Fearlessness

Fearlessness

Characteristics of a Yogi #1: Fearlessness

Overview: In the Bhagavad Gita, there is a comprehensive list of 26 traits that define a yogi, that are Divine Qualities. In a series of articles, I will take each of these as a topic for examination.

Fearlessness: does this mean, literally “to have no fear?” Or does it mean to behave in a way that others might interpret as appearing to have no fear? This is an important distinction. Fear is a very useful response—sometimes it serves to keep you alive, and from a very “basic instinct” perspective, this is a good thing.

Here’s a story to outline a distinction.

I was with a former boyfriend and we were visiting Florida. He arranged for us to have a tour of the Everglades, which are a marsh grass “forest” crisscrossed with tidal streams and rivers. One navigates them on a boat that has a big fan for a propeller. (An aside—Native Americans used to LIVE in the Everglades, which seems a feat of survival and peace with the natural world. O.K. back to the story.)

One of the main attractions of the Everglades is the wildlife, among which are crocodiles. I had never seen a crocodile up close. When we got near one of them, I knelt down near the edge of the boat to get a closer look. My boyfriend was horrified. The tour guide suggested perhaps I stay back. Crocodiles can behave unpredictably, you know.

Me? I was simply overcome with curiosity.

So I ask you, was I behaving “fearlessly” or was I just being plain old stupid?

A different former boyfriend used to say that something within him was “broken” because he didn’t have the good sense to be afraid in situations that might call for it.

Again, I ask you: fearless, or…lacking in good sense?

There is a huge distinction.

And this is why I would like to argue that in “fearlessness” never implies that you are somehow deficient in the instincts and tools that are sensibly trying to keep you alive.

In this instance, the main attribute of a yogi is that he or she faces their fears head on, stares down that barrel, and behaves in a way that appears to be without fear.

Viewed this way, we might name this attribute “courage” or “bravery.” When exercised repeatedly over time, courage and bravery vanquish the fear that we had in the first place, leaving behind a vacancy that we might name fearlessness.

Can you see the difference between having no fear in the first place, and learning to overcome your fears? They are very different things.

When I casually asked some of my students what they fear, they said:

  • Failure
  • Change
  • Uncertainty

What a succinct compilation of things that create great angst! Just one thing really is missing…can you name it? More on that later…

My next question to them was: are these things certain to happen?

There were slow nods around the room.

Does it not strike you as wildly un-strategic to spend time and energy worrying about things that are certain to happen? Why not do this instead:

  1. Accept that you’re going to fail. Accept that change is inevitable. Accept that uncertainty is certain (haha).
  2. Work on how you relate to these real life elements in a courageous way that stops WASTING your precious time and energy, and helps you stare down the barrel of your fears and become…fearless!

Well, that seems so…sensible! Right? The problem is, fear is not a thing that is easily reasoned with. It is visceral. It is somatic. It creates a powerful FEELING.

I asked my students what fear feels like. I got back some of these words.

  1. Confining
  2. Paralyzing
  3. Bad

Bottom line, fear is stressful! And where did they feel it? They gestured to these places. Primarily:

  • Heart
  • Belly

And these places secondarily:

  • Head
  • Throat

I actually supplied “throat”—sometimes when I’m super nervous about saying something to another person, I’ll get choked up, and it feels like I’m being strangled. Not nice. It’s like I’m DYING. Fear can make you fee like (maybe) you are dying. Think about that for a moment. Fear can be powerful stuff.

Now, think about the OPPOSITE feeling of fear. What is that for you? My students offered these words.

  • Peaceful
  • Joyful
  • Confident
  • Freeing

I just loved hearing all these words, and especially that last one. That very morning of teaching, I had woken up in the wee, crepuscular hours ruminating about this characteristic of fearlessness, and I had this realization that it was describing something that is super-important, which is a feeling of freedom. The opposite of fear is free.

Fear confines. Fear binds energy. Fear paralyzes. Fear robs your strength. Fear chokes your words. Fear keeps you stuck.

And when you learn to wrangle the things that you fear the most…? You become free. Liberated.

I am so very grateful for the somatic practices of yoga, because otherwise what I’m talking about here—freedom, liberation, peace, blah, blah, blah—all just remain in the domain of pretty, shiny concepts. Concepts just aren’t helpful unless a person learns how to apply them. That’s where a skillful teacher is an invaluable resource—he or she answers the question “how do I achieve the outcome described?”

I’m gonna tell you. Hang on!

When I asked my students where in their bodies they feel all the hallmarks of freedom, the indicated primarily the same places that they had gestured to for “fear.”

Heart. Belly. Throat. Head.

Your fears and your freedom are two sides of the same coin! You feel them in the same place. One feels confining. The other feels expansive. And, we have a terrific tool in yoga for generating from within, on your own a sense of spaciousness. It’s called “the breath.” TA-DA!

When you breathe and feel inside, and work to grow your breath you are creating for yourself a feeling of freedom. Interestingly enough, a physiological response the body has to fear is to shorten the breath. The body does all the WRONG things, in the moment that you MOST need the resources of the breath! Isn’t that wild?!?! The very moment you need more space, more oxygen, more freedom, the body shuts all that down, and we become our most primitive, least resourceful versions of ourselves.

This is why learning to breathe in yoga class is so very, very, VERY important. This is why learning to breathe in poses that are challenging or confronting, is so very, very very important. It trains us to cut through our physiological response to fear with a tool that creates, on its own, a self-generated feeling of calm, peace, and resourcefulness.

No one is going to save you from yourself. Only YOU can save you. This is why you MUST learn to breathe, with a fervency and passion for your own survival and will and desire to GROW as a human being.

The breath is the pathway to “tricking” yourself into feeling fearless, even at the very moment that you are not. The breath is the thing that will take you out of your paralysis, and give you back your body, mind, and spirit, so that you can act courageously.

“Fearlessness” describes a person who has trained to fight for his or her own freedom—of body, mind, and spirit.

And when you meet a person who appears fearless, what does it make you feel? When you meet a person who is self-possessed, confident, assured what is their impact upon you? Fear? Inspiration? Check out that word—inspire. It means both “to breathe in” and to “fill someone with the urge or ability to do or feel something.” WOW. NEAT. More on fearlessness inspiring fear in a moment…

The path of a yogi is one of a battle in this earthly plain to grow in spirit. In the journey from birth to death, this is our quest. And framed like this—on a spiritual plain—the thing that the yogi fears most is to die without fulfilling the contract of this lifetime. The thing that the human animal also fears above all is the termination of the body—its demise. And viewed this way, our human animal and our human spirit are in agreement: the top line fear is death.

And here’s a thought for consideration—the most dangerous person in the world is a person who has nothing to lose. The most realized individual is the person who has come to terms with their own most predominant fear, that of death. And when you no longer fear your own death, anything is possible. It fills you with a “no fucks to give” confidence of a turbo-charged fuel variety.

A friend of mine told me a story about warriors who were like this. It was World War I, and his family, who are Sikhs, were fighting with the British forces. It was trench warfare back then, and the way to stay alive was to stay in their trench. But not these soldiers—they REFUSED to get in the trench, and stood up on the ridge to display their fearlessness. Death was no obstacle to their victory! It is reported they said, “We want to show the enemy our contempt for death!” And their behavior—fearless, or plain crazy? What do you think now?—intimidated the Germans so deeply that the British Indian Army won their first two battles and advanced the line.

Then the British commanders showed up, and told the crazy Sikhs to get back in the trenches and stay alive. And then they lost ground…

Fearlessness is the attribute of a warrior. Do you think of yourself as a warrior? If you embrace this path, you are. Warriors fight for principles that they believe in—what principles do you believe in so strongly that you would go to battle within yourself to vanquish your fears?

Yogananda says, “Fear robs a man of the indomitability of his soul.” In other words, fear makes you easy to defeat or subdue. Fear ties you to the feeling of fear, which resides in the body, which constrains your ability to grow in spirit—through generating the practices of courage and bravery.

Yoganada also says, “Death is perhaps the ultimate challenge of faith in mortal man. Fear of this inevitability is foolish. It comes only once in a lifetime; and after it has come the experience is over, without having affected our true identity or diminished in any way our real being. (…)”

Ahhhhhh, yes. As I asked at the beginning, why do we waste our time and energy fearing things that are inevitable?

The answer—because they are painful. We don’t like pain.

How to handle? You already have the answer. Become adept at handling our discomfort, through practices like breathing deeply in uncomfortable postures in yoga. Or, through sitting meditation.

The Buddhists, close relatives of the yogis, also teach about “no fear” and “warrior practices.” Pema Chodron writes in The Places that Scare You, “To the extent that we stop struggling against uncertainty and ambiguity, to tat extent we dissolve our fear. The synonym for total fearlessness is full enlightenment—wholehearted, open-minded interaction with our world. Meanwhile we train patiently moving in that direction. By learning to relax with groundlessness, we gradually connect with the mind that knows no fear” (pg. 103).

This is it, my loves. We are warriors, fighting our own demons, using the weapons of breath, asana, and meditation. These tools will free us from our own suffering and allow us to fight for the freedom of all beings.

And that is the way of the yogi.

Oh! WAIT. There is one bonus tool that I mentioned earlier and I MUST follow up on. It’s the energy of curiosity.

I learned from my yoga teacher Ana Forrest that this energy can be tremendously helpful in so very many situations. Curiosity has the potential to take you out of the messy experience of fear, in a constructive way. I say constructive, because a coping mechanism for fear we might reach for is dissociation, which might save you life in the worst of situations, but as a strategy over time hampers your chances of recovery from trauma and your potential growth into the best rendition of yourself.

Curiosity gives you back your power. When you have the great fortune to observe that you are experiencing fear, instead of feeling like you are stuck in its claws, then calling on curiosity will help you to disentangle yourself from fear’s grasp even more completely. Curiosity will help you to understand why this thing or person or experience has you experiencing fear in the first place. And once you’ve applied this energy to fear, the funniest thing happens—fear starts to shrink immediately. You may be able to tap into secondary emotions like sadness or anger, and MOVE them in a way that helps dredge out any backlog and access the fear itself, pulling at it from its tap root. Finally, curiosity will help you be creative and playful in finding ways to help yourself overcome whatever fear still hangs on, and when you start using fear’s antithesis emotions—joy, creativity, playfulness—fear will be cancelled out and in its place will be a space that you can name and claim. FEARLESSNESS. Fear—once it lived here. Now it does no more.

THIS is a triumph of human spirit.

Many blessings. May you end the suffering of all beings.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What is Vinyasa?

What is Vinyasa?

Photo by Ray Tamarra
The beginning of a Sun Salutation.

I think that it might be prudent to begin with an orientation. My views and perspectives on vinyasa are in part tempered by an historical moment (2004-2017) and a region of the world: New York City. What vinyasa is here today, is probably different than it was 20 years ago, and is probably different than what it is in other regions and cities.

A brief history: Vinyasa was invented by Krishnamacharya. Among many things, he made two contributions to our understanding of “vinyasa” yoga: breath connected to movement, and “pose counter pose” theory. Pattabi Jois, who studied with Krishnamacharya went on to develop Ashtanga Yoga, which is formally named Ashtanga Vinaysa Yoga. Most modern practices generally called vinyasa have Ashtanga as a parent practice.

From The Heart of Yoga, Krishnamacharya’s son, Desikachar, writes:

“Developing a yoga practice according to the ideas expressed in the Yoga Sutra is an action referred to as vinyasa krama. Krama is the step or literally “stages,” nyasa means “to place,” and the prefix vi –translates as “in a special way.” The concept of vinyasa krama tells us that it is not enough to simply take a step; that step needs to take us in the right direction and be made in the right way.” (The Heart of Yoga, pg. 25)

These days, this definition of vinyasa floats around and is commonly cited: to place in a special way. It is sourced from this book. “To place in a special way” is partially correct. If you read carefully, in the quote, Desikachar is also very clear about two things:

  1. The step must be in the right direction
  2. It must be made in the right way
Arms overhead

Consider this. You have a candy bar, a key, and a watch. You place these things in a special way upon your dresser. Have you done vinyasa?

I jest, of course, but I do so to point out the other crucial aspects of vinyasa. You gotta know where you’re going. You gotta go in that direction. The step you make needs to be done in the right way. If you’re headed towards advanced OCD, then maybe putting your candy bar, key, and watch in a special way on your dresser is exactly correct, and then yeah, you’re doing vinyasa. Have fun!

In the interview section of The Heart of Yoga Desikachar applies these two ideas—that you need to go in the right direction, and you must take the right action—to yoga more directly. He answers an open-ended request from the interviewer to say something about “structuring your yoga practice intelligently—the concept of vinyasa karma.” Quoting at length:

“First I must ask: what do you mean by “intelligently”? You are probably familiar with the argument that doing the headstand brings more blood into the head. Somebody who has the feeling that the blood supply to the head is not good enough then comes to the conclusion that the headstand is the best asana for them. But first we should think this through. Do we all suffer from a deficient supply of the blood to the head simply because we stand and walk upright? Suppose that someone is haunted by this idea so much that he begin to practice the headstand every day, if possible first thing in the morning, perhaps as the first and only asana. Our experience in working with all kinds of people has taught us that people who do this eventually suffer from enormous problems in the neck, that then result in great tension and stiffness in that area and a decreased supply of blood to the whole musculature of the neck—precisely the opposite of what they hoped they would achieve.

An intelligent approach to yoga practice means that, before you begin, you are clear about the various aspects of the asana you wish to practice, and know how to prepare for them in such a way that you reduce or negate any undesired effects. With regard to the headstand, for example, the questions are: is my neck prepared for this? Can I breathe well in the asana? Is my back strong enough to raise the entire weight of my legs? To approach your practice intelligently means that you know the implications of what you want to do, whether that be asana or pranayama, and to make appropriate preparations and adjustments. It is not enough to jump if you want to reach the sky. Taking an intelligent approach means working toward your goal step-by-step. If you want to travel overseas, the first thing you need is a passport. Then you need visas for the countries you intend to visit, and so forth. The simple fact that you want to go there does not make the trip possible. All learning follows this pattern.” (ibid, xx)

Forward fold. Sort of. Mostly.

In modern yoga, we may at any time be working with these four basic definitions of vinyasa (I’ve ranked them from most common understanding to least-known):

  1. A type of yoga class—now-a-days sometimes even assumed to be a “flow” class.
  2. A specific sequence of breath-synchronized movements to transition between sustained postures, a shorthand for: plank, chatturanga, upward-facing dog, downward-facing dog
  3. The linking of body movement with breath
  4. Setting an intention for one’s personal yoga practice and taking the necessary steps towards reaching that goal

“Vinyasa means a gradual progression or a step-by-step approach that systematically and appropriately takes a student from one point and safely lands them at the next point. It is sometimes described as the “breathing system,” or the union of breath and movement that make up the steps.” Maty Ezraty

Styles of yoga that a commonly considered to be vinyasa based on their relationship to Ashtanga yoga include Baptiste Yoga, Jivamukti, Power Yoga, and Prana Flow. I also consider my home lineage, Forrest Yoga, to be a vinyasa practice for two main reasons:

  1. How strongly we link the breath to motions. Not always “big” movements, as are often expected, but smaller more internal actions as well.
  2. How we always set a strong intent for the practice with a specified asana goal, as well as a goal for internal work, and then set about creating an intelligent pathway towards success.

Often, in my classes, students find that they are able to accomplish things that they previously had never done before. These results are the effects of skillful vinyasa—it’s the responsibility of the teacher to help guide our students towards successful outcomes, in the form of asana accomplishments and internal breakthroughs.

Half Lift

Often in my classes, students have the experience of breathing more, and more deeply than they ever have. This is the result of vinyasa—the deep union of breath with actions small and large.

The aspect of vinyasa that intrigues me the most, is the potential for teaching people about how to reach their own goals in their lives. Step by step, intelligent action towards an asana goal feels a certain way. It contains elements of making a decision about where you want to go, studying the possible routes, deciding on a course, taking deliberate action, making course corrections on the way, cultivating patience and determination together, faith in the process, surrender to the mystery, and celebration upon arrival.

If we teach our people about these things in class, and dissuade them from the things that will impede their progress—impatience, ego, lack of a plan, use of undo force, giving up, just to name a few—then we will be giving them incredible life skills. This is part of why teaching yoga can be so powerful: you have an opportunity to model for your students decisions and actions that will lead them down a path to success, and then encourage them to find similar experiences on their own.

Vinyasa is so much more than it seems on the surface. Vinyasa is a way of living life. Vinyasa is a form of critical thinking that will help people move towards their successes. Vinyasa is a about skillful teaching, learning, and the process of living feeling empowered.

Make THIS definition of vinyasa the one that comes to the fore whenever you hear the word, and it will change your perspective forever:

Setting an intention for one’s personal yoga practice and taking the necessary steps towards reaching that goal.

Downward Facing Dog

For those of you that don’t live in our fair city of New York, I hope that you’ll check out my Sound Cloud channel, where I have many, many “Forrest Inspired Vinyasa” classes up for you to take. On friendly online “stalker” made my day by writing this about me: You have teaching perfected. Seriously. Tone of voice and perfect blend of seriousness and humor. Like hanging out with a friend that will call you on your shit.  DANG GIRL! MY WORK HERE IS DONE: PERFECTION ATTAINED! haha. Click HERE to see of you agree with her! 

And, if you’re on the East Coast, I and my buddy Leslie Pearlman teach a weekend module about Forrest Yoga & Forrest Inspired Vinyasa. We’re available to teach it at your studio, or if you’re free the first weekend in March (2017), join us at her studio for what will be an incredible weekend of knowledge. Click HERE to read about the modular  300 hour training of which this weekend is a part. If you want a description of the module, just reach out in the comments, and I’ll email it to you.

Bye for now. Keep being awesome.

~E

 

What does it mean to “Adore Your Body?”

What does it mean to “Adore Your Body?”

Screen-shot-2014-01-29-at-10-1.39.03-PM-960x474A couple of years ago I crafted a Signature System to help men and women get over their body image challenges. I named it “Adore Your Body.”

I was looking for some words that were “gender neutral” but still encompassed the mission. For me, the word “love” is over-used, misunderstood, and also has some sexual connotations. I didn’t want people to think the program is about masturbation! And yet, I know that some recoiled from the title. For many, to adore your body is a far stretch, already out of reach. For more people than you might think the starting point was “I hate my body”—it was for me!—and from that low, low point a step up would be, well, to hate it just a little less. Maybe, “loathe,” or “despise,” or even “tolerate” would be a really great place to move into!

When I crafted the course title, the body positive movement was just gaining steam. Since that time in 2013, the movement seems to have plateaued a bit: there’s far less writing on the topic, and I think perhaps thanks to Tess Holiday attention has pivoted to acceptance of fat bodies, which is in-and-of-itself a good thing! In the intervening couple of years, there was a lot of writing that I think transformed the project of bolstering your body confidence into yet another female social obligation, one where, if you fell short, it was just yet another task to fail. Bummer. In response to that new social pressure, some people decided to opt out. Why should I have to love my body? They asked? Isn’t it enough just to call a truce?

Yes it can be, and to my point, reaching a neutral place with your body is a terrific place that falls along this spectrum that I’m talking about, where HATE lies at one end, and well, I’m proposing that “adore” lies at the other.

Another critique of the movement was around the project of “body improvement.” So, if you want to improve your body, is that necessarily a form of body hatred, or could it possibly be another form of body love? My answer: it all depends on the intent behind the action. And, the only person who can really be honest about that is YOU. So you want to loose weight because you enjoy the project of working out, eating well, being at the gym, and having measurable results? Cool! But, I ask you this: would you be able to feel good about yourself if you were unable to do all those things? Would you be cool with an extra 10 pounds? Because if you can’t, then you’re probably not really adoring your body.

Why? Here’s the thing. In my mind “adoring” is an unconditional kind of gig. As best as fallible humans can pull of “unconditional.” “Adoring” means, I respect and honor you through thick and thin, through good times, and bad, though health and illness. You don’t have to do anything, achieve anything to be awarded my love. It is enough that you ARE, and for that I adore you.

Adoring is not the kind of emotion that says: I only approve of you IF you look a certain way, behave a certain way, achieve certain things, HAVE certain things. Those are the hallmarks of a conditional kind of love. That is not “adoring.” And, I believe, that is not even love. It is a cage.

O.K. that’s all well and good, you might be thinking, but, what does adoring look like in practice? When I slam up against all the difficulty and messiness of life: then what???

I have ideas for you, and some of them have to do with how do you practice yoga, because on the mat is the place where I began to unravel my own body hatred. If you don’t practice yoga yet reach out to me, and I’ll help you find a good teacher to work with. It’s important that you get some guidance in this department, because not all yoga instructors are trained around how to promote body positivity in the classroom.

If your body is injured, ill, or tired, respond to that accordingly. The demands of our daily lives often seem to take precedence over, well, everything, including the body that houses all other parts of us. Over centuries, we have come to treat the body like it is a machine, but it is not. The body is a mysterious, complex, and intelligent organism. What would it feel like to treat it with that kind of due respect?

Yoga portraits at JR Studio on December 12, 2015 in NYC. (Photo by Ray Tamarra)
Lounge Lunge is like my favorite pose ever. (Photo by Ray Tamarra)

Here are a few thoughts:

If you’re injured and continuing your yoga practice, you need to modify the postures. If you’re not sure how, find a skilled instructor who can help you figure out what to do in the poses that threaten your injury.

If you are sick (like a cold, or a headache, or something like that): don’t go to work! Don’t “push through.” Rest. If you are tired, notice that, and adjust your routine accordingly. Can you go to sleep earlier? Can you catch a 20-minute nap? Could you put your legs up the wall at your office?

The ways that we are cruel to our bodies begin here with small, daily occurrences. And, we have an opportunity to alter that relationship, every day, through small behavior adjustments.

If you gain some weight. Wait. Don’t do anything. Often people gain weight and freak out. They think it’s a bad thing to gain weight. And why wouldn’t they? Everything about our society tells us that to be thin is to be virtuous and to be fat is to be reviled. But, I ask you, why do you buy into this? Have you really thought it through? Where did this construct come from? How does it fit into a historical context? What is the function of this ideology? There was a time when being thin was unattractive and being fat was IT. These ideals as not inherently “good” or “bad.” We have decided that they are. And we can “un-decide.”

So, if you gain three pounds or five, or twenty, refrain from:

  • Putting yourself on a diet, cleanse, juice fast
  • Doubling down on your exercise regime
  • Thinking doomsday thoughts

Instead, get curious about what your body is doing, and why. Is it responding to the season? Is it building new hair, bones, or fingernails? When your body puts on some pounds, its not “doing it to you.” It has its own agenda, which you mostly know nothing about. So, get curious. Curiosity is part of “adoring.”

Watch the way you talk about your body. Watch the way you THINK about other people’s bodies.

Very often we think and say derogatory things about our bodies. There are so very many reasons that we do this. I’m not gonna get into it. I’ve got one thing to say: STOP IT.

Often we think ill thoughts about other people: Why did she think wearing that was O.K.? Fashion FAIL! Looks like she’s put on a few pounds. Getting wrinkles! She’s aged badly…

Take your pick of cruel thoughts. But here’s the deal: those are fears about yourself that you have projected onto other people. So, instead of doing a silent mental laceration of another human being, shift into a place of curiosity and compassion. Try these thoughts instead:

Wow, what an original outfit! I wonder what made her think to put those things together today. Or, maybe she was just down to the very last clean items. Haha! I know what that feels like!

 She’s got such a cute look: no matter whether she’s a little thinner or a little heavier, I just adore everything about her.

Wrinkles are so great. They show a life-line on the face. Hopefully there’s a lot of laughs there! I hope that the past few years haven’t been too hard on her…Maybe I should check in…

A word or twelve about food: We live in a “diet culture.” What does that mean, you ask? It means that in our society, dieting is considered compulsory and a sign of virtue, especially for women. Here’s what I’ve got to say about that. No one knows better than your body does what it needs to eat. The entire process of undoing ideas of “I should eat this” or “I shouldn’t eat that” can take many years. But in the end, no book, no other human or “authority figure” can figure out for you what you need to eat. It’s a private and intimate conversation between you and your body. And, believe me, your body WANTS to eat nutritious, yummy food! So, consider “adoring” to include going on a quest to find out what your body really wants, when, and how much. No one likes to be starved. Don’t do it. Don’t do it ever again.

Finally, be sweet, and gentle, and generous with touch. When you touch your own body—if you pay attention carefully—you might be surprised to discover that you poke, prod, pinch, twist, scratch. Most of these are probably not experiences that a person would submit to as a form of receiving love. Begin the process of building an adoring relationship with your body by touching it in ways that it responds to favorably. Be respectful. Be gentle. Be kind. These are ideals that can go along with “adoring.”

Start with the practices. And, if you’d like to go deeper, hop on my mailing list at www.ericamather.com, and you’ll hear all the news, including when I roll out my next body confidence coaching program. I hope to have to opportunity to work with you! I’m passionate about this project, and view it as a lifelong adventure, building a positive relationship with the body so that you can stop wasting time in the energy drain of body hatred and instead use your life for your own good, and for the good of everyone around you. I hope to hear from you soon!

Adore Your Body Reboot

Erica MatherThe first Adore Your Body Telesummit was, in my opinion, a tremendous success.

What does that–success–mean?

Read some of these comments and see if you can feel what I mean.

“Regardless of size, people all face the same root problems as others. How concept of ourselves can warped early on, but we have a chance to reshape our view of ourselves .”

“Didn’t realize how powerful activism of fat women is today—gorgeous!”

“I loved everything! I think it was Amy Bloom who said that women have so much more to offer than just their looks. That definitely made me realize that I’ve been relying on looking physically “perfect” to make up for what I believe to be deficiencies in my personality.”

“You can be confident and beautiful in a body of any size. you don’t have to wait to be thinner to live a full wonderful life.”

“I think my biggest a-ha was that people who hate fat people or treat fat people horribly are bigots! I don’t know why that struck me so hard but it was something that I never realized before!”

“This is ubiquitous across all races, sexes and genders. Nobody is immune to these destructive feelings.”

“Hearing that these bendy supple young and beautiful women, who I look up to, are just as fucked up about their body image as I am… I am not alone in my suffering from chronic dieting and body shame.”

“So many other women suffer from the same things I do and even though some have gone farther in their journey’s, they still have bad days. And it’s okay!”

“I loved HeatherAsh’s interview. The short term versus long term nourishment really hit home for me. I have been thinking about that everyday and noticing more or what I do can be short term nourishment.”

“I realized that no matter someone’s shape, size, or status, us women always find a way to dedicate an extraordinary amount of time obsessing over bodies and too less time focusing on meaningful work that can advance our gender forward. This obsession is our ball and chain.”

“Your summit served as a great introduction to a different way of thinking and approaching healthy eating and exercise. I didn’t even realize how stuck in diet mentality I was (and still am). I am heartened by this introduction to such a community of honest, beautiful (inside and out), outspoken women. I am inspired. In my challenging moments I have been looking back to the notes I took to give my self renewed focus , strength, and comfort. Thank you!”

I’m rebooting this event because, in case you missed it, I want you to have your own revelations and epiphanies from listening to the 11 luminous speakers.

Some of the feedback I got that I intend to work with as I look to the 2016 Adore a Your Body Telesummit is a desire for more voices from the margins. I wanted this too, when I programmed the 2015 event, but had not yet made the connections I needed. I think that you’ll be pleased with the roster I’m putting together for this Spring.

Until then, every last interview is worth the 20-40 minutes of your life. These ladies are funny and thoughtful, with wisdom to share and from which you will grow. To hear their interviews, sign up here.

“In Beauty”–what does it mean?

“In Beauty”–what does it mean?

tree of GodIf you’re on my mailing list, you will know that I ordinarily sign off with the phrase “in Beauty.” Every time I do, I think I should really explain what I mean by that.

Beauty itself is such a loaded term of valuation in our society. Standards of beauty may lead a person to feel good about themselves, or to feel bad. People who are attractive tend to be rewarded for it in areas that are completely unrelated, like a job, promotion, or the acceptance of other people. We mistake beauty for things like good-ness, competency, merit.

I think that it is no shocking thing to say that we do not live in a meritocracy. The lottery of birth places many people at an advantage, while others start way behind the starting gun.

So when the word beauty gets used in other ways, it is hard to shake its previous associations.

Personally, I use it in three contexts. First, when I sign off my emails. Second, when I remark or encourage my yoga students. Yes, I might be heard saying “beautiful!” in response to what I see them do in class. It is not a platitude. It means something specific, which is too hard to explain in the context of a yoga class where time and words get used up all too quickly. And the third context is personal, private use and acknowledgment of Beauty, in silence, in my mind.

When I sign off “in Beauty” it is referring to the Native American medicine paradigm of Beauty. My teacher, Ana Forrest has a whole article on the meaning of Walk in Beauty, and I’ll use her words here: “To Walk in Beauty means to walk in harmony with all things — not only physically, but also with feelings and our inner wilderness. Also with people, objects, animals…with life!”

So, when I sign off that way, it is a prayer of hope, for myself, and for you, that we all find our way in life, that we find our Beauty way.

Personally, when I see a thing of Beauty, I see it filled with Good Medicine and also with Spirit.

Building on this, when I say to my students, Beautiful! it’s in response to my perception of those Good Medicine and Spirit signs. They are breathing well, and I can hear it, and feel it. The energy in the room feels pillowy and soft, but supportive. And then, I can SEE how when they (you!) apply their breath and attention in a specific way in the asana they shine up.

Ana would call it “sparkle” I think, like the way sun dances on water. That’s sparkle. I don’t see sparkle. I see shine and luminosity. And to be able to see that shine, to see the life force running along their limbs—Oh!—it almost enough to take my breath away. Because that’s Spirit, dare I say—that’s God!—and to perceive it in the bodies of other people…? Well, it is, in the truest sense…beautiful. Bodies filled with Spirit are Good Medicine to the people who occupy those bodies. And for the lucky person who gets to witness it…well I’d have to say it is one of the great privileges of what I do. It is Good Medicine for my body and Spirit too, just to be able to really see.

Last week I had an instance of Beauty when working with a new private client. All his attention was running through the body in a Beauty way. And in my mind, I had a personal moment of reverence, awe, and admiration, because to speak it out loud would have been to break it. Sometimes Spirit is best acknowledged through silence.

So with these explanations in place, to you I say: Walk in Beauty.

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