Nov 112014

These days I’m head-down in my second year of graduate school. The Maryland University of Integrative Health has established a Master of Science in Yoga Therapy degree program, and I’m in the first ever cohort. It has been an emotionally and cerebrally intense journey so far, and has enriched my knowledge and skills far beyond what I ever imagined.  What I didn’t expect was the amount of personal growth I would experience, not the least of which was discovering that there’s always room for more healing.

Month after month of meditation, studying yoga scriptures, the brain, physiology, as well as yoga practice on the mat, sharing, discussions, fears, insights, self-doubts and self-discoveries, I and my colleagues have opened into a new awareness of what it really means to live the human experience. I’ve learned more about myself, that I’ll always be navigating the turbulence of life’s unexpected curve balls.  That I can experience the full spectrum of emotions without being held hostage by any one of them.  I’ve experienced the re-opening of some of my wounds (which I discovered never really closed in the first place). But now, I can be with them in a safe place, and I can cultivate the Conscious Witness within and truly feel that I am more than my story, more than my pain. This journey has given me the tools to help keep me afloat.

“Healer, heal thyself.”

In order for us as mind-body practitioners to hold a safe space for our clients, we need to hold one for ourselves. I’ve learned to step out of ego and into awareness. I’ve learned that just because I’m still working through my grief doesn’t mean I can’t be present for the person who is sitting in front of me, needing to work through her grief. I’ve learned that there is a deep well of stillness and compassion that is always accessible.

Keep looking at the bandaged place.
That’s where the light enters you. (Rumi)

Underneath the pain, underneath the fear, underneath the anger, is a quiet place where I can meet my Self. This is a calm abiding place where the reigns that have long gripped my heart can be released.  Where I can rest my mind in stillness.

It is a beautiful place.


Apr 212014

I live in the south.  Technically, anyway.  Virginia is below the Mason-Dixon line and there are plenty of people around here who are still fighting the “war of Northern aggression.”  Growing up in New Jersey, it was made clear through the history books I was required to read that we Yankees were certainly on the side of righteousness.  And living close to a major metropolitan area allowed me the privilege of learning tolerance and acceptance for those who were different from me.

But I digress.  The Civil War is not the subject of today’s post.  I am a yoga teacher and a practicing yoga therapist (in the interest of disclosure, I have been teaching yoga classes for eight years, and working as a yoga therapist for six years, and am currently earning my Master’s degree in Yoga Therapy).  This career change happened after I moved to Virginia from the north.  I am also a member and deacon of my local Presbyterian church.  My husband (who practices yoga) is a church elder.  Our daughter volunteers in the nursery on Sundays and is a member of the church youth group.  We pray before each meal, and openly talk about God in our home.  So I personally don’t see any exclusivity between being a Christian and having yoga in my life.

Except for a very few encounters of opposition, I have been welcomed in my community as a yoga professional.  The opposition has come from those (in the south) who believe that practicing yoga is equivalent to worshipping a false god, or worse, Satan-worship.  This could not be further from the truth.  Sadie Nardini makes an excellent point in her post in today’s Elephant Journal about this very topic.  I’ve said it ad nauseum and will say it again: yoga is not a religion; it is a path.  It is a journey into oneself.  Gandhi practiced meditation, and he believed in God.  Because I respect the beliefs of everyone I encounter—in class and in private sessions—I purposely refrain from making any reference to any kind of religion.  This is because we are all pilgrims.  We are all on this journey, together and individually.  We can embrace our yoga and meditation practice at the same time as we embrace our spiritual beliefs.  One doesn’t cancel out the other, but rather, each can make the other stronger.  Read Sadie’s post here for more enlightenment.