Being in the world is hard. This statement may sound oversimplified or woe-is-me, but when I look around at the various layers of struggle that exist on our planet, it emerges as a fundamental truth. With this being the case, we should all have access to tools for self care — but so many people don’t.
This is one of the reasons I teach yoga at Coffee Creek Correctional Facility, Oregon’s sole Women’s-only prison in Wilsonville, OR and one of Living Yoga’s 23 partner sites. The populations my fellow teachers and I work with all face their own challenges — some might say greater than people living on the outside. And perhaps that’s true in a sense…. but also, maybe not.
Without getting into the value judgement of “my problem’s bigger than your problem” we have a choice to pause and recognize our shared humanity. Part of being a Living Yoga teacher is skillfully holding space for people, which gives rise to that common connection. When we suspend judgement and begin to notice our shared experience, we give each other permission to be as we are, creating an opening through which healing and change can enter. And each one of us can do this in our lives, in our own way, every day.
At their core, the women at Coffee Creek are no different than you or I. The unaddressed trauma, mental health challenges, and/or an overall lack of support they might be facing are circumstances that are just as likely to exist on the outside. We all face challenge at some time, to some degree — but the specifics of it aren’t what’s important.
We are living in a challenging time. Being in the world is hard. I think we can all agree with that. Please consider giving what you can to this organization that helps improve the lives of so many.
Donating through this website is simple, fast and totally secure. It is also the most efficient way to support my fundraising efforts. Many thanks for your support — no amount is too small — and don’t forget to forward this to anyone who you think might want to donate too!
P.S. – If you’ve donated in past years especially, give Living Yoga’s 2016 Impact Statement a read to learn what kind of results your donation helped make possible.
A couple of weeks ago, some friends and I went out and bought inner tubes and took a nice long float down the Clackamas River. I’m unsure as to how this was my first time doing such a thing after living in Portland for most of a decade, but you know… there’s so much to do in this life that it’s hard to do it all!
As cliche as it might be, I’ve since had the metaphor of the river running through my head: rivers and their surrounding ecosystems in many ways mirror the trajectory of a human life. We are nature, after all.
Driven by prana, the life force that moves all things, the current flowing through it carves out its own path. In some areas, it’s smooth sailing. Anything under or on top of the water will drift along peacefully. But sometimes there are rapids and rocks… of varying sizes. The ride gets bumpy, but eventually smooths out again. The roller coaster always ends. There are stagnant places, too. Sometimes you drift out of the current and have to paddle and flail a bit to reconnect with the stream.
Much like a life. It doesn’t go as planned. Sometimes it’s bumpy. Sometimes we get stuck for no apparent reason.
So, it’s these rocks and rapids and stagnant places I’m interested in right now. The less than perfect, peaceful, smooth-sailing places. The obstacles, or perceived obstacles. So much human behavior centers around trying to make things easier for ourselves or circumvent issues before they arise. Taking precautions. Safeguarding. But sometimes, no matter how hard we try to maintain the smooth-sailing state, or at least the illusion of it, obstacles arise. We’ll never be able to prevent everything that is less than ideal from happening — perfection doesn’t exist! — but we can always shift our thinking about the things that happen.
I am reminded of one of my most favorite poems on this topic. “Because Even the Word Obstacle is an Obstacle” by the poet Alison Luterman
Could you “try to love everything that gets in your way”?
Maybe the obstacle is in the end a sorely-needed teacher.
“Strange is our situation here upon earth. Each of us comes for a short visit, not knowing why, yet sometimes seeming to a divine purpose. From the standpoint of daily life, however, there is one thing we do know: That we are here for the sake of others…for the countless unknown souls with whose fate we are connected by a bond of sympathy. Many times a day, I realize how much my outer and inner life is built upon the labors of people, both living and dead, and how earnestly I must exert myself in order to give in return as much as I have received and am still receiving.”
It’s remarkable to note that we are more than halfway through April — in my world, a month that ushers in greater awareness and a celebration of the healing power of yoga.
I am participating in Living Yoga‘s 7th Annual Yogathon and would be honored to have your support as I raise money for this organization that’s taught me so much through granting me the privilege of bringing yoga into places the average person is never allowed to see. Places we generally don’t like to look as a society, but it is necessary to do so — because what are we here for, if not for “the sake of others”.
Here’s the link to my donation page where you can learn more about what I’m up to and give if you can – no amount is too small. I met my initial goal in record time this year and thus have boldly decided to double it, just to see what happens!
If you’re interested in viewing media that helps to contextualize, I recommend the following:
– Noah’s Story
– A sweet thank you from a former student at one of my teaching sites
– The LY blog — illuminating stories from fellow teachers and a recent one from yours truly
Thank you all so much!
The autumnal equinox has come and gone. We’ve transitioned out of daylight-saving time, at least in the majority of the US, which means the end-of-year holidays are rapidly approaching. We’re given mixed messages at this time of year. We consent to this widespread social practice of setting our clocks back an hour, allowing shorter-feeling days and a little more darkness into our lives. But how many of us are willing to honor the winter months as a time to conserve energy? Further, if we do value this opportunity, how many of us actually behave like it through the holiday season? Hmm, I thought so…
Notice How You Feel
As we head into the next 6 weeks of rapid-fire celebration, now is a better time than ever to practice energy-saving measures that can help you feel more supported from within through all the output. You know…the giving. The hosting. The attending. The socializing. The baking. The shopping. The hurrying. The putting of others before ourselves. Don’t get me wrong — nurturing our relationships and cultivating community are beautiful and necessary parts of life. “It’s just too easy to get caught up in all there is to do,” we say, but when the “doing” gets out of control, it ends up negating the joy and sense of connection may be seeking in the first place.
As I grow older and more experienced in the art of being human, I find it easier to honor the necessity of rest and recovery. I had a light bulb moment recently, in which I realized something terribly obvious, yet indispensable: I need to take responsibility for my own energy output. Literally, no one else can do that for me! I think we worry others will perceive us as being selfish or neglectful of responsibilities by making this choice, but in the long run if you’re depleted, you simply won’t be able to give in the ways desire most.
The Sensations of Stress
So, how does “burned out” actually manifest in the body? It might present in the form of tension headaches, insomnia, or digestive issues. But have you ever experienced a feeling of deep fatigue in your center that manifests as an ache in the kidney area — an itch, almost? It’s a tell-tale sign that your sympathetic nervous system working overtime and it’s connected not only with your activity level and what you put in your body, but also what’s happening in your mind. Personally, I find its onset strongly correlates with my level of emotional output over a period of time. Energetically speaking, it’s interesting to note that this area of the body correlates with the 3rd chakra manipura (this name for the solar plexus chakra translates to “lustrous gem”), which governs matters of personal power, confidence and will. It’s no coincidence that this is home to many of our major organs, including the adrenals — a key player in the stress response.
One of the reasons yoga is so transformative is that it can bring about measurable shifts in our neurobiology. Things like changing posture, shifting the quality of your thoughts and even wearing a different expression on your face can actually influence change in the brain and help to reinforce new habits. When total depletion strikes or I’m feeling “wired and tired” (simultaneously alert and deeply exhausted), I try to remember to change my shape. There’s no better go-to for me than viparita karani or legs-up-the-wall pose. This pose routinely brings about a measurable downshift in my mind, body and nervous system in the span of less than 10 minutes. Focusing on settling into my back body and allowing the floor to receive me, I try to let go of my need to give. To move forward. To make progress. To gain something. To make everything work. To ensure everyone else is content before I can rest.
This holiday season, I invite you to embrace a downshift of your own. Exercise the right to listen to your body’s needs. Leave white space on your calendar. Do a restorative yoga pose or two in the middle of the day or before bed. Wrap yourself in blankets and hide from the world for a time. Avoid saying yes when you mean no. The best part? This takes practice. It is a practice. One that will help you more skillfully and effortlessly choose what is right for you in each moment — and it’s a huge step toward leading the more sustainable life you crave.