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. 

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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A Bag Full of Pennies Bought a Lifetime of Shoulder Pain

There she stood at the teacher’s desk, must have been in 4th or 5th grade.  She held a plastic sandwich baggie full of pennies. She couldn’t even afford a Ziploc. The teacher made her count them out loud, in front of the whole class.

One, Two, Three……One Hundred and Nine, One Hundred and Ten. Lunch money.

They all laughed.  They all pointed.

The teacher announced loudly that the next day the girl needed to bring a dollar bill.

An awkward child figure, with big curly hair and a big nose with second hand clothing, hung her head and silent tears rolled down as she shamefully walked back to her desk without a friend in the world, knowing without a doubt that at 10 years old, she was poor, she was different, and no one really cared. Her shoulders hunched a little more that day as she learned to close off her heart and protect herself.

This is one of my earliest memories of trauma and I found it in a yoga class. It has sat inside my body, inside my muscles, creating an unknown tension for many years.  The memory of it just sort of popped up one day, in an intense shoulder opening.  Like an unwelcome visitor in the body, knocking on my mind to say, “you need to deal with me.” And just like that, the shoulders relaxed a little more and that bit of tension was forever gone.

Many people walking around in your life have untold stories of trauma. It isn’t just one story, it isn’t just trauma from abuse or war, any experience that leaves you feeling shamed, unloved, unwanted, abandoned can give you a traumatic shock in your body system. We get very good at hiding our stories from others, we get very good at getting small and unnoticed, and we call that “fitting in.” Except even if you never talk about it, never remember it consciously, your body knows and you can’t lie or hide from it forever.

Maybe your trauma lives in your shoulders and neck as a sort of tension you can’t seem to let go, no matter how calm and soothing or sweaty and hot the yoga class. Maybe it’s digestive issues that no medical doctor can seem to explain or they tell you “it’s all in your head.” Perhaps it is an intense desire to eat your emotions.  This is the power of yoga practice, the awareness it brings to your body and mind so that you can be open and available for true deep healing.

This is also why some people don’t like yoga – it makes you face things that perhaps you aren’t sure you want to dig back out, so you think, I’ll just outrun it – maybe with a marathon. Except that as you age and you stop being able to run, the body catches up and it still holds the tension of those traumatic lessons you chose not to deal with in your earlier years.

The point is, everyone has a story to unravel and a yoga mat is usually a safe space to reread and release your story so you can feel less trapped by your body. The next time you are in a yoga class and you feel the urge to leave a pose you don’t like, try staying and see what comes up. Keep a journal so you keep aware of how you feel and what you might purge. Be OK with shedding some tears and having catharsis.

Not every pose is beautiful and not every yoga class is joyful – you need to know that it’s OK to release and feel angry or sad, don’t suppress those emotions any further, they are physical expressions of fear from your life lived and all the accumulated experiences, but to heal you have to wade through them. You need to know where they live in your body. To know they exist so you can let them go. The final limb of yoga is joy – not the first. It takes a lot of hard work; trust the process, it’s time tested for at least 3,000 years.

Yoga is NOT entertainment, there is no doubt that you can have a rockin’ good time in a great yoga class with high volume music and that’s OK too, not every yoga session needs to be a huge release of some trauma. But if you want the real meat, the real healing, you have to do the real work and it’s not balancing on your head – it’s going into the deep unknown, exploring the abyss and that can be scary.

Find yourself a teacher that has been there and come back, not necessarily enlightened – for the ones that claim enlightenment are usually false gurus. Find the ones that don’t judge you, that allow for quiet, that make you feel safe. As Pattabi Jois said, “Practice and all is coming.”

I give thanks to my own teachers, to my own students, and those that have walked the path of life with me.  I am the person I am because of life’s traumas and my work in overcoming obstacles.  Thank you, dear reader, for spending a little time in my world.  You are loved.

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Mondays: 7:00 pm @Senara on Willow Knolls

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