self development

When yoga isn't fun anymore

It's a common scenario: at some point after consistent yoga practice, a student will make the bewildered comment, "I used to feel so much better after yoga but lately I feel worse."

This is actually good news.

If one of the purposes of Yoga practice is to know ourselves more deeply, it makes sense that at some point we will encounter parts of ourselves that are not so... beloved. What we might call the dark or shadow side of our personality, which just refers to aspects of ourselves that are out of the light of conscious awareness.

This is a sign that the practice is working.

There are aspects in all of us that we'd rather avoid or hide, and we can pretty successfully do so during our regular lives. We have ample distraction, a dizzying pace and endless ways to numb or silence feelings we don't want to feel.

Enter Yoga, which brings us face-to-face with all parts of ourselves.

As we open the body...
as we get quiet and start to notice...
as we un-learn patterns of restriction and experience a feeling of freedom in the breath.

All those unowned aspects of our personality are Right There. Parts that have been rejected or shamed by ourselves or others, suddenly looking us in the eyes. We're bringing those "dark" parts out of their cozy hiding places and into the light.

How great is that?!

Because you're reading this, odds are you are a person who values the deep work of self-knowing and the radical practice of self-love. It's easy to lose sight of how much intentional and ongoing effort is required to live in that space.

This isn't a "make you feel better"
technique; it's liberation. ~Jon Kabat-Zinn 



The magic of Yoga is that it works on us behind the scenes, like an anti-virus program running in the background.

Although we may not feel "better" right away, owning all parts of our personalities, biases and projections is the only path to wholeness.

I'm curious about your thoughts and experiences. Leave a comment and let me know.

With love,
Michelle

Self-Regulating :: Resources

We all have ways that we self-regulate when we're stressed. Some might be less than ideal -- Facebook scrolling, online shopping or mindless eating -- and we might not even be aware of some of the ways we self-soothe, for example if you unconsciously stroke your thumb on your leg.

These are all attempts at finding a resource -- something we use to help stabilize our nervous system in times of distress.

Because resourcing is something we do naturally and can probably do with more consciousness (thus increasing its effectiveness) it can be helpful to identify what we currently use to soothe and give ourselves more options, if necessary.

flower arrangement

Types of Resources

Internal

  • Places in the body that are relaxed, pleasant, reliable, connected, non-reactive, can move and respond
  • Moving the body in ways that feel relaxing, discharging, enlivening, pain-free
  • Breath that is free and unrestricted
  • Prayer, affirmations, connection to the divine, spirit or universe
  • Acts of self care
  • Presence, consciousness, awareness, meditation

External 

  • Places, people or activities, real or imagined, that are comforting and stabilizing
    • nature, rooms or places in your home, trusted people, pets, music, exercise or activities, travel, religious or spiritual places
  • A therapist or support group
  • Safe and appropriate touch
fresh flowers

 

Again, we all self-regulate throughout the day. If I'm feeling stressed, I might shake off my shoulders and/or take a walk. On another day I might have a chai and check email.

It's the effect I'm looking for -- to diffuse my stress or anxiety, to take a break from the thing that is stressful, hopefully broadening my perspective around it.

The first option - a shake of the shoulders and a walk - is probably the more healthful option. So I can really be aware of how that shake and walk make me feel:

What are the sensations in my body?
Where are they?
What effects do they have?

Simply noticing these things can help me the next time I need to pick which self regulation to go with.  It can also help imprint the "non-stressed" state as I go back to what I was doing.

 

Curious about what your go-to resources are? Make a list!!

Here's part of mine:

Internal -- noticing or moving my hands, a head bobble, moving my jaw/face, recalling a line from a poem or a song, making little sounds, joint movements like shoulder rolls.

External -- nature and being outside, journalling, podcasts and music, walk/stretch/yoga, essential oils and good smells, fresh flowers, my faminals, friends and Greg, my therapist.

Since identifying this list a few months ago, I've spent less time online and on my phone, I've been reading more and seeing friends more regularly. Knowing that I have simple accessible resources in every moment helps ease my anxiety.

As you identify your resources, notice what happens in your body as you think about them and write them down. Sometimes just thinking about a resource is supportive.

What if you realize that your main resources are unhealthy? We all have mildly unhealthy outlets, but if your main support is also harming you in some way, here are some ideas.

 

new year motto

Like many of you, I like to choose a word of the year. Something to use as a filter for decisions, a guiding idea, a reminder. I choose a word that brings a felt-sense of something I want more of in my life.

2018 seems to be a multi-word year, warranting the power of a full-on phrase.

I'm a big fan of mantras or mottos -- often attention grabbing and outcome-oriented, they can get right to the heart of the thing.

I've been sharing some of these in class, and like a catchphrase, folks have reported finding them helpful. In that spirit, I thought I'd share a few I'm considering this year.

 

You already have an A
This comes from the book The Art of Possibility (highly recommend). 

The book outlines 12 practices for reshaping one's world. Giving an A is the first practice and is the one that stuck with me most persistently.

This could loosely be thought of as giving the benefit of the doubt or seeing someone else's perspective. But it's bigger than those things, too.

It's acknowledging that our story, our version, isn't the only one or even the right one. It invites us to get out of our own small world and consider that there's more to the picture.

And even if we can't do that, we can leave room for the possibility that the other person is coming from integrity and the best of intentions.

It's important to give yourself an A as well: I did the best I could with what I had.

 

What you think of me is none of my business
This is a phrase that I learned many years ago from a southern female preacher on a cassette tape recording of her sermon. I still hear it in the Southern drawl of a strong woman.

As I remember it, the sermon was about living in alignment with one's higher beliefs and letting go of the preoccupation with mortal distraction and need for approval. When one is right with God (or her Self), she needn't be concerned with what others think.

Passionately, the preacher repeated over and over, "I take dominion." The recording was full of gospel music and Amens. I wore that tape out.

 

I am increasing my tolerance for _____________ (my two go-to's are "other people's disappointment" and "discomfort")
The original phrase, "I am increasing my tolerance for other people's disappointment" came from a therapist who was helping me not be such a good girl. I mean, being good is fine, but not at the cost of your own life.

It was a phrase I would repeat to myself in situations that involved family or marriage or step-parenting or business. So pretty much all the time.

And it was incredibly helpful to hear, and later experience, that I can disappoint someone and we will all live through it. Chances are it won't even matter next week.

Reconditioning my tolerance was so helpful I started using it with other things -- to increase my tolerance for discomfort or uncertainty. In some situations, it might make sense to swap "tolerance" for something like "capacity." Try it!

 

Who am I absent other people's feedback?
A lot of my writing and personal work this past year has been devoted to strengthening my Sense of Self. Here again I've been challenging and questioning old patterns and beliefs, especially those related to other people's opinions.  

Similar to What you think of me..., this one has reaches in to social media, looking for signs and nudges that come from within, developing my trust in myself and it calls on continued Yoga practice to slough and shed all the guck that can get stuck or in the way.

 

If you don't take extraordinary care of yourself, who will?
A friend from New York sent this question when I was in Nepal, struggling with health issues and wanting to go home. It felt like this great mix of empowerment, kindness and responsibility. So I brought it home.

 

Reading over these, most seem to be a similar version of the same thing. Clearly there's a pattern in what I'm working on this year! 

How about you? What are you working on? What word describes the feeling or value you'd like more of in your life? What phrase sums up your approach? Share in the comments below or feel free to email anytime -- love to keep the conversation going.

Wishing you wellness of body, mind and heart as we move into the seasons ahead.

Michelle