Dr. David Simon on KFAI Radio Twin Cities

“We remind them of their capacity to create inner joy… and what we find is their illness gets better… most likely whatever the psychological or physical illness you’re suffering from will become less.” – Dr. David Simon on KFAI Radio Twin Cities

THIS IS THE SHIZ, FOLKS.

imgresOk, I know I tend to get a little pedantic and dramatic. (Imagine that, a yogi and creative type.) But seriously, when I opened up the live stream of Radio KFAI on my computer for the first time, thanks to my student Genna (THANK-YOU GENNA!), I immediately started writing this blog post based on the program that just happened to be on: Health Notes (KFAI Monday nights Minneapolis folks, 6:30 – 7:30). Take heed: a Neurologist, also an expert in Ayurveda, is telling us that at healing retreats where he hosts patients with ailments as serious as cancer, he doesn’t focus on their illness at all. He focuses on getting them to find joy in their own brains, by triggering ideas and situations which bring those feelings. With that feeling of joy, they bring gentle movement to the body through yoga, tai chi, etc.

This is where it gets interesting… With all that movement, while focusing on the feeling of joy, we enable all those happy hormones to infiltrate our whole bodies – our blood stream, our cells, our selves… and thankfully, we have research to show us that there are HUGE physical and mental benefits to bringing more of these happy hormones by way of cellular turnover to further and further corners of our bodies. With practice, and at our own pace, we see-saw from comfort zone to just beyond comfort in order to get into those tense, never-before-reached bodily corners… and with lots of breath.

This is what I have come to believe as the most direct path to health. Is it an absolute guarantee that we will STAY healthy all the GD time? No. “Absolute” is – aside from being a delicious vodka – a **concept** sold to us in order to get us to buy in.

Taking those happy thoughts and feelings, and getting further into those corners is the tricky part. That’s why there’s a word for it in Yoga philosophy: Dharma. Meaning work or purpose.

Let’s look at this see-saw idea with a bit of a storybook approach. We’ll call our story,

THE DARK TEACHER and the JOY FINDING FAIRY:

The counter to the concept of focusing on what makes us happy is not to say that we should just pull up our boot straps and look on the bright side every time. When I teach, I often try to remind students that we are always moving in two directions. We are pushing down from our pelvic floor / belly through the legs into the feet, while also drawing that energy from our very connected-to-the-mat (aka grounded) feet back up into the stability of our pelvic floor… and there’s a lot of surface area between those two points, might I add, which is why this stuff is never immediate, and why PRACTICE (broken record, Calley…) is still… yep, the most important part.

So, enters the Dark Teacher, an opposite force to our protagonist, the, ahem, Joy Finding Fairy. Sometimes you have to sit with whatever crappy situation has presented itself to you. And, one step further, we are best to really sit and look at all that **stank** and spend some time assessing how it came to us, and what can we learn from this situation… looking at the mess – weather its a physical injury, an emotional scar, or some kind of situational turmoil – and being willing to question how we really feel about the situation is a humbling humbling teacher. (Mutter expletives under breath at Dark Teacher.) Sometimes we need these Dark Teacher(s) for a moment… They give us new awareness IF we choose to look at it that way… but when these Dark Teachers stick around too long – THAT is when things get, well sticky. We get stuck. Depression. Anxiety that won’t go away. Or, to put it more literally, perhaps a broken arm that we just can’t seem to stop using long enough to let it heal…

And so these are the trying times – to get away from the stuck place, where we go again and again and again toward the power and pull of the Dark Teacher, and we start to think that this is just the way it is. This is where we figure out how to find and follow the Joy Finding Fairy. For which, I’ve linked some great articles by clicking here, and scrolling down to the stress, anxiety, and depression section.

So, really, the thing is we need the Dark Teacher to, well, teach us new things. But we also need the Joy Finding Fairy when it seems like our lessons of darkness (mwa ha ha ha ha ha ha) are consuming us day in and day out.

Namaste.

 

Darkness – Honor The Still of the Winter Solstice

I teach yoga from the perspective that your “center” is what we’re after. It gets rid of those nasty lines that say one side is better than the other. You’re gonna bump around on your own “life wheel,” going too far in one direction, only to come back and maybe over-compensate and go too far in another direction… All this bouncing makes us feel like its all on a line: Healthy or lazy. Fit or fat. Smart or dumb. But I invite you to think of it this way: as you bump and bounce, each trip brings you through – or at least passing by – your center. And on each trip, hopefully you become a little more familiar with where your center is, and what are the things that help bring you back there when you need it.life-wheel

 

Darkness is half of what we deal with in life. I’m sitting in it right now in my living room.

Ok, no, but for real – DARKNESS is a big topic. Why? Because of all the things you do in life – eat, sleep, poop, make love, go to movies… even work – which, in our world is generally thought of as 40 hours a week – which is only 24% of our total week… even work is not as abundant in time as darkness.

could take this through all kinds of metaphorical stories about struggle, and shame, and guilt, and release, and frustration… but the point is that you already know what your darkness is in your life. You don’t need me to tell you what it is with some artistic story. Instead, I’d like to point out to you that darkness – in a literal sense – is half of our lives. No matter where you are on the planet, the Earth and Sun will balance each other throughout the seasons to give you half a year of lightness, and half a year of darkness.

So… maybe that grouchy co-worker, or car repair, or divorce doesn’t seem so… final.

When you realize that by design of nature, darkness is supposed to be half, it makes you not only feel less alone in your worries & struggles, but more grateful and alive when the sun does shine.

Next Wednesday, December 21st, I’ll be joining my fellow YOGA Garden instructors for a very special Winter Solstice class on the darkest day of the year in the Northern Hemisphere. We will take some extra time to honor and participate in the stillness all around us with an optional 20-minute gently guided meditation, followed by a 90-minute slow-paced vinyasa class focusing on grounding postures: hip openers, laying stretches, and a nice long sivasana at the end. And for those who care to stick around, we’ll share in a toast to the new year.  All proceeds proudly donated to Planned Parenthood of Minneapolis. 

I hope you are able to allow for small moments of rest in this time of year when mother nature has given us peacefulness all around. May allowing your body to sync up with your surroundings bring the calm or healing you need.

Namaste.yg-winter-solstice2016

Your Mind Is Incredibly Flexible

Screen Shot 2016-02-29 at 11.39.52 AMThink about the word change: In science it is signified by a triangle. The idea of trine (something with three points) comes up in Christianity, Ayurveda, is the numeric result of human regeneration (mother, father, child)… so am I just making connections which all lead back to the idea of change and three? Yep.

Science observes change, and then catalogues and documents it in order to draw conclusions and prove facts, as they relate to us at this phase of human existence.

Christianity is a common example in our society of an institution which support growth and change in life: births, communions, hard times, death, marriages, etc.

Ayurveda is an ancient wellness modality out of India which basically says that through food, medicine, lifestyle choices, surgery, spirituality, community, and environment, we can restore our personalized balance of the qualities in our life when ailment, or a change is needed to restore that balance.

It’s spring – change is happening all around us in the natural world, especially here in a place like Minnesota with distinct seasons. The ground is thawing, new buds are coming, and you can feel a new energy with the sun and warmer air. And we often forget that its only been a few hundred years since we were much more connected and beholden to the natural world on a day to day basis. So its a ripe time of year to feel like everything is changing around us, and life is getting away from us. Its easy to feel over-worked, over-stressed, and overwhelmed.do what you want_Fotor Real Illusion

Change is inevitable. But there are tools to help us cope, adjust our pace, and even find joy in the process of change. Step one is wanting  to embrace change as a good thing. Once that is attained, there are many options to explore. For me, yoga helps me get my mind there: to the wanting, and away from the “I just wanna sit here and complain.” Start with something familiar: breath in. Observe what it feels like. Get really comfortable. Once you are comfy, when you can just sit and enjoy the simple act of breathing in and out, its much easier to flirt with the idea of something different.
When we imagine something different, we open our minds up to their incredible potential to be flexible. We start to see options instead of obstacles. The obstacles don’t go away, but we learn how to face them, sit in front of them, walk around them, or otherwise deal with them. Our obstacles become our equals, and just another curve on the road of life.                                                                                           Ganesha3                                                                                                                                                                                  Happy Spring!

~ Calley

International Day of Happiness

Life is not ONLY about being happy – there’s actually research that shows that if you expect too much happiness ALL the time that you could be setting yourself up for disappointment and more UN-happiness… but the other interesting thing about happiness, which mindfulness practices like yoga remind us, is that we choose where to turn our attention, and we get to work on making proactive choices, instead of just repeating habits as choices.

This process is not easy, and for more and more of us, choosing happiness has chemical barriers in addition to the regular everyday life ones.

Thankfully, we can also point to research, practice, and experience to show us that even these chemical barriers are more easily overcome with the help of rest, exercise, and mindfulness.

I’m grateful that over the years I’ve had my yoga practice as a place to reset, reflect and boost the happy hormones….

After all, you cannot TOUCH happiness 😉 ——> Watch and laugh. Which is good for your hormones, and immune system, which helps make us happier:

Hope to see you Sunday at 10:30am or Monday at 5:15pm.
~ Calley

Yoga for that mental thing you’re trying to get under control

I’m writing this post for any and all who are trying to overcome their own selves.

(Yes, I’m aware that was not a grammatically correct sentence. This is a private yoga blog, not the New York Times.)

First things first: you are the only one who can tell what you are feeling. Whether or not you are struggling. Whether or not the habits and routines and people in your life are actually helping you or not. So as you read this, please use your intelligent if somewhat stressed and over-taxed brain to determine whether or not these sentences are true for YOU.

I’m seeing ailment all around me. Anxiety. Depression. Panic attacks. Lethargy. Feeling strangely disconnected from… maybe you don’t even know what. Perhaps I’m seeing this more because now I’m teaching yoga. Maybe its because this time last year I was in my own pit of depression, and I’m grateful that one year later I’m effectively on the other side of the wheel.

In my opinion, the biggest misconception about mental health is that you can’t help yourself. You need doctors and expensive medications to fix you. And when those don’t really work or you don’t like the way they feel, then you’re a lost, broken cause. You feel like no one gets it. No one sympathizes. No one wants to help, and even if they did want to, they can’t. 

Well that sucks. And it doesn’t seem to be working. Shall we try something different? I know, different is scary. It’s not familiar. It’s probably not comfortable. But is it comfortable where you are?

(By the by, you’ve heard of the placebo effect? Why does it work? Because we believe we’re taking something that is helping us. We believe.)

THIS MIND SHIT AIN’T NO HIPPIE JOKE, PEOPLE.  I digress.

We know that moving our bodies is good for us. We know that breathing is good for us. Often the problem that gets added to that health salad is the demon spice: trying to do too much. Causing more injury (mental or physical) than good.

The hardest thing – especially when you’re going through something hard – is that it’s going to be hard for a little while. You have to be willing to stick with your own progress, and you might have to change your expectations as to how much progress will be made. And you HAVE to be willing to start with something easy and build from there.

And this is why my guiding word for the year is SMALL.

And, preaching what I teach, I’m not actually doing it for you guys. If you want to hop on board and help yourself, by all means. But I’m doing this for me. To remind myself that if I want to grow, I have to first be willing to be small. And I might need to be small for a while, until I gain the strength to grow bigger. And no, I’m not patting myself on the back for figuring this out and suddenly all my problems are gone. Some days I kick myself when I realize that for days or weeks on end my expectations have been unrealistic. And then I remind myself to NOT kick myself, and to go smaller… start with being grateful that I figured OUT that I need to go smaller. And then do a small thing. A breath. A bath. One minute of breathing with my eyes closed. Laying on my tired back and just… laying there. Damn, that feels good, maybe I’ll stay a while. Maybe I WILL get my ass out of bed and go to my colleague’s yoga class. And maybe I won’t because what I really need is to chill out alone for a morning.

This is my process. I don’t know yours, and I can’t. I’m not you. But we DO know that the person who will make the biggest difference in your life – in the way you feel – is you. You have to want to help yourself. You have to believe that you can try. It’s that simple. And its amazing how challenging simple is because the people in our lives have all kinds of opinions that have clouded it. Pretty much, we’re just a bunch of humans running around in life, trying.

Try: it starts by doing something small and celebrating your tiny ass step.