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. 

Take Back Your Mind

By Alexander Japit

At first glance, it’s very easy to write off mindfulness practices; such as meditation, of having real tangible value.

After all, the only thing that it really involves when you look at it from the outside is sitting. In the modern world, where everyone is so busy and involved in several different activities and has a to-do list that just never seems to shrink, it’s really easy to just write off the practice of sitting there for some amount of time to do NOTHING. When you’re busy, it’s easy to resist the thought that settling down and not working towards your ambitions will lead to LESS stress.

The truth, however, is more complicated than that, and meditation has an impossibly long list of potential benefits including, but not limited to better stress reduction, sleep, focus, and awareness, among many other things.

While these benefits are wonderful, where meditation practice really shines, in my opinion, is the development of the ability to affect and change the brain’s default behavior.

As previously mentioned, we all lead very busy lives in today’s world, and as part of these busy lives, we are subject to a lot of stimulants such as social media, the news, and our general activities that we have to constantly juggle. We live in a world where we are always connected, and that is exactly why we must unplug from time to time.

Physiologically, there exists a neurotransmitter that affects our brain called dopamine. Dopamine can be considered the “pleasure” or “happiness” hormone, and it’s noted that abnormally high or low levels of dopamine are the cause of many behavioral disorders.

I think it’s easy to understand why LOW levels of the “happiness” hormone can lead to behavioral change, but how can HIGH levels have the same effect? This is because the body eventually becomes desensitized to abnormally high levels of a hormone, which means that the same dose of that hormone will not induce the same effect. Therefore, the body will continue to require more and more of the “happiness” hormone to produce the same level of happiness for your mind. This is very dangerous, as it makes other activities that are less interesting or produce less of a dopamine response no longer attractive to perform.

Take for example, wanting to exercise. Exercising is a very healthy behavior that is undeniably good for us, but it’s an extremely difficult habit for many people to begin. One potential explanation for this is that the dopamine response from an exercise session simply cannot match the dopamine response from doing anything else that is immediately mentally stimulating such as social media and browsing the internet, thus, the mind physiologically does not want to exercise or partake in activities that are less rewarding.

Meditation is one of many ways to combat this. In a world that always requires our attention and has an unlimited number of ways to get it, meditation helps our minds detach and make sense of what’s important and not important. Meditation and mindfulness practices then, are ways to help us manage what is perhaps the most important resource in the developed world: Our attention.

Resiliency and Early Learning

US News just published an article – Why Kids – and Schools – Need Yoga.  There’s continued science-backed evidence that yoga is beneficial to everyone.  Yoga for Recovery, Foundation has a goal to reach adults recovering from addiction, systematic oppression, acute-stress, and trauma but what if we started with the kids being ahead of the curve in growing a generation with imbedded resiliency?   Our trademark could be Everybody is Resilient!

It begins by changing our overall human reaction and mindset for both kids and adults in recovery from a negative thought pattern to a more positive one.  University of Rochester psychologist Ed Deci, found that teachers who aim to control students’ behavior—rather than helping them control it themselves—undermine the very elements that are essential for motivation: autonomy, a sense of competence, and a capacity to relate to others.  See the article – https://www.motherjones.com/politics/2015/07/schools-behavior-discipline-collaborative-proactive-solutions-ross-greene/?fbclid=IwAR3TgX0gU9mI827i5nKFWOMAoBKwjJQH7OsTQrFFNVzEglJC4yDe8cPBZY8

How can mindfulness and yoga provided to kids help?  The same way it helps adults!  Kids who regularly practice gain a sense of competence by ‘mastering’ a pose.  They start to learn and positively anticipate how to move and engage their bodies not only in the space assigned to them on their mat but also with the other kids who are all suddenly speaking the same body language.  Very often, a skilled yoga instructor also offers their students opportunity toward autonomy – choosing their own calming visualization or mental stimulus, making a decision on what way ‘feels’ best to arrive at a pose, or even how many counts to hold a breath.  The entire expression of yoga is based on mastery of ‘self’.   Even as Sage Patanjali taught us – Prayatna saithilya ananta samapattibhyam or “Perfection in an asana is achieved when the effort to perform it becomes effortless and the infinite being within is reached.”

Yoga is an Inside Job supporting the art of Caregiving

“Caregiving is done with a lot of love and affection, but there’s a lot of loss involved,” said Carey Wexler Sherman, a gerontologist at the University of Michigan Institute for Social Research interviewed for the article https://www.nytimes.com/2017/08/04/health/caregiving-alzheimers-isolation.html.

This statement is true if you care for someone who is aging, care for someone in active or recovering addiction, care for a child or family member with any struggle from learning disabilities to physical illness.  Love knows no bounds but can still be crippling when our love exceeds the capacity to pursue our own self-care. 

How does a consistent and regular yoga practice help Caregivers?  The mat becomes a magic carpet that can transport the busyness and stress of a mind dealing with strict, rigid, or emergency schedules into a haven of presence.  The reality of NOW allows Caregivers to minimize the worry and guilt that often rise up with thoughts that question: how to best help and how to best cope.  The inside effort of a yoga practice can help one change those anxieties into acceptance knowing that what we do in any given moment is always our best.  The inside practice of yoga helps regain what is lost of the self in the self-less act of caring; a centeredness and balance of life.  As Caregivers are better able to make space for themselves the circle of love can widen – including once again a community (maybe of other yoga practitioners) because rather than be stuck on the internal track of struggle the Caregiver is secure enough to reach out for small kindnesses and assistance. 

This article talks about the shame of taking a deteriorated mind out in public – the shame experienced by penetrating stares or inappropriate requests of others.  A Caregiver practicing self-care yoga might be able to navigate these bumps by understanding that there is no shame in the love they display for themselves and the ones they care for – leaving the feelings of others with the others and not taking those on as their own.

Yoga for Recovery Foundation, Inc has a team of caring instructors that know and have experienced these same Caregiver traumas.  Our own pursuits of yoga became a game-changer and we are now bringing this experience to the community we most want to serve – YOU and your LOVED ones.   Donations help us expand our offerings with more instructors, workshops, scholarships, and programs. 

Consider donating through one of our many fundraisers by following the links – https://yfrfoundation.org/donate-volunteer/ or https://www.customink.com/fundraising/yoga-for-recovery-foundation-fundraiser?share=2051579400046754&utm_source=facebook&utm_campaign=mobile-campaign-page-share&utm_medium=social&ref=facebook_social_mobile-campaign-page-share&utm_content=yoga-for-recovery-foundation-fundraiser&side=front&type=2&zoom=false&fbclid=IwAR1uqxyB1lCuTgo1vV93I1r2q7hy_pVQ0fv2Y0YxFTL3_Ky7EgSBgiRRkcM

Action over Perfection

by Alexander Japit

As practitioners, we all have our own unique reasons to start and continue our practice and training. Maybe we practice for better peace of mind, better physical health, look better, nail that handstand, have fun, or even a resolution or promise.

            Reasons for practice and training are varied, and like everything else in our lives, change over time. Our reasons and goals are often very ambitious, and while setting a goal is a great first step to creating change, it’s easy to get overwhelmed by an ambitious goal and find ourselves in a rut where we simply can’t start.

            Should you ever find yourself in such a position, understand that you are not broken, you aren’t missing a quality that other practitioners may have, you are not less motivated, and you are not less capable.  We are imperfect by design and if we were perfect there would be no need to practice.

            To reach a big goal – ACT…not plan. Imperfect action is better than perfect planning. This is not to say that planning is pointless, but without action, planning can only go so far, especially if your goal is to learn a physical skill. Nothing happens without action, without trying.

            One action, however small, every day, leads to great strides in acquiring any goal, be it physical or otherwise. Every small action, no matter how imperfect, leads us ever closer to our goals. Perfection is simply a measure to strive for, the lack of perfection should never be a reason not to act.

            Strive to do something, even if it’s small.

            Every. Single. Day

Working With Joy

The Harvard Business Review published an article: Proof That Postive Work Cultures are More Productive? by Emma Seppälä and Kim Cameron in 2015 stating that ‘The American Psychological Association estimates that more than $500 billion is siphoned off from the U.S. economy because of workplace stress, and 550 million workdays are lost each year due to stress on the job.’ A widening array of research is showing that people are literally getting physically sick by being employees.

What was most interesting is that the evidence points less to material gains as an indicator to work satisfaction but rather gains in individual emotional growth such as respect, inspiration, and interpersonal connection. These internal engagements and psychological benefits cost nothing and yet the level of workplace stress in the U.S. continues to climb – maybe even to the point of tipping as our internal struggles as a culture impact future generations who will enter the workforce one day soon (1 in 5 US adolescents is prediabetic).

For most people their work is what they base much of their lives around spending at least time in the 8 to 5 at the office or in some other form of employment – commuting to those jobs and setting up their mornings and evenings to support a full day’s work. If we are spending so much attention to the standard work week – what can employers do to help?

It could start with wellness and mindfulness programs that are heavily influenced around mind-body benefits such as yoga, tai chi, or qi gong. Again, a mounting stack of research is showing that a proactive wellness initiative in the workplace is highly cost effective at reducing medical expenditures. In widening and widening circles we may see that the micro influence of individual companies will start to impact our larger economy and even the future of our world and nation. It may be time for employees to influence what they seek in their employers: asking for corporate cultural balance, emphasis on health, and emotional stability to be on the punch list along with the salary, 401k, and monetary criteria.

Perspective

by Susan L. Roque

I was sitting cozily propped up amongst the numerous cushions on my friend’s couch who happened to be hosting bookclub last month. As usual the conversation floated along different thought streams and narratives breaking off into dialogs of couplets, triplets and occasionally capturing all of our attention as did the discussion of the ceiling fan of all things. What initially caught our attention was the uniqueness of the design which reminded us of the propeller on a futuristic jet. My friend sitting across from me commented that it was spinning counterclockwise, another friend sitting to my right countered it was spinning clockwise and of course most of us chimed in with our opinion and we all agreed to disagree laughing at how captured we were by such a mundane subject. 

Wouldn’t you know it, a week later sitting in a gratitude training, that very subject was introduced as an example of perspective. Looking from beneath a spinning fan it appears to spin counterclockwise and shifting the fan, as if sliding it down on the wall, the blades will appear to be turning clockwise. 

Needless to say it became another “ah ha” moment simply and beautifully signified by the spinning blades of a fan. 

It reminds me to consider that everything is possible all the time. I get to drop into observer mode and choose to see, hear or feel differently than what my automatic drops me into being, oftentimes without my permission. In my yoga practice I am continually changing my experience by subtly shifting my position, my mindset, my hold onto things that are not serving my well being in that moment. Taking that off the mat and into the world has proven to be a kinder, softer way of being in the world for me personally and for the individuals with whom I am interacting. 

Yoga, any or all of its eight limbs, shows up in all things if I am paying attention and leads me into a state of blissful presence, a place of ease. For this recovering addict that is right where I need to be. 

Yoga Asana – A Gateway to Life’s Benefits

I work with a lot of people. In my corporate job I lead teams and meet with folks both high and low along the organizational chain. When I teach and run Yoga for Recovery I’m even more intimately engaged with individuals nearly every night of the week. And I LOVE it. Which I never really thought I would since as a kid I was the quiet one, the one reading a book at the park high up in a tree instead of running around and playing.

In an interview for PBS, MARK BERTOLINI the CEO of Aetna said he invests $190,000 a year to yoga and mindfulness benefit programs for his employees. “When I had that accident, I couldn’t engage in my physical activity the way I had before, and I engaged — started engaging in yoga as a physical practice, but very quickly found out there was something broader to it, and that it was actually helpful for my pain, and started to get into meditation, started to study the Upanishads and the Bhagavad Gita and a lot of the scriptures associated with yoga, the Yoga Sutras, and very quickly came to this conclusion that this had a huge impact on my ability to lead…

Taking a leadership role was something that didn’t feel quite right at first since most of the experience and leadership I witnessed was pushing & prodding rather than truly ‘leading’.  By going through teacher training though and engaging (just as Mark Bertolini) with texts and examples that are hundreds of thousands of years old – I began to understand all the world needs is for me just to be me. 

Leadership came so much more rewarding when I changed my expectation about results. My teams started expressing how they appreciated that I was giving them kindness and you know what – we eventually got the job done with humanity and integrity. No one will remember which deadline we hit but someone will remember that feeling of collaborating as a team. All I have to be is a good person; my best person. I am still that girl who loves snuggling up under the covers by herself with a good book. But I also stand up in front of 5-6 classes a week and open my heart in love to watch young and old, happy and sad have an experience with this physical thing called ‘yoga’ that is an opportunity to practice enjoyment of life’s benefits.