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

MBSR Weeks 7 & 8: The Definition of Depth

mbsr-week-7-8Holy shit folks. It’s been a bit of an active couple of weeks. Like most of you (probably?), I’ve been feeling a bit overwhelmed, and its taken me until now to sort out what it is that I’m even feeling about my life, our lives, the collective. Let alone have something cohesive to say in a blog post?!

Six days after the election I had my final class (week 9) of MBSR. And pretty much since then, I’ve been feeling like a royal f#%* of emotions, thoughts, and whirling “what-do-I-DO-now?-let-alone-SAY-something-intelligent???,” thoughts and feelings.

On that ninth and final class, I was reminded  of what I believe in. (It seriously took me till the last class, on the last day to come full circle… this is why practice, and for me patience, never become irrelevant (As annoying as that concept is even to me. Not torch-passing-teacher-of-yoga me, but impatient-human-working-on-my-own-patterns me.) It may seem simple, but I hope at least not trite. (Although, let’s be real, shall we? I’m a white woman in the midwest, with white mid-western woman problems.) If there’s anything all these years of practice and study and travel have taught me – including my recent 9-week foray into Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction and all its proven clinical studies – its that our simplest thoughts are often the most powerful, and what propel us into greater states of intellect by way of mind AND body consciousness…

It’s only in recent years – and in relatively small circles – that we’ve come to see the value of the wisdom of the body in addition to the mind. The more I learn about the idea of consciousness through yoga philosophy, the more I see that my body knows things that sometimes my mind is blind to, because I’ve spent the majority of my time each day shaping my mind a certain way…

So here is what I’ve come to, with an attempt to be clear, honest, and intelligent (fingers crossed, here we go):

  • I believe that life is about balance: Our selves in personal physical / emotional / mental / spiritual balance, in whatever ratios work for us individually. Our communities in economic / social / educational balance. Our states, our city – to – country relationships… all these things affect the greater balance of our nation. Though my leanings toward certain political beliefs are obvious to any who know me well, I aspire to be someone who is always more interested in the effort of balance, than the effort of, “I win.”
  • In this light, I understand that to believe and / or expect EVERYONE in the human race to be well, fed, loved, and mentally stable… well, kind of a farce-based notion that we do-gooders are having an awfully hard time letting go of. Does this mean I wish it were possible? Yes. Does it mean I wish harm on anyone? No. It means I understand that the very notion of balance (and ultimately the necessity for the dark and the light, shiva and shakti, to reference it to yoga) requires both sides of the equation. It is what makes us alive. It is what allows us to understand pain and suffering so that we can better appreciate health and abundance.

Now back to that bit about balance…

  • Our nation and culture has been changing a lot in the last ten years. And I believe there is a large portion of the population that has been left behind in recent years, leaving more imbalance than we’ve seen in half a generation.
  • I believe that the way out is NOT just through “love and kindness.” It IS about a LOT of that – and perhaps even shifting our focus to that — but it is also about learning how to live with tough decisions, about fighting and conceding… Especially for some of us who have had a “larger piece of the Comfort Pie,” it is about stepping outside of the comfort zone… or perhaps its about you pushing someone else’s comfort zone in order to push an idea forward.
  • Like yoga, it is about learning to deal with temporary discomfort in pursuit of something bigger, stronger, and more evolved than the current state.
  • It is about evolution.
  • Really, its the only thing Mother Nature / God / Buddah / Government / Allah / The Great Bambino-Bambina / the Magic Poobah has to offer us: a way forward.

That’s it folks. We have to move forward. The place where we now have choice is in weather or not we participate, and to what extent. Weather we act in motion or in sitting still, the clock will bring us forward no matter what.

 

That’s what I believe. That’s what I can stand behind. I believe in science to show us trends. And I believe in individuals to push the parameters, realities, and societal expectations of those trends. I do believe in acceptance of different types of people. I believe in listening. I believe in expectations. I believe what my therapist once told me that anger is evidence of a value being mis-met.

This is what I practice, this knowledge, so I can better see where I am, and where my fellow humans are, to understand how to move forward, and not leave others behind due to anger, or frustration, or fear, or greed. It doesn’t mean I won’t feel these things, or have to deal with those who feel these things… it means these feelings come from somewhere. And that somewhere is real, and it deserves some attention.

This is what I was reminded of in my last week of MBSR. And in reflecting on the election. And in hosting Thanksgiving for my family for the first time, with my partner’s family and my 94-year old grandfather who survived the great depression, WWII (including Normandy Beach on D-Day), raising children in the midwest on a mechanic’s salary, the red scare, the 60’s, the 70’s, 2001, 2008, breaking both hips, and losing his wife of 70 years. SEVENTY. The man has survivedHe has WORKED.

And we would all be well reminded of the work (dharma) we have to do. The universal element is that none of us are immune to the work of being human. None of us are immune to the charge of surviving of our own (rather entitled in this corner of the globe, yet not immune to suffering) lives. The practice of work – shaping and refining the way we work – the way we practice – the way we practice work… that’s what yoga has taught me.

 

That is what I got, my friends. This is what feels true, inclusive, and honest.

 

 

I hope to practice with you very, very soon. With love,

Calley

MBSR Mindfulness Week 4: Discipline

mbsr-week4This week’s class reminded me that even if you have been practicing yoga, mindfulness, breathing, meditation, etc. for a number of years, WOW if we don’t still have ingrained patterns. Mine? Issues with discipline…

Which also reminded me that the point of this stuff is not to “fix” something. (Which seems counter-intuitive, I know.) The point of this specific class, and these tools, is purely to bring awareness around that which already is. (MBSR is based on Vipassana Meditation which means to “see things as they are.”) Ok two soap boxes right off the bat —

  • #1) This is the reason I took this particular class, (MBSR) instead of any number of other workshops, classes, info-sandwhiches that I could have spent time and money on this fall. There has been a pervasive theme in my teaching and practice this year around OBSERVATION. The pure and simple act of not trying to change something, but just look at it. Spend time observing it, noticing it, assessing it. Which leads me to the second soap box.
  • #2) This is why practice never becomes something you don’t have to do anymore. OBSERVATION is not meant to deliver the win, the goal, the sudden “I’m all better.” Which is a very challenging concept for our minds that have been attuned to a culture of  “I want to achieve X,” and “I want to have Y,” and “if this, then that.” The point of this stuff is to expand what you know – what you are aware of – by observation. THEN you can make a more informed decision about how to act.

It’s a tricky little step that we like to skip over. We are so concerned with gettingif-this-then-that someplace the fastest way possible, that we forget the incredible value and learning potential of taking time to stand still and just watch what is already happening.

Amazingly, I’m four weeks into this course, three years into teaching this kind of thing, and thirteen years into practicing it…. and this week I was reminded that my old habit of trying to skip over and take the fast track has been winning my attention without me realizing it. What does this mean? It means, I tend to go with where I want to be, instead of practicing discipline to go through the steps that someone has laid out for me (with mountains of research to show that this process is important.) Here’s how this has played out for me:

I have a silent meditation practice that I very much enjoy. I get to take time to breathe, and bring breath and energy into the places of my body where I think I need it, when I feel that I need it within the time frame of sitting. MBSR asks the participant to listen to a 30-minute body scan every day. A voice slowly guides your attention to different parts of your body, feeling your breath, noticing this and that. Personally, I tend to find the recording distracting, and not nearly as pleasant as my silent meditation. And I have been justifying the prioritization of my silent meditation over the body scan because I strongly believe that we all need to do a better job of listening to our bodies, and I found it easier to listen to my body in silence……… ahem, and I’m also incredibly stubborn and struggle with focus and discipline.

I suddenly saw that my patterns – which I am theoretically aware of, due to former “yoga-piphanies” (realizations) during practice – were keeping me from fully engaging in THIS process… from choosing discipline which is required to try a new process, over what I know and am comfortable with. Gulp. Humility, you’re such a stubborn bitch sometimes.

Now does that mean my silent meditation practice is bad, and this other practice will be better for me? No. It means I became aware of a pattern of mine rearing its head again. Even when I was trying to be proactive, or thought I was being proactive. I am going to have patterns – we are all going to have patterns – and that is ok (and in fact good) because our patterns help us to have structure and be comfortable. On a very primal scale, our patterns help us to survive by defining when we are hungry, when we are in danger, when we need sleep, etc. But being aware of our patterns allows us to try on something different. It gives us options, and sometimes we find that our patterns are actually not serving us always, every time.

What is does mean is that we’re always going through life, so as long as we want to stay current, and have our greatest capability and potential to evolve and be present, we must must must must practice…

if-this-then-that-copy

We often think that when we have completed our study of one, we know all about two because two is one and one. We forget that we still have to make a study of “and.”

– Arthur Eddington, Astrophysicist

MBSR: Mindfulness Week #1

mbsrWe all have a default mode.

Mine is definitely to keep moving. Keep thinking. Pour my mind and attention into what am I doing next? What do I need to work on next? I have a bit of work-a-holic-ism in me, and it often winds up (pun intended) as an overload of anxiety. I get burned out, my low back starts aching, and I can’t quite seem to focus on any ONE thing enough to get ANYthing done.

Classic burnout. Which is why activities like yoga and breathing exercises (and singing) have always been so helpful for me. They change my focus and attention into something physical, giving my brain a much-needed break.

MBSR, or Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction, has gotten some buzz in recent years. It’s been in our culture since 1979 with the writing of Jon Kabat-Zinn’s book, “Full Catastrophe Living,” With the increase of tension, stress, anxiety, depression, social media, yada, yada, yada… the use of MBSR is growing in recent years. And there is research upon research upon research that this stuff works in a very VERY universal way. It’s been used for people with chronic insomnia, depression, anxiety, organ-transplant recipients, care-takers of cancer and Alzheimers… the list kind of goes on forever.

So first a flashback:

Through my yoga practice over the years, I have dabbled with meditation plenty. It can be a challenge if the mind is still wandering… you’re stuck trying to lie still, and meanwhile your mind is racing through what you have to do, should do, should have done, don’t want to do, really want to do… the first time I did an extended sitting (30 minutes) I remember having waves of discomfort, then pain, sometimes numbness… and then I’d remember that while it was TOTALLY FINE TO BE FOCUSED ON MY DISCOMFORT, STOP FREAKING OUT… I was also allowed to gently say “oh well,” and return my focus to my breath… and every time I did that: relief. My pain would seem less intense. My discomfort would melt into this big cloud of air in my lungs… I remember being mesmerized by this whole process in realizing how much attention, how much power I was actually GIVING to the very things causing me pain and discomfort. And when I managed to send my attention toward my breath instead… more specifically to wherever my breath felt free, and full, and comfortable… a sense of power, and well-being followed. Stat. After years of being medicated for physical ailments of allergies, I felt better using this breathing stuff than any drug the doctor gave me…

MBSR gives gentle verbal reminders of where your attention could be. It allows for people to have something to wrap all that breath and attention around. And damned if it doesn’t feel GOOD to be that present with your breath. With the very thing giving you LIFE moment after moment.

imgres

Pardon the drama, but it kind of felt like this to me!

So, here I go, on a 9-week adventure into my own mind… We’ll see what comes up. So far, I’m just feeling grateful to be a part of this movement of wellness, mindfulness, and the study of how we all interact with ourselves, in order to better interact with the world around us…

How

HOW -Its all just information. What you do with it is what we call practice or process. How you practice shapes the patterns of your life.

Ok, you’re stuck.

But when we don’t know HOW to get better, move past it, get over it, shrug it off, push through, etc., it can feel like a lost cause. We all – myself included – have fallen subject to that old voice that tells us that we’re different… a loner… an odd ball out. Someone offers a remedy – a correction – and the immediate pattern of the mind goes to, “They don’t understand.”

Which may be true! They don’t understand. But that is not the point, right? The point is you feel lost and frustrated as to why you can’t seem to do the thing you want to do. You’re stuck. And this always happens. And you don’t know why it always seems to happen to you.

Ok, what does this have to do with Warrior II? Yoga is about bringing a union – a connection – between what we think, what we feel, and what we do. Meaning that every idea we have, has a physical pattern in time. When our thoughts about our physical abilities are challenged… and changed (wink, wink)… and the physical result of that is being able to perform a new physical pose… well, then, what does that say about our other thought patterns? Which brings me to my new favorite phrase of late:

THOUGHTS become THINGS

 

 

 

 

 

It’s easy to forget – or maybe you didn’t know – that the brain is able to change beyond stuck. (Thanks Dr. Ruth Buczynski PhD.)

When you can look at your problem, and the factors which contributed to why you are stuck, with different eyes… maybe hear it as a different problem… maybe just be willing to try something different even if you’re 99% sure its not going to work… now we’re getting to the inside of HOW.

SO THIS IS THE TRICKY LITTLE SWITCH TO FLIP.

When you don’t know how, or you’ve lost your hope that you can figure it out…well, you have to be willing to try something different. And you may not know immediately if this idea / remedy / tool / practice tactic is going to work, but in order to even try the idea / pick up the tool / attempt the practice tactic, you have to make that switch from impossible to possible. And it can be helpful to know that the very pattern of the mind that got you here, can help you get out. WHAA??  Ok, this is cool, stick with me.

Observe where you are for a moment. Observe what was either lacking or in excess that put you in this place. Now imagine that the very process which brought you here to this crappy, stuck place, is the backwards process to getting out of it. Here’s 3 ways to look at this idea:

#1) SIMPLE WORDS

MIND –> perceives what it sees (influence).
 
FOCUS –> shift from moving out a.k.a. “external experience,” to moving inward a.k.a. “internal experience.”
 
FEEL –> use perception and labeling of external to perceive and label internal
 
–> From here, we learn to feel MORE, and in DIFFERENT ways
 

#2) UNDERSTANDING NEUROPLASTICITY

 Print

#3) TRY IT BACKWARDS

Try It Backwards
Hopefully this gives you a new way to look at HOW… which is how it happens in the first place. ✨✨✨✨

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

Our Physiological Reactions

How YOGA teaches the discipline needed to overcome them…

This is a re-post from an emailer I sent out last week:
A few weeks ago a student of mine told me about something called the Prison Yoga Project, and how she had become obsessed with it. Yesterday I took some time to look at the website, look up the founder, and read a little about what the project is, and why its working for inmates. The physiological effects of stress on the body are intrinsically connected the mind, which is true for us all… and I got a little obsessed with the ideology behind the project, and how it applies to everyone in varying degrees.

“Most prisoners suffer from Complex Trauma, chronic interpersonal trauma experienced early in life such as abandonment, hunger, homelessness, domestic violence, sexual abuse, bullying, discrimination, drug and alcohol abuse, and witnessing crime – including murder. We call this “original pain.” These experiences, imprinted by the terrifying emotions that accompany them, are held deeply in the mind, and perhaps more importantly, in the body, with the dissociative effects of impulsive/reactive behavior, and tendencies toward drug and alcohol addiction as well as violence. Carrying unresolved trauma into their lives impacts everything they do, often landing them in prison, where they experience even more trauma…

…Traditionally, cognitive behavioral therapists have helped people process unresolved trauma, but more recently psychiatrists, psychologists, clinical social workers — many working with US military veterans — acknowledge that embodiment practices such as yoga enriched with mindfulness practices can have more impact in alleviating the symptoms that lead to both reactive behaviors and stress related disease.”

So, I watched the video. And they showed these big, burly, rough looking men, silently struggling to stay in down dog, twists, and seated meditation. You could see their struggle with various poses, but you also heard them commenting in interviews on how they had learned to use their yoga practice to withstand the effects of other struggles in their lives. It was teaching them discipline to manage their own reactions…

We all have our own versions of stressors and problems, and while some of us have ones that are “worse” or “easier” than others, we all feel the effects of stress and past pain. These things take a physiological toll on the body, and affect our psychological expectations and reactions. You can’t avoid all of these factors in life, but I found this to be a beautiful reminder that we can help our bodies and our minds to process and release our experiences in healthy, effective ways.

Hope to see you very soon,
~ 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.