You are NOT alone.
What does it feel like for you? For me it’s a clenched belly, shortened breath and hunched shoulders.
The irony is that this position of stress makes us MORE STRESSED. When our shoulders hunch over, or body folds forward, our stomachs lock down…all of this makes it impossible to diaphragmatically breathe. Short and shallow chest breaths amp up our sympathetic nervous system – FIGHT! FLIGHT!
This is delightfully compounded by western culture’s obsession with sucking our guts in. Lovely. Let’s create ARMOR around our midsection allowing for an inability to breathe fully and create MORE stress.
Diaphragmatic breath is THE KEY to calming your neurological system and inviting some ease. Diaphragmatic breath invites your parasympathetic system of rest and digest to come online. Yessss.
Try this breath practice throughout the day.
It’ll be a great addition to your life – promise.
I have this daughter. She’s quite exceptional. From the moment we met, she’s been teaching me life lessons. I knew that she was here for me to learn from.
Around five years ago, before I decided to become a yoga instructor, I had a hard time keeping my worry, overwhelm, fears in check. To put it delicately, I would drop my basket pretty regularly.
Worry was my go to…I’d worry about all of the things. I’d worry myself into a lather about this – that – AND the other. Particularly about things that hadn’t happened yet. “What ifs” really churned me up.
One day as I was foaming at the mouth, my daughter looked at me with her clear, green eyes and said evenly, “Stay in the now Mom.”
Stay in the now.
This has become our family mantra. (She detests that I use it on her now that she is 12 and her amygdala is taking over her brain.)
I have used these words that my seven-year-old spoke to me again and again. It draws me away from senseless worry and back onto my center.
This was one of her many gifts to me.
Stay in the Now.
The place where I live
It doesn’t matter where I am
This body holds me, moves me
I sense, feel, love, think, am
What scares you?
I used to be AFRAID OF EVERYTHING. The unfamiliar made me want to just hide away.
As I look back, I realize I’ve spent the 2nd half of my life dancing with fear. Trying to get familiar with it and then tell it to “Piss off.”
Once when I decided to audition for a musical (o.m.g. terrifying) I called a friend virtually hyperventilating and she asked me, “WHY? WHY ARE YOU DOING THIS IF IT TERRIFIES YOU?”
Because it makes me feel powerful and alive. It makes me feel like I am the boss of me.
Things that have truly REDLIGHTTURNBACKDON’TDOTHIS terrified me:
What are yours when you look back? What are those pivotal, terrifying things that made you want to wet your pants and run the other way?
Now…when you look back. Can you see in the rear view that those experiences made you and your life:
This is living. This is living the shit out of your ONE AMAZING LIFE.
And that, my friends, is Ahimsa. That is having the courage to do the hard stuff having faith in yourself and the Universe that your life will be better for it. It’s not letting your FEAR make your life SMALL. It’s telling fear to “Piss Off.”
So last week I wrote a damn book report on this aspect of Ahimsa…and f&*k all if I didn’t have to write it all over again today…because I didn’t write it with heart. I wrote from a clinical and cold and fear-based place. It’s hard to put your shit out there. It’s scary to inject yourself into your work. It’s hard to remember that we’re ALL JUST TRYING TO FIGURE SHIT OUT. We’re all scared and trying to figure out how to deal with it.
Practice courage. Know that you are created to live. Know that the fear that keeps you from living your best life is a LIAR. And have faith in the stuff you are made of…it’s tough, resilient, and powerful.
Have you ever been working toward something that feels important to you, only to have the Universe put stuff in your way that slows you down or even stops you??
Those times piss me off. And they make me wonder what the lesson is and what I’m supposed to be learning from the onslaught of frustration that occurs when I’m getting roadblocks from the Universe.
This go around, after a year of playing it pretty conservatively at Crossfit, I decided to start adding more weight and exploring my own personal edges of strength. So, I started adding weight and making some progress annnnnd…
ROADBLOCK #1 – My back started bothering me again after a couple of years being pain-free.
Back on the hamster wheel of trying to figure it out. Then, I start to get it figured out and start feeling better annnnnd….
ROADBLOCK #2 – I sprain my ankle doing burpees to box jumps.
Seriously what the f&*k people?
Now after about 4 weeks off of being able to exercise in a way that makes me feel good, I’M GOING CRAZY. I have begun konmari’ing my house (is that a verb?); I want to clean all of the things; and I don’t feel good because I’m not moving my body in a way that pleases me.
I feel like poop.
I’m standing in the middle of my discomfort. I’m standing in the eye of it.
Ever felt like this? What do you do?
For me, this is where some of the philosophy of yoga really serves – unhooking from discomfort and inviting peace in whatever situation I’m in (even if it doesn’t feel good.)
Back to my mat. Back to my breath. Back to moving mindfully and in a way that doesn’t invite injury. And when it’s time, I’ll go back to burpees to box jumps. But until then…abide.
When the Universe is putting up roadblocks, take a breath. Breathe in the idea that everything is unfolding in its own timing for your highest good. If you’re standing in the middle of a Universal Roadblock, slow down and breathe, release and allow…
So you wouldn’t think that scraping my tongue in the morning would have a component of spirituality to it would you…? I said tongue scraping in my class today and was met with a hilarious mix of curled noses, incredulity and raised eyebrows.
They’re not alone.
On Saturday at Yoga Teacher Training, our teacher Molly from Yoga North demonstrated tongue scraping and…wait for it…using a neti pot for the class. Fantastic. I have a huge smile on my face thinking of it because the faces around the room (mine included) were the same as the faces in mine. Except I may have turned my head away during the neti pot part because I get gaggy at boogers.
Ok so why, you may ask, am I blogging about Tongue Scraping and how could it possibly be a spiritual act?? Bear with me.
One of the legs of the table of yoga is Ayurvedics. Supporting the body, treating it with the best care, so that you can do your best work serving the world with your gifts. And one of the suggested practices of Ayurvedics? Tongue Scraping.
It sounds so violent. But truly – it isn’t. You use this nifty little tool – mine’s copper.
And just kind of slide it down your tongue after you wake up. The metal ‘scrapes’ off the gunk that accumulates in your mouth as you sleep. Why? Well how Molly said it was this, “Your body is getting rid of the gunk and gets it to the tongue, you’re just helping move it off the tongue and out of the body.”
The Chopra website has many things to say about it, but here’s a good one,
“Scraping the tongue daily removes any build-up on the tongue, which, if left untreated, can lead to bad breath and may house a significant number of bacteria. This simple practice is a direct way of removing Ama from your physiology. In Ayurveda, Ama refers to any accumulation of toxic residue in the mind-body. This can result from improper eating, poor digestion, or a reflection of an imbalance somewhere in the gastrointestinal system.”
Umm…ok. I’m in.
I’m on Day 2.
And here’s what I want to say. It’s not the act of tongue-scraping itself that is for me a spiritual act. It’s that I’m doing something that CARES FOR MY BODY that is a spiritual act. I am taking a minute out of my day to care for my beautiful self. Just one minute. Why? So that I can support my body as I do my work, as I live and love.
Tongue Scraping may not be your thing. And that’s cool. But what is one thing that you can do to support your body as you live, serve, work, love and be in the world? What’s one thing that you can do every day – without it seeming like a drag? But a loving act that you can add in gently?
Here are some suggestions if you can’t come up with anything:
*Warm glass of water in the morning with a capful of lemon juice or a squeeze of fresh lemon.
*Lotion after your bath/shower.
*Taking a minute after you wake up – ONE MINUTE – to throw some gratitude around for this cool life you have.
*Stretch after you get out of bed.
*Go for a leisurely walk when you get home from work.
*Take some deep breaths throughout your day.
*Eat more vegetables.
*Drink more water.
*Smile at yourself in the mirror.
Or…you could tongue scrape! haha! If you’re interested, I got mine through Yoga North’s Online Store. Click the ‘Products’ button after you link in.
Much peace to you on your journey and may it be filled with joy, love and peace.