recti

It’s all well-meaning what people say after such a battle of pregnancy and labor and hospital stays.  Be thankful – that’s proof you had a baby.  Well thanks – my son is actually proof that I had a baby.  I can be thankful for him without loving scars and muscle weakness.

They placate a new mother with platitudes like, “thank goodness for modern medicine,” and “your child’s smile is all you need.”  But they don’t know – they don’t live in this body, they don’t have  to look at themselves naked with these sobering reminders of what, quite frankly, is a traumatic experience, albeit one with a beautiful ending.  They don’t understand the toll it takes on a wife and a marriage when you don’t love your body.  Even when your husband says you are beautiful.

I didn’t even accept that I had a certain trauma.  I covered and hid my feelings because, really, I am grateful and I wasn’t one of the moms forced to a C-Section.  I wasn’t put on the clock.   After 54 hours of trying natural labor (24 hours), of trying an epidural and medications, sifting, showers, puking, crying, I decided to agree and tell the doctor I’d had enough. Then in a mere 20 minutes, there he was.  The light of my world, the soul of my soul, my whole new purpose for even being alive.

I can even remember the very exact moment before  we went to surgery.  I asked my wonderful midwife, who I will love until my dying day and beyond, what would have happened to us in the days of old (seriously, laboring mothers say weird things!) and she very honestly told me that I would have died.  Logically, I totally know that I did every single thing possible to have that natural experience.  But somehow I had failed and here is this damn belly with a C-Section Shelf staring at me in the mirror reminding me that I couldn’t open enough to allow my son to live.  What on earth is wrong with me? I mean, I did YOGA, I did BREATHING, I did ORGANIC, I had a DOULA!

Like most things in my life, I pushed it away.  I focused on this happiness of new life, I made every effort to positive spin my C-Section story, how I had the freedom of choice and didn’t have that trauma that other moms have, THEY needed the group support, THEY deserved the kind words, I didn’t even deserve to be comforted because after all – it wasn’t that bad, other people have it worse.  I live in the now, not the past…..right?

 

But I closed down completely on a physical level.  That emotion lived in my very hormones, my body knew there was a trauma.  My desire knew there was a trauma.  My fertility knew there was a trauma.  My core strength knew and you can’t deny a weakness in an asana.  No epic arm balance or handstand selfies for me (yet!).

 

And still I clung to the denial of a happy emotion of acceptance and non-attachment.  After all, I’m a yogi.  I’m supposed to practice letting go, letting be, and becoming free.  But what I’m not supposed to do is LIE.  Satya, the second of the Yamas, the ethical guidelines.  That includes lying to yourself and denial is a bit of a self-lie.

So here it is, 5 years post partum.  I just celebrated the 5 glorious years of my own motherhood and my son’s beautiful life. Time to forgive my body.  I’ve been working up to this for a while and this post, is a catharsis, I can’t possibly be the only woman with a story like this and just maybe this reaches a woman with this issue and she knows that she is not alone.

So here it is.

Body, I’m sorry I blamed you for not being enough.

Body, I’m sorry that I didn’t recognize that you were hurting.

Body, I’m sorry that I ignored your messages and didn’t listen to your pain.

Body, I’m sorry that I made you carry this burden of emotion for so long.

Body, I forgive you for not opening up.

Body, Thank you for carrying my son.

Body, Thank you for birthing this new understanding 5 years later.

Body, Do you think maybe you can forgive me too and we can try again?

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I have my yoga practice to thank for this realization.  Something happens when you sink into your practice, all that time on the mat evolves into something.  It’s a spark of awareness, you begin to reveal your truth.  Yogis say it’s like shining up a cloudy glass so that you remove the residue of experience from the window of your soul.  After all, I’m a yogi. I’m supposed to practice letting go, letting be, and becoming free – but you don’t have to practice that at all, as you practice on the mat with asana and pranayams, this becomes a spontaneous arising of a feeling of liberation or Moksha.

Resources for Diastisis Recti

Checking for Diastisis Recti:

Yoga for Diastisis Recti:

**I have done this video, I like this teacher, I think she is accessible to every mom.  I only wish I had found this earlier.  No one told me I had a diastisis recti until about 3 years out – so I did further damage, but I have hope and I’ve been planking and working achieving results.**

The State of the Yoga…….Ummm…..Yoga Means Union

Kids like clapping.  Or he could be a child politician, I mean really, most politicians are childish, right?

Kids like clapping. Or he could be a child politician, I mean really, most politicians are childish, right?

This is President Obama’s State of the Union, if it only applied to the Yoga World.  Finally, a time to merge my love of political satire with my passion for yoga practice! Enjoy.  (**Note – Obviously, some parts have been omitted – this thing is LONG!). Inspired by my son’s riot of clapping while watching the State of the Union (he’s four, so he probably just likes clapping).

As YOGIS, we don’t mind paying our fair share of studio fees, as long as everybody else does, too. But for far too long, celebrity yogis have rigged the  pay structure. They’ve riddled it with giveaways the superrich don’t need, denying a break to the desperately poor yoga teachers who do. (I’m looking at you @aloyoga and @kinoyoga).

This year, we have an opportunity to change that. Let’s close loopholes so we stop rewarding the 1% YOGIS. Let’s use those giveaways to outfit our more humble brethren who can’t affort $80 yoga pants and luxury retreats. Let’s simplify the system . And let’s close the loopholes that lead to inequality by allowing the top one percent to accumulate thousands of followers while our less flexible yogis receive minimal notice of their meditation efforts. It’s ok, we aren’t an ego based practiceWe could use that attention to help more families pay for kid yoga classes and maybe help the homeless. We need a new ethical code that truly helps working YOGIS trying to get a leg up in the new economy, and we can achieve that together.

Of course, nothing helps YOGIS make ends meet like higher wages. Really. It’s 2015. It’s time. We still need to make sure employees get the overtime they’ve earned (who among us hasn’t poured out hours of effort for that 2 hour workshop?). And to everyone in this SATSANG who still refuses to raise the minimum wage, I say this: If you truly believe you could work full-time and support a family on less than $15,000 a year, go try it. If not, please stop complaining about the cost of your yoga class – those trainings are expensive!

But tonight, we turn the page.  We can and should offer our military heros access to yoga classes.  We have proven time and again that the method works to help our heros live with their trauma and start anew.

YOGIS, for all that we’ve endured; for all the grit and hard work required to get that 500 hour yoga TT; for all the tasks that lie ahead, know this:

It’s TIME for a CHANGE ‘Merica! Yoga On (also you can actually buy this clock – LOL!)

The shadow of crisis has passed, and the State of the YOGA is strong. We carry a light in our hearts and a will to change the world into a more peaceful, more sustainable, more accepting place to thrive.

It’s now up to us to choose who we want to be over the next fifteen years, and for decades to come.  Are we a group of ego driven yoga butts or are we a tribe of united yogis working towards a better Earth?  A better NOW?  A more accessible YOGA dream for EVERYONE – black, white, brown, abled, disabled, sick, tired, YOGA FOR ALL.

Will we accept an economy where only a few of us do spectacularly well? Or will we commit ourselves to an economy that generates rising incomes and chances for everyone who makes the effort? (No change here – YAY OBAMA)

Will we allow ourselves to be sorted into factions and turned against one another – or will we recapture the sense of common purpose that has always propelled YOGA forward?  It doesn’t matter if you teach hot, gentle, restorative, alignment – we are one YOGA – there is a practice for everyone.  You get a class and you get a class and you get a class (wait, how did Oprah get in this speech?)

At every step, we were told our goals were misguided or too ambitious; that we would never make it in the real economy or were just living in a fantasy. Instead, we’ve seen the fastest economic growth in yoga in the last 20 years, our they say 20% of Americans do yoga – that’s not misguided, that’s progress!

So the verdict is clear. YOGA works. Expanding opportunity works. And these policies will continue to work, as long as EGOS don’t get in the way. We can’t slow down businesses or put our PRACTICEat risk with shoddy teachers and manipulative marketing.

In fact, at every moment of YOGIC change throughout our history, this PRACTICE has taken bold action to adapt to new circumstances, and to make sure everyone gets a fair shot. Using props like blocks, bolsters, straps, walls, or even each other as partners.

These ideas won’t make everybody rich, or relieve every hardship. That’s not the job of YOGA. To give working teachers a fair shot, we’ll still need more employers to see beyond next quarter’s earnings and recognize that investing in their TEACHERS is in their studio’s long-term interest.

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Aligned Bones are Happy Bones which = DANCING Bones!

21st century YOGA will rely on science, technology, ANATOMY, research and development. I want the country that eliminated polio and mapped the human genome to lead a new era of YOGA – one that delivers the right THERAPY at the right time. In some STUDENTS, this approach has reversed DIS-eases, once thought unstoppable.

Of course, if there’s one thing this new century has taught us, it’s that we cannot separate our work at home from challenges beyond our shores.

My first duty as a YOGI is to DO NO HARM (Ahimsa). In doing so, the question is not whether YOGA helps in the world, but how. When we make rash decisions, reacting to the headlines instead of using our heads; when the first response to a challenge is to SIT AND BE SILENT – then we can avoid getting drawn into unnecessary conflicts, and MEDITATE UPON a broader strategy we need for a safer, more prosperous world. THAT IS HOW YOGA CHANGES THE WORLD.

That’s how YOGIS lead – not with bluster, but with persistent, steady resolve.

2014 was the planet’s warmest year on record. Now, one year doesn’t make a trend, but this does – 14 of the 15 warmest years on record have all fallen in the first 15 years of this century.

I’ve heard some folks try to dodge the evidence by saying they’re not scientists; that we don’t have enough information to act. Well, I’m not a scientist, either. But you know what – I know a lot of really good scientists at NASA, and NOAA, and at our major universities. The best scientists in the world are all telling us that our activities are changing the climate, and if we do not act forcefully, we’ll continue to see rising oceans, longer, hotter heat waves, dangerous droughts and floods, and massive disruptions that can trigger greater migration, conflict, and hunger around the globe. The Pentagon says that climate change poses immediate risks to our national security. We should act like it. (Well this just applies to our yogic ways right – we have a duty to be stewards of the environment from the #1 ethic of NON-HARMING, Ahimsa).

There’s one last pillar to our leadership – and that’s the example of our values. THE YAMAS AND NIYAMAS.

  • As YOGIS, we respect human dignity, even when we’re threatened
  • As YOGIS, we respect human dignity, even when we’re threatened
  • As YOGIS, we cherish our civil liberties – MOKSHA

Looking to the future instead of the past. Making sure we match our POTENTIAL with PRACTICE, and use SIDDIS wisely. Building YOGA ALLIANCES to meet new challenges and opportunities. Leading – always – with the example of our values. That’s what makes us exceptional. That’s what keeps us strong. And that’s why we must keep striving to hold ourselves to the highest of standards – our own.

I know how tempting such cynicism may be. But I still think the cynics are wrong.
I still believe that we are one people. I still believe that together, we can do great things, even when the odds are long.  (Good one POTUS!)

So I know the good, and optimistic, and big-hearted generosity of the YOGA people who, every day, live the idea that we are our brother’s keeper, and our sister’s keeper. And I know they expect those of us who TEACH to set a better example.

A better YOGA is one where we appeal to each other’s basic decency instead of our basest fears.

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Fight With Peace and For Peace – The Yogi Way

A better YOGA is one where we debate without demonizing each other; where we talk issues, and values, and principles, and facts, rather than “gotcha” moments, or trivial gaffes, or fake controversies that have nothing to do with people’s daily PRACTICE ON THE MAT OR OFF.

A better YOGA is one where we spend less time drowning in money for ads that pull us into THE GLITZ AND GLAMOUR of EGO, and spend more time lifting young people up, with a sense of purpose and possibility, and asking them to join in the great mission of SHARING YOGA.

If we’re going to have arguments, let’s have arguments – but let’s make them debates worthy of this body and worthy of this PRACTICE.

I want our actions to tell every child, in every neighborhood: your life matters, and we are as committed to improving your life chances as we are for our own kids. (It’s all about 7 generations hence, that’s what Native Americans taught!).

My fellow YOGIS, we too are a strong, tight-knit family. We, too, have made it through some hard times. Fifteen years into this new century, we have picked ourselves up, dusted ourselves off, and PRACTICED OUR PROGRESS. We’ve laid a new foundation IN OUR FEET. A brighter future is ours to write. Let’s begin this new chapter – together – and let’s start the work right now.

Thank you, God bless you, and God bless this YOGA PRACTICE we love.

Also – I’m not campaigning for YOGA – YOGA WON, FOREVER 5,000 YEARS.

But seriously – I love a great motivational speech.  I know people roll their eyes at politics, argue over who is right and when, but waht happened to a country in which we respected the office, we listened to the IDEAS and the CHARACTER behind the President, rather than the partisan politics.  I do know one thing – we should all be able to rally around the values of family, fellowship, and freedom without tearing down our leader.  President Obama was right – he’s done campaigning and he won – TWICE.  So let’s ride out this presidency with calm, cool, collected activism, because anyone can complain, it takes real American or Yoga spirit to actually get out there and make a change.

Thank you and Namaste to anyone reading this.  I appreciate your time and your eyes. I give humble thanks to my teachers, who have taught me more than just poses, but to try to use my voice for a purpose, and thus, here on my blog, I practice lifting my voice – and for those that hear it, I am grateful for a space to share it.

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Mondays: 7:00 pm @Senara on Willow Knolls

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My Personal Practice

Alignment Authenticity Anatomy Junkie Spiritual Flow Mantras Mudras Continuous Education Practice What You Teach Progress Not Perfection Guiding Teachers: BKS Iyengar Pattabi Jois Shiva Rea Daren Friesen (Moksha Chicago) Marinda Stopforth (Prairie Yoga - Lisle, IL)

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