• Emotions: Help or Hindrance on the Spiritual Path?

    Once we engage on a spiritual path, and connect with the lofty ideal of enlightenment, it is easy to interpret our human emotions as representative of our lower mind and animalistic impulses. While, indeed, they are sourced in our desire to survive, reproduce and thrive, simply ignoring or suppressing our emotional nature can lead us to engage in what psychologist John Welwood termed “spiritual bypassing.” This can lead to disturbing, if not dangerous, rearrangements in our psyche that can lead to self-destructive, impulsive/compulsive behaviors, and even to psychosomatic disease and chronic illness.

    Emotions can be powerful in either positive or negative ways. When we try to avoid emotional experience, emotions morph into more complex bundles that are increasingly difficult to process. Each emotion has information and deserves individual attention.

    Swami Rama of the Himalayas said, “Avoiding the emotional issue is not going to help you. Instead of dealing with the conflict or issue, you look for answers outside yourself—and of course you don’t succeed. But if you remain careful with your emotions, and learn how to go through the ups and downs of life and still remain balanced, then you will not suffer from this kind of conflict.”

    “All your actions are controlled by your thoughts, and all your thoughts are controlled by your emotions. By comparison with your emotions, thought has little power; if you can use your emotional power constructively, you can channel it. Then your emotional power can be utilized in a creative way and lead you to a height that will give you real happiness,” he adds, in the book Creative Use of Emotion.

    Emotion regulation skills make it easier for you to live with the feelings that come up from day to day, and also any long-standing painful feelings that you have. Here are some tips:

      Observe your emotion. Stand back.

      Experience your emotion as a wave, coming and going.

      Don’t push away your emotion. Accept it.

      Don’t judge your emotion. It’s not good or bad

      Don’t hang on to your emotion.

      Try not to intensify your emotion. Let it be how it is.

      Remember that you are not your emotion.

      Remember that you don’t necessarily have to act on your emotion.

      Practice loving your emotions.

    Be Present to and Mindful of the Positive
    Focus your attention on the positives around you. Think of something good that has happened in recent days. Is there something going on right now, or about to happen today that is really good or fun? Focus on it. Be fully present. Notice everything about it. Stay in the here and now.

    Be Unmindful of Worries
    Don’t give attention and air time to worries or negative projections about the future, which is yet to come and may never realize in the scary or painful way you imagine. Distract yourself from thinking that you don’t deserve a nice time. You deserve to enjoy the present moment.

    The video course on emotions that I present on this platform will help you avoid the pitfalls of “spiritual bypassing” while helping you learn to healthily deal with this dimension of your human experience. In these videos, you will learn to harness the power of your wise mind, or Buddhi (which is our capacity for wisdom, discrimination, and discernment and that which connects us to our Soul/Atman/Purusha), to evaluate whether to act or not act on emotional impulses. The goal is to learn whether to move toward emotions for mindful processing and problem solving, or to move away and distract from them.

    Build your emotional intelligence quotient, EQ, by engaging with this course, choosing not to blame others for, or act on, destructive emotions as part of your tapas, studying your emotional experience as part of svadyaya – both worthy endeavors on the “royal path” of yoga.

    By Inge Sengelmann

    Inge Sengelmann, parayoga certified teacher, intention setting, parayoga, the Four Desires

    Inge Sengelmann is a somatic psychotherapist and certified ParaYoga teacher, initiated in the Himalayan Tantric lineage of Sri Vidya. ParaYoga is a living link to the ancient traditions of yoga, meditation, and tantra. 

    Try Inge’s Meditation For Clearing Difficult Emotions

  • Member Feature: Johanna Kivinen

    We love hearing and sharing stories from our students, so this month, we reached out to Johanna Kivinen (@yogalogen on Instagram!). Johanna and her husband live in Sweden. Together, they practice yoga on OmStars every day, and she has a very inspiring story to share about her own personal journey with the yoga practice.

    My name is Johanna Kivinen. I am a Swedish/Finnish yogini living in Stockholm, Sweden and working as a clinical psychologist specializing in neuropsychiatry. I have practiced ashtanga yoga for the past 8 years of my life and it was through my husband that I found the practice of yoga, while at that time, living in Turku, Finland.

    My husband had tried ashtanga yoga while living in the USA and fell in love with the practice, so he asked me to come along, so I brought my competitive, stiff and anxious self to my first ever yoga class.

    To be honest, it hurt and did not feel good neither physically nor mentally. I was stiff in my body (and mind), but I felt that the practice could teach me things I did not know about myself if I kept going.

    So I did.

    I practiced hard and diligently, but I was not attentive to the limits of my body or my mind. I pushed myself way beyond my abilities, and ended up with a long-term knee injury, severe anxiety, depression and exhaustion.

    This psychological pattern kept repeating itself both on and off the mat, and eventually I ended up with suicidal thoughts. The low self-worth that I tried to cover up with extreme ambition led me to hit rock-bottom and my life contained no meaning, not even for practice.

    During my rehabilitation as I was lying in my hospital bed, I decided to listen to one of Kino MacGregor’s yoga talks on youtube. She talked about yoga as a spiritual path and the philosophy behind the practice. She said, “what if everything in your life is happening for a specific reason, that everything is exactly how it is supposed to be in whatever you are going through”.

    These words made me realize that I was exactly where I was supposed to be, and in the midst of my suffering I realized even that was meaningful. My only way out was through practicing acceptance every step of the way.

    The next day I walked to a local yoga studio’s mysorestyle practice in all my misery, and started over. There was no way I could even handle a sun salutation, let alone standing up properly. I knew I had to build myself back up from zero, starting with the acceptance of where my body and mind were at that time. From that day on yoga gave me a purpose to continue my life and work through the repetitive psychological patterns that had been stuck in my mind.

    For the first time, I felt that I had been put on this earth for a reason and that alone was already enough. I no longer felt the need to achieve anything to prove my self-worth. With time and practice my body and mind grew stronger and the depression, anxiety, exhaustion and physical problems decreased. In some ways yoga saved my life and I have had a continuous practice ever since, (accepting my limits and all).

    My husband and I both work fulltime jobs and we have a son, so we have a hard time going to a yoga studio as regularly as we would like. Sometimes we would practice together at home, but not regularly.

    When Omstars launched, we knew it was exactly what we needed to start practicing every single day in a way that worked with our schedules.  Even our 4-year old son loves Omstars and tries out some asanas along with us. Kino, to you I would like to say Thank you from the bottom of my heart, it is thanks to your bravery in sharing the practice of yoga with the world that I now live a happy and peaceful life. Had I not listened to your talk that day, I might still be suffering from severe mental health issues.

    When I was ill I opened my Instagram account @yogalogen to share my recovery through the vehicle of yoga and hopefully spread some hope and light to other people suffering from mental (and physical) disorders. As a psychologist and as a patient I knew my story might lead to less stigma around mental health issues and it felt like a meaningful thing to do.

    I am a living example that the quote of Sri Patthabi Jois really is true… “Do your practice and all is coming”. Thank you Omstars for sharing my story.

    Shanti and Namaste.

    By Johanna @yogalogen

    OmStars member, boat pose, navasana, yoga practice story