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Yoga and racism

June 9, 2020

Your yoga practice doesn’t happen in a vacuum. How you “be” on the mat moves into the world. Whatever you’re experiencing off the mat impacts your practice on the mat. And the bulk of your practice actually happens off the mat. Yoga is more than asana and breath. 

Like many of you I have been saddened as I learn more about the racism that is such an ingrained part of our country. Of course I knew that racism existed. I grew up in rural Indiana with only two black students in my class of 365. As an adult I thought I was a good ally. Now I’m seeing that I have more to learn and to do. 

Attending Salem’s local march with 2000 people in attendance was uplifting and encouraging. But I also know this is only a start for the real change that needs to happen to bring equality to our country.

While I’m turning to trusted sources for information like this https://docs.google.com/document/d/1BRlF2_zhNe86SGgHa6-VlBO-QgirITwCTugSfKie5Fs/mobilebasic?fbclid=IwAR29xdWzzYUpcDUx3ShKh-ntnb12qKsZrQA7HZAgyo_K6tfSuRBO63pax2w

and this 

https://medium.com/equality-includes-you/what-white-people-can-do-for-racial-justice-f2d18b0e0234

I’m also turning to yoga for guidance. 

Yama Help

Yoga has eight limbs and In class we focus on limb three, asana or postures, and limb four, breathe work or pranayama. I bet you’re wondering what limb one and two are, right?

Yama, limb one, is about staying away from unhealthy behaviors, words, and thoughts. It’s about returning to our true nature. That true nature is wholeness and love. We live in a broken world which often negates our wholeness rather than connecting us with it. In order to see that true nature in others we have to find it in ourselves. Limb two is Niyama which helps us in our aim toward harmony. 

There are five Yamas and all can help guide us during rough times. I wanted to focus on the first Yama, ahimsa, often translated as non-harming. Think reverence, love, and compassion for all. 

My way to approach ahimsa is to first look inward. How am I being loving to myself? How can I show myself more compassion? 

These are tough times. You may be triggered by the racism that is being filmed, discussed, and shared. You may be triggered by what you find inside as you look at how you may have been unknowingly contributed or been an unhelpful bystander. I am personally taking a hard look at myself, what I value and how those values show up. 

A friend shared this tool with me 

https://medium.com/@alishiamccullough/the-7-circles-of-whiteness-cb60e53d14e0 

I’ve found it to be helpful to look at where I live around the issue of racism. I aspire to circle 7 and I have work to do. When checking out the article be sure and check out her questions in the beginning. Great coaching questions and a way to bring in self-compassion during the discovery process. We can’t share what we don’t have. As you deepen your self-love and reverence, you can find more for others. And right now our world needs that. 

How that shows up for you will be your unique blend. I encourage you to step into a more active role for equality. Refer to the list of above if you’re not sure where to begin. Be sure to season this work with love for yourself as you imperfectly move forward as well as love for those you encounter on this journey. 

I’d love to hear your rescues in the comments.

While most of us will arise from this pandemic with our wellness (or relative wellness) intact, few of us will be unchanged. If you know anyone who fears being infected with the Covid-19 virus, you know how scary it can be for them. My mother tested negative after a week of fever, fatigue and disorientation that resulted in a hospital stay. Waiting for the results, not being able to get tested, or wondering if you’ve been exposed all feel stressful.

Even the people I know who have been well during this time have altered their patterns, some significantly, like the business owners I know who have temporarily closed down. Others have gone for weeks without hugging family or friends, social interaction, or regular activities.

You may have experienced the fear of getting ill or losing loved ones. You might be feeling financial stress, unable to pay your bills, wondering whether you’ll have a job or business to which you can return. I also hear people talking about loneliness, boredom, and disappointment about lost opportunities like a birthday party for a family member, high school graduations, or a long planned vacation.

I too have experienced stress this last month. In addition to my mom’s illness and hospital stay, my brother died after battling brain cancer for three and half years. Not going back to visit my Indiana family was sad, but I knew it was the wise, right choice right now. My massage business is closed and my spouse’s business has been impacted. But with all of that I’m still well and hopeful. One of my lifesavers has been yoga.

My Yoga Survival Toolbox

I started practicing yoga in college to help reduce my stress. That has continued to be one of the things I love about my practice. Here are a few of the ways I use yoga to help me manage stress

Awareness: Sometimes when you’re going through a stressful time, yet you have stuff to do—a job to attend to, kids that now need to be homeschooled, meals to prepare, etc. you may bypass what you’re feeling. Sometimes paying attention can feel overwhelming or scary. Yet, noticing and acknowledging your inner world is crucial to shifting your inner landscape. You may not even realize how stressed you are until you pause to pay attention. Even that act may lessen your stress.

Breath. I use breath awareness throughout my day. When you’re under stress you may tend to hold your breath or to breath more shallowly. That triggers your body to stay in stress mode. When you learn to shift your breathing to that of a more relaxed state, even if you don’t feel relaxed at first, you begin to alter your nervous system. 

I recommend a breath practice that makes use of a longer exhalation, say an eight count exhalation to a four count inhalation, at bedtime. Try making it a habit before you fall asleep. It will help you downshift your nervous system making it easier to enter a deep and restful sleep.

Poses: I choose poses to support how I want to feel on a given day. Somedays I need to move so I might do more active standing poses. Other days I know I need the relaxation so I pick a slower paced yoga, maybe not even getting off the floor. I don’t have an expectation of what I’ll be doing when I sit on my mat. I refer to step one above and check in to find the most appropriate practice for me that day.

When determining your repertoire, consider spinal twists. There are lots of twists to choose from–seated, standing, on your back, and even on your belly. All will help you reduce stress and support healthy digestion which can become imbalanced during challenging times.

Yoga deserves its long standing reputation as a stress reduction tool. Simple, powerful, and effective. I invite you to experiment with these tools and see if they help you as much as they’ve helped me.

If you want to join me for live streaming yoga I’ve got two classes I’m offering right now on a pay what feels right basis. If funds are tight, join us for free.

I’m also offering private streaming yoga if you’d like a more individualized approach.

Don’t “Just Do It”

January 18, 2020

I’m guessing you’ve heard of the “Just do it” slogan. Who hasn’t? Sure seems to work well for Nike. After all they’ve been using it since 1988.

But I don’t think it works well as an approach to change. In fact, I think it’s one of the common mistakes we make when facing a transition.

I’m not saying you don’t need to take action to live your purpose. You do. But we’re told as we plan and dream for the future that moving into action is key. I hear people say things like “massive action,” “fast action,” or we need to “jump into action.” More and quicker activity seems to be the focus.

To everything there is a season

But there’s a time for rest, for a pause. To regroup.

Look at nature. I don’t stand on my deck in the rain yelling at the deciduous trees in my woods to get their leaves on.  Those oaks and maples are in resting phase right now.

Sometimes you need a resting phase too.

Sometimes “just doing it” is inappropriate for where you are in your process.  Jumping into action, especially random action, often causes more harm than good.

If you’ve been putting off working on your dreams because you’re afraid or you don’t know where to start you may think I just gave you permission to rest, to do nothing. Not so.

Discernment

Can you see how useful it would be to know when you should move into action and when you should pause? Is that a skill you’ve honed?

Can you also feel how important it is to know how to spend that precious pause? You might think it’s solely for Netflix binging, but it’s not.

Your thoughts?

Don’t be a hostage

January 17, 2020
photo from past

Have you ever found yourself excited about a new venture? You dream about what it will be like when you open your new business. Or you visualize finishing your book or celebrating at your first art show.photo from past

But then you start doubting yourself. After all, you failed before, right? Might not even be the same project, but you start pinning your current likelihood of success to a past failure.

You become a hostage to a past that might not even be accurate. Our memories are slippery. I feel like I have a good memory so was surprised to learn that I might be deluding myself. Have you seen the recent research about memory? Turns out most of us trust our memory more than we should. So it’s especially sad when we get stopped by a story from our past that has warped with time.

When change happens (or you want change to happen) you might feel triggered remembering past experiences, disappointments, and fears. As seductive as the past can be it’s the now that is rich with information that can lead you toward your purpose, toward your dreams.

Coming back to the moment and knowing how to gather those nuggets is a skill to hone.

I’m curious. Do you feel like you’ve let the past (real or imagined) keep you from your dream and goals?

Call Me Bigfoot

January 15, 2020

You don’t get to choose if you’ll have change in your life. Yes, you can be intentional about inviting it in or holding it back.

But at some point, in some way, your life will shift.

More than once.

And when those transitions come you get to decide how to dance with that change. Sometimes it can feel graceful, a thing of beauty. And other times it’s painful, even embarrassing.

Would you swipe right?

So what’s your relationship with change? Would you select something new if your life choices appeared on a dating app? If you’re like me, it probably depends upon what is transforming, what those choices are.

Right now I’m looking forward to different weather when I head to Mexico for my annual retreat in a week and half. It’s in the 30s-40s here with some snow. But in a week I’m headed to 70s-90s and sunshine.

I feel differently about the changes that arrived along with having broken my ankle several days ago. I was helping my mom move from her longtime home in the Midwest to an independent living facility. On my last trip out of the house I missed the edge of a little plastic step into the garage that had been moved and fell.

Making friends with change

I’m not fighting the changes brought by my injury. I’ve done that plenty of times and it’s not very productive. In fact, it’s delayed healing and created more suffering for me.

So instead, I’m embracing the change that my temporary disability brings. I’m feeling my feelings. Of course I’m disappointed I can’t drive a car, walk on the beach in Mexico, or in my woods right for some weeks. But I’m mostly feeling grateful. Here are a few of the things for which I’m feeling appreciative.

  • Minor break and that will heal completely in weeks.
  • Little discomfort
  • Support of strangers who helped me in the airport as I flew home with crutches and an aircast.
  • My spouse, Theresa, and friend, Paula, who picked my car and me up in Portland since I was planning on driving home.
  • My healer friends who’ve sent energy my way.
  • My clients who have all been understanding of me cancelling their upcoming appointments.

I can’t say that moving into appreciation right away has been my go to when it comes to change. One of the advantages of struggling with it is that I’ve gotten good at recognizing some of the common mistakes we make whether hurtling or shuffling toward something new and different. I’ve learned (and continue to learn) how to embrace change rather than struggle with it. Over the next few days I’ll be sending you some articles about change and some of those common mistakes.

I’d love to know your thoughts. Where do you struggle with transition in your life? Do you relate to any of these mistakes?

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