,Recently many of you know , I took a trip to see my daughter and her family. As I was waiting in the airport ( I am a very nervous flyer, so I always get there hella early!), I bought a copy of 'Yoga Journal'. March/April edition. It was the mindfulness edition with an image of 'free your mind" on the cover. I am always interested in more and new information to help my clients , students and myself to become more mindful in every day, so I was excited to read this edition.
Most of the magazine was ok, articles for how to's mixed with ads that are beautifully done. UNTIL... I got to page 53 " Into the Mystic" by Amanda Tust. I was shocked, horrified and saddened.
Here is an article extolling the virtues of taking psychedelics as a manner of enhancing the spiritual side of meditation and yoga practices. A quote from the article in the header even said " "while yogis host ceremonies with psychoactive tea".
Of course I read on, the information rolling out the same old arguments that these drugs can help with cancer and some mental health issues. ( I am so tired of hearing that argument as a justification for substance use). Also it was noted that the ancient yogis used psychedelics in a tea and the art has been lost as to how they did it. ( hmm wonder why the art was lost....and that may mean we don't have the tools now!) Within the article was also how 'amazing' the experiences of being "high" were for people who set their 'correct intentions' and a few people had 'negative' experiences .
BACK TO.............. WHAT????
I am a woman in long term recovery, a yoga teacher, a chemical dependency counselor and I work along side the mental health community. Let me tell you the other side of the story.
Every day, literally every day, I work with people whose lives have been trashed by all forms of substance use disorder. Some have permanent brain damage due to their use of come substances and may need to have psychiatric medications for the rest of their lives due to the use . ( the difference for me in this regard is that for some people the psych medications are due to brain chemistry issues; sometimes unavoidable and so extremely helpful in day to day living. What I am concerned about is the brain damage that drugs like mushrooms and LSD can actually do). Some people never regain the ability to remain abstinent and continue the devastating lifestyle of use until death . This is not me spouting scary information from a pamphlet , it is what I see in my every day at my work. and in the rooms of recovery.
This article was irresponsibility written. The information completely minimized the potential danger and impact of use, lack of medical oversight. The wording made it sound like yogis 'should' start having these psychedelic workshops and offering it to their students. ( yoga teachers ( entrepreneurs) are always looking for the next big thing to make money at in yoga...but this rant is not about that)
Let me remind you. First , all of the substances that were listed in the article are a class one drug...FOR A REASON. When administering any drug, you have to know about the potential for negative impact and side effects. ( not like the article suggests - to take a minimal amount, who knows what that definition of minimal is.) If someone has mental health disorder(s) or a brain chemistry issue, then there is a potential for a huge loss for the person and their family, even with just " one, minimal use". ( Not to mention jail time or fines for the yogi and yoga studio.)
Please, please, please. Substance Use may not be a practice within yoga that will enhance anything for you. Just the opposite. It may lead you away from your practice and all your power, into effects that may be unintended.
What I believe as a yoga teacher for 15 years and a chemical dependency counselor for 6 is that there is no fast way to spirituality or enlightenment. Being a woman in recovery, I have tried enough substances in my past to make me more than fully aware of that fact. I have lost friends and loved ones to the next high. " It'll be ok Sandy, " Next thing I know, I am at a funeral.
Melodramatic. Not in the slightest, it is a part of my life.
I enjoy working for my enlightenment, because of the empowerment that it gives me. I work every day to clear the wreckage from my past, lean into love and service and my self esteem begins to grow.
On that same vacation with my daughter, I was terrified to climb a very, very large rock. ( slippery shoes and an angry hip didn't help) I took a deep breath, connected to my core, said a prayer and up to the top I went. When I came down, I had ( what I call) the yoga smile. That experience of overcoming my fear was mine and my Higher Power's alone. I reached deep and found my miracle minute that I will always own.
I would never, ever want to give any drug credit for my strength, determination and achievement.
Maybe in my meditation I will never see things flying that are reported in the article, have conversations with those who have passed or see brilliant colors. But I also don't need to . I don't need the consumerism mentality of more is better. I live a life of gratitude for what I have and love . I have worked for almost 15 years on getting my confidence , strength, self forgiveness and determination back. I owe it all to my yoga teacher, Joanna, God, rooms of people who love me and a method of living that creates positive change.
Mindfulness does not mean playing with drugs to create gain. It does mean being alive and grateful in every minute of the day. For that I am eternally grateful, empowered and alive.
For more information about the potential for impact of psychedelics , click here.
It has been a few weeks since I have posted here. Not so with being on the mat ( thank goodness!), I have been staying on my mat to move through the changes that have occurred in my life.
This week we will be focusing on the core. Core is more than a six pack of abs. It is the very center of ourselves, where the spine supports the inner organs that are protected by the abdominals. This beautiful support allows us to stand stronger, breathe deeper and move with the changes in our lives.
Please know that if this is your first time in my class, or your hundredth, it isn't what your abs look like that I care about. ( And I don't want you to care either!) It is that I want you to feel strong, to stand against and yet gentle with the winds of life and change.
Yoga is not about taking a perfect selfie, or being perfect in the session. It is about beginning to access the core beliefs that we have that may limit us. It is about accessing deeply hidden fear, guilt, pain, shame that may limit us from living a fully expressed life.
While I do carry weight around my mid section, I have also learned how to gain a sense of strength in my belief in myself. Sometimes I have people question how good of a yogi I am because I am curvy ( or my favorite -sarcasm ) or how good of a teacher that I could be because of my weight. Yet it is due to working on my core that the doubts of others don't impact me as it has in the past. I remember times when a " fit" person clearly was uncomfortable in my class, letting me know that they didn't like my teaching style. I wanted to disappear, to become invisible and run from the mat.
Today, I have learned to stand. I am beautiful as I am. This curvy body with a strengthening core has given birth to six children, has loved people deeply and learned to listen to the pain of others as well as share with the joy. For 16 years, this body has changed , grown older, rounder, softer. Yet it has also increased in strength and determination to continue to be a role model for other curvy yogis, to continue to lead the body positive charge and knock down the barriers to yoga.
It begins in the core.
Thank you. So many people messaged me during this time that I am grateful. I have learned a lot about myself during this.
I haven't been hit hard with depression and anxiety in a very long time. WOW, While I have had both on some level, I got knocked out. I was telling my son as we were still doing all of our errands and things that we do, " This is what I am talking about when I speak of a life worth saving and being in recovery. " This life, the things I do and the people I see ,got me out of bed. Love forced air back into my lungs when there was no breath.
No, I am not healed. I am still super , profoundly sad. But I am better, back to grateful. Back to the mat where my heart lives.
I found the courage to continue my dreams. I started a new site where I am selling homemade soap products. ( watch the site for green, chakra friendly products for the home. More will be added as I move forward).
I am not using my grief for a commercial. I am using the memory of my Nana, the entrepreneur that she was to push me forward. She literally lived every day of her life. It is for that amazing woman that I am continuing to push forward. In honor of her.
It is in respect to my healing that I am moving forward emotionally with intention and grace.
Both will allow me to be the woman that my Nana would have been proud of. She was always proud of my work ethic and as I move through this grief, I will continue to celebrate her through hard work and good ideas.
( PS, starting Sunday, I will be posting new poses and working on our plan of strengthening this year!...did I ever mention how very much I love you?)
I have been a bit quiet the past two weeks. I have thought of you and my promise to post yoga poses every week to help you in your home practice.
But I also promised you that I would be real, real in my yoga, real sharing with you. I need some time to just be with yoga, and you. I hope that this honesty will be ok.
Yoga has been a part of my recovery from addiction, drugs and alcohol, my healing and my learning to accept grief in my life. Yoga has taught me how to stay in my body through the grief process, knowing that it is a process, not an event. As I have learned that all transitions are sacred, so is my movement through pain. Just like the beauty moving from Warrior 3 to 3 legged dog. Finding balance, coming from the real place of the core, quieting the mind, opening the heart.
Yoga has helped me through several touches of loss.
I remember losing a friend to suicide. Those days were so bad and the weekend after I got the news, I couldn't fill my time with busyness. I just knew that by the coldness that filled my body and the fight or flight that captured my heart, I had to get into action or a relapse was imminent. I went to 3 sober support meetings that day, talked with friends who are sober in between. I went to two yoga classes that day, one that I taught and one that I allowed myself to be loved by a Yoga Nidra teacher. ( thank you again Doug!) It was through this work that the absolute pain moved in my body to a level where I could feel my breath again, knew I was in control of my emotions and could continue to help others to process out mutual loss.
One time ,a few years later, I was sitting on my mat, waiting for class to begin and I received a call that another friend died while fishing. Just had his fishing reel in his hand, had a headache and was gone. I had a choice, to cancel the class or to breathe. So I choose to sit in the quiet on my mat, allowed the deepening breath to gently open my tight chest of shock , ache and the tears flowed. Not forced, no heaving in my crying, just within the flow of the pain. By the time the students came into the class, I could regain my sense of flow. Not pushing the pain away but integrating it into my experience and practice on that day.
This week, the matriarch of our family, the last of a loving generation is lying in a hospital bed, slowly passing from this world to the next. The pain in me is more palpable than I thought it would be. I am finding that talking with people is too much, but being and moving with people is filling my soul. Hugs, gentle touching. This morning I did not cancel the yoga class, but taught it with deep grief and intention in my breath and movement. The students were gentle and kind, accepting that my grief was real, my honesty, gave them a way to move within their own process and self acceptance.
In my home I have a sacred space on my dining room table set up, holding my heart while I move through and allow this pain to integrate in to my forever. In that I feel a connection with my ancestors of past and am teaching my boys how to move through the pain with tradition and grace.
And again I am grateful for yoga, for teaching me both how to flow, but also how to allow sacred transitions. There is no hurry to get better ( whatever that is), no forcing a smile that isn't genuine nor forcing tears that are dishonest. Yoga has taught me that every change is sacred, to be moved through with honor, eventually with grace and joy.
So this week's yoga class will be all flow, flow of life, flow of community and flow of love. And together we will celebrate the sacredness of us, creating space to be real and honest.
All my love,
We are having quite a wonderful year! This year is about strength building! We have been doing two weeks of new poses then one week of poses we know so well.
Kinda like breathing...huh? In and out, move then rest.
Strength building in yoga is not just about getting buff, it's about building from the inside out . Strength builds the soul, then the body follows. When the soul feels strong, the body will give what it wants to represent that strength. My strength shows up differently than it did when I first started yoga, before 15 years passed, before the car accident. Yet, I am strong and continually getting stronger every day. My strength is exactly what my age, body and heart want it to be.
This past weekend, I showed the class how truly close they are to doing splits. Every one did the split that their body said yes to. It was totally beautiful! All of the splits looked different and each one was a celebration of the body and heart. They were so perfect!
So , this week, Here comes the Sun!
Pretty often on this page I share yoga with you and this week has been no exception. But I wanted to remind you ( any maybe myself) why yoga has become so important to me.
I have a history of significant depression, anxiety and PTSD. ( no worries, I won't go into the why!) For many years I tried, well, pretty much everything under the sun to change how I felt. Books, lectures,counseling, prayer, certifications, classes, support groups, etc. All of those worked to some extent. Yet, alone in my house, I would find myself staying in bed, crying on the bathroom floor, or mindlessly watching television instead of interacting with those I love,
Then I met yoga. While all of those things I learned in the past helped, the issues were not all just in my head, it was in my body too. The trauma, the lack of trust and understanding of self was always in the forefront, I would never "get a break". Then I took a yoga class in college.
It was so out of my realm of understanding. I just took it to get the credit out of the way. What happened is that all of the teachings that others were trying to share with me began to make sense when I also added body awareness to the mix. Suddenly I gained a new understanding of the words like honesty, integrity, faith. As my awareness grew, my coping skills and learning to work with my depression and anxiety grew too.
Now I love my anxiety. ( I know, right?? Who knew I would say that??) It means that I have too much on my plate and something needs to slow down. Sometimes it means that I am ignoring the cues that are right in front of me.
Depression? Not enough self care and not letting people who love me know what is really going on. Blocking myself off again.
I roll out my yoga mat, move my body until my mind wants to talk. Then I may journal, meditate, pray or really just go take a nap. The answers will come, slowly and gently. They always come.
Then the anxiety or depression can be thanked for doing it's job, taking care of me in the best of ways.
This is why I wrote my book, teach yoga and practice. It isn't because it's the next cool thing. I will be a yoga teacher long after " it is the thing" because it saves my life, daily.
Consider your yoga and it's place in your life. Are you in need of a tool that will help, will work and support your growth?
Step One......roll out your mat.............