Gentle Yoga is the transformative practice that has enabled me to move beyond the overwhelming daily symptoms I once thought would be with me always, to a new place of ever-increasing health – mind, body, and spirit.
When I took my first 200-hour yoga teacher training, it was with the intention of learning how/why Gentle Yoga was making such a difference in how I experienced pain, fatigue, and the other debilitating symptoms I had been living with for 13+ years. I wanted to understand what was enabling me to get better sleep. Why was I less reactive to sounds and lights that once caused me pain. How was the yoga making such a difference in my ability to be in the world with less sensitivity and greater ease?
I’ll never forget the day I was driving with my niece, listening to music. She grew up with an understanding that Auntie lives in pain, and that she is often tired, and things like hard hugs and loud music cause her more pain. And then one day, more than a year into my consistent practice of gentle yoga, one of our favorite songs came on the radio and I turned it up. I didn’t just turn it up. I CRANKED it! And then we sang out loud and danced in our seats. I was in such joy I didn’t even notice that anything was different, until the song was over and she looked at me and said, “Wow Auntie. You have never been able to listen to music that loud before. You really are doing better.”
That was a moment for sure! A humbling moment. A moment I am forever grateful for. My health was returning, and it was creating a ripple of events that I couldn’t even begin to process. Like being able to sing loudly with my niece. Like being able to give deep hugs. And like creating and leading a Gentle Yoga Teacher Training that is set to begin next month.
Yoga is a journey of a lifetime, and I am so grateful I found the path.
Every week in the Gentle Yoga classes I teach throughout North San Diego County, I see the effects of a gentle practice. Whether it is as a complement to an active practice, or if it is for the senior population, or for students with injuries, illnesses, or limitations of any kind, gentle yoga connects us most deeply to our true self. And the truth of who we are is that beneath the symptoms of life that manifest in our bodies, we are perfectly whole and complete. Our bodies know how to heal, and want to move toward greater health. But they need our support.
A gentle yoga practice can begin to undo, repair, reverse the stressors that create imperfect health. It takes time. It takes understanding. It takes compassion. And it takes commitment. But it is available to each and every one of us. Our bodies are truly amazing.
And that is what we will explore in the upcoming Gentle Yoga Teacher Training. How does yoga work on the systems of the body to bring us into greater health? What poses are best for which aliment or limitation? What is the best practice for someone with PTSD, or anxiety, or chronic pain? How can 12 people with 12 different needs all get what’s in their highest and best good from the same group yoga class?
Yoga is capable of being adjusted and modified for all needs. And yoga is so much more than stretching, than exercise, than a physical practice. It is in the subtle, gentle aspects of yoga that the greatest sense of self can be found.
I am thrilled and humbled to be leading this gentle training. And blessed to live in a community with so many incredible teachers, many of whom are teaching their specialties as part of the training. This training is open and available to anyone looking to better understand the healing power of yoga.
Now more than ever, people are searching for alternatives to traditional healthcare modalities. As an ancient and proven system for mind, body, and spiritual health, Yoga is at the foundation of this movement. Curious to learn more? Contact me for more information, or visit Inner Strength Yoga & Healing Center for yoga teacher training details.
Here on the west coast it seems that winter has just begun with this week’s rain and cold weather, yet Spring is just a couple of weeks away. For most of human existence we humans have lived by the seasons, and changed our habits and rituals to be in alignment with the natural rhythm of each season. It is only in the last 100 years or so that we have pushed against nature in the name of progress. Makes me wonder how much our disconnecting to the natural rhythm of nature is related to the rise in chronic illness, chronic stress, chronic pain? Just something to ponder.
In the spirit of attuning to the natural rhythms of Spring, I have chosen Renewal as the theme for March’s local FibroHaven meeting. Each month we begin our meetings with a theme and write an intention based on our theme on a slip of paper and place it into our sacred jar. Last’s month’s theme of “releasing and letting go” created some powerful intentions of releasing things like fear, stress, self-doubt, weight, limiting beliefs, and much more.
For this month’s theme of Renewal, take a moment and consider what deep and dormant seed within you would like to bring back into bloom? We have all lost connection with pieces of ourselves as we learn to live with our symptoms, and yet they are still there, just waiting for the renewal, the rebirth that comes with winter’s thaw. I invite each of you, whether you come to our meetings or not, to create the intention for that seed within you to grow, and then consider what actions you need to take to bring it to life.
I will share with you my intention is to grow the seed of Self-Love. Because if I cannot love myself, I cannot receive the love of others, or ever truly appreciate my value or purpose. So I will be writing “Self-Love” on my paper that I place in the jar. And the actions I will take are:
- I will speak to myself as I would a child – with pure LOVE
- I will move my body every day, for a minimum of 15 minutes, and no more than serves me
- I will eat the foods that make my body hum
- I will connect to nature everyday and breath in the wisdom of it
- I will forgive myself easily and often
- I will reach out for support when needed
And so it is.
What seeds of your Self do you intend to nurture and grow this Spring?
There’s this spot on my upper back that my husband and I lovingly refer to as my baseball. Sort of ironic because I am actually a huge fan of baseball. But this spot on my back, is probably my least favorite part of my body. We call it the baseball because for years when it would get inflamed, it became a huge knot – about the size of a baseball. At least that is how I experienced it. Likely it was the size of a walnut, but where’s the drama in calling it that?
I have come to realize this spot is where I carry my emotional pain. It has improved so much the last few years since I have immersed myself into my healing journey. I now practice self-compassion and self-acceptance, combined with yoga and meditation, and I have a completely different experience of pain in my body. The pain is still frequent and present, but my emotional response is significantly less. Instead of reacting to it, I now try to listen to it, and decipher the messages coming from my body, and respond with compassion.
Just as a newborn communicates the only way it knows how – smiling, crying, cooing – our bodies also communicate through the only means available – pain, discomfort, pleasure, etc. It is our work to listen to and respond accordingly to these messages. When a baby cries, the mother responds by tuning in to the cry and providing what the baby needs in that moment. It is a call and response that moms and babies have been perfecting for years.
But what happens when our bodies call out? Do we tune in, listen, and respond in a loving way that brings us comfort? Or do we tune out, and look for ways to escape? Or worse yet do we add to the pain by getting angry and adopting self-abusive behaviors?
For many years, this is exactly how I responded – take something to numb it (numb ME) and shut it up, distract myself with food or television, or better yet, I would get angry, frustrated, and indignant that this was my life, this was my body. None of these responses improved or made the pain go away. They simply made me a victim of my body, rather than a friend to.
Last week brought a lot of challenges, and with it a lot of emotion. I could feel the familiar ache in my back – the baseball – starting to get aggravated. I ignored it. I pushed through my days, pushed through my week, grimacing and getting angry every time I felt the pain, but never addressing it directly.
My body continued to send me messages, and I continued not to listen. So the messages started coming at me from different sources. I read Angel Cards frequently, and almost always before every yoga class I teach, I sit down with a deck of Angel Cards, and ask my angels and guides for guidance. Yesterday, this is the message they sent me:
I chuckled when I saw this, even shared it on Facebook, and then continued to ignore my emotions, ignore the messages. I even asked my husband to aggressively rub and pound on my “baseball” because I was so sick of the ache I just wanted it to go away. The exact opposite of gentle! He did, and I had a brief moment of relief.
And then I went to bed, and woke up in the middle of the night feeling like someone had taken a bat to my baseball, and my neck, and my head. I could not move, or even open my mouth to ask my husband for help. I was paralyzed with pain.
And this is why acts of self-love and compassion like yoga and meditation are called practices. It is a continual practice to adopt and integrate behaviors that increase wellbeing, and decrease suffering.
I know this place on my back is where I carry my emotional pain – and yet I still chose to ignore it, and worse yet I chose to be physically aggressive with it. And my body responded with even more pain. This is a typical cycle, and a cycle I am in the continuous practice of learning to break.
So tomorrow is a new day, a new chance to practice. It is an inside job, this learning to love and listen to my body. I forgive myself, forgive my judgement, and I even forgive my body. It is communicating with me in the only way it can. It is up to me to act on the messages, up to me to tune in and listen to the wisdom of my body – and the more I do, the more I learn to appreciate and love my body. Even my baseball.