Finding Our True Body Through the Practice of Yoga

Finding Our True Body Through the Practice of Yoga

Commentary by Ana Balzar

Yoga comes from a Sanskrit word, which means, “to join” or “to yoke.” So, what exactly are we “joining” or “yoking” in yoga? In short, yoga is teaching us the means of attaining union of the individual soul with the universal soul by bringing us (the individual soul) to a greater level of self-awareness and self-realization so that we can one day achieve enlightenment. In many ways, the practice of yoga is about unlearning habits that the human world teaches us, which ultimately causes much of our suffering, and keeps us from attaining our Bliss. Yoga is a journey to our True Self, the Self that exists deep inside all of us, but is often covered by layers of muck we acquire as we journey through life.  Sometimes the muck comes from society, sometimes from the ones closest to us, and other times it is our own muck, the expectations we hold for ourselves in our mind that keep us away from our True Self.

Lately, I have been reflecting on the physical body in relation to the journey towards the True Self. In the West, our physical body is a representation of ourselves to the world. People read our identities on our bodies, we judge lifestyles from bodies, we perceive socio-economic status from bodies, we determine worth, predict behavior, and we often have a whole range of reactions and feelings based solely on how we read each other’s bodies: whether it’s love, discrimination and hate, judgment, appreciation, or perceptions of beauty, our bodies represent us, whether the stories other people read on us are accurate or not. How we read the physical body is dependent on our experiences in the world, and it’s also based on societal norms and standards for bodies. To see what kinds of bodies are valued most in this society, all you have to do is look at the covers of magazines: the women are predominantly white, skinny and blonde, with expensive clothes and perfect looking skin and teeth. We are generally not taught to embrace ourselves—the messages we receive tell us to exist within a certain kind of box.  It’s no wonder that we have an eating disorder pandemic, and that the beauty and diet industries are one of the most profitable businesses out there. Whatever happened to being happy? To being true to who we really are? There has been a lot of push back in recent years: from the happiness movement, to an increase in more body positive images in the media, however there’s a lot of work to be done to change societal and personal messages we’ve been receiving our entire lives.

I’ve gone through my own struggles with my body: my body image has often been a source of suffering for me, a layer of muck I’ve had to learn how to clean in order to know my True Self.  Many women experience these struggles in different ways- whether they are perceived as fat, skinny, curvy, overweight, stick thin- it doesn’t matter. Someone, somewhere along the line has said something to us about our body that has made us want to change it.

For instance, at the age of 11, I was teased about my body size for the first time. At the age of 13 a teacher of mine remarked on all the weight I’d gained over the summer, publicly, in front of all my other classmates. I remember pinching my stomach and the sides of my belly, I remember pulling back the fat of my inner thighs and imagining my legs slim like a model, imagining myself beautiful, skinny, and wanted. I controlled how I ate for a few years, and I lost 20lbs at one point, and then I gained it all back. I tried diets, I tried baggy clothing, I exercised obsessively, I cut out all dessert, all carbs, and all things delicious, to become my perception of thin. And I never got there- it’s never quite good enough. I have curves: breasts, hips, and thighs that will never fit into size 2 or 4 jeans unless I starve myself and end up in a hospital bed.  Though there was suffering through those years, the journey led me to discover my True physical body- and it looks different than anyone else’s True physical body, as its meant to. Sometimes you have to do everything wrong in order to understand and learn what’s right for YOU.

After years of torturing myself over my body appearance, I entered into the world of yoga. Not because I thought it would help me change my relationship to my body, but because I thought it would help me mold my body into what I wanted it to be.  I’d read articles about women losing weight from a regular yoga practice, so I thought I would try it too, in hopes that it would work those same miracles for me. Instead of losing pounds, I gained deep self-awareness of my body. I heard my body speak to me, and for the first time I truly listened to what it was trying to tell me all these years. Instead of silencing it with diets, mindless gym exercises, regimented eating schedules, I listened and heard all the ways it wanted to move, how it desired to be fed, when it wanted to rest. It took me years of listening and practicing to understand my body, and when I did, I achieved true contentment in my physical form. I wasn’t denying myself food that I love to eat, I wasn’t doing exercises that I hated doing- everything about the way I moved my body, what I chose to put in my body was about MY desires, not how others were telling me to treat my body. I discovered that dark chocolate with almonds is my staple dessert, and that my body will tell me when it craves it. I discovered that my body loves to run outside because it allows me to connect with nature, because it builds my strength, because it gives me peace and time for myself. My body loves to experience movement through dance, through different types of yoga, and through barre classes.  My body wants to build strength, and that’s how it experiences its beauty. Sometimes, my body just wants to rest, and I shouldn’t push my body when it wants to be still even if my mind is telling me that it “should” exercise. My body craves a mostly vegetarian diet because that’s when it feels light, content and energized for the day. There are days my body wants meat and chips and ice cream. And so, I listen to it. Because that’s what it means to follow your Body’s Bliss. Ever since I’ve been following this Bliss, my body has been happy, and I’ve never been happier with my body. I’m still a size 12, like I’ve been most of my life. There are many ways to be a size 12- but this size 12 fits my body and my bliss. The size doesn’t matter- it’s how you feel in whatever size pants you wear, whether you are a size 2 or a size 16. This size is right for my body; this way of existing is how my body is at peace and in health.

Let your focus be your True Body, not your imagined body. Don’t use the scale to determine whether your body is where it should be. Let your body speak to you, and then listen to it with every beat of your heart because by listening, your body will teach you how to truly love all of yourself.

Ana Balzar is an MSW and Certified Yoga Instructor.  She received her 200HR Integrative Yoga Therapy Teacher Training at NamasteWorks Yoga + Wellness.  NamasteWorks Yoga is a private yoga center in Highlands Ranch Colorado offering private yoga sessions and teacher training.

Yoga Teacher Training – Highlands Ranch – A Perspective on Choosing the Right School

Yoga Teacher Training – Highlands Ranch – A Perspective on Choosing the Right School

Embark on a Yoga Training that Supports You First, then Others.  Yoga Teacher training is growing in popularity every year, and program costs merit that you spend the time, to ensure you are making the right choice for your future.

These are my personal recommendations to help you maneuver through the maze of options.   I’ve mentored many students over the past seven years of providing training, and many I’ve encouraged to go elsewhere. If you still need guidance after reading this, consider setting up a FREE 30 minute consultation with me.

Rather than simply going to the studio closest to your home, the one you take classes from or the one that’s the cheapest, it is worthwhile to look for the right school and the right person/team to train you. You need to find someone who is experienced and whose teaching style and personality you find inspiring.

It really depends on what you want out of your yoga training. If your interest lies in getting into teaching as fast as you can with limited focus on the eight limbs of yoga, anatomy, physiology, kinesiology, asanas,  adjustments, pranayama, mediation, philosophy, Koshas, etc. then choosing a weekend program may be right for you. However, if you want an in-depth understanding of the yogic process, a well accredited school is worth every penny spent.

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Embark on a Yoga Training that Supports You First, then Others

Embark on a Yoga Training that Supports You First, then Others

If you want to offer Yoga as a healing art, or supplement your existing practice with yoga, or deepen your own personal practice and, save money at the same time, then please join us for the 2018 200-HR Integrative Yoga (IYT) immersion training and accept our $300 discount before September 1, 2017.

Along with offering Yoga with a focus on health and wellness to the general public, you will learn tools and techniques to develop Yoga-based programs to support a wide variety of health care issues. The 200-Hr IYT immersion program is from the lineage of Joseph and Lillian Le Page and utilizes their training tools, decades of research and program enhancements all coupled with hands on expertise and wisdom from Nancy Levenson, the Affiliate Program Director.

This program is open to anyone with a basic foundation in Yoga and is especially suitable for body-workers, health care professionals, occupational therapists, physical therapists, clinical psychologists, respiratory therapists, family therapists, social workers, experienced yoga instructors, and anyone desiring to deepen their own personal awareness of their body/mind and spirit.

2018 Registration Now Open – And a $300 Savings Too!

THERE’S A REASON TO ACT NOW. When you sign up early, you save $300. off our tuition fee. If you apply and are accepted prior to September 1, 2017, you will receive a $300 discount. Our classes are small on purpose and securing your space is the best way to ensure you will be in the program.

To be considered for the upcoming class, please send us an email via our contact form on our website (http://namasteworksyoga.com/contact) or call 303.725.1434.

You will embark on an intimate and insightful journey of yoga, as you explore yoga with a new vision – As A Healing Art. This intensive non-residential program takes you deep into the world of yoga and its therapeutic applications. Sessions include;

  • A Multidimensional Approach to Yoga
  • Explore the Deeper Practices of Yoga with Prana Vayus, Chakras, Nadis, Mudras and more
  • Understand, Design and Develop Health and Wellness programs for a variety of ailments
  • Interpret the Interactive Psychology and Philosophy of Yoga
  • Assess and Connect to the Physical and Energetic Anatomy, Physiology & Kinesiology
  • Study hallmark movement practices

2018 DATES – January 20-June 17.

The 200-HR program is based on 180 contact hours and 20 non-contact hours.  We run a weekend format designed for existing professionals, meeting Saturdays and Sundays from 7:00a-6:30pm.  The 180 contact hours usually meet every third weekend with a few exceptions.

Scheduled dates (subject to change) are; Jan 20/21, Feb 10/11, Mar 03/04, Mar 17/18, Apr 7/8, Apr 28/29, May 12/13, Jun 2/3, Jun 16/17.

The 200-HR program is the foundation program and we are a RYS, Registered Yoga School with Yoga Alliance. Find out more by visiting us at http://namasteworksyoga.com/teacher-training or calling 303.725.1434.

Centering in the Middle of Chaos – How Yoga Kept Me Sane

Centering in the Middle of Chaos – How Yoga Kept Me Sane

A client recently shared a story with me about her use of centering in the middle of chaos. She was undergoing a rather intricate surgery to her left eye. I had asked her if she was nervous at all, given my own fear of having anything resembling a blade placed near eyes. She indicated that she arrived at the facility that morning, only slightly concerned. She was placed in an individual treatment room prior to the surgery, and instructed to relax. She shared with me that she immediately began to draw inward, to find her center. Using breathing practices she had learned in  our yoga classes and a mudra to create clear focus, she began to put her mind at ease. After all, this would be a simple procedure, it was safe.

Shortly after this, two attendants walked into her room. She remained in a total state of stillness, breathing and centering when one of the attendants began to complain to the other, that one of the pre-exam tools was broken. The other then stated that he could not open the cabinet door, “it must be stuck, it’s not working.” As these two fumbled in her presence, her mind went from centering to chaos – “what else isn’t working in this place,” she wondered to herself. The two attendants continued on with their dialogue and she took a deep breath, and brought herself back to center…..breathe, follow the inhale, follow the exhale. She started to repeat a mantra in her mind to keep herself centered. Shortly thereafter, she was wheeled into the operating room, concerned. And, moments later she was completely out.

Her surgery went well and I found her story so profound. When engaged in centering we have to be aware that distractions will try and pull us out. Some may be as insignificant as another thought we are having and some so startling to move us away from center altogether. Only through practice do we learn to stay in the present moment, focused on our intention. I was very impressed by her will. Staying centered is hard enough, but it’s quite another story to stay centered in the middle of chaos.

NamasteWorks offers two distinct wellness approaches focused on supporting you on your journey to optimal wellness and living a healthier lifestyle.  We invite you to explore us in depth and learn how we have been helping support wellness since 2006.  We offer, yoga therapy and yoga teacher training in the Heart of Highlands Ranch and Douglas county,

Aspiring Yoga Teacher Scholarship – Spring 2017

Aspiring Yoga Teacher Scholarship – Spring 2017

Have you been contemplating how you might take your yoga off your personal mat and into the world? Ever wondered what it’s like to guide and inspire students on the yoga path but just didn’t have the funds to take the training? Well wonder no more…This week Yoga Alliance announced it’s Aspiring Yoga Teacher Scholarship program for 2017.

The Yoga Alliance® Foundation is giving away 7 Aspiring Yoga Teacher scholarships of $2,000 each. Awards will be given to those who want to attend a yoga teacher training to become an RYT® 200 and meet the eligibility criteria outlined below.

Scholarship recipients must enroll in and complete a teacher training program at an RYS® 200 and register as an RYT 200 within 12 months of being notified of their award. Scholarship funds will be paid in USD by Yoga Alliance Foundation directly to the RYS 200 once the recipient completes training and registers with Yoga Alliance as an RYT 200. Awards cannot be used to pay for training that has already started or has been completed.

Yoga Alliance Foundation strongly encourages candidates to apply who have a strong personal practice, are leaders in their community, and add to the diversity of the yoga teacher community. This includes those who have overcome socioeconomic or other personal obstacles, or who otherwise bring a diverse perspective or background.

To find out more and apply for the scholarship program, just click here.

Our Integrative Yoga Therapy (IYT) 200-HR program has been a standard of excellence in guiding individuals on a personal path or a teaching path. Our school offers the initial training right here in Colorado and if you decide to explore further training, our program extends to a 300 HR and 800 HR program, leading up to your Yoga Therapist Certification. Consider the path of leading others into the beautiful dharma of yoga. Click here to learn more about our program.

NamasteWorks Yoga + Wellness is a Registered Yoga School with Yoga Alliance. Nancy Levenson is the Program Director of the local-based program.

NamasteWorks Yoga + Wellness, Meet the Owner, Nancy Levenson

Nancy Levenson, Founder NamasteWorks Yoga + WellnessNancy Levenson is founder of NamasteWorks Yoga + Wellness, a premier provider of mind/body wellness services.  Nancy’s mantra is helping others find their inner SPARKLE and their personal path to wholeness. Her areas of fascination and expertise, blends classical yoga of the physical, energy, and mind bodies with nature in guiding clients to discover their own innate healing process and light. If she could, she would sprinkle JOY in everyone’s life and remind them of their own true nature as a path to wholeness.

Nancy’s primary focus is working with clients suffering from depression, anxiety and stress. She approaches each client with an integrated and holistic plan that revolves around the 5 Kosha Model to wellness, body/mind/energy/wisdom and bliss . She describes her style of yoga as compassionate, expressive and spiritual.  She has also spent over a decade focusing on clients suffering from Back Pain, Osteoporosis, Rheumatoid Arthritis, Parkinson’s and other nervous system disorders like POTS.

She understands first-hand the impact of stress and illness to the body. Having had her own stress related career and subsequent meltdown and seeing her aging father undergo a loss of total body use. Nancy has since committed herself to her yoga therapy practice and the tremendous gift of offering wellness services to others.

She says her journey and love of yoga and nature is always expanding.  After completing her 200-HR yoga instructor certification, she went on to complete a 500-HR E-RYT yoga certification, followed by another few years of deeper study to become a C-IAYT, Certified Yoga Therapist. She is also a certified in Restorative Yoga and AyurYoga, blending Yoga with the sister science of Ayurveda,  and most recently has been studying nature wisdom and healing.  She counts among her influential teachers, Joseph & Lillian LePage, where she received her yoga therapy training through Integrative Yoga Therapy, Judith Hansen Lasater, the guru of restorative yoga and Gary Kraftsow, founder of Viniyoga.

In addition, Nancy is the Program Director for the Integrative Yoga Therapy 200-HR teacher training offered in Colorado and has trained many of the local teachers in the community and state.  She is also an Integrative Yoga Therapy mentor for students completing the rigorous multi-year Yoga Therapist Certification.

Prior to opening her own yoga center in Littleton and now her in-home studio in Highlands Ranch, she served as the yoga instructor at Wind Crest, Colorado’s largest retirement community, for five years, serving clients in their 70’s, 80’s and 90’s find renewal in their bodies through chair yoga, gentle yoga, movement classes, breathing practices and private sessions in addition to guiding group classes for 24HR Fitness.  She is a member of the International Association of Yoga Therapists and Yoga Alliance.

Nancy spent her business career in high level marketing roles for major publishing and telecommunications corporations including the San Diego Union Tribune, American City Business Journals, Tele-communications, Inc., Starz Encore Media Group and WISDOM Television, the mind, body and spirit network.  Nancy graduated magna cum laude with a BA in mass communications from the University of Denver.

In her spare time, you can find her hiking, biking, kayaking, or riding her motorcycle through the beautiful outdoors of Colorado.  She is also a trained master gardener and a member of The Touchables”  improvisational troupe, and can be seen performing at the Voodoo Comedy Club and other locations in the area.

New Yoga Teacher Training Class starts March 18 at NamasteWorks Yoga + Wellness

New Yoga Teacher Training Class starts March 18 at NamasteWorks Yoga + Wellness

There is so much depth to Yoga, it’s much more than just learning a few asanas/postures or how to breathe.  It’s a comprehensive lifestyle system of meeting each moment with bliss.  If you’ve ever considered deepening your exposure to yoga, offering the mind/body aspects to your existing clients, or felt an overwhelming desire to help others, we invite you to consider joining our new training starting,  March 18.

The 200hr Yoga Teacher Training  is for those who want to supplement their existing healing practice with yoga, or deepen their own personal practice. Along with offering Yoga with a focus on health and wellness to the general public, you will learn tools and techniques to teach Yoga-based wellness programs in a wide variety of complementary health care settings. The 200Hr Integrative Yoga Teacher Training is an  immersion program from the lineage of Joseph and Lillian Le Page and utilizes their training manual coupled with hands on expertise and wisdom from Nancy Levenson, an IYT Affiliate Program Director.

This program is open to anyone with a basic foundation in Yoga and is especially suitable for body-workers, health care, occupational, physical, family and clinical professionals, social workers, yoga instructors,  and anyone desiring to deepen their own personal health awareness and wellness.

The 200HR program is the foundation program and Integrative Yoga Therapy also offers a national 300HR and 800HR program that leads to a Yoga Therapist Certification. The advanced yoga therapy programs are detailed at Integrative Yoga Therapy

S01-YA-SCHOOL-RYS-200 (2)The program is registered with Yoga Alliance as a 200-hour Teacher Training program and your instructor carries the highest certification in yoga therapy, a C-IAYT.

So step on the path, join our upcoming 200-HR class beginning March 18.  Send a request for more information via our contact form.

2017 DATES – Mar 18 through July 30.

The 200-HR program is based on 180 contact hours and 20 non-contact hours.  We run a weekend format designed for existing professionals, meeting Saturdays and Sundays from 7:00a-6:30pm.  The 180 contact hours usually meet every third weekend with a few exceptions and this class will have a four day offsite in New Mexico.  Scheduled dates (subject to change) are; Mar 18/19, Apr. 8/9, Apr 29/30, May 20/21, potential offsite in New Mexico – June 1-5, June 24/25, July 8/9, July 29/30.

 

200 HR Integrative Yoga Therapy Teacher Training 2017 – Colorado – Open House

Open House
Saturday, September 10th – 10am-12noon, 2017

Open House NamasteWorks Yoga + Wellness

Are you considering yoga training with a therapeutic focus or know someone interested? Then join us for our Program Spotlight to learn more about our 200HR program starting January 14, 2017.

This spotlight is all about you and answering questions you may have about teacher training, homework, outcomes, and more. Come to this informal session and Discover Yoga as a Healing Art.

This program is open to anyone with a basic foundation in yoga and is especially suitable for occupational therapists, physical therapists,yogis, health care professionals and other mind/body modalities seeking to enhance their overall practice.

Nancy Levenson, Program and Affiliate School Director for Integrative Yoga Therapy will be on-hand, along with other graduates of the program to offer insights and answers to all of your questions. This program is non-residential and runs every third weekend, beginning January 14th. It’s not too late to join us, just RSVP. Event held in our private studio in Highlands Ranch.

RSVP by September 8th, send a message through the contact page or call 303.725.1434

Easing PTSD with Yoga-based Trauma Therapy – A Personal Journey

A commentary by Kate Roberts – a recent graduate of the 200 HR Integrative Yoga Therapy training at NamasteWorks Yoga + Wellness.

I came to Yoga by way of a car crash that nearly killed me, ending life as I knew it and the life that I had planned. I was 20 and had just discovered who I wanted to be and where I wanted my life to go when I earned by EMT-B certification with the intention of enrolling in nursing school when I returned to college. All that changed on July 16, 2000, when I visited my sister’s family on their ranch in Paradise Valley, MT, to meet their newest edition, Tyler, while on my days off from Lake Hospital in Yellowstone National Park. After driving to Emigrant for pizza and a movie my sister’s car was run off the 75 mph highway by an oncoming motorist in too big of a hurry and passing a motor home on a double-yellow line. My four month old nephew and I were both flown to St. Vincent Hospital in Billings, MT, where he was pronounced brain-dead and I underwent brain- and various other- surgeries to save my life. I was placed in a medically-induced coma for one of the two months I was in the hospital, opening my eyes for the first time on my Dad’s birthday, August 8th. Rehabilitation began while I was still an In-patient, doing such things as re-learning how to walk and how to hold an eating utensil. After my discharge, I continued rehabilitation with four more grueling months of physical therapy, speech therapy, and occupational therapy. I was then spit-out of the medical system a fully-formed and healed adult… except that I wasn’t.

The American Psychological Association defines trauma as “an emotional response to” a negative event in one’s life. According to Judith Herman (1992) in Trauma and Recovery, traumatized individuals can range anywhere from a raped college student to a military combat soldier, from a car crash survivor to a grown man who was sexually abused as a child, from a prisoner-of-war to a housewife who is a prisoner in her own home. Survivors of trauma often suffer from a plethora of debilitating side-effects and symptoms which negatively impact their “quality of life” and are collectively known as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD (Emerson et al., 2009; Sparrowe, 2011).

Findings from studies by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and others have shown Yoga-based trauma therapy to ease the “fight-or-flight” response (e.g. increased heart and respiration rates) triggered by the body’s sympathetic nervous system, which is a problematic and intrusive symptom among those suffering from PTSD (Emerson et al., 2009; Sparrowe, 2011). Trauma-sensitive Yoga was found to positively affect how patients were able to self-regulate (“calm down”) and reduce distressing physical and emotional symptoms when used in conjunction with traditional therapy methods in the treatment of trauma-induced PTSD (Sparrowe, 2011).

About three years after suffering my Traumatic Brain Injury, and while attending community classes in preparation for returning to college, I found Yoga. At my eldest sister’s prompting, my Mom suggested I attend a Yoga class—even researching where and when—until I finally acquiesced. It was a community class that consisted of women my Mom’s age. Unbeknownst to me at the time, the building and room used for the class, as well as the Yoga instructor, were all highly suitable for a Trauma-sensitive Yoga class (Emerson et al., 2009). The location of the building was one of safety for me, as it sat next the St. Vincent campus; the environment within the building was one of reverence, hushed but welcoming; the Yoga room contained no windows and no mirrors, had adequate but low lighting, and there was minimal outside noise; the instructor was friendly, welcoming, and very knowledgeable—everything I needed at this time in my life when nothing felt normal, including me.

Because survivors of trauma often dissociate from their bodies, the objective of Trauma-sensitive Yoga is to reacquaint a survivor with sensations in their body, which is similar to what I was doing at this time in my recovery: I was not only re-learning how to inhabit and maneuver my physical body, but I was also re-learning how to mentally re-connect with sensations in my body (Sparrowe, 2011). This was a loving and gentle Yoga class, where modifications for each body type were taught and encouraged.

Yoga taught me how to re-inhabit my body fully, how to interpret and regulate how I react to sensations, and how to embrace the new “me”.

Sparrowe, L. (2011). Transcending Trauma. Yoga International magazine. Retrieved from this source.  http://www.traumacenter.org/products/pdf_files/yoga_transcending_trauma.pdf

Emerson et al. (2009). Trauma-Sensitive Yoga: Principles, Practice, and Research. International Journal of Yoga Therapy, 19. Retrieved from this source.   http://givebackyoga.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/10/Trauma-IJYT-Article_.pdf

Herman, J. L. (1992). Trauma and Recovery. Retrieved from this source.   https://www.uic.edu/classes/psych/psych270/PTSD.htm

American Psychological Association. (n.d.) Retrieved from this source.   http://www.apa.org/topics/trauma/

Bio PictKate Roberts is a Certified Yoga Instructor as well as 200-RYT certified. She began practicing Yoga after being severely injured in a 2000 car crash, when she found that it helped her find ‘balance’ in her life as she recovered from her injuries and completed college. Kate earned a Bachelor’s of Science degree in Human and Health Performance—Health Promotion Option and a Minor in Art at Montana State University Billings in 2010.  Kate recently completed her 200HR Integrative Yoga Therapy training at NamasteWorks Yoga + Wellness adding therapeutic yoga to her teaching skills.  She enjoys gardening, reading, arts-crafts, and walking her dog Maggie.

 

 

 

Rediscovering Your Beautiful Self: Using yoga therapy to free yourself from your harshest critic- yourself

“As we think and act so our world becomes.” The Dhammapadda

I remember going on my first diet when I was thirteen years old. And since that tender, early age I had been struggling with what I believed was a weight problem all my life. It wasn’t until I started taking yoga classes, becoming a yoga teacher, and finally going through yoga therapy training that I fully understood I didn’t have a weight problem, I had a self-acceptance problem. Through most of my young adulthood I believed I was not thin enough, pretty enough, knowledgeable enough etc. etc. Yoga helped change how I viewed myself. Even better, yoga helped me break from my negative thinking patterns that went into the obsessive realm particularly when I was denying myself of food. Yoga helped heal me in three ways:

1. I learned to live more in the present moment. “I think, therefore I am,” is a famous philosophical phrase once spoken by Rene Descartes, and before yoga came into my life this is how I lived. Every thought that occurred in my mind was my reality. If I worried that my house was not clean enough for neighbors to visit, that was my reality. Never mind that the neighbors were coming over to see me and did not notice the dust in the corners. When I started taking yoga, the instructor said to “just breath, feel and listen to your body”. For the first time in a long time my mind stopped racing and I noticed my breath and began relaxing. I began to connect with a self that was non-critical, non-judging and beautiful just the way she was at that moment. She was inside me all my life but somehow I lost that connection within me. I now try to live by the philosophy, “I breathe, therefore I am”…. a much gentler way to live one’s life.

2. I became more compassionate with myself. In the past I was my harshest critic. I beat myself up if I could not fit in a pair of size 4 jeans. I became depressed every time I weighed myself…every single time. I began to use my breathing techniques I learned in yoga class and therapy training and applied it in my daily living. Rather than being upset when a driver angrily shook his head at me, I now take a deep breath and continue driving, moving on literally and mentally. I haven’t stepped on the dreaded weight scale for almost five years now. How I feel is much more important than a number on a cold metallic platform. When I occasionally do eat that greasy hamburger and French fry plate, instead of thinking negatively, full of regret, I shake it off, take a deep breath and move on. I find I can again start eating healthy the next day because I understand it’s not an all or nothing battle.

3. I have found my own beautiful self. I now understand that I am more than my worries about the future, much more than regrets about the past. I am my breath, my body, my soul and yes, even my busy little mind. I listen to how I feel when I am eating, when I am standing, conversing and engaging with others. I know I am worthy even if others don’t think I am. I try to find beauty in myself and I try to find beauty in others even if they don’t see it. Yoga helped me to see past the external self, to let go of judgment and competition with others. I now understand that we are all the same. We are all struggling in this world together. We are all beautiful and worthy beings.

The best thing about a yoga practice is that you can experience the benefits in the first class or therapy session that you take. You can experience the benefits with your first deep breath you take. However, this is an ongoing process, and the benefits grow exponentially as you stick with it. As time goes by you might also notice you feel calmer in your daily interactions with others. You might find yourself less reactive in life situations. You can recognize when you feel off-balance and try to maintain a positive attitude. Your happiness comes more from nurturing body, mind and spirit rather than external things and depending on others. The benefits of yoga have a snowball effect. So stick with it and understand that yoga is not about doing yoga but rather, it’s about being yoga every moment, every breath of the day.

Andrea Mathwich - NamasteWorks Yoga + Wellness

Guest Teacher Bio: Andrea Mathwich M.A. is a Registered Yoga Instructor who works in Boulder County, Colorado. She recently received her certification from Integrative Yoga Therapy at NamasteWorks Yoga + Wellness in yoga with a therapeutic focus. She teaches senior yoga and vinyasa yoga in various settings. Her goals are to help people of all ages to build self-esteem and self-compassion in this increasingly disconnected world.

NamasteWorks Yoga + Wellness is a place to Discover Yoga as a Healing Art, offering a private sanctuary in Highlands Ranch for private on-on-one yoga and therapy, 200HR Integrative Yoga Teacher Trainings, private classes, workshops and retreats.