Up Up and Away

by Bari Kriependorf

Let’s face it-the world is upside down. All generations are processing the changes in different ways but there is one commonality. Gen X, Z, millennials and boomers have never experienced this type of calamity and many are beginning to lose it. 

It’s interesting to watch it all from afar, how people are dealing, how negative social media posts are becoming, the blame game- China, Trump, the Dems-it just goes on and on, negative comments whirling, gaining traction and spiraling through the collective consciousness. The constant news reporting all of the updates might be the worst part of it all.  I’ve had enough. The energy has to change; thoughts have to change.  Humanity can overcome this. There is a way to find positive in all of the negative and eventually this will end.

We need yoga now more than ever…. yoga in the broadest sense.  A specific path and lifestyle, discipline, awareness, concentration- overall freedom from suffering. Yogic and other philosophies are rooted in suffering thought to be caused from ignorance. Ignorance here is a loaded word related to the metaphysical parts of yoga.  We can get into that a later but the fact is the world is suffering. 

 At the same time however, there is also a swelling of positive collective consciousness. There is a movement under foot that has been and is continuing to gain traction. People are changing and humanity is moving to an elevated state of awareness.

There are many discussions about the cycles of culture and consciousness which brings huge energy changes to life on earth and greatly affects the human mind and body.  There is a school of thought that we are now in a bronze age or Dwapara Yuga which demonstrates a rise in widespread spiritual advancement.  There are many signs that we are in this era and advancing towards silver, but most notable is that over 35M Americans are meditating and those numbers continue to rise +10% since 2012. (LA Times 11/8/18, Karen Kaplan). It is becoming such common place that even children are learning meditation skills early on in their education.  Yoga asana is no longer unconventional. The yoga industry is big business generating over $12B per year and growing almost 5% each year since 2015. (ibisworld 2020)

So back to the point, we are in an enlightened age of cosmic consciousness! The time to change the course of negative discussion and spreading of fear starts now. Let’s take a minute to find some joy in this misfortune and the joy in opportunities.  Staying inside with family or close friends, reading more, getting outside, creating, gardening, writing songs, TV bingeing, cooking, meditating, and omg devouring Easter Cadbury Mini Eggs- the best chocolate seasonal candy ever! 

I am writing daily, running, practicing asana, pranayama, meditation, working from home, slowing down, loving on my dog, purging my home, doing crafts, doing whatever I want. It sucks out there, it’s scary, but let’s not panic. Post images of spring time. NC is starting to bloom and grass is green. Stay inside and if you must go out, stay at a safe distance from others- yes a full six feet away. Be kind to one another. Meditate on peace with others through digital. Consider mantra. Write happy posts about funny things going on with your family. Dress your pets up!  Pray for and thank publically the people on the front line-caregivers, drivers, medical, police, manufacturing, supply chain workers and grocery clerks.   They will be happy that you care.

As these posts flow through in mass, moods will be lifted, positive energy will start moving, and the earth will be charged again. Maybe this virus will die from love.  And if it doesn’t, stay inside and be happy so that other don’t catch this damn thing. 

Deep Calls to Deep: Processing Trauma through Deep Stretch Yoga

by Brook Blaylock

The sound of my membership card being scanned failed to signal transformation. I walked into that—and my deep stretch class—unsuspectingly. In class after class instructors talked about the potential of certain poses to rinse my body of toxins and negative energy, but I’d never really paid it much, if any, heed. I found such phrasing a humorous nod to the copious amounts of sweat hot yoga produced in practitioners. I kept “rinsing” myself right along with those numbers because yoga was the only exercise that slowed down my mind. Tormented by a constant barrage of often unwelcome thoughts and images, no other exercise inspired the mental calm of yoga. While this should have been enough on its own, I also appreciated the feeling of physical exhaustion a good vinyasa class engendered, sure evidence I was molding my body into better shape. 

Both motivations were counter-intuitive to the tenets of a sound yoga practice I heard about on my mat. I liked yoga because of the potential to “master” my mind and body, not my breath. It afforded me the feeling of control I desperately sought in every area of my life. By practicing, I tamed a mind whose chaos I longed to temper, and a body I longed to master with my mind.  Everything about my practice was about me controlling the parts of my physical and psychological being I feared would betray me—that I knew had betrayed me and would do so again. As someone suffering from PTSD and at times crippling anxiety, the only thing I wanted out of any kind of exercise was control.

Luckily, yoga forgave these motivations. It waited patiently while I forced myself into pigeon and crow poses, full wheels and triangles, all while ignoring the more “spiritual” facets of its flow. Before that fateful deep stretch class, my most spiritual experience had been falling out of crow pose and onto the top of my water bottle. In spite of the black eye my landing gave me, and the blood that preceded it, I finished the class. In my eyes that experience epitomized exactly what I wanted out of life and yoga: the strength to overcome bad circumstances, the perseverance to keep moving forward, to continue through both my yoga class and my future. Strength didn’t look like letting my body speak to me on my mat. It didn’t look like calming my mind so I could listen to its voice. Strength looked like forcing my body and mind to conform to both my will and the various contortions each yoga pose required.

In the midst of a particularly long pigeon, however, my body betrayed me. Somewhere in my piriformis muscle a memory I always kept contained unloosed alongside my hip flexor. There I was, three years old and trapped in the bathtub. Here I was, 42 years old and trapped on my mat. There I was, scared and breathing rapidly, praying he wouldn’t get in. Here I was, scarred and breathing rapidly, praying the power of this memory would subside. How could I possibly relive this in the middle of a deep stretch class for God’s sake? For the past year, I had been going to weekly therapy sessions employing EMDR, or eye movement desensitizing and reprocessing, in the hopes of moving the trauma of early sexual abuse from where it was stored in my amygdala, an area of the brain primarily associated with emotional processing, to an area of my brain in which I could safely interpret this experience.

In spite of all my therapy, and week after week of my counselor encouraging me to speak about what had happened so as to dissipate the trauma’s power, I remained unable to verbalize my abuse. The closest I had come had been to write out on paper a brief synopsis of what had transpired. Somehow, I couldn’t say the words aloud because I felt that if I said them the beliefs that went with them—I’m disgusting, shameful, bad—would immediately infect the listener with the same distorted view. They would immediately see me as the awful person I saw myself as in that moment. At this moment I felt those words un-stretching in the muscles of my hips and I felt myself sinking not deeper into my pose, but deeper into the corresponding despair.

It was at that point I remembered ujjayi breathing. I began to fill my lungs and breathe through my nose, praying for the memory to go away just like I sometimes prayed ujjayi breath might take away muscle pain. Amazingly, my body and mind calmed and there, in the most unlikely of places, sweating in a pigeon pose in the middle of a crowded room of yogis, I processed my trauma. God met me in between my ujjayi breathing and for the first time, I saw the scene of my abuse differently. I was not alone in that bathroom with my abuser. God stepped between us and lifted me out of the tub. He wrapped me in a hot white towel and carried me to safety. As I felt the heat of the towel enveloping my body, I felt the power of the words I associated with the abuse burning away. I was no longer disgusting, shameful, or bad. I no longer had to carry those words in my mind or in my body. Somehow, they had been trapped in both places, but the time I spent in pigeon pose enabled my body to drive them out, allowing a new narrative to replace them.

Turns out, it was entirely for my sake that God let me relive that memory in the middle of that deep stretch. During therapy, my body never relaxed. I went into every EMDR session tense and afraid of what might ensue. During deep stretch, the time I spent in poses afforded my body a level of openness I could never attain in a therapy session. While the idea of trauma actually being physically stored in one’s body is controversial and as yet unproved, I am convinced that yoga, in conjunction with traditional therapy, enabled me to process a traumatic event in a way that counseling alone never could.  According to Shaili Jain, a professor of psychiatry at Stanford University, “when…traumatic thoughts and memories remain unspeakable or unthinkable for too long, they impede our brain’s natural process of recovery after trauma. They become stuck points that inhibit the mental reintegration that is needed for healing to occur.”  Deep stretch yoga empowered my body to release this unspeakable memory and my mind to visualize the means by which I could begin a process of mental reintegration.

 Just like I had when I fell on my water bottle, I kept practicing until the end of class. However, I didn’t maintain the same definition of strength. I was only able to have an experience of healing, to reimagine the circumstances of my trauma and redefine its impact on my psyche, because the deep stretch class pushed my mind and body to a place beyond that of my control. When I accidentally stopped trying to control the effects of my practice, my practice began to positively affect me. My body found a space in which it could safely release trauma I had stored for decades and my voice soon followed. At the end of that class I found the strength to tell a friend who had been practicing beside me what had happened. What I had thought had been a betrayal was, in fact, a transformation. My body had a voice and by enabling it to “speak” in the midst of that stretch, I found the power to speak about my trauma and the strength to overcome it. I had an entirely new understanding of what it meant to find release through a yoga pose. 

Rise-Up: 5 Practices to Build Resilience and Cope with Adversity

by: Hope Smyth

They found her body nearly twenty-four hours after she died, submerged in the bathtub. The faucet continued to run as hot water turned cold. Eventually it leaked into the apartment below.  It would take the coroner’s office almost a month to release the final cause of death.  

The phone rang and I knew it was bad news. I picked it up. Shallow breath on the other end, a heavy pause before my stepfather spoke. In a shaky whisper he said, “two police officers were here.” I couldn’t quite digest the words the first time.  My ears turned hot; the room blurred, the ground felt unstable; suddenly, I was on my knees. My sister was dead at a mere thirty-two years old. 

It was a tumultuous childhood for both of us. Why does one sibling survive, while the other took her own life?  I have asked myself this question countless times.  Although, I will never know the answer, the word resilience resonates within. 

How we deal with setbacks, challenges and failures plays a significant role in our psychological and emotional health. Resilience is defined as the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties; or thrive despite challengesResilience is a way to rise- up despite the adversity we face. No one knows for sure why some embody resilience and others succumb to despair. But research is optimistic that we can build resilience and it’s a skill anyone can learn.  

We can choose to create new neural pathways by participating in new activities that train our brains. The pathways get stronger through repetition. Psychologist Deann Ware Ph.D., states that when brain cells communicate frequently, the connection between them strengthens- With enough repetition these behaviors become automatic. Reading, driving, and riding a bike are examples of complicated behaviors that we do automatically because of neural pathways. Below are five strategies for overcoming life’s challenges as you build resilience.  

  1. Breath with Intention: 

There are numerous breathing techniques to help soothe and restore the parasympathetic nervous system. One is diaphragmatic breathing or belly breathing. Lay on your back, place one hand on your belly and the other on your chest.  Breathe in through your nose. As you inhale the hand on your belly will rise. Breathe out through your mouth and your hand will lower.  There are countless videos on the internet to guide this practice.  

  1.  Re-write your story: 

Changing or understanding your internal narrative is imperative.  We tend to ruminate on the details of a traumatic experience. Allow yourself to explore the event by writing it down. Create a safe space and take 10-20 minutes to free write. Don’t worry about grammar or punctuation. Just let the words spill to the page. Research shows that adding structure to chaos can help us gain a sense of control. Once the event loses power, go back, and see what you have learned about yourself or the experience. What have you gained despite the adversity? 

  1. The Practice of Self-Compassion: 

Self-compassion encourages us to approach our own suffering with warmth and kindness. Although it’s not an easy practice, we must first learn to love ourselves. I invite you to envision someone you love. A child, best friend or partner.  Imagine they come to you with the very same story. How would you comfort them?  Would you hug them, make them tea? Would you give them a safe space to express their anguish?  Whatever you would do for a loved one, do it for yourself. 

  1.  Cognitive Behavioral Therapy: 

Therapy is the gateway to emotional health. It provides a support network, it’s a safe place to explore emotional trauma while creating a plan of action to build your resilience. If you have tried therapy in the past and determined it was not for you, please try again. It can take a few tries to find a therapist that matches your personality. View it as a job interview or new date; sometimes, you need to explore a few options before you discover the right fit. 

  1.  Physical Self-Care: 

Get in your body and find activities that connect the body and mind. Yoga, mindfulness and walking are excellent examples. Of course, if those don’t speak to you, find something that does.  New research in neural and biological health indicates that mindfully integrating the body with cognitive behavioral therapy can help speed recovery.  

These are suggested practices. Be patient with yourself and remember real change takes time. 

Creating Joy

by Bari Kriependorf

A few weeks ago I took part in satsang at a small metaphysical shop in Charlotte. About 8 people came, and most of them like me were new to this group. The subject for the day was joy which I thought was interesting as I never gave the subject of joy much thought. Normally I thought more about what joy brings and not the actual creation of joy. Happiness and joy I learned are not the same. Joy comes from within and happiness is a byproduct of joy. 

Last week YFR posted an article on working with joy which called out that work satisfaction was more pronounced with individual emotional growth as opposed to growth in material gains.

Thinking back in my own career, I realized this is exactly what makes me happy at work and why I changed roles or left companies. Cultures that are uplifting and recognize individual contribution with honor and respect truly do drive corporate growth and can signficantly contribute to the overall corporate mission.

So how does one create joy? Joy needs to be cultivated and it takes effort to find ways to experience it.

Our group shared stories about managing perspective and finding the positive even in the negative. Stating three things you are grateful for first thing in the morning can have a positive effect on the rest of the day.  Joy is where you find it and is not the same for everyone.

 The group leader shared that humans have 3x more positive thoughts than negative ones but by default, we tend to share mostly negative thoughts. And when we share those negative experiences over and over, we put gloominess and negativity into the universe. Constant sharing of the negative mitagates any joy we might have created from within and simply becomes undone. 

What would happen in the world if we starting sharing only positive experiences? It’s been proven that sharing positive experiences boosts happiness and energy!

So what can we do to find joy from within? Here are some options that came from our group:

It all starts with a change of thought.   

Let go of the shit that brings you down and stop surrounding yourself with negative people. You really can choose who you talk to and surround yourself with.

Cleanse yourself- Drink more water, add Yoga, do Meditation, practice Mantra, and Abhyanga,

Eat more plant based or satvic products- give up the heavy stuff that is weighing down your body and thoughts.

Shake up your routine and try something new- did I mention all encompassing Yoga?

Share more positive experiences.

Speak your truth, you never know who is listening.

Forgive yourself and others. We are human afterall 🙂

Love yourself- you are powerless over everything except you. Isn’t this this truth? We can all be reminded to love ourselves once in awhile.

I’m on board with creating joy. It’s been a few weeks now since I’ve decided to actively seek out joy and I’m feeling great. Future forward I’m going to be that person who sees the cup half-full and not half empty. When asked how I was doing I had to catch myself a few times before answering with something positive.  It’s a work in progress but in the end I’m trying to be more mindful of my internal thoughts and outward communication and feeling great about adding more positive vibrations in the universe.