Saturday, November 29, 2014

Yoga as a Metaphor for Life
*Or Yoga according to my theory of Pooh Bear

Going into child's pose I go inside, it feels the same as when I eat a warm bowl of soup. The same cozy feeling I get when I pull a soft blanket over me or put on my fuzzy lined boots.
Standing in Tadasana - Mountain Pose, I feel strong, stable, steady, proud, stoic just like when I stand up against intolerance, prejudice or do something awesome like balance my checkbook or parent without losing my cool.

When teaching I find myself relating poses to food, characters & feelings all the time. One day I just said out loud "yoga is a metaphor for life", yeah that's right, that's what it is! Someone told me once that smart people think in metaphor so I felt a little superior for a moment and then thought the better of myself and my ego. Certainly a superior human being wouldn't equate life with mashed potatoes!

Here is the deal: when you start to practice asana (yoga postures) all of a sudden you notice changes in your body and in your mind. You might be like "Hey um, why when I do this back bend do I feel so much happier?" Or when I do this deep twist do I think about how someone hurt me and then I feel like crying and releasing that hurt. In yogic philosophy and Eastern philosophy there is this term called Samskara, the release of blocked energy in the body. The tissues remember everything and hold onto everything, sort of like muscle memory. So often when we do the asanas it's similar to having those memories poked, prodded, and pushed until the come out and whew release! It's a little like the characters in the stories of Pooh Bear. Stay with me folks.

If you have been in my classes you also have heard me talk about Eeyoritis. Eyororitis looks like this:
Look at poor Eeyore's spine. It's rounded over, now think about Eeyore doing a Warrior 1 pose, what happens to Eeyore's heart? It's lifted, he feels proud and happy and oh my gosh that sadness just starts to pop right out of his solar plexus and heart, he lets it go.

We can also have Tiggeritis. It looks like this:
Maybe not such a bad thing, but the theory I use with this is always pressing towards the future. Look at Tigger's spine. In theory a person with this type of spine might always be looking towards the future, not necessarily unhealthy but maybe unbalanced. Because we need to plan but be in the present moment. So for the Tiggers in the world I would put him in a Mountain Pose and breathe really slow. 

Then you come to Pooh :

Pooh is the questioner but also represents love.
“Some people care too much. I think it's called love.” 
― A.A. MilneWinnie-the-Pooh

Look at Pooh Bear, his spine is nice and straight, he is in the moment, he is experiencing love and being in the present. 

Let us all try to strive everyday through the practice of our spine, our words, our thoughts and our meditations to be like Pooh. 

And mentioning meditations to be like the wise Piglet: Who says “How do you spell 'love'?" - Piglet
"You don't spell feel it." - Pooh” 
― A.A. Milne

Ah yes, Yoga is a metaphor for life: Stand up straight, be in the moment, ask big questions but above all LOVE.

Love and Light,

*Just to show that there are no original thoughts left (not that I really believe this) here is an article I found when doing some research about yoga being a metaphor for entrepreneurs for those of you who wish to explore this topic further.


Sunday, July 27, 2014

Fill Your Life with the Positive

I was born with a sense awe of people who are older, wiser, and more experienced. As far back as I can remember I have loved older people, sage like people, people who were successful in some way that they achieved happiness or seemed to be full of an amazing spirit. These people came to me in many forms, the first being my saint like grandmother, Ruby. She took me to the Methodist Church early on and taught me many lessons about love and life and people. She told me stories from the Bible in terms that were relate-able to life. My life has been shaped by watching, listening, and talking to people as well as reading books, listening to recordings, and more. I started to meditate at the age of fifteen due to a high level of stress, I used meditation tapes and read books on spirituality and positive thinking at an early age. My aunt and a friends mom often took me to Alanon where I was introduced to a whole new way of positive thinking. I had many of the troubles that come with being a young person and had a very big void in my heart that I tried to fill with a mix of things, some healthy but most not.
At the age of seventeen I signed up for vocational college in the field of Health Occupations and became the President of that group, it was 1986, A.I.D.'s was a new and hot topic and I would be assigned to cover this topic. The world was scared and I was put in charge of researching and sharing information to the other students in high school and the community college. Then in my second term we had to volunteer in the hospital, I chose the physical therapy rehab department at the old St. Joseph hospital. This would lead me to want to serve others in the field of physical therapy. I continued to volunteer well into my college years at Levi hospital and also worked at the school for the disabled taking care of a child with Cerebral Palsy who was spastic quadriplegic. At the age of eighteen I was introduced to Yoga as a regular practice.At the age of nineteen I got pregnant and then had a still born baby at five months. I suffered severe and debilitating depression, I couldn't cope. I reached out to an Indian physician who gave me anti-depressants and suggested counseling. Through all of these experiences good and bad I met amazing and wonderful people who guided me, they were lights in the dark. They were part of my healing. And I am grateful that God has put these people in my life and given me an open heart to listen and learn. Because of these experiences I knew I wanted to work in a profession that helped people to heal. That by helping others to heal I would heal myself.So I wasn't able to go to P.T. school because of getting pregnant and the ramifications of it,  so my life took a different turn. For many years I worked in the field of Early Childhood Education, then at thirty I became a yoga teacher. To this day I teach others to teach, lead workshops on all aspects of a yoga lifestyle and counsel others.
In this life I have no regrets. Sure I've made some mistakes, however, they have all shaped me.
To this day I spend some time every day finding something positive, whether it's a positive show, movie, book, friend, older person, wise person, music, yoga practice, being in nature, spending time with a friend or family member who supports me. Yes, every day, something small can change your life.
Recently on my yoga workshop tour my friend and fellow classmate from yoga school introduced me to the show "Super Soul Sunday" on the OWN channel. She and I both went over 10 years without t.v. and yet here we were watching this show on Miquel Ruiz speaking on The Four Agreements. I went home and ordered the channel on cable and set my DVR to tape all the inspirational shows, with the great authors, wise people, successful people and now it's another way I stay positive and decompress when life gets to full or overwhelming. Today I listened to many of the speakers, mostly these were people I have never heard of and they shared stuff that for the most part I know but constantly need to be reminded of. Good words, sights, sounds, etc.. are like food for our soul. We must always be putting them in because we use them as energy.
Here are some of the words I heard today, and these are the same words I've heard over and over again in my studies and as I have applied them to my own life. #1 continues to be what I hear from wise people, over and over again and what I apply in my own life and this concept alone has been the guiding force in my twenty five years of yoga practice and twenty eight years of meditation practice.

1. Be here now.
2. Now is all we have.
3. Spend your life in service to others.
4. Give passion in everything you do. Rather than thinking about what is your passion, live passionately to discover your passions.
5. We all have a hole in us that we try to fill, we can fill it up with bad stuff or we can fill it up with good. Good things will sustain us, bad things will destroy us.
6. Think about others, think about how others feel and take action if you need to. You will gain more by helping than by doing nothing. Happiness is found in service.
7. You are not alone. If you feel alone find a way to serve.
8. Nothing outside of you will make you happy for long, everything you need to be happy is inside of you.
9. When you start getting your self together, life will probably fall apart, that is how your faith is developed. Don't give up, hold on.
10. It's okay to reach out for help. We all need a hand sometimes.
11. Once we are open what we need will appear.
12. Most of the time we need to get out of our own damn way.
13. The universe will deliver what you need, be open to seeing those signs.
14. Say "yes" to good things in your life.
15. Every day try to connect with someone.
16. Get off your phone and be here now, with the person in front of you or the animal or the situation. Life is short. * As a mother I struggle not to check my phone, but I am learning to let go and be rational.
17. Use all your senses to engage. Listen, touch, feel, see, taste. Life is extraordinary when we get out of our own heads.
18. Every one has a story. Listen. Be empathetic. Be positive.
19. Make sure you fill your own cup to avoid becoming depleted.
20. Be kind. Everyone is working from their own reality. Try to see God in all people and things, we all have a connection, even to those that test us.

For more information and guidance I suggest you check out the OWN network, Read The Four Agreements, Subscribe to the blogs The Daily Love Blog, Zen Habits, Go to a Yoga Class in your town with like minded teachers, & find positive people and outlets in your area.

Wishing you all the best life has to offer.


Tuesday, April 22, 2014

The Wild West of Yoga

This morning I had a phone conference with the standards department at Yoga Alliance. Here is what I and the woman I was speaking to agreed on "it's become the Wild West" in the yoga world. The fact that someone is a yoga teacher does not make someone humble or honest.
I myself have had huge amounts of intellectual property stolen because I was naive. I was brought up in a yoga culture so different than the one I live in today. Twenty five years ago you had your practice which you learned either from a book, a VHS, or a teacher. Likely a combination of all three. There were no credentialing agencies. Most people went to India or had to go out to either coast to train with Master teachers and then come back and shared their knowledge.

*Pictured with one of my best friends and lead teacher in my school Stacey Faught 500 RYT, 200 E.R.Y.T, & my teachers: Elana Johnson E.R.Y.T. 500, R.C.Y.T., R.P.Y.T. & Robin Johnson E.R.Y.T. 500, R.C.Y.T., R.P.Y.T.

In the yoga school I own we accept people for various reasons, a man who has practiced meditation for 10 years but only asana for 1 because mediation is a very important part (limb) of yoga. A woman who has been practicing for one year after neck surgery and is passionately wanting to share the gift she gained from yoga with others. The man who has practiced for twenty years and even teaches some but now wants to be registered with Yoga Alliance. A woman who works for a college that is training people to use yoga in the public schools.

Who do we not take? Anyone who we believe has work to do before they are ready, we have a long discussion on the phone before anyone is accepted. They must have a general overall desire to help others & show a true willingness to grow and learn. If they believe this is like going to beauty school for a technical education then we send them to a teacher for a year and ask them to call us back. This happens in 50% of the calls we receive.

For me opening the school was what I call a "God Thing". Literally I felt called to teach teachers after I had practiced for seventeen years and had been a teacher for eight. I'd learned quite a bit and I felt that I was blessed in my ability to make hard things seem easy. *I should say the more I learn the more I realize I have miles and miles to go.
Now you have a few people (I say a few because I believe 95% have the best intentions) going into teacher training to become "Rock Stars" and it's causing a big problem. Many yoga teachers lead their business based from their hearts, they truly believe that if they follow the yamas and the niyamas that all will be okay and good prevails, as one of my teachers, Elana taught me "good equals good". Today in my talks with the woman at YA (I don't think it appropriate to mention her name without permission) she told me of countless stories of experienced teachers who have been taken advantage of and had believed in the good of the yoga community only to be used for their knowledge and experience. Unfortunately sometimes good equals being taken advantage of when you don't know you need an intellectual property agreement. Hopefully these painful lessons some of us are learning the hard way will positively make a change for others in the future.

For me the fact that this has happened allows me, after much reflection, to make a stand for what is right, to stand up and ask for accountability by Yoga Alliance to make sure those who teach others are qualified and have not just the proper credentials but proper experience. They are in the process of reviewing all standards for credentialing, due to many people coming right out of school with little to no experience and opening schools, to make sure that in the future they can identify who are the more qualified teachers. Social credentialing will do some of this with a rating system put into place by the students who graduate from their programs.
In summary, "things change", a capitalistic society breeds not only competition but also allows for greed, however it also allows for the best to shine through given time. For me I will continue to focus on how we can serve our students and always become better ourselves, continuing our studies and sharing in the spirit of love what our teachers so humbly taught us.

The Yamas include:
Ahimsa ~ Nonviolence
Satya ~ Truthfulness
Asteya ~ Nonstealing
Brahmacharya ~ Nonexcess
Aparigraha ~ Nonpossessiveness
And the Niyamas include:
Saucha ~ Purity
Santosha ~ Contentment
Tapas ~ Self-discipline
Svadhyaya ~ Self-study
Ishvara Pranidhana ~ Surrender

Courtney Butler
E.R.Y.T. 500, R.C.Y.T., R.P.Y.T.
Owner Balance Yoga and Wellness Studio and School
Co-owner of Balance Barre