Wednesday, 18 March 2020

Yoga and COVID-19

What does yoga have to do with COVID-19?  Everything!

That's the amazing thing about this 2000 year old path of continues to be valid and helpful today.  Yoga is much more than just a physical practice, though the asanas (yoga postures) are a fitting way for our modern society to start connecting with tools of yoga.  For those of you have done a yoga asana class, or a few, or keep coming back to it, or its a part of your weekly routine, what did you get out of it?

Most of my students remark not only on the changes they see in flexibility and strength in their bodies, but also feeling more calm, centered, and present.  And the poses are just the tip of the iceberg!

Diving deeper into the other parts of yoga with pranayama (breath practices), Yamas and Niyamas (ethical practices) and Dharana/ Dhyana (meditation), has helped me to have more lasting periods of feeling content, able to be in the present where anxiety and depression disappear, and less judging of myself and others.

With the current, global pandemic of COVID-19, these practices help to connect back to facts, identify what we can control, and focus on keeping a calm, clear mind to help ourselves and others.

Fear is playing a big role right now and relishes in it's power.  Fear has allowed some minds to dive into paranoia due to feeling powerless and uncertain of the future with reactionary behaviors that may actually be more detrimental to overall health.  Don't get me wrong, there are millions of people who do have a much higher risk and need to take more strict precautions. Even those who need to do this, the mind clinging to a fearful mind state will not change anything, except overload the body system even more.

Yoga teaches us to take time observe what is going on with our reactions to the external environment and discern what conscious actions to take, responding versus reacting.  Think 'Matrix.'  In the scene where Neo is face to face with Mr. Smith, he incorporates all his training and 'sees' things as they are. His movements are slow and deliberate. He remains calm.  Mr. Smith is COVID-19 (or any other life challenge) and yoga practices allow us to meet it just as Neo did with Mr. Smith.

The challenge really is to put down all the excuses to why you can't start to move your body with more awareness and focus on the breath, or start a breathing practice or meditation practice.  I also feel that a purpose of COVID-19 is to help us see more than ever that we do need to take time to go inward and that the external world is not "Truth," but an opportunity for us to grow and learn to become more fully who we are meant to be.

So, where to start?

Here are some easy things to start doing today:

1. Breathe!!  Simply take time to breath.  What I mean by this is stopping for a moment, start consciously breathing in an out through the nose as this slows down the breath and can be more calming for the mind.  Put your hand on your belly above your navel and start directing the breath to the belly. Inhale and feel the belly push into the hand.  Exhale and the belly relaxes. Set a timer for 3-5 minutes and do this as a daily practice or take time during the day to come back to the breath, breathing this way for 5-10 breaths.  Here's a video on belly breathing.

2. Whatever you are doing - going for a walk, brushing your teeth, doing the dishes - doing it with awareness. Use all of your sense to notice what is going on during these actions. What do you see, what do you feel on your skin, what do you smell, what do you hear, what do you taste?  What feelings are coming up?  What thoughts?  Just observe. There's no judgment or right or wrong, just notice.

3. One of the easiest ways to to start meditation is being guided.  It helps to meet a more active mind.  I recommend Insight Timer, a free app, that has tens of thousands of guided meditations, relaxing music, and so much more.  One I specifically recommend is Coherent Breath Symphony by Joseph Robertson. There is great research out there on Coherent Breath, including a wonderful book, "The Healing Power of the Breath," and Robertson's three recordings (a 2 minute explanation, a 9 minute guided meditation, and a 20 minute recording) are helpful in practicing this breath.

4. Join Samya Yoga Healing's private Facebook Group, Yoga and the Mind, to receive even more resources and guidance on this path to mastering the mind for a more calm, peaceful mind state.

Please, let go of excuses and start exploring some of the simple, yet profound practices of yoga.  May you find peace and calm mind. Namaste.

Wednesday, 11 March 2020

The Reality of Transforming Myself

I recently went through a significant life change, moving from begin an employee since age 16 to fully self-employed.  I'm not through the change yet, but it's been fascinating to watch things unfold, as well as get a glimpse of conditioned patterns I wasn't aware of regarding this role.

I consciously started this process about five years ago after my 300 hour Yoga Teacher Training with the encouragement of my teacher.  I created Samya Yoga Healing and just started taking little steps, trying things out, and seeing what happened.  The scariest part was taking the step to go part-time at my paid job so I could really start to put effort into SYH about two years ago.  In the United States, this means no health care coverage. This was terrifying due to some health issues I was experiencing.  I was lucky to have a spouse with health insurance so it was lower cost, but I still had to come up with the funds to pay my share in addition to all the other bills.  The fear I had in the several months leading up to this change would engulf my like a wave, tossing me around while I tried to fight my way back to the surface to gasp for air.

I had been practicing yoga for long enough that I was fully aware of what was going on with fear and would be able to meet my racing mind with breathing and seeing a bigger picture by coming back to the facts.  The part of me that knew this was the path I wanted and needed to take was stronger than the fear. I also used my support system to talk things through.

And then the day came, the switch happened, and those tumultuous seas quickly calmed.  I made the change, survived, and thrived. 

Two years of becoming focused on the intention of moving full time into SYH, allowed me to make the switch with confidence and clarity.  The transition was very different from going part-time.  I was first struck by the mourning I went through.  I would get emotional thinking about leaving the 'security' of being an employee with a regular pay check, leaving behind co-workers I truly enjoyed, letting go of my role within the organization that I had put so much time an energy into over the years.  All these things I had become attached to as part of my identity. There's still a little of it in my body as I write about it.

Then, there has been a decompression period.  At first, it felt like just going on a vacation, not feeling real yet.  I found myself thinking about things in my previous position. I would catch myself and remind myself that wasn't something I was responsible for anymore.  I was grateful for the change, yet I also found myself still very busy and doing so did that happen?

And there it was.  One of my biggest intentions for making the change was to slow down and do less, yet here I was still doing.  The addiction of doing that is accepted and revered in our society.  I have slowed down so much over the last eight plus years and here was another, more deeper layer of it.  This is the change process.

The awareness that I chronically do too much to prove myself and hide feeling "not good enough" happened YEARS ago.  Eight years ago at my teacher training was just a deeper level of understanding of it.  I come from a long line of 'doers and provers', which I'm sure many of you can identify with.  This recent new level of awareness is an opportunity for me to become more committed and disciplined on forging a new way of being.  It has already allowed me to look directly into those self-defeating thoughts that come up from fear.  Fear of what others will think, fear of failure, fear of dependency, and fear of abandonment. Yes, even after all these years, I'm still learning and becoming aware of this same old pattern.  (And I do this for a living).

I've started to let go of some things and I've started to have some of the space I was envisioning. 

It was striking this Monday.  The start of 'the work week.' It hit me that I don't have to subscribe to the 9 to 5 work week anymore.  What?!  I didn't even think of this! So, I allowed myself a slow morning to take care of me, working in some 'to dos' but doing it in a more relaxed way.  Each day will be different, each week and I can just be with it as it comes. As long as I keep coming back to my yoga sadhana (spiritual practice) each day, remember to be kind and compassionate to myself, and accept the process I know it will all be okay.

I'm so excited to see the next discoveries along this awareness of 'doing too much' and explore a different way of living and being in this life.  Hallelujah for change!!