When I tell people what I do for a living, these are the two phrases I hear most:
1. “I can’t do yoga because I am not flexible enough.”
2. “I can’t meditate, because I can’t shut my mind off.”
It always makes me laugh. I usually respond with, “Well, that’s why we call it ‘a practice’: so we can learn those things.” But that isn’t the whole truth—there is something much deeper going on.
Yes, yoga will absolutely improve your strength and flexibility, but I actually consider those byproducts of yoga. As one of my teachers, Judith Lasater, put it, “The goal of yoga is to manipulate the nervous system. When you relax the body, you relax the mind. Yoga is about becoming present and adaptable.”
When I first adopted my puppy she was 30 pounds. I thought she was full grown, but apparently she was nowhere near full grown. People who met her when I first adopted her would see her months later and comment on how big she was getting. I see her every day and I rarely weigh her, so to me she doesn’t look like she has grown at all. The last time we went to the vet she weighed in at 70 pounds. About a month ago I came across a photo of her the first day she came home with me and I couldn’t believe how little she looked. I can’t remember her that size at all. Just like I was unable to see how much Luna had grown, this is how we are when it comes to the growing strength in our bodies. Read more
In 2009 I lived in hilly San Francisco with no car and on the third floor of a huge house. I walked, took the bus or rode my bike everywhere. I was strong, mobile and in great shape. I took a bad fall and ended up having knee surgery. The stairs to my room were winding and narrow. For months I had to crawl on my butt to get up them. I paid for cabs or relied on the few friends I had with cars to get me around. The logistics of life in SF with a limitation of mobility is very challenging. I felt imposed upon by my body. I became depressed.
My mother had Lou Gehrig’s disease, so as a child I witnessed her daily practice of managing frustration as she lost her motor skills—one by one—fully aware of what the end result would be. At the time of my surgery, I was the same age she was when she was diagnosed. When a disease like that takes your parent there is always a part of you that awaits your own diagnosis. My healing process took longer than I expected. My mind kept playing tricks on me thinking that maybe my immobility was now permanent. Read more
I have been thinking about resistance a lot lately. About a month ago I began the process of writing a book. My friend flew down from Seattle a few weeks ago to help me develop the theme of the book—something I asked her to do. When she was discussing different publishers and speaking engagements it felt like a lot of pressure. My mind told me, “why is she trying to take this over?!” I was rejecting everything she said. When she challenged me on it I found that underneath that resistance was a lot of fear. Fear of exposure: What if this project is beyond my capabilities? What if it sucks and then people will see that I suck? Having this information in my head is one thing, but the audacity to put it in print or stand in front of people and claim that I have something to say about it is a whole other thing.
In the moment, my body felt like armor. My chest felt like it grew as broad as my upper arms and turned into metal. Nothing could get passed it. My head was hot and my forehead tight. I felt an instant aggressive outward energy toward my friend as if she was the cause of it.
It’s important to know what resistance feels like in the body, because did you notice what my mind did with it? It told me a story about my friend. It was an untrue story—a story that, if it were to have been believed, could have caused a big hullabaloo between my friend and me. Read more
There has been a theme of guilt running through my calls with clients this week. Lots of “self-flogging” for mistakes made in the past. Each time I’ve asked the question, “What’s it going to take for you to let yourself off of the hook?” It’s been met with long pauses or tears.
If we aren’t these horribly bad people we have told ourselves we are, then who are we? Maybe it feels too groundless to let go of the story of our deficiencies. It might be worth a shot though, no?
Imagine: what would life be like if you were to forgive yourself?
Are you familiar with the 5 Languages of Love? It breaks down how we like to give and receive love into five categories. I have found it to be such a great tool in learning about myself and the people I am in relationship with. I scored top level on Personal Touch–followed by Words of Affection and Quality Time–and zero on Gifts. It makes sense, as I am much more interested in connection than things.
I have been thinking a lot about touch. I come from a family of touchers–there was a lot of hugging, hair-playing and hand-holding in my house. I am a toucher. If I am talking to you one-on-one, I am most likely touching you. When I became a teacher, I had to train myself not to touch, because not everyone is OK with it. It has always felt restrictive to me. The older I get and the more time I spend teaching, the more I allow it to enter the classroom, because I learned that students are attracted to teachers that are like them, which means I most likely attract touchers.
To touchers, not having touch can feel like malnutrition. It can lead to depression. It can feel like the body is constricted and tight. Read more