slow, mindful yoga & small group classes in St Kilda, Balaclava, Elwood, bayside

Yoga Me Well Blog Archive

Manage the Inner Storms

Every year-end, a few lovely people, dangling from the end of a tether, get in touch with an urgent need for support.

THE STORM BREAKS

They share challenging stories, ones that I tackle in my own practice: career or family issues, exhaustion, loss of direction. These are compassionate, intelligent, frustrated people who feel themselves unravelled, floundering in discomfort, straining to see the way forward.  

It takes courage to acknowledge when we are not coping.

I love this quote, borrowed from yoga teacher Donna Farhi’s newsletter:

“​​It may be that when we no longer know what to do
we have come to our real work,
and that when we no longer know which way to go
we have come to our real journey.” 

~ ​​Wendell Berry

 

ADRIFT AND AFRAID 

When we find ourselves stuck on the pin, wriggling in discomfort, we yearn for release.

Our coping mechanisms may be over-eating, drinking, exercising, or drug-taking.  Venting on those closest to us is popular, adding to our discomfort and theirs. Or, we turn the frustration inward, gnawing dangerously at our resilience. A well of angst eventually propels upward to gush out.

Then we shake our fist at the moon, pound a pillow, slam a door or drive around screaming in the vacuum of our car, roughly handle a child, a pet.  

Like the leaves on drought-stricken trees, parched and withered from the lack of healing rain, we sometimes fall to the gutter, spent.

FIND A WITNESS

Perhaps it’s the Darwinian gene prodding us to survive, amped by the cultural dictum “to strive” that pushes us to the precipice before we act.

Too often, only then we ask for support. If we are lucky, we have a Witness, a trusted person to turn to. Or we employ one.

The Witness is a gift. Unflinching, they listen without offering a fix and acknowledge that we are in the fire. They reflect back that our pain has foundation and that we are not going mad.

That pure support can be enough to lift us back into the life raft and uncover our reserves.

BECOME THE WITNESS

Yoga teaches us to witness when we are not coping.  Yoga philosophy calls this “ahimsa”, or the practice of non-harm to self and others. It is one of the “yama” principles, part of the 8-Limbs of yoga, or guidelines for yogic living.

Acknowledgement begins the process of dealing with the angst. We commit to treating ourselves gently, and reassure ourselves that this period is temporary.

“Yes, I have lost my ground, I feel overwhelmed and vulnerable, and it’s going to be okay. Maybe not today, but with self-care and patience. No matter how long it takes, I will be okay.”

We being to observe ourselves intimately. In daily life, we catch ourselves– in thought and action – and recognise the warning signs of self-defeating patterns of behaviour that contribute to poor, often cyclical, outcomes.

In the evenness and peace we find after a mat practice, for example, or gardening, long walks, time in nature, we build on a foundation of ‘knowing’ that quietness exists palpably within.

When crisis flares, we are less afraid to acknowledge it.

 “Okaaay, my thinking and behaviour suggest I’m having a crisis!” And invites us to do something about it. So we go wild for a bit. That’s pretty standard. And tiring and it increases the spiral.

When it’s time to move on, we distract ourselves productively in self-soothing activities (time with friends, comic movies, walks, spring cleaning, travel). As we experience the pay-off of yogic practices, the mind becomes more agile at diminishing thoughts that promote spiralling.

Once the freneticism of crisis settles, we reflect on how we have contributed to that difficult time, and sit tenderly with that confronting knowledge. Humbled, but wiser for the experience, we renew our commitment to stand up, dust-off and attempt things differently.

Paying attention to our Self on every level, we discover the practice of sitting with and moving through inner storms. Genuine climate change takes commitment and patience and agreement from all parts of our Self.

Join Liv’s friendly small yoga groups for practice on Tuesdays, Wednesdays or Thursdays in St Kilda and East St Kilda.

Inquiries: 0409 473 162 or livmitchell@ozemail.com.au

 

Liv Mitchell

Liv Mitchell is a hatha yoga teacher, relaxation instructor and freelance writer/editor who specialises in holistic wellbeing.

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A Guide to Self Inquiry

 Winter’s dark days, long nights and cold contracting weather offer opportunity to dwell in gentler pursuits. Many of us feel drawn naturally to be insular. It’s a seasonal prompt to stillness and reflection.

WHY PRACTICE?

I’ve had the good fortune for years of a dedicated personal mentor to guide me in this practice.  Broadly speaking, self-inquiry is a process that uncovers layers of original disturbance that are the root cause of our unhelpful behavioural patterns and reactive responses.

LEARN TO RECOGNISE YOUR TRIGGERS

In my experience, the practice reveals over time many and varied layers of an issue until I become less reactive – and finally neutral – in my response to whatever triggers it.

Triggers could be a situation, place, circumstance, person or event. Some of my responses include defensiveness, anger, victimhood, feeling trapped or powerless, despair and good old avoidance. It’s fun stuff.

Head in Ground Pose. It’s alright. We’ve all been there. But it’s better to go seek, than to hide.

Cleaning up our own psychic mess – which carries the patterns of prior generations too – requires strong intention and an attitude of self-responsibility. The process opens us to see clearly the aspects of Self that challenge us most such as our violence, aggression, selfishness, spinelessness.

IT’S WORTH IT BECAUSE …

The gifts of self-inquiry are:

  • self-acceptance
  • a quieter centre
  • lightness of mind and attitude
  • deeper insight into self and others
  • neutral and productive responses to life’s toughest challenges.    
**How to Self-Inquire
  1. Establish a daily practice and habit of quiet time to settle the overactive mind and becalm the nervous system. While 20 minutes of meditation twice a day is ideal, even 5-10 mins of natural breathing or mindful movement is an excellent habit.
  2. When a strong feeling arrives – day or night – pause to feel it. Name it.
  3. Practice knowing the full spectrum of your feelings, and welcoming them.
  4. Note if an obvious person, circumstance or event triggered that response.
  5. Consider this idea: our reactions are generally not about the thing in our immediate present, but refer to a past disturbing event that has imprinted to recreate that reaction.
  6. Over time you will learn to observe patterns such as particular personalities that trigger you, or situations such as being asked to do certain tasks by a partner or work colleague.
  7. Once you are established in awareness of your feelings, reactions, patterns, begin to self-inquire. After a reaction, ask yourself: “When did I first feel this way?”
  8. Trust whatever the subconscious mind reveals in answer to that question. It might be a flashback, or something you hear or see or read soon after that feels meaningful. It often reveals deep truth. Dwell on that insight from the strength of your older, wiser Self. Importantly, notice how you feel after the reveal.
  9. Next time a similar situation occurs, observe your response. Is it the same, deeper/stronger, neutral, or something else?

Taking command of your responses to life in this way is satisfying and empowering. There is so much to be gained from diminishing the whimsical impact of external forces.

** This is just one of many ways to inquire more deeply into why we are the way we are. This method, taught to me by  my mentor, may not suit all people. It’s not always appropriate to continue reaching back into past disturbances. This can reinforce old triggers. See my blog on yogic mindfulness for another way to clear your ‘psychic mess’. 

Warmly,

Liv

Join us  for Winter yoga (begins Tuesday 17 July). We’re taking time to reflect and go deeper.

Liv Mitchell

Liv Mitchell is a hatha yoga teacher, relaxation instructor and freelance writer/editor who specialises in holistic wellbeing.

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Out of the Ordinary

I remember in my early 20s having the sense that to live a ‘normal’ life would be a lacklustre existence.

Striving to create something bigger drove me to ground again and again. Though outwardly I appeared to have an interesting, creative life, I was too often exhausted and confused, wondering when I would relax into the satisfying plateau of my Arrival, and enjoy myself.

It wasn’t until glossy work and health fell away, fruitful endeavours became overripe and financial stability disappeared that I emerged – floundering – in the wake of ‘normal’. 

There was no denying I had chosen this place. And it felt Less than even ‘normal’.

Luna Park – colourful chaos anyone?

It wasn’t until glossy work and health fell away, fruitful endeavours became overripe and financial stability disappeared that I emerged floundering in the wake of ‘normal’.

There was no denying I had chosen this place. And it felt far Less than any ‘normal’.

As perspective gathered, my eyes opened to precious everyday things.

I began to live in moments, rather than days or weeks. The Ordinariness of it all taught me to appreciate that I was living out of the ordinary, simply by feeling and seeing things that others seemed not to notice or care about.

The need to strive fell away, and with it, the desperate urge for bigger, better.

Contentment snuck in.

The undulation of normal is richly textured with challenging, progressive encounters, tempering thoughts and moments of great beauty.  To bear conspicuous Witness to our microscopic wanderings is liberating.

We watch ourselves fall, but ever more gently, growing the strength to rise and rejoin the flow.

Warmly,

Liv 

Liv Mitchell

Liv Mitchell is a hatha yoga teacher, relaxation instructor and freelance writer/editor who specialises in holistic wellbeing.

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