Sunday, July 27, 2014

Playfulness! Celebrate Your Body!

Summer reminds me of the playfulness of childhood. Swimming pools that I swim in until my fingers turn to prunes; watermelon sticking to my hands and running down my chin; riding my bicycle throughout the neighborhood with my best friend until after dark; packing a lunch and going for a three mile hike on foot for fun.

 Then there was my endless multi tasking, making paper dolls, listing my favorite fruits, holding my breath under water. By the end of the day, I would feel so exhausted in the best way : each cell in my body vibrating with life force. It was healthy, but I didn't even realize it because  I was just playing and having fun. In my adult years, I etch my to-do lists into my daily journal and  my iphone that is (sort of) synched up with my e-mail. Each free moment is spent on another angle of accomplishment. In celebration of my childhood Summers,I remind myself daily to do things only because I really want to, and in the spirit of fun. I encourage you, this month to join me in taking time out for fun and to challenge yourself just because you love to.

  • Try a hand stand for the fun of it.

  • Gather some friends to play a team sport.

  • Try something new, like stand up paddle board or acro yoga.

  • Eat nature's candy. The summer fruit season is my favorite. I have been living on berries, cherries, peaches, nectarines and watermelon. Yum.

  • Set yourself up for an alfresco dinner.

  • Be excited when you rise for the day. Life is a celebration!

When the sun moves into the astrological sign of Leo, I encourage creativity, play, childlike wonder, and discovering what your true passion is. The planet Jupiter just moved into Leo as well this week, so it expands the qualities of this sign. Leo rules the heart, so living from your heart, opening your heart and expressing your heart's desire are in the spotlight now. Take center stage, and play your role. There is nobody quite like you, and if you don't fully play your part, it won't get played. The essence of you is all you need to bring forward and let it shine. Since Leo rules the heart, cardio vascular exercise and anything that gets the heart pumping is great. I also like playful things like games (soccer anyone), swimming or jumping rope. Yoga poses like Camel, Wheel, and Upward Facing Dog literally open the chest and heart. When you have a moment in your day, close your eyes and see if you can allow yourself to energetically connect to your heart. Watch yourself unfold. Be the love. Celebrate your life and your body and play! 

Monday, July 21, 2014

Anger: the Taboo Emotion

As I write this, I am laid up in my bed, flat on my back, on an ice pack. It is no surprise that I have recently experienced the break down that often comes, post break up. I am experiencing this "unyoking" in a new way: I am not blaming him or myself. Sometimes even when there is love, things simply do not work out. This experience has left me sad, of course. I also feel a little joy, because there is hope for future love and life is a beautiful adventure. I feel and express sadness easily. Sadness is safe and acceptable in our culture and joy is desirable. Anger is another story for me. It is the taboo emotion. It's the one I don't want to admit that I have or express openly, but most of all, it's the one I don't like to feel.

The yoga with it's promise of Ahimsa (non-violence) was a contradiction in my household. Since  my father was a devout yogi and meditator and student of spiritual philosophies one would imagine that he would be calm. It was quite the opposite. . The truth is, there was rage in my family of origin. My father would have outbursts of rage seemingly out of nowhere, and I had a sensitive nature in my constitution. This was hard on me. Of course I know that without the yoga, it could have been a lot worse, but this feeling of growing in up in a war zone permeated my childhood. Survival meant protection. It meant defense. The best defense is a good offense, they say. I have said before that I grew up in an emotional war zone and was trained to be a suicide bomber.

The home became an every-man-for-himself type of existence. I felt such discomfort with the rage that was contagious and passed to me that I would feel the need to somehow exaggerate it and get it out of me. I would even take myself down if it meant taking my father down in order to feel safe. My alternative outlet was self-deprivation that fueled my an eating disorder as a youth. Much rage lay beneath the surface, and I was trying to starve it out of me. It was a blessing to find performing when I was a teenager. The perfect platform for self expression, and pent up emotion.In acting they say that in order to access the full range of human emotions, you must be able to access anger. The anger is the gateway to even the elation and joy. In class I studied the classics, but in the working world, I was usually hired for comedy. Joking and even sarcasm distorts the anger. They say "sarcasm" at it's root means to tear flesh. There is still violence in sarcasm, so it doesn't really resolve the issue. 

To this day, my anger lays dormant. (perhaps in my lower back?) I often wish that I was able to feel and channel my anger fully. It's "in my chart" as my ex says. Meaning: my astrological chart gives me a certain make up, and there is an aspect of me that gets triggered, but my warrior is fighting with water guns and whipped cream pies. When channeled productively, it helps me to turn energy into rhythm, find spiritual power, help others to help themselves, start my projects and motivates my work outs. Anger can be a positive. In fact I just read an article in Psychology Today that celebrates anger. People with easily expressed anger have less stress hormones. They are more positive about outcomes and have more confidence! Food for thought, my fierce friends.

Reconciling myself with the yogic ideal of non-violence while living in a world with war in the background feels like a conflict/resolution purgatory. The contradiction that lives within me is mirrored in the world I see "out there".  So I lay myself on an icepack. Pull inward, feel into the discomfort and breathe. Finding strength in forgiveness, seeking spiritual solutions...and, (why not?) the occasional joke.

"Anger , he smiles towering in shiny metallic purple armor....My red is so confident he flashes trophies of war and ribbons of euphoria..."
~ Jimi Hendrix
 Bold As Love

Monday, July 14, 2014

Homeward Bound

Yoga Basics started in my home and in my personal home base: my physical body. I was homeward bound, as I was too young to drive myself to a class. Back in the 70's there were very few classes anyway. Most yoga practices were at home. A common goal: learn the body with it's structural limitations and work to deepen the practice. One way to deepen your posture is to bind.

Bound Side Angle Pose
The yoga bound poses, involve clasping the hands so as to rotate and open the shoulders and torso. Patience is a quality that must be developed, for binds require flexibility, strength of body and mind as well as balance. Resisting the temptation to react by either giving up or forcing it, are qualities that translate and assimilate into the emotional body as well. In order to deepen your practice, there must be a willingness to meet your edge, while disengaging from the end result and above all: listening to your body.

The yoga pose pictured above: side angle pose, is a good posture to play with.

Tips for Binding:

  • Warm up with sun salutes. This will loosen and open the chest and shoulders. 
  • Stretch the legs with Warriors and Lunges to open the hips and hamstrings
  • If you feel tight, listen to your body. Err on the side of doing less. You don't win when you injure yourself! 
  • Make sure you are opening your chest. Try spiraling your chest open. Draw shoulders back and down
  • Breathe! A slow mindful breathing pattern will keep you in tune with sensation.
  • Play. Remember this is just an exploration. Enjoy the process with beginner's mind.

For next steps: You may try walking your back leg in and stand, adding balance to the bind. For added flexibility, extend leg...and act like it's a piece of cake. 

bird of paradise prep: step 2
Bird of Paradise: full bloom! 

Monday, July 7, 2014

Let It Flow

Inhale. Exhale. Continue...
The breath is the bridge from the mind to the body, and as that pathway gets accessed it can lead to many feelings and emotions that have been in lock down. One of my personal challenges...or "opportunities" is to move from my head down towards my heart.

Growing up in a yoga-practicing, vegan household with open minded parents and a supportive schooling environment did not make my family "functional". Yes, I had more opportunities to learn a skill set and develop tools to process the volatility in my home, but the war zone was still there. In short: the climate was hot in my family and I had to be quick. I sometimes held my breath.
Survival instincts lead to control and even served me well in many areas of my life. There were very few hits I could not take. Inhale. Exhale. Continue.

Feeling my feelings has been an awkward journey for me. In my former career, as an actress, I felt safe in classes or within my process to express the feelings and emotions that I had kept bottled up in my home life. With the structure of a scene or behind the persona of a role, I could actually allow my feelings to flow. In my real life, I had a tendency to be "over dramatic" and play my feelings out loud, simply so that I could rid myself of the burden.

After a lot of progress, lessons and transformations that I made, life continues to unfold, taking twists and turns that I did not expect. My habitual response to shrink back, attack, assume the worst, or plan my future in an attempt to side step my feelings has left me very tense. I have many opportunities to take a pause and make a new choice, but first I need to be willing to feel. Let is flow. I am exploring something new. When I feel a feeling, I allow it and I literally imagine breathing God into my pain. I lay my emotions down and give them away to the universe. "Please take this and do something positive with it."

In the past, I could take that emotional energy and literally change my body with it. Use the feelings that flow through me for fuel and burn. Today, it isn't my body that needs toning. Today what requires a little heavy lifting is my spirit. My faith. So today, I let it flow. Trusting that the universe is delivering to me exactly what I need for my spiritual growth.

I choose to drop into my heart. I finally choose to exhale and let it flow. So be it.