Jul 17, 2019

Yoga heals...but it's more than what happens on the mat


I began teaching yoga because I saw the impact it could have on healing trauma. It has been a huge source of my own healing. After about a year of practicing (in Spanish) I recognized the immense impact it was having on my body and my nervous system. 

When I began practicing in English after returning to live in the U.S. I was able to grasp some of the deeper layers of the practice as I could better understand the language of the teacher. I enrolled in my first 200 hour teacher training in 2009. Looking back now I see how much was left out...and still it absolutely transformed my life. Small shifts, overtime, make a huge impact. Take in a little at a time.

After that first training I started reading more about the system of yoga, beyond the mat. I dove into deep studies of trauma and how it lives in the body. And what seemed to be missing in so much of the treatment of trauma was the body, as the focus of cognitive and behavioral therapy is the mind. This is where yoga asana can have such a profound impact. Later I discovered the radical impact that Ayurveda could have as well.

Over the past decade I have been teaching asana through a trauma-informed lens. I train teachers to teach with this lens because I know how important our role is in guiding our students to feel empowered and to see their capacity for resilience. I continue to learn about best practices as this is an ever changing field and we are continually learning more and more about neuroscience and the body’s capacity to cope and heal. 

And I know that yoga asana is a powerful tool. In the yoga room I can offer people a space to release the tension that has built up in their physical, mental, emotional body. I can offer tools of self-regulation that can absolutely change their way of being in the world. Tools of empowerment that remind them how much strength they have. Tools of agency, offering choice and inviting them to trust their own body. I can even offer space for students to connect with spirit if they so choose. 

Yoga works. I know it works because I am living proof. And...it’s more than what happens on the mat. So much more. 

Everything changed when I had a baby. My focus had to change because someone else’s survival depended on me. 

My yoga practice changed dramatically. I couldn’t get to the mat as often. My physiology was so out of balance that the tools I had for so long were not enough. And we live in a culture that does not support new moms. It’s a culture that celebrates ‘doing it all’ and tells us how to ‘get your body back’ (as if it left). Not to mention Instagram and Facebook feeds from other moms who seem to have it all together.

So unless one comes from or has a counter-culture education and had support from a village of people during postpartum, most moms likely had a similar experience. That of overwhelm and exhaustion. A physiology that was overloaded and eventually there is a breakdown. This was my experience. 

I was getting somewhere between 4-6 hours of sleep for the first two years of Luisa’s life. My body was shutting down. Sleep deprivation is a tool of torture afterall. Without sleep this leaves very little energy to do the ‘extra’ things that we deem as self-care (mindset shift will eventually take place). 

My body was in survival mode. But, I’m not sure I even knew it because I never stopped to feel what was happening to my body, I just pushed through. And when I say body I mean all the layers, not just my physical body. I was resentful and tired and had veered so far from the version of myself that I wanted to be. 

I had eventually gotten myself so far into victimhood that I couldn’t see how important self-care practices, and a dinacharya were to my own health, my work, my relationships and my connection to spirit. 

It was when I started working with a yoga therapist that I started to see the truth. 

I took my health seriously and began to learn more about Ayurveda. I started to implement the habits of yogis. I drastically changed my mindset. Now I know that self-care and daily habits that support our health, is not selfish. It is necessary if I want to do the big things I was put on this planet to do. It is necessary if I want to show up for Luisa in the best way I can. 

After implementing a dinacharya (daily habits that align to nature's rhythms) and continuing to refine these daily habits and rituals to support my body and mind I wanted to share them with my students, many of whom are expressing feelings of overwhelm and exhaustion, resentment and disconnection. A sense of feeling unfulfilled.

Check out some of the simple habits I have implemented in this FREE Simple Habits Guide and commit to implementing just one this week. See what happens.

One of the most important voices in the work of trauma is Bessel van der Kolk. In his absolutely groudbreaking book "The Body Keeps the Score" he wrote,

"Breathing, eating, sleeping, pooping, and peeing are so fundamental that their significance is easily neglected when we're considering the complexity of mind and behavior. However, if your sleep is disturbed or your bowels don't work or if you always feel hungry or if being touched makes you want to scream as is often the case with traumatized children and adults the entire organism is thrown into disequalibrium. It's amazing how many psychological problems involve difficulties with sleep, appetite, touch, digestion and arousal. Any effective treatment for trauma has to address these basic housekeeping functions of the body." --Bessel van der Kolk

This can absolutely be applied to our overall wellness and to mental health in general, not just those of us who have trauma. 

But, what I can share in a 60 minute asana class is limited. And offering information through videos and PDFs is great (and there is a plethora of information free online for anyone who wants more information), but what so many people really want (and need) is connection, the support of a group of motivated individuals working together to move forward so that they can become the best version of themselves. People are craving transformation, which rarely happens by watching a webinar or reading a 'how-to' book. It happens through experiential learning, in community. 

This how Align & Awaken was born. It's the simple idea that when we commit to align our body (based on the wisdom of yogis and Ayurveda), we awaken our purpose. We build the resilience to show up with courage and commitment to a better world.  I created this program to be an experience for people off the mat that helps support their healing, growth and transformation in a sustainable way. A way that would last. Not a quick fix. Not an escape. 

It's an invitation meet the best version of yourself. To envision a life of thrive. To deeply care for yourself so that you can show up for your work, your loved ones, this planet. 

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