What is it that calls us to go deeper? To live a life with more meaning and purpose? In many ways we are propelled to go deeper through our suffering, our pain, our trauma...but only if we listen to the guidance that whispers to our hearts and trust that this whisper is in fact our soul calling us home.
I began my yoga practice when I was 22, in my bedroom with the book "Light on Yoga, by BKS Iyengar" to help with my chronic back pain. When I think back to my early teens I loved to workout and have always connected breath with movement, it's just something that made sense to do and I found it allowed me to increase my endurance and will power when the workouts got challenging. As I was practicing yoga in my bedroom I really had no clue what I was doing but would pick a random page and read how to do the posture and do my best to execute and I started to find some relief from my back pain. The pain that I was experiencing was the kind that hurt to sit down for too long, it was a deep irritating ache. I had also been diagnosed with tachycardia at age 11 and thought it might be helpful in controlling that as well. Tachycardia is a heart condition that affects the mechanisms that regulate the heart beat. This problem is set off by certain movements like throwing a ball really hard, or jumping suddenly, it can also be set off by stress, caffeine, and alcohol and what happens is my heart would "click" over to a rapid heart rate. I'm talking 200 beats per minute. The average heart beats somewhere between 65-75 beats per minute.
The first time I had an episode I was at a friends house for a sleepover. We were going to bed and I was lying there watching my heart pound out of my chest. I was a little uncomfortable waking her parents up to tell them my heart was pounding. But I was also a little scared, so I woke up her mom and luckily she was a nurse and thought it might be tachycardia and was able to explain the exercises I could try to "click" my heart back to a normal rhythm.
I was later diagnosed with supra ventricular tachycardia, which is the better kind to have because the chances of going into cardiac arrest are low. I just had to learn to manage it with specific exercises and deep breathing to help regulate my heart and reduce feeling lightheaded when I was having an episode.
So I figured yoga might help heart regulation and chronic low back pain. The low back pain stemmed from what I believe to be a broken or sprained tail bone from a fall I had about 7 years before I started practicing yoga, that fall, and I believe emotional suppression, since most physical pain is linked to emotional trauma of some kind, big or small. What happens with emotional trauma is we tend to ignore it because it makes us uncomfortable and it eventually settles into the physical body as pain or disease. I know I suppressed it because it was the way I was raised. My Dad left when I was 12 and my family responded with lots of anger and actually encouraged anger, leaving anger as my go to response until my soul began to whisper to me, leading me toward the path of peace and purpose.
When viewing the subtle energy through the chakras I found that the root chakra is linked to our basic survival needs. Our need for stability and security when unmet can lead to low back pain, and sciatic nerve pain. Even the fall that I had was an expression of needing first chakra attention on a subconscious level. When I looked at all my issues as a whole, everything I had going on physically, including the tachycardia, I began to see a bigger picture. My parents were having some issues before my Dad jumped ship which is around the time the tachycardia began. An imbalance in the heart is a response of feeling unloved and unlovable and I must have had a tendency toward tachycardia and boom there it was. This was how I internalized the issues my parents were having. Can you relate to internalizing things using only the tools you were raised with? What was the physical and emotional result for you?
Fast forward to practicing yoga in my bedroom and then a short time after beginning that practice I came across a Kundalini yoga video and began doing that every morning along with my yoga book and Zen meditation. There was a lot of breath of fire, or panting breath..breathing quickly in and out through the nose mostly by the movement of the diaphragm, and chanting in a language that I didn't know yet felt somehow familiar. I was moving my spine and panting and chanting, and meditating and before I knew it I was feeling better. With continued practice my back pain went away completely, my mind was more focused, and the tachycardia was reduced. I began to wonder what it would be like to teach others this healing practice? That's the moment the seed was planted to become a yoga teacher. There was something so special about this practice! This seed would lead me to become a Reiki Master because I had a lot more healing to do and learn first but thats a story for another time...
Tell me in the comments below where the whispers of your soul have led you.
I almost forgot to mention the 208 hour online yoga teacher training certification that is now available! Check it out after you comment.
Namaste and Love,
How could I possibly step foot into a yoga studio looking like this!
These were my thoughts and words 8 years ago before starting a regular practice and
becoming a yoga teacher.
I thought for sure every student there would look as if they just stepped out of the pages of yoga journal magazine and then there was me post pregnancy body (I was a very hungry pregnant lady!!) I was positive my moves would not be as smooth as the rest of the class with this belly just kind of hanging there.
Then I promised myself that if I hated it I never had to go back but it was important for me to try.
Practicing from videos and books at home did't quite cut it, although I wasn't sure why since
yoga is a physical practice and all. Or so I thought...I found a studio and the date was set! I would attend a Tuesday evening class. It was gentle yoga so how bad could it be? Pulling up to the building I looked around to figure out where I was supposed to go in. It was an office building with lots of businesses...now I had to find where the studios was within this maze of offices. Before I knew it I was standing at the front door.
I opened the door and entered into a waiting room area. There was a book shelf with shoes in it. I thought that was weird but walked through toward the main yoga room. I was met by a student that was leaving a class and she let me know that shoes aren't worn in the yoga studio, it's a practice of respect. So that would explain why there were shoes in the book case...alrighty then! I went back to the waiting room took my shoes off and saw a women behind the window and told her I was new and asked if there was anything i needed to do. She had me fill out a form and she took my information. Ok, that wasn't so bad, the secretary was very nice.
Class was about to start so I went into the yoga room and realized I didn't even bring a yoga mat as I watched everyone roll their mats out. I was thinking, I should probably just leave now, but instead I saw the secretary and asked if there were any mats to borrow. She kindly gave me one and I set it up in the very back of the room hoping I would blend into the wall.
Everyone already seemed to know what they were doing! Closing their eyes or stretching. It was very quiet. Then the secretary came in and sat in the front of the room where the teacher sits. Turns out the secretary was Vimala, the teacher and owner of the studio! As I looked around at all the faces it didn't seem so yoga journalesque. There were different shapes and sizes and it seemed like they were just all there to do their own thing.
Vimala began the class with some breathing and OM's. I knew the OM's from my home video so felt confident in joining in! She exuded sweetness and peace. Her voice was comforting and she taught with ease. The class flew by and I managed to maneuver through the postures in a relatively graceful way. I was hooked by the end of class especially in deep relaxation! I knew I had a ton to learn about the practice and myself but knew that it would nurture and support me. My intention was to heal the parts of my body, mind, and spirit that had been neglected over the years and to develop a deeper awareness of my life purpose.
Years later when I began teaching yoga, my intention was to create a sacred space wherever I taught. A space where anyone and everyone would feel loved and supportive. I know how hard it is to step foot into a studio because of all the negative self talk we all experience at one time or another. When new students arrive I silently celebrate their bravery and courage to take that first step on their path to peace!
I encourage you to be brave and courageous. I can only speak for J.O.Y. Wellness and our wonderful community and tell you, when you step foot inside our studio (your studio) you will be met with kindness, you will be met by many shapes and sizes, and most importantly you will begin to meet yourself...which makes it that much easier to cultivate kindness toward yourself.
Namaste and Love,
There has been so much talk of tragedy in the news this week. I've read about it and we've talked about in my yoga classes. I am not trying to lessen the tragic nature of any of it but what I am doing is telling you to read this whole post. Enough is enough with our squirrel mentality...exercise some self-discipline.
Here's what I see when tragedy strikes...FEAR. Fear consumes us and the worst part is that we let it. You know what, it is scary and yes sometimes things feel out of control. BUT we as individuals and as a whole have this amazing ability to transform fear. We have the ability to move into peace. We have the ability to create peace from the inside out and become a beacon of light in the world.
Did I lose you in that beacon on light statement? Cut it out and keep reading. In order to move from fear to peace you must exercise discipline. We are lacking in that department. I spent 12 years as military spouse. A spouse of a Marine Corps Officer. The Marine Corps manages to train the spouses in a very nonchalant way...which I resisted of course but am now grateful for.
Between being a military spouse, raising 2 children, living away from family for 12 years, trying for 10 years to get my severely mentally ill mother help, studying and practicing eastern science and philosophy such as yoga, meditation, zen Buddhism, and ayurveda, now 15 years later running a successful wellness center and starting an online wellness business I'd say the common thread has been self-disciple. If we can bridge the two worlds to encompass emotional, physical, and spiritual strength the result would be profound. It would change the world.
The Dalai Lama stated that if every child learned to meditate starting at the age of 6 there would be almost no violence in world. He does not state things lightly and is a man of science and meditation. He is physically, emotionally, and spiritually strong as are most well rounded leaders.
So how does FEAR and SELF-DISCIPLE relate? Let's first recognize that just because I'm using the words yoga and meditation doesn't mean I'm talking about some flighty practice where we focus on fairies and unicorns. I am talking about building the mind, body, and spirit in a strong impenetrable way. I am talking about emotional strength, physical strength, and spiritual strength.
Why are those qualities so important in moving from fear to peace? Haven't we proven enough that our re-activity to tragedy and suffering is first fear, then anger, and sometimes unity which is great but unfortunately it is not usually sustained because it is an outside venture.
When we build emotional, physical, and spiritual strength we are building our foundation from the inside out so when tragedy or suffering strikes we resist the urge to react, and with practice we remain neutral. This does not mean we don't feel sad or even angry. We recognize these emotions instead of reacting to these emotions. When we recognize our emotions we can then work with them in a disciplined way.
I hear from people all the time, that they can't meditate and maybe from where they are in that moment they can't but EVERYONE can with the right tools and self-discipline.
Here is a piece of what I offer to students and clients.
Start small. 5 minute increments.
5 minutes of exercise: it can be walking, yoga, push ups, sit ups, jumping jacks. Anything that gets your body going and also helps clear the mind and promote creativity.
5 minutes of deep belly breathing: train yourself to breathe in and through your nose and feel your belly expand on the inhale and contract on the exhale. Don't do this breath deeply or for 5 minutes until you have figured out how to do it correctly first.
5 minutes closing your eyes, observing your thoughts and the process of your mind. Our thoughts that flow through unleashed are NOT who your are. They are the same 72,000 thoughts you have every day. Thoughts matter when we work with them constructively and with intention. I will discuss this in a future post.
What you are doing is building physical strength, emotional strength, and spiritual strength.
Over time you build up your workout, you learn to breath the belly breath all the time, you become aware of your thoughts and begin to find little gaps in between thoughts. You will also begin to recognize the vast world of your physical body and all it's trying to relay to you through sensation or aches and pain if you have ignored them long enough. Emotionally you are recognizing your thoughts and becoming aware of emotions that arise. Acknowledging emotions as a friend no matter how uncomfortable they make us is a productive way to work through the things we have ignored. Spiritual strength, through these practices we recognize our higher self, the part of us that is connected to the whole, the part of us that knows our true purpose. Maybe even God, if you will. Faith an invaluable tool.
Are you still wondering how the hell this relates to tragedy and suffering. When you have self-discipline, because it is your duty as a contributing member of society, and you build your emotional, physical, and spiritual strength you can then respond to anything by turning within and automatically find your peace, become more peaceful which reduces your stress and the stress of those around you. You can then, because you are strong enough, take the suffering of others into your heart, your body and release it as peace.
Science has proven that we are all connected by our electromagnetism so it only makes sense to become a warrior of peace. Strong, stable and able to remain calm and peaceful and with that strength and stability take the suffering in and transform it into peace.
With this practice we let go of anger, fear, and aggression. We remain aware of all that is happening in the world but in a less reactive way. It's our duty to become active participants in this world. We are not helpless at all. Do the work and contribute to creating a better world within yourself and outside of yourself.
We can build one another up by building ourselves up first, but we have to stop being lazy and do the work. DO THE WORK!
One of my favorite books is The Blooming of a Lotus by Thich Nhat Hanh. This book illustrates how to get in touch with your body so that we can water the seeds of positivity not the weeds of negativity.
Want to learn more about the relationship between self-discipline and emotional, physical, and spiritual strength? Contact me firstname.lastname@example.org I work with corporations, groups, and individuals.
Or just email me to ask me a question about this blog. I'll do my best to answer:)
jennifer is a mother, entrepreneur, artist, writer, peace activist, yogi, holisitc wellness and body work expert, and just a general lover of life in all its forms!
224 N Broadway
Salem NH 03079