• What is Anxiety and How Can Yoga Help?

    All fears eventually lead to abhinivesha – the fear of death and the will to continue to exist. This is considered one of the five kleshas, or obstacles to attaining the state of yoga. The eight limbs of yoga are designed to eradicate the obstacles to this union with the eternal and entering nonduality.

    Anxiety, one of the most-commonly reported mental health disorders in the general community, is the body’s natural response to stress. It is the mobilization of metabolic energy towards necessary action, dominated by the autonomic nervous system’s sympathetic response – the body’s innate accelerator. Chronic anxiety is the inability of the autonomic nervous system to flow between sympathetic arousal and parasympathetic calm. A conditioned feedback loop has been established that keeps the system in chronic activation.

    When the sympathetic nervous system (SNS) is activated, our heart rate and respiration accelerate, blood flow moves from the skin and visceral organs to muscles in the extremities, and pupils dilate to take in more of the environment. Under threat, this part of the nervous system is responsible for activating fight and flight responses necessary for survival. Under normal conditions, when there is no threat to life, it makes energy available so we can stay alert and meet the demands of daily life, engage in recreation and vigorous play or exercise, and for sexual activity.

    In a nervous system that is operating optimally, if sympathetic activity reaches a certain threshold, the parasympathetic nervous system (PPNS) response engages, slowing things down and returning blood flow to the viscera to support digestion and organ function. This intrinsic balance creates heart rate variability (HRV), a measure of the variability in the heartbeat in relationship to the breath (on inhale, heart rate increases, on exhale, heart rate decreases). High HRV is associated with better physical and mental health. Low HRV is the opposite—a marker of poor health and mental health.

    In anxiety disorders – from generalized anxiety to panic disorders to posttraumatic stress or PTSD – the nervous system has lost this reciprocal relationship between SNS and PPNS and has become sympathetic dominant. It is as if a car’s engine was constantly revving, burning up fuel unnecessarily, and eventually overheating and melting down the system. The associated constriction in the blood vessels creates tension in the body and in the mind, and eventually generates inflammation and impairs immune function. A chronic cascade of stress hormones activated by the Hypothalamus-Pituitary-Adrenal axis further creates endocrine disturbances.

    On a psychological level, this physiological state sends warning signals to the brain, which through a process coined “neuroception,” begins to interpret danger and threat – even when there is none. The body is responding to a scary movie playing on the screen of your mind, replaying the painful past or anticipating disaster in a yet-to-occur future.

    This vicious loop of hypervigilance and hyperarousal generate distorted or intrusive thoughts or images, emotions of intense fear, anger, and mistrust, further impairing our self-perception and our ability to relate to others and seek support and regulation in social engagement. It is important to note that these are automatic responses that have been conditioned by overwhelming life experiences. Over time, the responses – a panic attack or “flashbacks,” for example – become disconnected from their origin creating a sense of helplessness. Yoga’s self-study and witnessing practices help us gradually uncover the patterns so we can have the choice to change them.

    Eventually, because of the body’s innate intelligence, the system will shut down all activity by engaging in a high parasympathetic response leading to immobility, numbness, dissociation, lethargy, apathy, impaired digestion, pain, and other symptoms we have come to equate with depression (more on this in the next installment focusing on depression). Chronic stress can enhance susceptibility to inflammation. Increases in inflammatory markers, such as CRP and IL-6, are associated with decreased parasympathetic nervous activity and are reflected in low HRV. In extreme cases, some people may develop autoimmune disorders or medical syndromes.

    The experience of anxiety, as with every other human experience, may be different in each individual and uniquely sourced in their embodied lived experience. In other words, anything from early experiences of trauma (including pre-natal experiences and the ancestral trauma of oppression) to the chronic stress of living in a world that does not value rest and overvalues performance and achievement, can create this internal demand for SNS energy that is not needed in the present moment.

    Include in this category are the stress and trauma of living in a culture of patriarchy and white male supremacy. Socio-economic status, class, gender identification, and racial or ethnic background all impact how safe or unsafe we feel in the world because of systems that privilege some and marginalize others. If you are a woman, person of color, gender non-conforming, differently-abled, or not neurotypical, chronic anxiety might be a more common experience. There are significantly more stressors to which the nervous system must respond, explicitly or implicitly, if you live in these intersections. Undoubtedly, socioeconomic stressors, cultural definitions of health and illness, lack of social support, and the general social environment influence the stress load. These disparities were made abundantly clear by the COVID pandemic in the way it affected people of color.

    Yoga also explains that we experience fear because we are disconnected from our eternal essential nature, and therefore fear that we will lose our existence if we die. All fears eventually lead to abhinivesha – the fear of death and the will to continue to exist. This is considered one of the five kleshas, or obstacles to attaining the state of yoga. The eight limbs of yoga are designed to eradicate the obstacles to this union with the eternal and entering nonduality. In yoga philosophy, anxiety also would be considered an excess of rajas, one of the primordial forces of creation responsible for activity. So, let us see what yoga offers as solutions to anxiety.

    1. The yamas invite us to approach life with honesty, generosity, non-stealing, moderation, non-attachment, and an attitude of non-harming. As we make a lifestyle choice to live by these principles, we might begin by lowering the high demands of perfectionism, by being truthful about our limitations, and by eliminating harmful negative self-judgments. We can moderate stimulants, whether caffeine or drugs, as well as excessive negative mental stimulation that robs us of peace.

    2. The niyamas teach us to engage in self-study, to investigate what is helpful and unhelpful in our quest to reduce internal suffering. They also teach us to surrender to a higher spiritual force which can be both a source of strength as well as nourishment. The niyama of santosha, or contentment, teaches us to cultivate this quality of appreciation for the simplest of things, like our breath. We begin to think of the wellbeing of others and not just ourselves, invigorating selfless action.

    3. Western yoga has become synonymous with asana or physical postures. Asana categories that can help reduce anxiety/rajas include extensions, forward bends, twists, inversions, and backbends on the abdomen – with the goal of purifying the body and igniting the digestive powers that will help us process metabolic energy and psychic disturbances. Perform these poses by slowing down the movements and finding stillness and stability, anchoring the mind in the present moment. Mulabandha and uddyana bandha or the pelvic and abdominal locks can help us get grounded and centered. The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali specify that the perfection of the pose is accomplished when we find sthiram and sukham, stability and ease. It is not about excessive effort and wasting precious energy or prana. Then we can contemplate the infinite and move beyond our limited sense of self. The most important asanas are the seated meditation poses when the soul and the mind take a seat in the body.

    4. Pranayama, the expansion of prana by cultivating sensitivity to the subtle breath, can also help us anchor the mind so it is not scattered. Where mind goes, energy flows. Ujjai breath with focus in the throat can stabilize mind and prana. Sama vritti, equal inhale and exhale can center us and increase HRV. Longer exhales further engage the calming parasympathetic response. Alternate nostril breathing or nadi shodhana will further increase a sense of balance by bringing the right and left hemispheres of the brain into equanimity.

    5. Pratyahara – or the withdrawal of the senses, begins to draw the restless mind away from the external world, the past or the future (which only live in our imagination) and brings it into the present moment. This can be accomplished throughout the practice of asana by coordinating the attention of the mind with the movement of the body and the cycle of the breath. Or it can be further enhanced in a long restful savasana or yoga nidra practice.

    6. Samyama encompasses the remaining three limbs of yoga: prana dharana, dhyana and samadhi. These three steps are what we would consider as meditation. Meditation, according to sage Patanjili, is the step that dissolves the obstacles, eliminates suffering, invites transformation, and introduces us to the eternal light of our inner teacher, Ishvara, a special Purusha, the primordial source of all spiritual traditions and of all creation, pure Consciousness. It is therefore the most important, albeit the least utilized of all the limbs of yoga. Dharana is the concentration of prana in a particular location, maybe with a particular mantra or Sanskrit sound. Dhyana is the penultimate state when mind merges or dissolves in the light of prana and the sound of mantra, entering an abiding sense of calm. These steps then lead to the final step of Samadhi, where observer, the object of observation, and the act of observing merge. Samadhi is more the by-product of the previous steps than a step itself. How samyama can help with mental distress is that it progressively helps us identify with Purusha/Ishvara, the observer of experience, the witness – creating a distance between the distress of anxiety in all its forms (sensations, emotions, thoughts, and images), and our real or essential self that is untouched by experience. Again, sage Patanjali states that when Purusha is established, we cease to be affected by the world of duality. Over time, we are more identified with Awareness, the Witness of experience, and less identified with our likes and dislikes, our limited self-perception, our past traumas, or our future fears. This distance gives us the choice to move awareness to the present moment and toward more helpful thoughts, feelings, and behaviors—thereby increasing self-control and reducing impulsivity and compulsivity.

    Modern neuroscience research is beginning to quantify the benefits of yoga and has identified that even short interventions of moderate yoga practice:

    a) increase the production of GABA in the brain, an inhibitory neurotransmitter that induces calm.
    b) Increase heart-rate variability (HRV) by re-patterning the breath from rapid and shallow to smooth, un-interrupted and even.
    c) Increase vagal tone, a measure of health in the PPNS response.
    d) Reduced activation of the HPA axis.

    According to reviews of the research, if yoga does produce an anxiolytic and antidepressant effect, the exact causal mechanism is likely to be complex, affecting multiple body systems. Yoga may best be delivered as a complete intervention, and if different aspects are delivered separately, such a reductionist approach may result in loss of efficacy or effectiveness. As such, yoga practices also should be delivered skillfully by experienced practitioners who can adapt the interventions for various age groups and abilities, as well as address any emerging psychological or emotional presentations.

    This is part 2 of a 3-part series. Subsequent blogs will deconstruct anxiety and depression as well as outline how yoga has been proven by research to help with these conditions. Inge Sengelmann is a licensed clinical social worker and certified ParaYoga teacher who specializes in disorders of extreme stress and is committed to anti-oppression practices and decolonizing mental health. 

    By Inge Sengelmann

    Inge Sengelmann, LCSW, SEP, RYT is a licensed psychotherapist and certified ParaYoga teacher who promotes a practice of embodied psychology and spirituality. Visit her website at www.embodyyourlife.org.

    Photo by Fernando @cferdo on Unsplash

    Photo by Lina Trochez on Unsplash.

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  • Decolonizing and Demystifying Anxiety and Depression

    Yoga is not a feel-good practice; it is a practice of self-accountability. It asks us to be responsible for our inner experience and learn to divorce it from the outside world (vi-yoga). It further propels us to grow rather than to remain stuck in unhelpful patterns of thinking (vikalpas) and behaving (vasanas).

    The past year has been a reckoning for most of us as we faced:

    1. A life-threatening global pandemic, lockdown, and quarantine
    2. Global economic meltdown because of businesses shutting
    3. A rapidly worsening climate crisis that puts all life on the planet in peril
    4. A tipping point in the collective awareness of the ravages of racial oppression, white supremacy, and colonialism
    5. An ever-widening political divide that put the US on the brink of civil war
    6. The growth of extremism, conspiracy theories, and fringe cult groups unable to deal with these realities, perhaps as a form of counterphobia

    There is plenty to be anxious and depressed about, and data shows that anxiety and depression rates skyrocketed early in the pandemic lockdown. To top it off, the SARS-CoV-2 (or Coronavirus 19) also seems to have neurological and psychiatric impacts on those who have been infected, with 1 in 5 people who have had COVID meeting criteria for a mental health disorder after the infection. Given these facts, I propose that we cannot center problems in the individual without addressing also the social, cultural, economic, and political realities that influence people’s fears and hopelessness. Healing must happen in community.

    The year 2020 has challenged many of us to question in what unconscious ways colonialism, white supremacy and white privilege have shaped us personally and professionally. Asked to write a blog on yoga for anxiety and depression, I struggled to identify a context that felt satisfying. Finally, I understood that I wanted to bring a new perspective to these very real and disabling, but also all too common human experiences.

    Disease, according to Yoga Sutra 1:30, is one of nine obstacles that obstruct progress on our path to experiencing the state of yoga. The yoga tradition understands disease as a misalignment with the rhythms of nature. We are increasingly out of harmony with the natural universe. After industrialization, even less so. The planet’s rhythms and our individual circadian rhythms are out of sync. Conditioned by a white supremacist culture that tells us our worth is dependent on performance, achievement, and amassing material wealth, we resist rest. The brain then sends us signals that something has gone awry, and we become anxious and depressed.

    Anxiety and depression are not new phenomena. They have affected humans through millennia because they are natural responses to an over-taxed nervous system. In a way, they are both a warning, and an attempt to re-regulate the human organism when it has become dangerously imbalanced due to extreme stressors. Anxiety is the mobilization of metabolic energy towards necessary action, and depression is a demand that the system rest, so it goes into shutdown for energy conservation. These processes will be explained further in subsequent blogs detailing the neurophysiological and psychological or cognitive components of these experiences.

    Unfortunately, 20th century psychiatry, to categorize these phenomenological experiences as mental illnesses, began to reify these constructs and give them a life of their own—so we are no longer human beings having a transitory experience, but we become defined by our anxieties or our depressions. For many, their diagnoses begin to define their identities. Instead of seeking more complex explanations and taking corrective lifestyle actions, we look for a simple external agent (i.e., medications) to rapidly fix our distress. Our locus of control is outside of us, rather than within us. The yoga path, on the other hand, asks us to do self-study (svadyaya) and to engage in practice (sadhana) to shift states of consciousness and overcome the causes of suffering (kleshas).

    Yoga is not a feel-good practice; it is a practice of self-accountability. It asks us to be responsible for our inner experience and learn to divorce it from the outside world (vi-yoga). It further propels us to grow rather than to remain stuck in unhelpful patterns of thinking (vikalpas) and behaving (vasanas).

    Another disservice of modern psychiatry has been the simplification of solutions, so people (including some physicians) now commonly believe that depression is “a serotonin imbalance” to be rapidly resolved by a selective- serotonin-reuptake-inhibitor that will flood your brain with “feel good” neurotransmitters. But if that were the case, wouldn’t psychotropic medications have reduced the incidence and prevalence of anxiety and depression, and put a dent in the number of suicides recorded annually? Instead, what we are seeing are skyrocketing rates of all of these issues, especially in the more industrialized nations. And health and mental health professionals are bracing for a post-COVID wave of all of these “diseases” including post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Clearly, our angst is a lot more complex than this simple neurotransmitter.

    Medications are fine as an adjunctive support, especially during times of extreme stress, but they will not “cure” the underlying causes and conditions that led to our “disordered” thinking, feeling, and behaving. They work best as a short-term salve to help us do the necessary work of change. In fact, most research done to get drugs approved is short term, and the bulk of the data shows that antidepressants, for example, only work better than placebo in cases of very severe depression. And many of these medications have undesirable effects and are difficult to withdraw from. Some Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs), for example, have FDA black-box warnings about the potential increase in suicidality in certain age groups. Education on the pros and cons is imperative before agreeing to introduce psychotropic medications.

    The reality is that we are complex, multi-faceted beings whose unique and individual experiences require multi-faceted solutions. To decolonize therapy, we must humanize our experiences and bring back ancestral ways of healing in community by creating “communities of care.” We must de-mystify our experiences and put them in the context of social, cultural, economic, and political experiences and not “broken brains.” We must acknowledge the role of current and transgenerational, individual, and collective traumas. We must acknowledge all the ways that racist, sexist, fatphobic, transphobic, ableist, and capitalist ideologies impact individuals and communities – increasing anxiety and depression rates due to realistic fears and hopelessness regarding change. We must bring healing  (the process of ecoming whole) to the center of treatment.

    Decolonization is now used to talk about restorative justice through cultural, psychological, and economic freedom. Racial equality and eliminating wage disparities, for example, would do more for reducing depression and anxiety in certain groups than psychotherapy and anti-depressants. Decolonizing therapy means empowering individuals rather than making them dependent on a medical infrastructure designed to profit from illness. It means offering solutions that work for people within their cultural contest, even if they are not “evidence-based.” And finally, it means we must establish systems and institutions that understand dis-ease as just that: an attempt of the body and psyche to return to ease, flow, and coherence.

    This is part 1 of a 3-part series. Subsequent blogs will deconstruct anxiety and depression as well as outline how yoga has been proven by research to help with these conditions. Inge Sengelmann is a licensed clinical social worker and certified ParaYoga teacher who specializes in disorders of extreme stress and is committed to anti-oppression practices and decolonizing mental health.

    By Inge Sengelmann

    Inge Sengelmann, LCSW, SEP, RYT is a licensed psychotherapist and certified ParaYoga teacher who promotes a practice of embodied psychology and spirituality. Visit her website at www.embodyyourlife.org.

    Photo by Lina Trochez on Unsplash.

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  • Dharma

    If we really want to discover which path we are to take on this mysterious journey, it is better we begin by letting go of any preconceptions about our route, illusions about our travel companions, and expectations about our destination. Once we do that, we should simply start walking and try to feel whether this is the right or wrong path for us.

    As I prepare myself to write this blog entry, I cannot help but think of Krishna’s words to Arjuna when the brave warrior is despairing before battle: “You have the right to work but never to the fruit of your work”.

    Dharma is a big word, maybe too big for us to understand its profound implications in just one lecture, a one-week seminar, or even in one lifetime. Most of us earthlings spend our lives trying to figure out what we are doing on this spinning rock– at least those of us who are curious enough to venture beyond the realm of the senses. And the answer always seems too vague, too unattainable, or maybe too simple for our relentless thirst for fame and adventure.

    If we really want to discover which path we are to take on this mysterious journey, it is better we begin by letting go of any preconceptions about our route, illusions about our travel companions, and expectations about our destination. Once we do that, we should simply start walking and try to feel whether this is the right or wrong path for us. This can only be accomplished by stepping out of our comfort zone, which means bidding farewell to big brother Logic and his sister Memory who have been influencing our decisions since time immemorial.

    Fearful as it may seem, there may be no other way to understand the ways of Dharma but by trusting our intuition. At this point, some may argue that their intuition is desperately in need of a good tune-up, but even those should not despair as the Eternal One has graciously arranged the stars, lines of the palm, and other elements in nature as pages in the book of Creation, where avid magic readers can dexterously decipher the original purpose of our trip to planet Earth.

    Once the path is known, the wise words of the Gita can lead us into an aspect of the journey which is infinite times more important than the type of path we are walking on. The Gita’s words present a direct challenge to the highest thoughts of the lower mind, defying the ego to dissolve into the inscrutable mist of destiny.

    We are allowed any action without reservation but not what comes out of that action. This means living the eternal present without room for dreams, hopes, or expectations, simply hopping from one moment to the next, always unaware, always expectant, always starting afresh. Could we detain the inexorable flow of time and decay if we decided to remain in one moment at all times? Is that part of Krishna’s message? Just by posing these questions I am already jumping ahead and demanding the fruit of work. It seems awareness is key, full awareness at all times.

    Knowing your Dharma can definitely alleviate a confused and confusing mind; of this, I have no doubt. However, following Krishna’s message of living life as it comes may as well help us uncover our ultimate purpose, for one who flows without reservations will eventually be taken to that place where he is most valuable, to himself and to the rest of creation. Becoming a flow-er (or a flower for that matter) appears to me as a sure, unmistakable way of fulfilling the totality of our personal agenda without forgetting any of the debts we have contracted during previous visits and the promises we have undertaken for this one.

    Does this sound like too big a leap of faith? Let’s then return to the battlefield and listen to Krishna’s words of encouragement to the warrior that lives behind our physical heart: “It does not become you to yield to this weakness. Arise with a brave heart and destroy the enemy”.

    By Jesus Caballero

    Jesus Caballero is dedicated to the teachings of Yoga, Vedanta and Ayurveda, Jesus Caballero has been involved in the art of healing and inner development for over 15 years. He is a certified Ayurvedic Practitioner from the renowned Ayurvedic Institute in New Mexico, certified yoga teacher, and Pancha Karma Practitioner, as well as a national certified massage therapist, mindfulness and meditation instructor, and reiki master. His seminars and workshops are a fun and thorough journey along the integral science of Ayurveda and its multiple benefits and applications for a healthy, happy, and conscious lifestyle.

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  • Vashisthasana (Side Plank Pose): The Fine Balance of Life

    The one-arm balance of side plank pose is symbolic of Sage Vashistha’s teachings which encourage spiritual growth while fulfilling our day-to-day duties and responsibilities. The one-arm balance is the balance one needs to strive for while being part of the world and also being aware of self and the cosmos.

    Vashisthasana, also known as side plank pose, is a demanding posture that requires balance while strengthening all major muscle groups. To do the posture, balance on one arm with the rest of the body straight and the feet flexed sideways.

    This asana draws inspiration from the teachings of Sage Vashistha, who was a teacher to Lord Rama. Lord Rama, an avatar of Vishnu, was born to show humanity the path to righteousness. Born as a human, Lord Rama experienced the challenges of life like all other beings and traveled to far-off places as a young prince.

    A stage came to him when he was overwhelmed with the conflicts and dilemmas of life. He was disillusioned as a prince and deeply saddened by what he saw and experienced. His father, King Dashratha, understood his son’s state of mind and requested Sage Vashistha to become Lord Rama’s teacher and guide him back on his life path.

    The world had lost its luster for Lord Rama, the young prince, and he shared his disillusionment with the sage. Sage Vashistha reassured Rama that his state of sorrow and disillusionment would lead him to the path of spirituality if he would be kind to himself.

    In his discourse, Sage Vashistha introduced Lord Rama to the state of “Jeevanmukta,” a liberated soul living amidst life’s duties. Sage Vashistha elucidates on the state of “Jeevanmukta,” stating that a “Jeevanmukta” is an individual who lives in the world fulfilling their duties towards work and family. They use their talents to the best of their ability to cater to the world around them. They’re aware of the divinity that lies within. Therefore a “Jeevanmukta” is able to strike a balance by being in this world but not being of this world, and this is liberating for the individual.

    Sage Vashistha tells Lord Rama the parable of the crow and the coconut. The moment the crow lands on the coconut tree, a coconut drops off the tree. No one can know if the coconut fell off the tree because the crow alights on the tree or it was the right time for the ripe coconut to fall.

    Sage Vashistha thus says that we should only perform our actions and apply our thoughts in the most balanced way, knowing very well that the outcome is not for us to decide. As long as one is in touch with one’s inner self, which is beyond our actions and our thoughts, one will always be able to strike a balance in all aspects of life without being bothered about the outcomes.

    During several discourses between Lord Rama and Sage Vashistha, the great sage reiterates the truth that true balance of life means fulfilling our duties as a part of the social fabric in the most balanced way. A balanced way to do things is to not be anxious about the outcome. We need to perform all our actions with the intent that it will bring a positive change in someone’s life and lead our lives with such hope while remaining detached from the outcomes of our actions.

    The one-arm balance of side plank pose is symbolic of Sage Vashistha’s teachings which encourage spiritual growth while fulfilling our day-to-day duties and responsibilities. The one-arm balance is the balance one needs to strive for while being part of the world and also being aware of self and the cosmos.

    By Ankur Tunaak

    Ankur Tunaak has been an Ashtanga yoga practitioner for over a decade, studied with Shree M. Vishwanath who was one of the first students and nephew of Shree Pathabhi Jois. Also, an alumnus of Bihar School Of Yoga, one of four premier Yogic Studies Institutions in India. Ankur is a storyteller and photographer, currently teaching yoga in New Delhi, India.

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  • Conscious Changes with Yoga

    Yoga is the reconciliation of polarities and a deep understanding of our inherent wholeness.
    As we cultivate a personal practice, no part of us gets left behind. A re-membering of the fragmented versions of ourselves is initiated.

    I get on my mat to sort myself out…

    In
    Every
    Single
    Way.

    Interoception. Have you heard of it?

    According to Psychology Today, interoceptive awareness is the awareness of inner states and fluctuations; the process of receiving, accessing, and appraising our internal climate. Often these internal processes are relatively automatic and unconscious (i.e. they can continue without conscious effort, like breathing, heart rate variability, etc.). The more we practice yoga and embodied awareness, the more we can engage with the process and become active agents in our own everyday experience.

    In other words, we can consciously re-program our system through intentional practices of yoga. Wanna know how? Simple (and not so simple):

    Notice the breath, the respiratory system.

    How do you feel when your breath is fast and shallow? How do you feel when your breath is slow and steady?

    Notice how the pace of the breath impacts our felt experience. Faster, shallower breathing correlates with a hyperaroused sympathetic nervous system (i.e. fight or flight).

    Slow steady breathing correlates with the parasympathetic nervous system (rest and digest).

    As we begin to consciously slow down the breath, we begin to signal to the nervous system that calm is possible and that we can be peaceful while confronting challenge. This awareness places us as a co-pilot in our operating system, one that can assess, regulate, and impact our perceptions, actions, and ultimately our beliefs of what is possible.

    Rewire the Nervous System (Neuroplasticity).

    The basis of neuroplasticity is that “neurons that fire together wire together.” That is, new neural pathways are being built all the time.

    What we place our attention to becomes stronger. What we don’t pay attention to gets pruned away. Use it or lose it.

    How does this apply to yoga?

    Simple, when we focus on the breath and how particular actions, poses, and challenges impact our nervous system, we can consciously re-direct our attention into the processes that we can manage: our thoughts, our physiological responses including tension, breath rate, and eventually our posture.

    Another way to say this is: notice when you confront a challenge …

    • How does your body respond?
    • Where do you feel it?
    • Do you notice tension building up?
    • Do you notice particular thought loops or patterns arise?
    • How does your breath differ in times of difficulty vs. ease?

    If we are to consciously work with the concepts put forth by neuroplasticity, we would purposefully attenuate to the present challenging experience. For example, instead of unconsciously flooding the body with tension, old thought patterns, and quickening the breath, notice the opportunity to reprogram and rewire a new pathway, a signal of ease, autonomy, clear headedness, and deepening of the breath.

    If we shift our response to challenge and expand our perception of reality beyond the automatic, unconscious looping mind, we can dramatically alter the state of ease or dis-ease in our body. Felt experience pierces the rigidity of the mind.

    Acceptance and Integration.

    Yoga is the reconciliation of polarities and a deep understanding of our inherent wholeness.

    As we cultivate a personal practice, no part of us gets left behind. A re-membering of the fragmented versions of ourselves is initiated. We take all of our experiences and harness them; we learn to not ignore, deny, or harbor on them.

    Thus an integration of dichotomy is possible (our present/ future selves; the seen/ unseen; etc.) and we can situate ourselves in this generous present moment. Our embodiment becomes richer in the present, it is not stuck in the past. As this happens, we bolster and infuse vitality into every source of power we have access to. That is, we fine tune how we listen, how we perceive, how we move, and become so tuned in, so aware that slowly, day by day, we begin to feel, know, and engage in ways that are highly integrated, creative, and free.

    By Marie Belle Perez Rivera

    Marie Belle Pérez Rivera, PhD, is an educator, artist, community leader, and practitioner of yoga and mindfulness. She currently resides in Washington, DC and travels and teaches yoga, mindfulness, and critical thinking throughout the United States, Caribbean, Latin America, Spain, and Bali. Marie Belle has focused much of her professional and academic career on the roles that psychology, culture, and empowerment play in health, resilience, quality of life, and emotional well-being. She considers herself an anthropologist of movement: delving deeply into the heart and roots of classical yoga and meditation practice while also keeping a panoramic perspective that includes academic research in science, astrology, nutrition, and personal experience. Find out more about her on her website.

    Image by Bhikku Amitha from Pixabay

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  • Why practice? Yoga and Your Mental Health

    Yoga’s first principle is embodiment, and research shows that the practice of yoga tones the vagus nerve, which is implicated in numerous bodily functions and mediates the relaxation response. Through practice, we become intimately familiar with the functioning of our body, breath, and mind.

    Never has our practice of yoga become so imperative. As we enter the second year of a global pandemic and the number of deaths from COVID-19 reaches almost half a million people in the US alone, some of us may be feeling the weight of stress and isolation as a new wave of dread, anxiety, grief, depression, or a gnawing sense of impending doom. Yoga may seem like a luxury not worth indulging in, or we may lack the energy to contemplate a yoga practice. Meditation, as helpful as science says it is, may be elusive to our confused and distracted minds.

    We want certainty. We want to imagine an end to this endless state of unpredictability. But consider the news lately: the COVID-19 pandemic, systemic racism, and socio-political unrest, the threat domestic terrorism and police brutality, an ever-worsening climate crisis, and the undermining of democracy and equity worldwide. The battleground of our emotions, whether we want it or not, is the body. Words may fail us. As our distress remains unprocessed, undigested, and unexpressed, it manifests as insomnia, aches and pains, variable energy and vitality, and lowered immunity. We become irritable and depressed, further isolating from already diminished connections.

    Yoga’s first principle is embodiment, and research shows that the practice of yoga tones the vagus nerve, which is implicated in numerous bodily functions and mediates the relaxation response. Through practice, we become intimately familiar with the functioning of our body, breath, and mind. This wisdom enables us to self-regulate our autonomic nervous system, calm our mind, and build flexibility in our thinking, feeling, and behaviors. Yoga is not about touching your toes, you see. It’s about touching your soul through time-tested practices. Grounded in the eternal and unchanging part of us, we become less fearful, more joyful, and increasingly capable of achieving our highest goals.

    But where do we begin? First, understand that the “royal” path of yoga requires discipline, self-study, and surrender to a process of transformation with patience and faith. Through the practice of the various “limbs” of yoga, we become established in our essential nature – a state reflected in a mind that is calm, luminous, and undisturbed by the changing conditions of the external world. Who doesn’t want to feel peaceful and calm? The trick is to want that state badly enough that we are willing to engage in the practices that will help us reach that state.

    The yoga tradition is more about the mind than it is about the body. Its inherent goal is optimal mental health through the purification of mental afflictions that block our perception of our true nature. But we need the body because it is the vehicle of consciousness. It is through the body, its brain, and nervous system that we perceive and interpret the world. Hence, we practice yamas (restraints), niyamas (observances or attitudes), asana (physical posture), pranayama (mastery of our breath/energy), pratyahara (withdrawing the senses inward), dharana (concentration), dhyana (meditation) in order to reach the various levels of samadhi (spiritual absorption). These are outlined in chapter 2 of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras as the steps to purify body and mind so we can experience oneness with the Absolute Reality.

    We begin where we are. Simplicity is key to mastery. We make a start by understanding that a yogic lifestyle requires a commitment to non-violence, truthfulness, non-possessiveness, non-stealing, and effort to constrain our less constructive urges. These are the yamas. Non-violence and truthfulness mean that you practice within your limits and don’t demand too much of yourself, causing you to become overwhelmed and give up before you begin. Trust that every small change you make leads to big transformation. As my teacher, Yogarupa Rod Stryker likes to say, “change is the hardest yoga.” So we muster up the courage to investigate what the practice of yoga might mean to us personally.

    The niyamas invite us into a life of cleanliness and purity of body and mind, contentment and gratitude as a mental attitude, disciplined effort, self-study through inquiry, and trustful surrender to Ishvara, the inner light or guiding principle of Pure Consciousness within us.

    Your yoga practice may include certain purification routines in the morning, such as scraping your tongue of impurities, washing your body, wearing clean clothes, and eating more fresh than processed foods. Self-study may mean a daily inventory of helpful and unhelpful thoughts, feelings, and behaviors; a gratitude list to cultivate an attitude of contentment; and pausing to drop beyond our stressful thoughts into a higher mind for intuitive guidance.

    Patanjali makes it clear that asana is not the acrobatics of standing on your hands or twisting yourself into a pretzel. In fact, the Hatha Yoga Pradipika clearly states that there are 15 major poses of which several are seated meditation poses and one is savasana, the restful corpse pose. The way to master the pose, according to Patanjali, is to attain an easeful steadiness (sthiram, sukham) or stability and comfort. To “perfect” the pose requires the loosening of tension caused by too much effort, and then allowing the mind to become absorbed in contemplation of the “infinite.” For the purpose of the remaining limbs that lead to meditation, find a pose that allows you to sit comfortably for several minutes.

    Pratyahara means that you commit to leave the distractions of the world – and the mind’s attachment to compulsive thinking – for long enough that you can focus on your breath with one-pointedness. If mind becomes distracted or pulled away from the focus of inner attention, keep turning the mind inward.

    Here is a pranayama breath awareness practice to release tension and constriction in the autonomic nervous system: diaphragmatic abdominal breathing. You can do this lying down or seated, as long as your posture is erect, and your chest and ribs are not collapsing into the abdomen. Begin to breathe evenly in and out with most of the movement in the abdomen. The chest is relatively still as the abdomen expands on inhale and softens on exhale. Gradually invite the breath to become smooth, continuous, and uninterrupted. As your nervous system receives the message to relax, your diaphragm (a very large, dome-shaped muscle below the ribcage) will soften and release any tension or constriction. Be aware that you may feel your body twitch, and emotions that have been constricted there may arise. Allow any heat, shaking/trembling, sweating or tears to happen. These are just the processes the body uses to release stress hormones. Awareness remains steady and undisturbed. Continue to witness the release of tension in body and mind until you experience a completion marked by a renewed sense of clarity and calm vitality.

    You can continue the same practice with prana dharana, a concentration of the lifeforce riding on the breath, feeling the abdomen filled with this golden stream of life energy. As the mind becomes increasingly absorbed in this light, you move into dhyana, or meditation on this object: energy in the abdomen. If you slip into a state of oneness, where you dissolve into this golden light, you’ve gotten a glimpse into samadhi, which is merging with the object of your meditation.

    If you wish to extend your practice and do some self-study, you could consider journaling about your experience. What was distracting you? What helped you ease into a deeper state of relaxation? How has your physical, mental, and emotional state changed as a result of your practice? Is there something I need to do about the thoughts that were distracting me? If they were negative thoughts, can I contemplate some opposite ideas? Cultivate an attitude of curiosity, non-judgment and compassionate witness as your higher awareness investigates the processes of your conditioned mind and personality, remembering that your essential, deepest and truest self is pure, unconditioned Consciousness.

    Other helpful activities to contemplate as part of your mental health practice of yoga:

    Slow down and feel your body – your body is the container of your experience and the radar signaling you are stressed. Simple awareness of the body’s sensations of constriction may allow them to let go. Become aware of the polarities of constriction and expansion, fear and bliss, beauty and horror – and move awareness between the two until something changes.

    Ask for help – our conditioned minds can be a minefield, especially during these trying times that have heightened our awareness of personal, collective, and ancestral traumas. Don’t struggle alone. Reach out to a trusted teacher or therapist and share your struggles – with practice or with life. Feeling our feelings in the safety of a caring witness is an important way to “digest” the stress hormones released in the body and the mental impressions in the mind.

    Create a sangha – We are social beings designed to be in community. Find or create a trusted community of like-minded souls with whom you can share experiences as well as helpful resources. Notice how your body and breath respond when you are feeling safe in community. Any groups with shared interests are helpful, whether they are social, professional or spiritual. Remember the strength and resilience of your community.

    Lift your spirits – by reading inspirational literature and/or the scriptures of your spiritual tradition. Listen to helpful podcasts by luminaries in various traditions. Watch documentaries or comedies – whatever your wise mind tells you will be helpful in the moment. Expand your consciousness by listening to experiences beyond your own. Seek to understand those different than you. Remember that you are not alone. All of humanity is in the same boat and there are many helpers to guide us.

    Play! – it’s important to find opportunities for rest and recreation to help reset your nervous system as well as find joy in the midst of turmoil. By making time for healthy pleasure, especially with others, we tap into the joy that is ever present in our hearts. This is a good way to balance (not avoid) the states of grief or depression that are stimulated by current conditions.

    Fantasize! – our bodies respond to the thoughts and images we hold in our minds. It’s like being in a movie theater, but the screen is in our mind. So let your imagination run wild and experience the shifts in your nervous system as you visualize yourself on a remote beach, diving deep in the ocean, or skiing down a mountain. Again, this is not about avoidance, but rather it is providing respite to an over-burdened nervous system.

    Grounding and Orienting – the more present we can be in the current moment, the easier it will be to reset our nervous system to a helpful balance. Most of our distress is caused by stressful thoughts about the past or the future, both of which are not real in the present moment. Orienting to safety and grounding in our bodies through the 5 senses, feeling the stability and strength of bones and muscles, can help us become calmer.

    Focus on what you can control – there may not be a lot you can control in your community and the world, but you can establish certain predictable patterns in your life, such as regular and healthy meals, meditation moments, nighttime rituals to prepare for an early night’s sleep, scheduling exercise as well as social connection time, even if it’s electronically.

     

    By Inge Sengelmann

    Inge Sengelmann, LCSW, SEP, RYT is a licensed psychotherapist and certified ParaYoga teacher who promotes a practice of embodied psychology and spirituality. Visit her website at www.embodyyourlife.org.

    Photo by Sage Friedman on Unsplash

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  • Chakras 101

    In these times of uncertainty with all there is going on in the world we are finding ourselves more stressed than ever before. It’s important not to lose sight of the importance of taking care of yourself to ensure that you remain healthy and balanced through mind, body, and soul. Nourishing the spiritual body is as important as feeding the physical body and vice versa.

    Chakra is a Sanskrit word meaning “wheel of light”. Picture circular spirals or vortexes of energy that interact with our physical body through the layers of our subtle energy field. Each chakra rotates or spins at its own frequency and has a front and back. Chakras are shaped like conical funnels with the point of contact at the spine and the wide mouth end pointing out towards the world around us. Each chakra regulates a different aspect of the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual body. They are responsible for energy coming into our body as well as energy leaving our body and are the key to physical health, emotional stability and mental clarity. I like to think of them as a “superhighway”, many lanes filled with information coming in as well as going out moving at an incredible speed.

    There are 7 main Chakras contained within the energy field of the body. Each Chakra is associated with the gland in its area, our glandular system is responsible for regulating our body system, things like temperature, hormones etc. Chakra’s are also the key point for helping us develop our intuition. They are associated with the colors of the rainbow starting with red and responsible for assisting us in keeping ourselves in optimal health by bringing in information required by our body and releasing information when it is no longer relevant or required.

    This is an outline for the main 7 seven chakras in the body, where they are located, the color, what glad they are associate with, problems when they are not functioning, their psychic function, and the dimensional plane they are associated and work with through our DNA:

    First: Root / Red / Effects: Grounding, Fight or Flight, Addictions, Abundance / Gland: Adrenals / Communicates: through Sympathy in a physical way / Dimension: First

    Second: Sacral / Orange / Gland: Ovaries or Testes / Effects: Creativity, Feelings of Self / Communicates: through Empathy / Dimension: Second

    Third: Solar Plexus / Yellow / Gland: Pancreas / Effects: Power Center, Self Esteem / Communicates: through Clairsentience / Dimension: Third

    Fourth: Heart / Green / Gland: Heart / Effects: Relationship to others / Communicate: through Astral realm: guidance / Dimension: Fourth (Astral Realm / Rainbow Bridge)

    Fifth: Throat / Light Blue / Gland: Thyroid / Effects: Speaking Truth, Will Power, Separation from ourself as Source / Communicates: through Clairaudience / Dimension: Fifth

    Sixth: Third Eye / Indigo / Gland: Pituitary / Effects: Seeing clearly, Persecution / Communicates: through Clairvoyance / Dimension: Sixth

    Seventh: Crown / White or Purple / Gland: Pineal / Effects: Connection to Source and expansion of Consciousness / Communicates: Divine Connection and Guidance / Dimension: Seventh

    It’s my belief that chakras are associated with and responsible for each band in our Aura field. They are in constant flow moving between our own body and the bodies of those we come in contact with during our daily travels, our family, relationships, co-workers and friends. Since they are connected to the glandular system and transmit energy throughout our body, becoming a barometer of sorts for our emotional, mental and spiritual state of being, we can see that chakras are a vital part of our life force energy. Keeping our Chakras healthy and clear is as important as maintaining any other area of our body.

    Through my work, it has become clear to me that our mental body (thoughts) and our emotional body (emotions) are critical key components in our ability to maintain good health. We know our thoughts are electric, they are the “spark” that first ignites our process of thinking. Our thoughts can have us out a day, week, month or year into our future without our awareness which pulls us away from being present in our now moment. This is going to impact our root chakra first since thoughts heading into our future are often about our “survival” in some way.

    Next up in our process is our emotions, activated and rushing out to meet up with where our thoughts have ventured. This is a natural process for our emotions since they are magnetic, and always trying to make good time, keeping up with the lightning speed like action of our thoughts, and because emotions are magnetic, they are heavy and dense which makes it hard for them to keep up with the fast pace of our thoughts. If we are not paying attention to our thought process, not doing a good job staying present, we will create an “out of balance, out of synch” feeling in our body both mentally and emotionally. This becomes anxiety. Our emotions are struggling to keep time with our thoughts and create the anxious feeling associated with anxiety. This is where illness begins. We create it through our thoughts, emotions and actions most times without awareness. This imbalance of energy streaming through the subtle energy body begins to build up and shift our physical body out of balance.

    Disease and illness are initiated in the energy field and by continuously repeating the belief and emotion (imbalance), over a period of time especially if we have unhealthy living habits, the chaotic energy will take hold in the body as it’s pulled in through the energy field into the physical body becoming disease and serious illness. This is where marrying a thought and emotion over and over until it becomes a “belief” we can’t let go of, impacts the flow of energy in our body and we begin to notice a decline in our state of wellbeing. Through our mental and emotional dis-ease we have created an opportunity for disease to set in.

    When the body moves into a state of dis-ease it stands to reason that disease / illness will manifest in the body. An illness in our body points to or relates to an illness in our entire being. For instance, the color of the Root / Base Chakra is red, and the aspect is grounding spiritual energy. Physically it deals with fight or flight, mentally it warehouses attitudes of territory, primal instincts for survival, family value, religious beliefs, belonging, separation, and our right to your own space and existence. The emotional body warehouses the emotional component such as aggression, anger, fear, survival. The spiritual aspect is security / stability or lack of. Health issues related to the root chakra can include addictions and compulsions, nervous system diseases or disorders, family dysfunctions etc. The dimension is the first which is also the first strand of the 12 strands of DNA we are healing / activating through our spiritual evolution and is associated with our physical body. This first chakra / first strand of DNA is responsible for our physical body experience in our day to day reality. Now you can see how it’s all tied together.

    In these times of uncertainty with all there is going on in the world we are finding ourselves more stressed than ever before. It’s important not to lose sight of the importance of taking care of yourself to ensure that you remain healthy and balanced through mind, body, and soul. Nourishing the spiritual body is as important as feeding the physical body and vice versa. This requires that we keep our thoughts, emotions, and actions in check. Awareness is the key to maintaining good health. When we are thinking good thoughts about ourselves, speaking kindly to or about ourselves, and taking action to ensure our contentedness and wellbeing are met, the result will be a happy, healthy, balanced energy field in which our chakras play a main role. We are the key to our well-being, it’s up to us to create balance.

    Creating balance in our life can include healthy eating, taking time to nurture ourselves but most importantly it’s about movement since the root chakra is all about the “physical” state of being. This is where our health begins. Yoga is the perfect way to create flow in your physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual experience. Any poses that support the root chakra will support the entire subtle body energy system.

    Join me next time for an in-depth look at the Root Chakra for an understanding of how it plays a vital role right now as we see the destruction and chaos around us through the events of the past few months. We will look at ways in which the root chakra becomes unhealthy, how it can affect our body as well as ways in which we can bring it back into balance and which brings balance and vitality to our overall state of well-being. It’s one of the most important chakras for maintaining our overall stability.

    Maria Deesy

    Maria is an Energy Intuitive, Ascension Guide and Wayshower working within the energetic blueprint of both Gaia and her clients to access and assist in transmuting trauma at all levels. Maria’s also able to read to solar frequencies of the cosmos and can provide insight Into the energies presenting in order to better navigate our physical experience during our Ascension. Her work supports the awakening process of humanity. Connect with Maria on the following sites: website, blog, Instagram, or twitter. Copyright©2020 MariaDeesy.com

    Image by Okan Caliskan from Pixabay

     

  • Yoga Mythology Series: Bharata’s Yama – A Discerning Self

    It is our thoughts and thoughts alone that shape our actions and deeds. If we are free from greed, content with what we have, and if we keep our minds calm, wealth and wellbeing will come to us. The richest person in the world is the one who has a serene mind free of tension and anxiety.

    The King of Ayodhya, Dashratha, had four sons. Ram was the eldest. Bharata was the second. Lakshmana and Shatrughana were the younger ones. Prince Ram was sent away with Sage Vishwamitra to study and learn under his tutelage. After years of study and devotion to the sage, Ram was asked to go back to his Kingdom as a married man and take responsibility for the Kingdom from his aging father.

    At the day of Ram’s coronation ceremony, the second wife of King Dashratha, Kaikeyi, demanded her favorite son Bharata be crowned as the King, and Ram be sent to exile for fourteen years in the forest. King Dashratha was heartbroken, but he kept his promise, granting the two wishes to Queen Kaikeyi because she’d saved his life years ago.

    When Bharata learned about his mother’s wish, he was deeply saddened. He did not want to become the King of Ayodhya because he knew it rightfully belonged to his elder brother Ram. To his mother’s disappointment, he refused to become the King of Ayodhya through such trickery.

    Both Ram and Bharat were bound by their father’s promise to Queen Kaikeyi and the responsibility of running the Kingdom of Ayodhya. Ram, without an iota of regret, removed all his royal robes and left the city of Ayodhya as a hermit for fourteen years. Bharata had a duty to perform in the absence of Ram, that of administering the Kingdom. But instead of becoming the King himself, he chose to become his brother Ram’s regent. He left the palace to live as a hermit like Ram in a village called Nandigram. As a mark of respect and love for his elder brother, Bharata placed Ram’s footwear on the throne to proclaim Ram’s undisputed kingship.

    Bharata’s administered the Kingdom of Ayodhya with righteousness, and it prospered under his leadership. But he always worked as a representative of Ram, his elder brother and the rightful heir to the throne. For fourteen years of his life, while Ram was away in exile, Bharata lived with meager means as a hermit, knowing that he had no right to enjoy the luxuries of a royal life when they were meant for Ram only. At the same time, he did not shy away from performing his duties as the administrator of Ayodhya and looked after Kingdom as promised to his elder brother and father.

    After fourteen years of exile upon Ram’s return to Ayodhya, Bharata received his elder brother and the King of Ayodhya at the city gates with flowers and handed over the Kingdom to Ram. Ram too, after his coronation, made Bharata the Yuvraj (crown prince) for his great virtues and years of experience as Ayodhya’s administrator.

    Our instincts are purely of peaceful and joyful living, but intellect drives us to obtain more and more. How would it be if our day-to-day life was simplified just a little bit? What if we choose not to steal other’s possessions in thought or action; tried not to be envious; nor cheat someone with sweet words, gaining selfish ends under the pretext of truthfulness? How would it be if whatever we acquired was only through righteousness? What if we always gave two out for two in? When we buy two shirts, we give away two from our wardrobe.

    If we did these things we’d be living our life by Asteya and Aparigraha, the yogic principles of life that prince Bharata chose.

    It is our thoughts and thoughts alone that shape our actions and deeds. If we are free from greed, content with what we have, and if we keep our minds calm, wealth and wellbeing will come to us. The richest person in the world is the one who has a serene mind free of tension and anxiety.

    By Ankur Tunaak

    Ankur Tunaak has been an Ashtanga yoga practitioner for over a decade, studied with Shree M. Vishwanath who was one of the first students and nephew of Shree Pathabhi Jois. Also, an alumnus of Bihar School Of Yoga, one of four premier Yogic Studies Institutions in India. Ankur is a storyteller and photographer, currently teaching yoga in New Delhi, India.

    Photo by Frank Holleman on Unsplash
     

  • Creating Illness: Healing through awareness

    Healing is an inside job, no one can heal you if you are not holding a true and complete desire to heal yourself.  Those of you familiar with my work have heard me say this over and over again. Healers are amazing conduits for healing to occur, I say that as someone who is trained in both Usui & Karuna Reiki almost 20 years ago. It’s how I started to become aware of the Subtle Energy Body. If you keep reading, I’ll explain how we can receive a healing, think we’re healed only to get sick again.

    The fault for the re-occurrence is not with the healer, it’s with the recipient’s lack of awareness to how the energy body works, as well as the lack of understanding as to how our thoughts and emotions (beliefs) play an integral part in how our reality is created which becomes our life experience. Once you understand the relationship between your thoughts, emotions and actions to your energy body you can heal and never get sick again.

    The energy of pain and suffering is low and very dense in its vibrational state.  It’s much easier to get momentum going with low vibrational thoughts, it’s like tossing a snowball down-hill, it builds on itself and becomes very difficult to manage or stop. If you create enough of these lower level thoughts and emotions, over time, you can get locked into a cycle of pain and suffering which then becomes a mental / emotional state of being we get locked into called victim-hood mentality which can make it almost impossible to escape.  The lower dense energy of our emotions locks us in to a feeling we run continuously, it becomes a drug and we are addicted to it because it’s the only way we know how to feel.  The more you stay in these lower vibrational states of pain and suffering the easier it becomes to create more.  It’s like being stuck on a hamster wheel, with no escape so you keep creating more.  Higher vibrational thoughts are harder because they are more uncomfortable for us to try to have if we are used to being in a lower state where we feel “nothing ever works out for us or this is just my rotten luck.”

    We are only going to barely skim the surface talking about how we create illness but it’s a good start. If you find yourself getting triggered reading this it’s ok, just breathe.  It’ll all make sense as we go. Awareness is the key, we must be aware of what we are creating through our thoughts, words and actions because that’s what’s creating our experience in our reality.  It’s important to remember that nothing is happening “to us” but rather “for us” in order to help us shift.  No one is setting us up to fail, our soul chose all of this to understand what it feels like to move through and transcend darkness into light to heal.

    Having created Cancer in my body back in 2000’, I was abruptly catapulted onto my path of self-discovery because my life goal of attaining success at my job was suddenly shifted and now solely about healing my body. I was not going to “get it” with the first cancer event in 2000’, it was going to take a reoccurrence in 2004’ to shake me awake. That’s when everything changed, I changes as I became more aware of what was still needing my attention with regard to change.  When I started to look at how I was living, thinking and feeling my life was suddenly heading in a new direction.  I was on a quest to figure it all out. I was someone who needed to know the “how & why”, which can be a challenge at times but in this case, it was my blessing.  It brought me deeper into awareness of myself and through my process I became a critical thinker.  I remember knowing I could not put anyone else in charge of my healing, it was my job.  I remember knowing this with every fiber of my being and looking back now I see I was not even close to where I am now in awareness but it’s a process and I was off to a good start. Since that second dance with cancer it’s been a never-ending search for the truth in how / why we become sick.

    Through my process of self-discovery, I read hundreds of books on all thing’s energy, the body and emotions, I’m well versed in everything Carolyn Myss, Louise Hay, Debbie Ford and the list goes on but in truth there was always something missing. Even after all the work I had done, starting back in 2000’, it still wasn’t clear why we got sick or how we could heal. Why can some people consume nothing but junk food and live to be104 years old and a health fanatic dies at 40, it never made sense. My work has been based on healing the whole and not the illness because to me that’s like applying a band aid when stitches are needed. The same is true with therapy, it keeps you locked in a loop never really resolving the problem which is the generational patterning, programming or Karmic loop cycle playing out because everything is at the soul level. It feels good in the moment, but that deeper resolution never seems to come… only more separation of self as you struggle to make sense of yourself / your life / your past and most importantly what you could’ve done better to prevent it. The nature of the illness is not really about anyone or anything else, it’s about you and your “perception” of you.  Healing is an inside job; it has nothing to do with anything outside of you. If you take a few minutes more and keep reading, I’ll explain what I’m talking about.

    My work is based on helping people resolve their emotional trauma in order to assist them in their process of healing.  This past year was filled with crazy “pop up” health anomalies, some easy to resolve and others needing a deeper process. Many people called within several days of each other for help with UTI’s and just as many for kidney / bladder stones and now skin problems (including hair loss). In all my years doing this work, assisting people in finding their place of wellbeing through reversing illness and pain in their body I don’t think I’ve had such an eye-opening moment. The intensity of the energy we’re experiencing is bring a lot of emotional stuff to the surface needing to be healed / released.  Resistance to change is the number one catalyst of physical pain / illness. When we are in resistance to letting go our body responds with pain or/and illness.  The resistance is in our thinking process.  Our thoughts snowball and gain momentum which then creates a desire for our emotions to marry the thoughts.  Thoughts and emotions go hand in hand.  Because they are denser than thoughts it’s almost impossible to have one without the other.  The imbalance has us emotional over what we are “perceiving” in our reality as our truth, which is often times not even close to what is really true but we fail to realize that because the density of our emotions has already locked us onto the hamster wheel and we slowly spiral out of control creating anxiety and fear or anger as the first step in creating illness.

    I’ll break this down for you in case you’re not familiar with how illness is created. What all health issues have in common is thoughts, emotions and actions marrying together and being brought into the body through the electromagnetic field through the aura and finally into our physical body. It all starts with our thoughts (electric) and emotions (magnetic) which are our beliefs, followed by our actions.  When emotions are not resolved they imprint in our electromagnetic field. The electromagnetic field locks in these time imprints as memories, these are known as timelines which anchor into our electromagnetic field which causes a build-up of density which is created by our emotions. We imprint that timeline through our emotions, so we have now embedded a memory of how we felt in that moment. We carry it with us and keep referring to the memory / emotion of that particular time(line) and over time the density builds creating a distortion in our energy field.  Eventually it weakens our field which then creates a tear or a hole where our personal energy (chi) leaks out.  This weakens our physical body over time and if nothing is done to correct the situation, we develop an illness.

    These emotional imprints or timelines as they are is why it’s so hard to let go of something painful from your past such as relationships.  It doesn’t matter how old / new it is, once we create an emotional imprint it’s with us until we’ve have had enough and release it.  We have a timeline with each person, situation etc. in our life.  Gaia also holds timelines known as the Akashic Records, they are a record of everything our soul has experienced across all timelines, dimensions and parallel realities.  This is the experience we have of being multi-dimensional. Gaia holds all of this information for each human, It’s the collective experience or collective consciousness and we in our physical form have the individual experience.  Every time we think of a situation to which we have an emotional connection / tie, we perceive it through it’s timeline and it will feel fresh, like it just happened as we replay it in our emotional body because of the strength we give it through our thoughts, and actions.

    Our emotions are the powerhouse, they magnetize our past to us. We have learned, throughout our life to master the art of creating emotions to go with events in our lives that have brought us joy and sorrow. The emotions connected to sorrow have been trained by us to occur each time we are triggered into recalling that emotional event / situation / relationship from our past.  Emotions and thoughts give power to our beliefs.  This is the key in resolving illness.  We must develop awareness in order to see what we are creating in each moment.  This is how we can develop a present moment state of being.

    Every illness / issue in the body is an imprint in the electromagnetic field via these timelines. On a soul level certain illness can be built into what we’re here to experience as a soul in human form.  This is called “Generational Patterning”, cancer is an illness the soul group as a collective might choose to experience. There are many reasons why we create illness, in the case of Generational Patterning it’s to heal the family lineage for the soul group, sort of like ending the pattern or behavior that was never resolved by other family members.  When you heal it the generations after you do not have to deal with it, so they won’t create it.  I healed the cancer in my family by owning my healing process.

    Now that we’ve touched on how illness works within timelines, we can understand the other part in the equation of healing our body through how we handle these timelines which are really our “memories” of the experience we’ve had.  Since memories are held onto by our human thinking mind and we see that we are creating the pain and suffering by continually dipping back into our past experiences and pull that memory along with those feelings / emotions front and center, then we start the fueling process giving fire to it through our thoughts. This is why the pain feels fresh & present, we recreate it over and over again and again by not realizing we do not need to relive / rehash it.  When we see this and realize that everything that occurred in our past is merely a “representation” of who we were then at that time we will realize we do not need to review it.  Part of this process revisiting our wounds is our belief that we did something wrong or that something could’ve been done differently when none of that is true.  Everything occurs exactly as it’s meant to in order to create the experience needed to move us forward in order to move out of our state of stuckness.  Crisis is notorious for giving us our wake-up call.

    Now we can look at why it’s hard to let go of pain and suffering. Our bodies hold a unique frequency to us. Our frequency is related to our electromagnetic field.  Our field, just like our chakras, spins which is known as an oscillation rate.  The oscillation rate gives us the frequency at which we vibrate, thus known as our “vibration”.  Since pain and suffering is at a lower vibration, each time we recall that painful thought we connect back to that lower vibration to match that imprinted timeline of the memory of that situation.  In doing so we bring ourselves back to that moment in time creating more density in our energy field through our emotions… our emotions are magnetic and dense.  Our felid is spinning at a slower lower rate creating an imbalance and instability in our state of being.  Our ability to create illness in our physical body is only one part of the equation, it’s what we do with that energy / emotions we are recalling and feeling back into.

    The second part of this equation holds as much importance to how we create illness because it has to do the timelines imprinted to the Earth.  The Earth also has a frequency that has an oscillation rate which creates its vibration just as we do.  Gaia is currently ascending her consciousness and raising to 5D and is in the process of shedding 3D.  We still carry 3D in our field which is why it’s important to do our work so we can be in vibrational alignment with Gaia.  Our whole existence 3D is where we created these experiences, we played in polarity and duality which gives us the experience of something being good / bad, right / wrong etc.  It’s the perfect environment for our soul to work through understanding the human experience.  Looking at cancer again, in our experience Gaia is holding an imprinted timeline cancer and we are holding an imprinted timeline in our field we activate the imprinted timeline in our field and match the same imprinted timeline Gaia holds of cancer.

    The important thing to understand here is that instead of just our emotional/ mental energetic timeline imprint being held by Gaia we are not tapped into the “billions” of people that make up the cancer timeline imprint Gaia who may be struggling just like us, same emotional status as us and we feel it all.  This collective consciousness dealing with cancer is now added to the cancer we are feeling into trying to heal so it magnifies our emotions, thoughts and actions. This is referred to as the “collective consciousness”.  This is likely to add to the emotions you’re already feeling. This is why it can be difficult for some people to handle an illness.  They feel overwhelmed because it’s not just their emotions they are dealing with.  I remember my grandfather had stage 2 cancer and was gone in a matter of weeks.  He was overcome with the fear of dying.  He held his fear and, unintentionally, the fear of the collective consciousness.  I never held fear, I knew I wasn’t going to die from cancer because I was supposed to use it to open to this work.

    Tuning into the collective timeline of an illness can leave us in a state of greater overwhelm than if we were left alone with our emotions, this one of the number one reasons we don’t heal, or we heal and experience a reoccurrence. It’s a loop cycle because of the duality and polarity held on the Earth. When someone heals and stays healed it’s because their thoughts, emotions and actions have shifted out of that patterning, known as a belief system, which let’s go if that timeline and healing occurs. That timeline collective could have hundreds of thousands or millions who are feeding the same emotional energy experience along with their thoughts to that collective timeline which then amplifies your experience with that illness that is now needing to be dealt with by you. Many of the collective timelines are generational imprints, holding the potential for them to be activated by you through any crisis in your life over time. We create our reality in every now moment, it’s a currency exchange of vibration. We need to start thinking about how we are spending our energetic (vibrational) currency. We did not come here to suffer. We came here to live an abundant life. We stay stuck through our thoughts and perceptions that this is the way it must be, this is not true.  Do you know your beliefs are not yours, they don’t belong to you?  They are actually handed to you and you just believe you need to incorporate them into your state of being and own them.

    Let’s talk about those three illnesses I mentioned way back in the beginning.  We can’t go into the remedy since each individual requires something unique in their own process, but I’d like to breakdown a few of the more common issues I’m seeing right now, from an energy perspective, to show you how illness is created.  When there is an event that creates emotions, many can participate which becomes the collective experience.  We can look at how our thoughts, emotions and beliefs create the story for what takes place in our body. Remember, I’m giving you what I perceive as the underlying energetic component of each. (Disclaimer, I am not a Dr. If you feel you need medical attention and a Dr is required, please see one).

    Let’s start with UTI’s. They are Root / Sacral chakra based and have to do with urinating or lack of because of the bacterial infection. This is an emotional situation of being “pissed or pissed off”. The Bladder is involved, and that energetic component is “retention”. The UTI causes burning and pain when you urinate so we need to look at “anger”. This is usually towards another. In most of the cases I see it’s towards the opposite sex. Being pissed off at someone, having to suck it in, or hold it in. Usually there’s an issue with confrontation when the Bladder is involved. Being burning mad.

    Next are Stones, kidneys first, they are also about anger but here they are, mad all this time and never actually “giving shape” to their anger which now becomes lumps of undissolved anger. The kidneys crystallize the “criticisms, failures and disappointments”. I see this a lot with childhood issues, feeling like you got the short end of the stick that life didn’t work out the way you thought. It’s also in some big “desire” not playing out the way they had planned, the failure anchors in. It’s in the solar plexus so it’s about feeling a lack of empowerment and being judged mostly by yourself.

    Next we have Cysts, which are about running the same story about themselves or their life over and over. I thought I had done all the work after the second time I had cancer in 2004 but in 2013 a cyst popped up in the exact location of the cancer to show me that although I made the changes to my thoughts and emotions I still had an area I hadn’t cleared so I didn’t create cancer again but I did create a cyst showing up to let me know there was still work to be done.

    The Bladder Stone is the same anger creating the stone as in the kidneys (see above) however this is the “Bladder”, so this is about “FEAR”, retention, holding things in, mostly from the past or childhood. I see this in people who don’t like confrontation. It’s in the sacral chakra so it’s about not feeling like you’re enough. I see this where people can’t let go of a grudge they’re holding from their past. They have a difficult time communicating feelings.

    Finally, we have skin which is associated with the root chakra. Any skin issues, alopecia included, are about distress or emotional stress such as jealousy or anger that is being “reflected out” since the skin is like the mirror to our soul. I’ve seen this occur when someone was cheated on, in babies who came through a challenging birth and hold fear, as well as in difficult divorces, difficult living situations, work etc. Skin is also associated with the lungs and heart chakra, so there’s grief or fear playing a role as well. For every thought & emotion (action) there is a reaction creating a “step 1” awareness that you are out of balance through the beginning of physical pain. Thoughts and emotions that are left unattended run amok and create imbalances in the electromagnetic field which then magnetize to the same timeline imprint of the Earth and that creates the feeling of “stuckness”, pain and / or despair.

    I know these are trying times were in as were being pushed to our limits being asked to see the bigger picture and the gold paved road on our path leading to our future which is sometimes challenging to see. Most issues can easily be resolved with self-work, but they will persist if no action is taken because they are being magnetized by the collective imprint through Gaia. I had cancer twice, it opened me to new heights in my work and provided insight I never believed possible in order for me to work at new levels with my clients.  The cyst gave me the awareness I needed to see how I created all of it and if I created it, I could heal it.

    It’s time for “self-care” my friends, it’s all about you. Health issues will keep reoccurring until you take action by making yourself a priority. The more knowledge you have about how your energy body works the better you will become at navigating around these health issues and generational imprints which, will reduce your chance for illness. I hope you’ve found this information supportive to you. It’s always my intention to hold the highest vibration for expanding awareness in how our reality can be more easily navigated and healing can occur. As you can see it all starts with YOU. You are the catalyst for your own healing and the conduit for your own love. It all starts with you. Please love yourself in ALL you do, maybe now seeing you deserve the healing you really want so to kick it up a notch and activate that true DESIRE locked within and over everything / everyone else love YOU more!!!  Be the support you are seeking from others, invest in you.  You deserve it!

    Maria Deesy

    Maria is an Energy Intuitive, Ascension Guide and Wayshower working within the energetic blueprint of both Gaia and her clients to access and assist in transmuting trauma at all levels. Maria’s also able to read to solar frequencies of the cosmos and can provide insight Into the energies presenting in order to better navigate our physical experience during our Ascension. Her work supports the awakening process of humanity. Connect with Maria on the following sites: website, blog, Instagram, or twitter. Copyright©2020 MariaDeesy.com

     

  • Spanish Yoga Classes in L.A.

    For most us sharing our yoga practice with loved ones is a wonderful & beautiful bonding experience that is almost second to none. For some of us it’s a bit more complicated, although I share my experience with anyone who seems the slightest interested in it, it’s been hard to bring my Spanish speaking community around to a private practice, let alone to a studio class.

    As a Yoga Instructor in South Los Angeles which has one of the most, if not highest, percentage of Spanish speakers, it has been surprising how difficult it is to find an all-Spanish yoga class. For the past 5 years I have been offering restorative and beginners’ classes in English and Spanish. While 90% of my classes were filled with English speakers, I found out that the majority of the students that only spoke Spanish were also there experiencing their 1st yoga class.

    These Spanish speaking yogis were usually over the age of 30 and were being brought in by their children who were mostly college students.  Often times when talking to them after class and asking if the practice was what they were expecting, I found myself having the same conversation, how this one 75 min practice was not at all what they were expecting. Besides the obvious comfort of taking a class in Spanish, these yogis always tell me how they experienced the ‘delicious’ slowing down of their thoughts and ‘real’ rest of their bodies.

    As a Mexican immigrant living in South L.A. I’ve lived this experience. I’m grateful and fortunate for being able to practice all over Los Angeles and the world. This practice is still a novelty with Spanish speakers in L.A. and is seen as something that is only done by the type of people you typically see on magazines, however those that do make this a consistent practice realize that all you have to do is show up to feel and see the benefits of Yoga.

    In Los Angeles the economic gap that you see between the South and the West side is something that I don’t know will ever be closed, but nothing compares to the grounding and humbling feeling of walking into a yoga studio where lululemon is not the status quo. What I do know is that all these Spanish speaking yogis feel empowered and included by this practice because they see all the different skin colors, body types & their neighbors engaging in a communal winding down of mind and body.

    Holding space for each other in a such a diverse Spanish speaking city, can be a challenge. Mexicans, central and south American people are themselves culturally diverse, and have their own indigenous practices that mirror Yoga. Most times these are lost in the unintended assimilations to life in the United States. I have had lengthy conversations over the similarities in these practices, and how Yoga has helped us decolonize our bodies and strengthened our connection to these indigenous practices that were lost and mostly destroyed by colonizers. For me, sharing space to heal through this practice and tuning in to the calls of our ancestors makes holding all Spanish classes unmeasurably valuable and necessary.

    The Synergy and embodiment of yoga is fully expressed, felt, and needed in these all-Spanish Yoga classes.

    By Rita Ortiz

    Rita Ortiz is a Mexican – American, Mother, Wife, Army service woman, and 200 hour certified Hatha Yoga Teacher. She has been teaching at The Tree, an all donation based Yoga Studio, in her sometimes rough and misunderstood hometown of South LA for the past 5 years. A full time Fashion Technical Designer her focus has changed from creating garments to creating a space for this practice where she can offer her community rest and peace by becoming an owner in a Yoga Cooperative that will offer yoga and wellness-equity to her community.

    NOTE: This post is part of a collaborative media series organized and curated by Omstars in collaboration with the Yoga & Body Image Coalition and WOC + Wellness intended as an honest, thoughtful and holistic exploration of intersectionality, wellness and sustainable action with the intention of creating sustainable social change.