One of my colleagues, Danielle Murray (www.daniellemurrayyoga.com) decided to start a 365 day yoga challenge. I decided to join her as a way to commit to blogging and motivated to complete the book i am working on. If you would like to join us, we would love to share space with you. Here is my first contribution to her site:
365 DAY CHALLENGER – Michele Theoret
I already have a daily home practice so that is not so much a challenge for me. The challenge for me will be to, journal, blog, video etc my experiences. Everybody has this image of yoga that it is all peace, love, relaxation, kunadlini rainbows, expanding hearts and all that stuff and while this is part of it, Yoga for me is more about the ugly stuff. It is about telling the truth about who you are, the good, the bad and the ugly.
I have been practicing yoga for almost 15 years and teaching for around 14. During my practice, which in our culture of incessant labeling and systematizing has been called power yoga, I am given the opportunity to “see” myself. I basically use a sequence of movement linked together through conscious breath (vinyasa) to draw me into the moment. The deep deliberate breath (Ujayii) provides a gateway. Breathing is something we do 24 hrs per day unconsciously, in yoga we are asked to make it deliberate, to follow the breath, and this requires our attention. If I am feeding my attention to my breath I can’t possibly be thinking about or feeding anything else. Combine this breath with the postures (asana) and purposeful movement aka grace and about 15 min my mind becomes focused and my body becomes alive. Once I am “warmed up” I begin my standing sequence, which is combination of postures mostly from the ashtanga and rocket “system” sequenced together in a way that works for my body. These postures are termed “invigorating” meaning that they are fucking hard. With every breath I go inside, inhale where can I create more space? which ultimately requires strength. Exhale, where can I let go? and can I let go? Following the standing sequence which may or may not involve several attempts to balance on my hands; creating stability, grace and balance amongst instability and fear, i then enter into some core, back bending, hips and or inversions depending on the theme of my practice. Each week my practice follows the evolution of the chakras, which are energy centers which affect both the physical and mental body. Monday is Roots, Tuesday is Core, Wednesday is Freedom (backbends, chest openers and psoas) Thursday is Wings (inversions and arm balances) Friday-Rocket Remix, Saturday or Sunday-LSD (not as in acid, rather a nice yin class with deep holds)
It is in the difficult poses, in the challenging and uncomfortable moments where our coping strategies, habits or body armor kicks in. The automatic way in which we either fight or flight, attack or deflect in order to make the experience more comfortable, in order to save face or look good. However the experience is not supposed to be comfortable, life is not all rainbows, butterflies and unicorns. I become aware of my habitual reactions and tendencies, the voices in my head that try to pull me out of the present experience. This scenario plays out all day everyday for me, from the moment I wake up to crying babies and fighting kids (i am a mom of 3 beautiful monsters) to the arguments with my husband, to the news feed on facebook,that lures me in and then traffic, noise, students, emails, bills etc. The only difference is in real life we are often on auto-pilot, completely unconscious to the way we are reacting, to the way we are being in the world. The scary thing about this is who we are being is also who we are becoming. This is why it is called a yoga practice, it prepares us for the big game: Life. On the yoga mat when I notice I am feeding my attention, which is ultimately my energy to the devil or the negative thoughts of: competitiveness, jealousy, anger, hate etc. I Breathe. With an inhale I create space. Space is acceptance and possibility and with the exhale I surrender. I do not judge or criticize or fight the devil; I starve him. Instead I feed my energy to the angel; the light, the benevolent qualities of compassion, acceptance and love. It is these qualities that empower. It is these qualities that will change the world. I believe that is what Gandhi was getting at when he said “be the change”.
I want to openly and honestly share these experiences with my students, colleagues and friends because when we are open and honest about whom we are it gives others the permission to be who they are as well. This is the definition of courage; the ability and willingness to confront fear and uncertainty, it is the ability to do the right thing in the face of opposition, to tell the truth of who you are with your whole heart.
I have also learned in my experience with psychology and coaching, that writing things down helps to get what is inside, outside. It is an essential part of the purging or detoxification program, it takes awareness and puts it into action. This is very challenging and scary for me, not just writing my lies and secrets in my own journal, which is challenging enough but sharing it with my students and peers as well and that is why it is important. The fear of looking good imprisons the spirit. When we are honest about something, we become free from it