Thinking Yogi

The intersection of two loves: yoga and writing.

Posted by on in Off the Mat
Like so many millions around the country and around the world, I am saddened, fearful, and angry at the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and too many others before them. My heart goes out to the families of each of these individuals who died senselessly, and in such a brutal way.

I want to acknowledge that whatever I say here will be flawed, but I'm trying to move away from my fear-based default of not saying or doing anything when it comes to matters of racism, towards some sort of action, however small and imperfect.
 
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I often feel hopeless contemplating the impact one person's actions could make on the systemic racism that has been pervasive in our country for hundreds of years. And it's certainly not as easy as following some checklist or action plan - if it was that simple, racism wouldn't exist. But everything I've learned from equity trainings and the reading I've been doing suggests that we don't need to go big to begin. Rather, each of us, and especially those of us who carry the privilege of whiteness, must self-reflect. It's not comfortable to admit to biases, even if unconsciously held, but it's an essential first step before we can hope to change our interactions with others or make an impact on our broader community.

This is svadyaya, self-study. I'm reading books recommended by those who know so much more than I do (see the list of resources below). I'm seeking out knowledgeable and compassionate leaders in the movement and listening. And then my practice is to take baby steps speaking up in small ways rather than staying silent.
What can you do now, right from your own home?

I encourage you to start with educating yourself, as I am.

1. Listen and join the Conversation
Yoga Alliance is hosting a free Community Conversation on Yoga and Race Relations led by Tyrone Beverly (who is amazing) this Friday, June 5th from 2-3:30pm ET. I will be tuning in to listen and learn, and I encourage you to attend. And please spread the word! Register here

2. Talk with your Kids (or explore this great resource yourself)
Chicago Public Schools recently put out a guide to having conversations around race and civil disobedience, but it's not only for children. It contains a ton of links to articles and resources that help facilitate thinking and conversation around key questions surrounding racism, the trauma caused by racial violence, and the impact of media.

3. Explore these Educational Resources & Ways to take Action and Donate

As we teachers like to say, yoga is about self-care. But it can be more than that. Let's use our practice not only to care for ourselves, but also to do the hard work of honestly looking at our own beliefs and actions so that we may first act more consciously and compassionately in our everyday interactions. Only then can any of us hope to contribute to a change in the systemic racism that has taken the lives and liberties of too many.

This starts with each of us as individuals. I encourage you to begin that reflection for yourself, in your own home, right now. More importantly, continue that work once time passes and the media attention surrounding George Floyd's murder fades. My books are stacked up and I'll be joining you - reading, listening, and learning.
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Posted by on in Off the Mat

Anyone else feeling a teensy bit of pressure to be quarantine fabulous these days?

Think: baking photogenic bread, creating cute craft projects, sewing adorable masks, learning the ukelele / spanish / how to ride a unicycle / and on and on and on....

I'm as competitive as anyone. No, MORE competitive.

Despite my 20+ year yoga and meditation practice I've still been known to taunt my kids with a "YESSSS!" and a fist pump when I beat them at a board game. All in good fun, of course. At least for me. Not sure what the losers think :)

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Asmita alert! In yoga philosophy, asmita is one of the kleshas, or afflictions of the mind. It's often referred to as "I-Am-Ness," the ego asserting itself for fear that if it doesn't we will not be good enough, liked, or valued by the outside world.

My competitive, comparing spirit follows me everywhere I go if I let it. This is the #1 reason I got off social media a few years ago: it consistently made me feel sad and less-than any time I got a glimpse of someone's beautifully filtered life and compared it with my own present circumstances that usually included children arguing and on at least one occasion involved a smoke alarm going off because the new plant-forward recipe I was making had burned while I scrolled my way to a Facebook jealousy stupor.

But right now my professional self is necessarily in research mode. I'm on webinar after webinar learning the best ways to offer online yoga. To get a sense of the landscape I quickly drain 30 minutes bopping from one online yoga site to another, and afterwards I feel something not unlike that post social media depression that used to plague me.

This is the thing that always bugged me in yoga philosophy class: in theory it sounds nice to not compete or compare. But how can I be a responsible, relevant business owner without doing that research? How can you find fun ways to occupy yourself during quarantine without looking at what everyone else is doing?

The answer is subtle, as it usually is in yoga. That's what I love about it.

Yes, do the research and planning (abhyasa, practice). Just don't latch onto that info to compare or judge yourself against what you find (vairagya, non-attachment).

My other tips? Pick a day (or even just an hour) when you can turn off email, work, social media, all of it. Then show yourself some compassion and head to the mat for simplicity practices - not fancy, Instagram-worthy asanas, but something that changes how you feel on a nervous system level. Today I enjoyed a lying-down practice of sama vrtti (even inhale, even exhale) that was nothing to brag about, but I felt so balanced, smooth, and connected afterwards.

No matter how competitive you are, you get to decide how you play the game.

You don't need to impress, compare, or judge yourself, especially right now. Here's to showing yourself a little more love, and to leaving the spirit of competition to the Monopoly board.

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Posted by on in Writing

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Welcome back to the Thinking Yogi Blog!

I took a much-needed pause a few years ago, but lately I've been really craving this connection again. I'm a writer at heart, and communicating ideas (even silly ones) through words is kind of my thing. So here we go, let's get back to it.

It's always wonderful to hear from you and it means so much to know that you've read and resonated with a post, so please feel free to reach out any time.

Hope you're well and I look forward to the continued adventure together!

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Posted by on in Writing

Sometimes it's just all too much. News, email, social media, not to mention actual work - do you ever feel bogged down by your virtual obligations, overwhelmed by all the content that streams into your life?

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Once I identified my sensitivity to virtual overwhelm, I made a conscious choice to limit my intake. I still occasionally worry I may be missing something important - the latest news story, or a friend's Facebook post about an important life event they'll never think to share with me offline - but the trade-off is worth it because I feel so much more balanced when I'm not constantly in intake mode.

 

Yoga has a fancy term for this: it's called pratyahara, withdrawal of the senses. Though you'll find it in dusty old yoga philosophy books, it's not some quaint, outdated concept. It's the reason you sigh in relief when your teacher invites you to close your eyes, it's why your shoulders and neck relax as the room gets quiet and dark and still for savasana.

 

With all the virtual voices out there today, I've decided to step back and figure out how my own contributes to the conversation (or noise). I'm taking a little break from Thinking Yogi, but I certainly won't be taking a break from writing. I have a project in the works....more to come on that soon!

 

In the meantime, feel free to check out five of my most popular past Thinking Yogi posts:

 

 

Here's to health, happiness, and your own version of balance. 

 

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My husband Zach and I found ourselves with unexpected early morning childcare last Friday, and while my first instinct was to cram in some work time, I thankfully shoved that nonsense aside.

We grabbed our bikes and pedaled through an unseasonably warm November day to our favorite brunch spot.

As is so often the way with parents of young children when given solo time, Zach and I spent a while just sighing over our scrambles and celebrating the fact that no small people were arguing in high-pitched voices over the fairness of maple syrup distribution.

Then I scanned the restaurant for cute babies I could drool over to quell that nauseating feeling of delight and heartache over being away from our own sweet little miss.

But after a few minutes, it hit me. What are all these people doing here on a regular Friday morning?

We were there on a lark, cashing in on a childcare jackpot. But these Friday morning brunchers all looked so comfortable, so guilt-free, so self-possessed in their decision to take time out of a plain old weekday to do something for themselves.

I wanted desperately to just enjoy my scramble in an uncomplicated, non-analytical way. Wished I could stop questioning the smiling faces of my fellow dining companions, and just accept this blissful time out of my normal routine. But along came judgement nonetheless, and I was incredulous: “Who do these people think they are, just going to brunch because they feel like it on a Friday morning?”

I snapped out of it pretty quickly, but the judgy unease lingered for the rest of the day like that brunchy smell on my coat.

It’s time to just come out and admit it:

Hi, I’m Kerry. I’m tired, and I struggle to make time for myself. And it’s been that way for a long, long time.

Some of that is my kids’ fault (love you, kiddos!). But mostly it’s my own.

My kids aren’t the ones who decide it’s a great idea to cram five activities into a day that should probably accommodate three, max. They don’t tell me I should prioritize answering emails over yoga, that the overflowing basket of clean laundry trumps the need to book my monthly maintenance massage. Heck, my 8-year old daughter used to come into the living room while I was practicing yoga and insist upon giving me a “masshage” (after which she’d ask for one back!).

To my fellow tired, burned out, overextended friends: b2ap3_thumbnail_Reclining-Bound-Angle-Pose-Supta-Baddha-Konasana-Supported-Restorative-29.jpg

You don’t need anyone’s permission to take good care of yourself.

That means:

Your kids, your partner, your parents, your friend, your dog, your boss, your co-worker, etc.

No one.

And while we’re at it:

No one – not even the people on the above list who love you dearly, not even those who give you massage gift cards for your birthday or offer to watch your kids so you can go to yoga – can make time for self-care but you.

No one can make time for self-care but you.

You can wait for it to happen, you can even fume over the fact that it still hasn’t (“……and how can he or she or they not know how much I desperately need time for myself??????”). But if I were you, I’d take a completely different approach. A radical step in the much-needed right direction.

Decide you’re worthy, embrace the fact that self-care makes you a happier and more pleasant person to be around, and don’t make any room for excuses. Be as self-possessed as a Friday morning bruncher and just make that business happen.

It doesn’t take much of an investment in the self-care bank to do the trick, but you do need to consistently deposit. After our quick morning escape into the world of child-free dining, I had the most lovely day! I felt carefree, light, and better prepared to tackle whatever our three rascals threw at us over an action-packed weekend.

 

Self-care only works if you do it, and you’ll only do it if you stop making excuses and accept the fact that this is something no one else can do for you. So seriously. Isn’t it time you got to it?

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