'I love me more than I love you'

I saw this tattoo on a pal the other day: “I love me more than I love you”. It made me smile and it felt supportive and freeing! Growing up I was taught that pleasing others was the priority, the fact that it was at the cost of myself didn’t seem to matter. I find this truly terrifying. No one was making sure my truth was supported. In fact, I had to fight to retain even a sliver of it. As a result, I struggle with having guilt-free boundaries. I’ve found that you can’t set a boundary and take care of someone else’s feelings at the same time. So who comes first? Do we feel overly responsible for the feelings and needs of others and neglect our own?

People pleasing and co-dependency stifle the soul. They cloud our connection to our true self. Guilt and feeling undeserving weaken us and interfere with our ability to live our best life.  I can feel it reflected in my spine – a weak spot that craves support and strength.

Recently, my family was visiting and I had a really hard time speaking up and taking the space I needed. For whatever reason, I often seem to be the one making waves in my family. It is soooo uncomfortable, and I feel terribly guilty for being different, for not being okay with what they all seem okay with. It has been a big lesson for me to have the strength to stand alone, to validate how I’m feeling even if no one else understands, agrees, or likes it. I’ve gotta be me! I’m continually learning how to have a strong backbone, to have some grit!

The thing is, I don’t do them any favors by feeling guilty and repressing my truth because then I just want to shut them out and run away. By setting healthy boundaries, I have less need to put up walls. If I can trust myself to have guilt-free boundaries, speak up, and take care of my needs then I will be free, strong, and safe no matter where I go. So my mantra this week is, “I am free of guilt, I speak up, and I take care of my needs! Yeah!”

Lies and repression weaken our spines and us. Do we feel supported in being our true selves, in honoring our unique sensitivity and following our inner compass?  Sometimes we need to stand alone. No one needs to get us but us. Sometimes it feels like it takes all the strength we can muster to stand up for ourselves. It requires bravery and a deep trust in our own truth. But it’s worth the risk!

“We must recognize that each of us is a unique individual with distinct emotions, needs, and preferences. Healthy boundaries are necessary to allow your true self to emerge.”

-Carl Benedict at serenityonlinetherapy.com

 I support us all in having a deep sense of self-respect and a strong backbone!

 

Seeing Everyone as Our Friend

We all have a longing to belong. It is so easy to feel alone and separate in this world, to forget we are all connected and we are all love. I know this is true and yet I often feel unworthy of belonging.

As a child, I REALLY wanted to be cool. So much so that I would adopt the likes and preferences of the cool kids. I really liked Barry Manilow and Neil Diamond, but pretended to like Rush and Van Halen. Hiding who I really was became a way of life. I think a lot of us have a time when we need to come out of the closet in a sense, to be seen for who we really are, and to stop pretending. The labels we put on ourselves and others limit our freedom.

See, I have this pimple, let’s call him Fred. He’s been on my chin for about a month now and I was joking that he was starting his own blog, but now it’s not just a joke! He’s got something to say! It’s nuts what this brings up for me. This reminder sits right on my face, for everyone to see that I’m simply human. It is a challenge for me to let people see my imperfections, it brings up that dang sense of being less than. What’s the worse thing that can happen, people notice? The most painful part is self-abandonment. That’s the true fear. No one cares about my pimple like I do. It is my practice today, to stand with pride with Fred on my chin, to love myself and let others love me. To feel a part of the human race and hold the realization that we are all sacred and precious. To drop the labels and realize everybody’s poo stinks and we all get pimples. I’m learning to stop fighting Fred, and to apply some spiritual principles to this experience.  I find loving acceptance and peace in this moment, without thinking it ‘should’ be another way. I stay open and receptive instead of shut down and hiding. In my own way, I befriend Fred.

We all want to connect to that enlarged sense of belonging. We want to feel held and loved by something greater and to realize the truth of who we are, and that we are not separate. I applaud all of you who walk into a yoga class – you’re brave! I think every time we come into a group we butt up against our fears of separateness and being less than. It is my hope and goal to create a loving space for all who enter to feel a part of, to embrace their own Fred, to be real and be seen for exactly the true beauty that we each are.

 

 

The Journey is the Goal

The Journey is the Goal

I crave deep soul fulfillment, yet I often find myself falling for the illusion that externals will bring me wholeness. I’ve spent many years chasing the ephemeral dangling carrot, believing I will finally be happy when… I’m successful, beautiful, have this or that. I was often very restless.

I remember when I was a little girl, I would desperately want something - jeans, sneakers, toys, a certain friend. I gave these things magical powers, truly believing that once I had them I would be happy and fulfilled. Fulfillment never came, just more yearning and emptiness. I was always future tripping, the present was never good enough.

It’s great to want more, to keep growing and evolving, but just not at the expense of the present. I need to remind myself to appreciate all the steps on the journey. No one moment is more valuable or more important than another. It all matters, life is now and it’s time to stop missing it. There will always be the next thing to work towards. We are never done. The challenge is to stay present with the wanting, turn it over, and enjoy the ride. To have the desire, the dreams, the vision and feel content right where I am. Ahh… patience, trust, letting go of outcome, space for mystery, space for life, and gratitude every step along the way.

“All things as they are happening, are happening in perfect order. And if you will relax and begin saying, ‘everything in its perfect time. Everything is unfolding. And I’m enjoying where I am now in relationship to where I’m going. Content where I am, and eager for more’ that is the perfect vibrational stance.” Abraham-Hicks

Desire and passion are wonderful, especially when balanced with breath, spirit, and presence. It’s when I abandon and reject the present and get lost in the future fantasy that causes pain.

True soul fulfillment lies in arriving fully in the present moment just as it is, just as we are, letting go of the idea that life is better somewhere else. What is happening now is what really matters. It’s courageous to fully arrive… to have the willingness to slow down and feel.

‘Change me into someone who truly arrives, who can truly receive all the gifts of this moment’ (Change me prayer, inspired by Tosha Silver)

Align with the Divine

Most of us today grow up feeling very disconnected from our bodies, spirit, the earth and each other. This disconnect has taken a toll on us and the planet. We can learn so much from indigenous cultures where inter-connectedness is integrated into everyday culture. Also the percentage of people with back pain in less industrialized cultures is at about 10%, where we are up to 90%.

“We are bleeding at the roots because we are cut off from the earth and sun and stars. Love has become a grinning mockery because, poor blossom, we plucked it from its stem on the Tree of Life and expected it to keep on blooming in our civilized vase on the table." - D. H. Lawrence

Disconnection is painful. We’ve forgotten that we are designed for ease. Life is hard and grueling when we are out of touch with our source of life, our spirit. This life is a journey to come back home. We can solve many of our struggles by reconnecting with our true nature.

Babies are born knowing that they come from love and that they are love, just like most babies are born with a spine that is in balance and healthy. As we move through our lives we get bumped and bruised and forget the truth, and forget our true form. We assign our self worth to accomplishments and appearance; we sit and move without awareness of what we are putting our bodies through.

As one grows, the spine is shaped by many factors. It usually gets knocked around a bit. In order to come back to our deep skeletal alignment, it is very helpful to become aware of stacking the bones along the line of gravity so we can reconnect with ease and be friction free. It’s this beautiful dance, harmonizing with life moment to moment. It’s like those “aha” moments when you feel in line with your spirit, those moments of bliss, ease, and fluidity. It’s the same with aligning our spines. We have a moment of no effort, of feeling held up, then muscles soften and surrender. It is a process of growing in awareness and deepening a connection with our bodies. As we work to reverse this disconnection on all levels, we can reclaim the true shape the body is meant to take.

We suffer when out of alignment and when we assign our self worth to the externals. W­­hen we move off the line of gravity, friction takes root and we hurt.

Healing happens when we align with the divine physically, spiritually, and mentally. In the same way we align our thoughts, words, and actions with love and compassion, we can align our spines with our true bio-mechanical design.

‘Spiritual wisdom from all traditions tells us that disconnection from your highest, this split from your true home of consciousness, this cosmic forgetfulness, is the cause of all of your suffering.’ –Dr. Barbara DeAngelis.

 

Bring Back the Butt

patooty.jpg

-‘Bring back the butt’ –says Jean Couch

It’s a spinal revolution! With so many of us experiencing back pain, it’s a big wake up call for us to make some changes. As my teacher Jean Couch says, “bring back the butt!”

I just got back from another awesome ‘Spinefulness’ training (also known as ‘Aplomb’) with the wonderful Jean Couch and Jenn Sherer at The Balance Center in Palo Alto, California. Wow, mind blowing spine research, study, and healing is being done! This is the most amazing, deep, authentic back health work I have encountered in my 23-year search for freedom from back pain! I love these women and respect their commitment to this work and am so grateful to be learning from them. It’s not a quick fix, it’s an awareness practice that puts healing back into our own hands.

We are looking to restore our primal posture, when our bones we’re in balance, when our behinds were behind us, as opposed to under us. Since the 20’s, the pelvis has shifted off center, and is often tucked, creating a flat, droopy bottom. This leaves our vertebra nowhere to rest. Gravity and friction take a heavy toll. Where we put our butt determines the shape of our spine, which nowadays has become C-shaped. This has big consequences, but it doesn’t have to be this way! We can get more upright and friction-free as we age. Jean Couch is a perfect example of this, as she seems to be aging in reverse. It starts with the tilt of the pelvis.

As I begin to really look at my own spine and how much healing it needs to be brought back into balance, it is easy for me to get overwhelmed. The thing is, the more I look, the more I see. Ignorance is no longer bliss. Many of us might not even realize how out of balance we are until we have severe pain. Most of us have musculoskeletal imbalances that need healing in our modern culture. It’s a process, just like emotional healing. It’s never ‘done’, and we’re never perfect. We are all works in progress and it’s brave to start the process.

Yoga is a celebration of movement and breath. For me, it is poetry in motion, it is a connection to spirit, and it is beautiful. But, yoga isn’t going to heal deep imbalances, and when done with skeletal misalignments, it can cause further injury. Yoga might help temporarily ease symptoms of spinal misalignment, but deeper work needs to be done to truly heal and live in balance. The first step is healing the foundation before we take on these challenging poses that can further pull us out of alignment.

I am continually reminded to practicing yoga mindfully, and with much care. I am a beginner again and again and again, with much to learn.

Give ourselves a little bit of bootie and the healing can begin!

Fit vs. Healthy

I’ve been exploring the difference between being ‘fit’ and being ‘healthy’. ‘Fit’ to me means being more connected to external appearance and goals, sometimes sacrificing overall health. ‘Healthy’ has more to do with how we feel internally and holistically. Our priorities are different depending on our intention. I used to consider myself very ‘fit’ within my yoga practice. I loved seeing new muscle definition and I could do many advanced postures. I believed that doing all those tough poses meant I was a strong, ‘healthy’ yoga teacher. But I was stuck in my ego. My motivation felt more about getting external accolades and status. I was not aware of this until pain woke me up.

Little did I know that under the surface, my internal structure was not ‘healthy’. The chronic compression of my spine had caused my structure to break down over time. I had to make some big changes in order to find relief from the pain.

For me, making that shift from fit to healthy, is a shift from ego to essence. Being ‘fit’ seems like trying to ‘fit’ a mold, to fit some external ideal of beauty and attractiveness. It feels like another way to try and change ourselves, which sends the message that we’re not good enough just as we are. Whereas being healthy feels like surrendering to becoming who we are meant to be. It feels full of acceptance of aging and change and honors what’s true in each moment. It feels human and lovely.

But I have struggled with self-acceptance. I have thought that if I’m the perfect weight, my skin clear and my hair looks good, then I am lovable. But as soon as I’d stray from those physical ideals, I’d put myself down. It’s fine to want to look good, but when it is compensating for not feeling okay on the inside, it can be harmful. As with all of life, we are led astray when we expect the outside world to bring us happiness.

Just because something is labeled ‘yoga’ doesn’t mean it’s healthy. Just because we can get into lotus pose doesn’t mean we’re enlightened. It’s all about seeing what’s real underneath. Are we being true to ourselves or do we want an external stamp of approval?

Why are we trying so hard? Surrender into enough-ness! Yahoo! In January, the yoga studios and gyms get so busy with people wanting to turn over a new leaf. The numbers drop off soon after. Some say it’s because we go to extremes, work out too hard for too long, and burn out trying to get ‘fit’. Exercise that is sustainable and moderate seems much more healthy. Ahhh… balance, patience and the middle way, these are our continual lessons.

With more and more of us doing yoga these days, I’m feeling the need for less extremes, to practice in a more relaxed way to bring greater sensation, awareness and growth. Here’s to our health!

SAMSKARAS

Samskaras (Sanskrit) are patterns that make up our conditioning. They can be positive or negative. The positive ones foster our growth and the negative ones can hinder it. Yoga can be a great way to free ourselves from our negative samskaras, or it can be a way we play them out.

My deepest negative samskaras are based on my feelings of not being enough. This results in a sense of needing to keep up, prove myself, and trying so hard at life. When I do some really honest self-inquiry I can see how, in my teaching life, where I still get caught by being competitive, showing off, or going to extremes. I must admit, I love extremes. I love passion, intensity and drama. A big lesson for me throughout my life has been to learn moderation, to live more in the middle way. I see this pattern reflected in my practice.

I read this and thought of my own journey:

“As a yoga teacher, I see several archetypes in my classroom, yet none so disquieting as the driven student who, goes to the extreme or attempts the most advanced variation of a pose. Not until he stresses his body to the point of injury might he notice the potential harm of this cycle.”   Bo Forbes, psychologist and yoga teacher.

“Oooh, look at me, I’m so fancy, I can do everything”, my internal childlike dialog says. I’m not proud of this voice, but in honor of uncovering my own samskaras, I need to be deeply honest that it’s sometimes there. My hope is to teach from the pure place of being of service to others and letting go of self-interest.

What is our motivation within our yoga practice? I feel it is very brave to inquire and ask ourselves how are we using our practice? Is it to punish ourselves? To prove our perfection? To validate our worth?

Looking under the surface, slowing down, and growing in awareness of what we’re feeling moment to moment, offers us the opportunity to be free from our limiting patterns. It’s a great time to take contrary action. If we normally push to a pose, let’s try staying in the beginning phases. What does that bring up for us?

As a yoga teacher I always felt this pressure to accomplish these great challenging postures. It’s such a relief to be out of this quest and free of competition within myself. That’s not what I want yoga to be about for myself. All I want now is to be healthy and balanced. There is nothing to prove, we’re all stars just the way we are! It’s so liberating to let go of trying to keep up, and needing to be the best, to just BE.

‘The most beautiful thing is finding comfort in our own skin.’

A Call For Presence

I just got back from ‘Spinefulness’ training at The Balance Center in Palo Alto, CA. It’s a practice of aligning our bones so that our bodies are in natural balance, working easefully with gravity and becoming pain free. I quickly learned how out of balance my internal structure and spine have become. Sadly, many of our modern spines have shifted away from healthy alignment and are out of balance.

Twenty-two years ago, I fractured L1 vertebra, and five months ago I had L5-S1 discectomy to clear out my ruptured disc. I’ve been practicing yoga for twenty-two years and am just now realizing that doing postures with imbalances in our internal skeleton can easily pull us more out of balance. These are subtle misalignments that make a big difference. I am in almost the same amount of pain I was in before my surgery. This is no fun and really needs to be looked into. Now I realize my yoga practice needs to shift from simply doing the poses in proper external alignment, to doing the poses with an internally balanced structure. This is what ‘Spinefulness’ is all about.

Spinefulness training teaches us how to restructure our spines back into a stack of bones in line with gravity. This is not an easy task, and no one else can do it for us. I am sad to realize that there is no quick fix and no short cut, my healing is in my own hands. I knew when I had the surgery that I needed to understand what was happening on a deeper level to avoid re-injury.

The good news is, as we grow more aware of the spine, we can avoid injury, find more ease, and healback pain. All of these lessons bring a new level of consciousness and deeper understanding of the body. I feel like it is a call to be more fully embodied, to really show up for life. I can so easily get very sad at the loss and changes that I need to make but then I remember it is this way for a reason. I need to stay open and trust that this is all for growth.

I’ve gone through life without paying much attention to my spine and how it moves. I had no idea the importance of it all. I can’t afford to be unconsciousness anymore. Pain is a big wake up call, a call to consciousness. I want to run from the pain, although I know it’s my guide and my teacher. It’s showing me the way to greater mindfulness and service. I am always learning a better way to show up and to support and help others who also might be in pain.

The more I search for the answers to back pain, the more I see it as a process, no one really knows – just like life. The more acceptance I have, the more peace.

I’m excited to share what I’m learning and how we can keep evolving and healing our spines together.

 

Aparigraha - non grasping

We are always in transition. I know this is true and yet it is always scary for me when I’m in the midst of a lot of change. The way I move, sit, sleep, practice and teach yoga are all in major transition. I love what I’m learning and yet, it is turning my world upside down.

I find myself in conflict with what I feel is my evolving yoga path and with wanting to please my students. It is a whole re-education process and only certain people will want to join me on this journey. A great teacher once said, I’m not here to make friends, I’m here to be a good teacher. I do love making friends, although my priorities are being a good teacher, to teach what I feel guided to, and let go of people pleasing. This new way of practicing is healing me and my back, and it is information I feel inspired to share.

Most artists come across this challenge when they change their style and follow new inspiration. Will others respond to the new work? We need to keep growing, listening within, and letting go of the results. That often means shedding the old to make space for the new. But being in the open spacein the unknown – is scary.

Aparigraha is the fifth Yama (ethical guidelines in yoga philosophy). It’s defined as non-grasping. It’s about not taking more than is needed, which is part of the development of an attitude of detachment. In relation to transformation it is about trusting that what’s ours will come and what’s not will fall away, while finding grace in that process. We learn to shift into an attitude of abundance and of trusting we are being guided every step of the way.

It can also be applied to the grip we have on our beliefs or on a certain way of living. Opening to a new way can be so liberating. This new way of practicing yoga requires more mindfulness and discipline and a letting go of some advanced postures. I probably wouldn’t have chosen this if the old way didn’t hurt me so much. Sometimes it’s the pain that helps us grow. The road gets narrower. I relate it to caffeine, sugar, or alcohol. I wouldn’t have given them up until I felt they were hurting me, but now, without them (most of the time) I feel so much better and stronger.

The more I live in line with my true spirit, the stronger I feel. Just like the more I practice yoga with an aligned spine, the stronger my back feels. It’s all a practice of trusting the spirit within and trusting that as we surrender, something even better is coming along.

"There is something in every one of you that waits and listens for the sound of the genuine in yourself. It is the only true guide you will ever have. And if you cannot hear it, you will, all of your life spend your days on the ends of strings that somebody else pulls." 
-Howard Thurman