Making Space for New Ideas

Making Space for New Ideas

 

Written by Alison Gurevich 

Over the weekend I painted a room so we could move the office in there from the room just down the hall.  Just one year ago I painted the first room our agreed upon office color and we sort of moved everything in.  But we never really moved into the space.  We used it, but never really settled into it.  Much of what should have gone in there was still in boxes.

Changing the use of a couple of rooms was a weirdly big and hard decision.  We moved into this house a year ago and knew it the process of deciding to buy a two-bedroom home that we needed to put an addition on it before we could really move in.  In all of that planning and designing we had committed not just to the structure of the house but also to a specific usage of each part of the house.  Ahead of rooms even existing we had to know what it would all be for so we could know exactly what we were adding and how much to add.  That was a lot of commitment to both form and function.

Now, a year removed from those decisions I sat in that office once again pondering why it just didn’t seem to work.  Did we need to ditch the furniture and start over?  Was there some way of rearranging the furniture that would magically solve the rooms weird overstuffed feel?  Why was the room so full when it was not even unpacked?

Was the room too small or were we thinking too small?

In building the addition we took a phrase I had often heard in my yoga practice and turned into a very physical reality.  We tasked ourselves to “make space for something new”, but we ended up just making new space.  We constructed a very real space for something new.  Then we moved right in and started using all those spaces for the same old things in the same old ways.

After yet another lengthy, detailed conversation rehashing every possibility we could come up with within those four walls I suggested swapping the room with another.  Both rooms are rectangles with four walls.  The new room is larger but the biggest difference is where the window is.  The placement of one window was what was keeping the other room from working.  We went through the options yet again then committed to the swap.

The new room worked immediately.  It has a sense of ease, like it was made to be this room in this purpose.  That might sound dramatic, but how you feel when you enter a room tells you something if you are listening.

The same applies to my yoga practice – how I feel when I enter a shape tells me something if I am listening.  Sometimes the window is in the wrong place.  Sometimes I’m looking to fix how a shape feels with what seems like every option but I’m making no progress because I’m still limiting the options I’m considering by thinking small.  

In our vinyasa asana practice, we create space in our body before and as we enter the shape.  We rise, and then we fold.  We extend, and then we twist.  We inhale for length, we exhale for depth.  We create this space knowing we need it where we are going.  But sometimes we are too attached to that one vision of where we are going to feel if that is the right space for us to fit into.

So this week, both on and off the mat I’ll be listening deeply to what my body is saying.  I’ll make sure the window is in the right place, and that I’m not so focused on looking at an idea contained by just four walls to open the door and look at the other rooms I could be using. 

 

 

Growth and Personal Breakthroughs On and Off the Mat

Growth and Personal Breakthroughs On and Off the Mat

Written By Jackie Reckson  

We always talk about our yoga practice as a metaphor for how we live our lives off our mats.  How can we take the lessons learned on our mats and practice them in our everyday lives?

I found this quote by Marissa Mayer, Businesswoman…

“I always did something I was a little not ready to do.  I think that’s how you grow.  When there’s that moment of ‘Wow, I’m not really sure I can do this,’ and you push through those moments, that’s when you have a breakthrough.”

During this shutdown due to Coronavirus we have had to shift the way we practice yoga.  Virtual yoga has become the norm for group classes.  It is a way to stay connected to our teachers and community.  I personally love logging onto Zoom and seeing my students thru my computer screen.  Some choose not to be seen (no makeup, messy hair, messy house, etc!) and that’s fine as well.  I still know they are there and it gives me a sense of togetherness.  But what is different about practicing this way is that we have to rely on ourselves and not our teacher to observe, assist, or correct postures.   

We have to be more independent.  Maybe at home you are feeling a little braver to try something new.  You have more confidence to fall when you don’t think you are being watched by a roomful of yogis!  And it’s by falling and retrying where we learn what we are capable of and have those breakthroughs.  Keep in mind though, that breakthroughs are not always physical like getting deeper into a pose or balancing on your hands.  It can mean that perhaps your mind got a little calmer or your breath got a little deeper.  Or maybe you let go of something you were hanging on to unnecessarily.  That is growth.

Now that we are social distancing and staying at home let’s translate this concept to our new way of life.  We can have personal breakthroughs by doing something we weren’t ready for or never thought we could.  It might be something physical, like a home fix it project or gardening.  It might be having a difficult conversation with someone.  It might be meditating in your home while there is chaos around you.  I completed a project in my house that was way out of my comfort zone.  It took several tries but I finally did it!  Just like falling out of a yoga pose and retrying (several times),  I was able to succeed.  The sense of accomplishment was truly inspiring!  Think about the things that you aren’t really sure you are ready to do and push through it.  And just like your yoga practice, notice how you feel when you are done.  It’s through these personal breakthroughs where we grow.

 

 

Overfunctioning, Underfunctioning, and the Search for Balance

Overfunctioning, Underfunctioning, and the Search for Balance

 

 

Written By Alison Gurevich  

In the last year I discovered the work of Dr. Brene Brown.  It feels odd to use her full name and title because in my head we are good friends.  Her research is fascinating and the hours we’ve spent with her speaking directly to me (okay, fine – they were audio books) gave me more than a few insights on my path to know myself better. 

My favorite new-to-me concept from Brene is that of overfunctioning and underfunctioning.  The distinction was developed by psychologist Murray Bowen and to keep it simple both are stress/anxiety responses: over does too much, under does too little.  I typically thought of anxiety responses as simply fight of flight (freeze being a newer addition to the list) and did not give it much more space in my mind.  If I was not running from the room or having some sort of argument, I assumed I was doing fine.   

The reality is far more nuanced.  I am someone who does things.  I’m rarely still, because of all the doing. A few years back my yoga practice was a five day a week hot power practice and I had those classes booked as soon as the month started – along with everything else – so that my calendar was filled well in advance and I knew exactly where I could fit in more doing.   Just hovering my mouse over the word ‘does’ my computer is quick to let me know it means to fix, perform, make or solve.  Everything in my day would have fit neatly under one of those.  But occasionally something would pop up and I just could not seem to bring myself to get it done.

The story I told myself about this was both easy and easily accepted: I was so busy no one could expect me to get everything done.  But being a valid reasoning did not make it fully honest, and the more complete story is that in those tasks I know and now admit that I felt some anxiety. My normal tends toward overfunctioning but my anxiety response is fully underfunctioning with a bonus of skipping out on even acknowledging the anxiety by overfunctioning on other things at the same time.  As Brene Brown says, “For overfunctioners, it is easier to do than to feel.”   

Thankfully, yoga brought me towards balancing this even before Brene and I developed our current one-sided friendship.  Before I discovered Brene, I discovered yin yoga.  Yin was my first real journey into sitting with feeling and offered no mechanism to speed up the process.  Yin brought me to stillness and meditation, the counter to all my doing.  It was so distinctly not “doing” anything that it was tough.   Do not stretch to your fullest?  Do not move for 3 or more minutes?  Why am I just laying here? 

Yin was the hardest class in my week, the hardest part of my day.   My brain would plan the next ten years in the first 3-minute pose.  Only 57 minutes to go, which of the world’s problems shall we solve while here in caterpillar? Sometimes by the last couple of shapes I would experience a breath (or two) without my mind filling the space with mental gymnastics, blaming, list making, fixing and doing. And on those days, I left with a calm and a balance that stayed for a while. 

I believe that yin yoga originally felt like underfunctioning to my brain. Over time and with consistent practice I have reconciled that into a space of yin and yang balancing each other.  This balance did not come by merely coexisting side by side in my calendar, but in each side understanding why it needs the other to exist.  As with the symbol, there is a circle of yin in my yang and a circle of yang in my yin.  There is still plenty of full speed ‘doing’ in my life, but I also now give myself a lot more grace and space to slow down and feel what’s happening in the moment so that I can recognize when I am too yang and heading out of balance.

We may each cope differently, but every single human is processing some level of anxiety on any given day.  Some of us will overfunction as a form of the fight response, and some will underfunction as a form of the flight response, and most will find a mix of the two. I’m here with you.  I’m doing both my yin and my yang yoga and keeping tabs on how and what I am feeling at any given moment.  In this, my yoga practice has given me an amazing barometer on how I am doing at “hanging in”, a term Harriet Lerner uses to describe being in the more balanced place of neither over nor under functioning.

So if you ask me how I’m doing, I just might skip the typical “fine” and tell you instead that I’m hanging in.  I hope you are too.

 

 

The Gift of Rest

The Gift of Rest

 

Written by Emily O’Brein

We’ve all experienced so many changes over the past few weeks, and with those changes an added layer of stress.  Working parents have adapted to homeschooling, essential workers have been burdened by the risks their work carries while others have found themselves suddenly without a job, families and friends have been unable to share one another’s company, and so many of us have faced fear for our own health and the health of those we love. In one way or another, we’ve all been squeezed by our current circumstances. But while currently our stress levels may be heightened, the reality is that many of us are chronically plagued by stress.

Our modern world increasingly demands more out of us in the name of success, glorifying busyness and promoting the hustle. Our drive and our dreams are admirable, and have often brought about great results; however, our efforts aren’t always sustainable. Our bodies and minds bear the brunt of this fast-paced culture, we are constantly stimulated and forced into living from our sympathetic nervous system—meaning our body’s fight or flight response is rarely dormant. In the short term, this response is protective for us, allowing us to respond to danger. But the long-term effects of chronic stress and an over stimulated sympathetic nervous system are detrimental to our physical and mental health.

So what are we to do about it? While we’re unable to completely change this reality of the busy world we live in, we do get to choose how we respond to it and how we make space to receive the gift of rest. We’re so often afraid to stop and take time to rest in fear of missing out or looking lazy or weak. But if we are to live in our fast-paced world in a sustainable and healthy way, rest needs to be a priority. Not just rest in the sense of taking more vacations, or getting a good night of sleep—although time away to reset and quality sleep are important as well. When I say rest, I’m referring to intentional time to pause and allow ourselves to slow down, time to let our parasympathetic nervous system kick in and restore our bodies to equilibrium. This is often referred to as our ‘rest and digest’ mode, and when activated, our heart rate and blood pressure decrease while our body’s digestion and ability to recuperate increase. When our parasympathetic nervous system kicks in, it allows our overactive sympathetic nervous system response to switch off, inviting us to move out of an anxious and stressed space into a space of restoring our body and mind. Our breath becomes, full, slow, and deep. Our body can repair and restore. And we are able to feel more alive and present, more capable of handling the challenges and stress that life brings.

As we face these uncertain and stressful times, now more than ever we need to cultivate sustainable rhythms of rest to carry us through this difficult season and beyond. While our culture has become quite skilled at disconnecting from our stress, through exercise, Netflix binges, alcohol, and even “zoning out” on the internet, this disconnecting is not the same as resting and resolving our stress (a.k.a. turning on our parasympathic nervous system response). To rest well in a way that is restorative for our bodies and minds, we have to make intentional space to practice rest. And just as it takes time to learn how to swim, ride a bike, do a handstand, or make a perfect latte, it can take time to learn how to rest well. A simple way to start practicing rest, is incorporating slow moments into your day where you intentionally slow down, pause, and practice presence. For the average person it takes around 15 minutes to settle into the place of relaxation where our cortisol (stress hormone) levels start to decrease, our breathing and heart rate slows, and our body’s relaxation response (activation of the parasympathetic nervous system) kicks in.

If slowing down sounds challenging to you and your current lifestyle, making time for 15 minutes of rest in your day can be a great place to start. First, it can help to identify what factors or triggers prevent you from being at ease and taking time to rest. By identifying what disrupts your ease you can intentionally create space to rest and control your reaction to those triggers. This could look like turning your phone on silent or putting it in another room during your time of resting, jotting down the to-do list running through your mind so you can focus on resting, or choosing to relocate to another space that allows you to be more at ease (e.g. moving from your desk to your backyard). Second, ask yourself what actions or activities bring you a sense of ease and help you reconnect to yourself. Maybe for you this is being in nature, meditation, prayer, or journaling. Asking yourself these two questions can be a great way to help you find a practice of rest that feels restorative for you. If deciphering that feels daunting, here are some great places to start:

·       -15 minutes of sitting or walking without distraction. Notice your breath and your surroundings. If you’re in a location where you can do so safely, try taking your shoes off and noticing the feeling of the ground beneath you as you walk.

·   -15 minutes of a Restorative  yoga pose, (like supported savasana or a comfortable seated position).

Notice your breath and the sensation of where your body contacts the mat/floor. Allow tension to melt with each exhale.

·      –15 minutes of journaling. An easy prompt to start journaling with is simply writing about the things you are grateful for that day (no thing is too big or small).

Don’t think you have 15 minutes? Start with 5. During that time challenge yourself to experience those moments of rest with yourself presently and wholeheartedly, eliminating as much distraction as possible. Remember, it takes time to cultivate a practice and it’s okay to start small. As you consistently make space for rest in your daily rhythms you will notice that it becomes more natural. If you’re looking to move beyond those 15 minute practices, you can try adding Yin and Restorative yoga classes into your practice. Not only are these practices a great balance to the more Yang styles of yoga such as Vinyasa, but they also promote our body’s relaxation response and are a great way to practice rest. 

I hope that in the midst of this crazy time full of so much uncertainty, loss, and stress that these moments of rest feel like little gifts during your day. Times to be restored and filled up, to become more at ease, more grateful, more present and more capable of extending kindness. As Mark Buchanan says, “Most of the things we need to be most fully alive never come in busyness. They grow in rest”, and I hope that you experience that growth in rest during this season. 

Have you given daily relaxation a try? How do you like to practice rest? I’d love to hear about your experience, so feel free to leave a comment below. 

 

How can Yoga help?

How can Yoga help?

Written by Veronica Rockwitz

There is no doubt we are living in a strange time…especially as of late.  It’s a time that can cause serious personal stress for all of us.  It’s the seeming lack of control that can drive it.  For me, there is stress from financial uncertainty that comes with not working my primary job as a dental hygienist, that my children will be at a disadvantage as the school year hangs on by a thread, the inability to be physically present with my students to teach yoga, etc.

Sure, I’m not able to control a pandemic…but wait a second.  I do have control…and it starts with a choice.  Stress is a byproduct of fear.  Fear is a motivator.  However, I don’t have to let fear automatically take me to dark, stressful places.  I can control the direction of this fear by choosing for it to motivate me in a positive way.  Another way of looking at this is…do I really want to sit around and bitch about things out of my control, or do I want to take control of what I can…and take advantage of any opportunities this strange time brings?   I choose the latter. 

A quick analysis of my situation and the (obvious) opportunity…

  1. Wow, I suddenly have more free time.
  2. What has guided me through stressful times in the past? Hint: It’s Yoga.
  3. If I can help myself in this way, there is an opportunity for me to pay it forward and help others in a similar way.

With recognizing the opportunity comes an increased sense of gratitude.  I’m grateful the world is slowing down to create more time.  I’m grateful that this extra time is allowing me to remember how wonderful it was when I first started learning yoga.  It’s the gratitude, working in conjunction with the opportunity, that helps it to become realized.   I am so grateful for the opportunity to be able to teach remotely through the aid of technology. 

So how can Yoga help?

An unfortunate downside to being in a community during this time is that personal stress can become heightened as it turns into a collective stress.  The upside is that this can also work in reverse.  If we continually remind ourselves that, collectively, we are stronger when we help each other in any way possible, that in itself can be the catalyst to help keep stress at bay.   Continuing your yoga practice, especially in a safe way with others, is a good example of how yoga can help by creating a collective positive energy and sharing it in that effort. 

It’s a logical step one can take to help push away the fear, tune out the negative, and tune in the positive. 

It allows one to observe, reflect, and stay balanced to maintain a sense of clarity, which is especially helpful during a period of uncertainty when one can use it the most. 

In addition to the benefit of gaining physical strength, it can help one become more disciplined when facing life’s challenges.    

Ultimately through yoga, one can connect more deeply with spirit or the divine. 

It’s hard not to want things to “return to normal.”  Until then, I want to be able to take advantage of the opportunities that present themselves and wish the same for everyone.  In the meantime, I’m carrying a greater sense of gratitude, and want to use that to be in a better position to live life more fully while helping others and not taking things for granted. 

 

From Times Like These – Foo Fighters

 

“It’s times like these you learn to live again

It’s times like these you learn to give again

It’s times like these you learn to love again

It’s times like these time and time again”

I‘m looking forward to our Oya community staying active and hope you’re all able to join our on-line classes

😊