Saturday, January 16, 2021

L’évolution du yoga

Par Jivana Heyman. Traduction Agathe Sowmya

This article was previously posted in English.


Une récente recherche a révélé qu’au cours de millions d’années, cinq animaux différents ont évolué séparément en crabes. Oui, vous avez bien lu, cinq types différents d’animaux ont connu leur propre évolution et se sont tous transformés en crabes. Il est étonnant de considérer que les crabes sont si efficaces et performants évolutivement parlant que différents animaux sont devenus des crabes, ou similaires à des crabes.

Cette recherche m’a fait réfléchir sur la condition humaine et notre tendance à recréer des problématiques non résolues dans notre vie personnelle––ne finissons-nous pas par épouser quelqu’un qui ressemble à l’un de nos parents, ou littéralement devenir nos parents à mesure que nous vieillissons ? Cela me rappelle aussi la tendance des civilisations à répéter l’histoire. Tout étudiant en histoire ne peut s’empêcher de voir les parallèles entre le gouvernement américain actuel et le gouvernement nazi d’avant la Seconde Guerre mondiale.

Il semble qu’un aspect inévitable de la nature humaine est que nous sommes destinés à répéter nos erreurs passées. Je me demande s’il se passe quelque chose de semblable dans le monde du yoga ? J’espère que non. L’histoire du yoga en Occident fournit trop d’exemples d’empires du yoga construits sur la manipulation et l’abus. Les exemples les plus récents sont Bikram, Ashtanga, Sivananda Vedanta et Kundalini, qui ont tous connu d’importants scandales d’abus au cours des dernières années.

Sommes-nous destinés à répéter cette histoire, ou pouvons-nous trouver une autre façon d’aller de l’avant post-COVID où nous nous engageons assez efficacement dans notre pratique pour voir à travers nos samskaras (tendances de l’esprit)? La semaine dernière, la plus grande chaîne de yoga au monde, YogaWorks, a fait faillite. « La pandémie covid-19 a créé des défis sans précédent pour notre industrie et nos activités, y compris des fermetures de studios obligatoires et des restrictions de fréquentation imposées par la distanciation sociale, même lorsque les studios ont été autorisés à rouvrir », a déclaré Brian Cooper, chef de la direction de YogaWorks. Honnêtement, c’est le moindre des dommages qui se sont produits à cause de la pandémie. Qu’en est-il du fait que presque tous les studios de yoga indépendants sont fermés en permanence, et que la plupart des professeurs de yoga n’ont plus de travail ?

La question est la suivante : la disparition du studio de yoga moderne peut-elle offrir l’occasion de construire quelque chose de nouveau à sa place, ou sommes-nous destinés à recréer les mêmes problèmes qui affligaient l’industrie avant la pandémie ? Ces problématiques comprennent le manque d’accessibilité, le racisme, les abus et l’appropriation culturelle non abordée. Ces questions découlent toutes d’un système basé sur la cupidité et les profiteurs, plutôt qu’un système construit sur les fondations des enseignements de yoga.

En d’autres termes, l’industrie du yoga est devenue une coquille creuse, servant une forme de pratique divorcée des fondements philosophiques et moraux de la chose même qu’elle était censée vendre. L’industrie du yoga est devenue un crabe – elle a pris la même forme que notre avidité et notre égoïsme recréent souvent : un système construit sur le profit et les résultats.

La chose, c’est que les enseignements du yoga sont complètement en contradiction avec le capitalisme. Vous ne pouvez littéralement pas vendre le yoga. Vous pouvez vendre les accoutrements tendance qui l’accompagne, vous pouvez vendre un type de corps qui n’a vraiment rien à voir avec, mais vous ne pouvez pas vendre le yoga. Vous pouvez vendre du temps dans une salle avec un professeur, des livres et des cours en ligne, mais le yoga est gratuit.

Alors, comment pouvons-nous mieux reconstruire ? Comment créer une communauté de yoga plutôt qu’une industrie du yoga basée sur le profit? Pour être honnête, nous ne pouvons probablement pas. On va juste construire un autre crabe. Mais, il pourrait y avoir un groupe d’entre nous qui se détache et aurait une chance d’évoluer vers autre chose ... peut-être une méduse, ou une pieuvre ? J’imagine qu’à un moment donné le yoga commercial reviendra en rugissant. Je ne pense pas que nous puissions arrêter cette évolution, mais nous n’avons pas à y contribuer.

Nous pouvons créer un autre type de communauté de yoga fondée sur l’éthique fondamentale du yoga : ahimsa et satya, non-violence (compassion) et véracité (honnêteté). Cela signifie que nous devons reconnaître le mal qui a été fait au nom du yoga, et nous engager à changer. Il ne s’agit pas de honte, mais de clarté (viveka). Je ne suggère pas que nous créions une nouvelle organisation, de nouvelles normes de formation des enseignants, ou un nouveau style de yoga. Au lieu de cela, je vous demande simplement comment vous pouvez devenir plus dévoué à la vérité du yoga dans votre vie ? (Et je me pose ces mêmes questions.) Y a-t-il un moyen de nous consacrer à la vérité du yoga, plutôt que le mensonge du marketing de yoga ? Si c’est le cas, cela commence par l’introspection, en nous posant des questions comme celles-ci:

· Qu’est-ce que le yoga signifie pour moi ?

· Ma pratique et mon enseignement reflètent-ils cette vérité ?

· Est-ce que j’intègre l’ahimsa (compassion) et la satya (honnêteté) dans ma pratique ?

· Ma pratique et mon enseignement sont-ils accessibles, activement antiracistes et abordent-ils l’appropriation culturelle ?

· Suis-je dévoué à ma propre liberté et à l’autonomisation de mes élèves ?

· Quelle est la relation entre ma libération personnelle et la libération communautaire ?

Une des choses étonnantes sur le yoga, c’est qu’il est à la fois personnel et communautaire. Le travail que je fais sur moi-même contribue à la communauté parce que je crée moins de mal dans le monde. Ma pratique me permet aussi d’être vraiment au service des autres en me montrant comment remplir mon propre puits, plutôt que de constamment regarder vers l’extérieur pour que les autres me valident ou me soutiennent. La façon dont j’enseigne a un impact encore plus grand sur le monde. Mes paroles, et les messages que je partage, peuvent conduire à la dépendance et à l’insécurité. Ou, je peux montrer aux autres la voie de l’indépendance, de l’autonomisation et de la liberté.

Tous les pratiquants de yoga doivent tenir compte de la façon dont ils pratiquent et enseignent, et de l’impact qu’ils ont sur le monde autour d’eux. Cette exploration intimement personnelle nous permet de nous rassembler dans nos cœurs, et de créer une communauté de yoga basée sur le yoga avec ses fondements moraux. Sinon, nous finirons par évoluer seulement vers des crabes.



Jivana Heyman
, C-IAYT, E-RYT500, est le fondateur et directeur d’Accessible Yoga, une organisation internationale à but non lucratif qui se consacre à accroître l’accès aux enseignements du yoga. Accessible Yoga offre des conférences, des conversations communautaires, un blog et un programme d’ambassadeurs. Il est le créateur de l’Accessible Yoga Training, et l’auteur du livre Accessible Yoga: Poses and Practices for Every Body (Shambhala Publications, 2019). Jivana s’est spécialisé dans l’enseignement du yoga aux personnes handicapées et de ce travail, l’organisation Accessible Yoga a été créée pour soutenir l’éducation, la formation et la défense des intérêts avec la mission de modifier la perception publique du yoga. Plus d’infos jivanaheyman.com

Ce post a été édité par Patrice Priya Wagner, rédacteur en chef du blog Accessible Yoga et membre du conseil d’administration.


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Wednesday, January 13, 2021

Insurrection at the US Capitol from the Desi Perspective

by Anjali Rao


It's Day 4 since the White Supremacist insurrection at the Capitol and I have to share what, upon reflecting, seems to be some dangerous themes, especially in the world of Yoga and the Desi immigrant community that I am a part of and love so deeply. Many seem shocked that this happened and that the White domestic terrorists were aided actively, and have had only a few dozen arrests as opposed to an estimated 13,000 Black Lives Matter (BLM) protesters. Many express outrage, disappointment, grief, and heartbreak that this happened. This is understandable. However we can’t be shocked anymore, the system was meant to protect some, not all. The system has been in place for centuries since the birth of the United States of America as a republic.

In social media, some White yoga teachers are carrying on with business as usual, posting pictures of asana and invitations to workshops, marketing their offerings of “wellness and well-being,” or selling yoga mats and clothes at discounted rates. It is business as usual for the “Yoga industry.” Not a word about the Capitol terrorism and siege that was planned openly on right wing media, not a word about what this means to their fellow BIPOC citizens who are fearful, anxious, and traumatized about how this event can impact their present and future living conditions in this country. 

There are a handful of White yoga teachers and leaders who have outright denounced this heinous act that included many neo-Nazis, and a few who have alluded to it indirectly, but many powerful yoga teachers are silent thus far. Why is there such an aversion to speaking out? What will it take for all voices to come out in solidarity against White Supremacy? How many more lives need to be lost?

Many yoga teachers don’t want to be “political” and hence the silence. This aversion to “politics” comes from the broader cultural framing of conversations around political differences, and the notion that politics is something that is very private and, hence, it would be impolite to discuss it openly. This has created a culture of silence around anything to do with policy, governance, political affiliations, and exploring how politics is personal. The policies and political leaders are chosen by us. We, in turn, are impacted by those policies. 

This pandemic has exacerbated underlying discrepancies of access to basic healthcare, food, education, and employment, impacting the BIPOC communities deeply and tragically. The discrepancies are felt personally and if we don’t cultivate spaces and leverage platforms where we can be honest and truthful (Satya, the second Yama of the 8-fold Path), vulnerable, and broken, then are we practicing Yoga fully and completely? Yoga then is relegated to a physical practice and something that we do to self soothe, merely a capitalistic endeavor with an eye on the numbers.

Some who are decrying this violent insurrection start with this sentence, "I don’t care if you voted Republican or Democrat..." Well you should care because this whole thing has been a function of Republicans (GOP) being complicit or looking the other way or excusing Trump’s racist strong arming and calling on the likes of the Ku Klux Klan (KKK) and Proud Boys for five years. You should care that people still voted for this President after what he said and did about Mexico and immigrants. You should care. If you don't care why people you know continued voting for a racist bigot, then it is worth your time to examine why you don’t. Because if you don’t, this cancer of White Supremacy will metastasize into something even more devastating.

Then there are those yoga practitioners who ask for compassion, in the name of Ahimsa, for those who are Trumpists because they are in denial or ignorant. Perhaps as White people or those with privilege you can afford to deny or stay ignorant. As BIPOC people who feel directly attacked by this President and his enablers, to ask this of us, is causing us harm, Himsa. A great learning that we have in this moment is that we have different realities and outcomes in this country, the Whites and the Non-Whites; it behooves us all as concerned and engaged citizens to acknowledge this difference honestly. Or this will cause us harm again.

As a part of the Desi community, many, many of my siblings have worked tirelessly to ensure this racist bigot never enters the White House again. There are also many Desis who have voted for Trump because of either selfish economic interests or internalized oppression, and we, as Desi immigrants, have to acknowledge this too or we are in dangerous denial.

This is a call to mindful action for all of us. If you are a White yoga teacher, do consider using your platforms, your voices to denounce White Supremacy now; invite and amplify BIPOC voices into your platforms; ensure that your spaces and classes include and highlight teachers and practitioners from all races, genders, and abilities. If you identify as a member of the Desi immigrant population, and have the capacity, power, privilege, and know people who have voted for this President, have those challenging conversations with them now. If you feel grief, anger, and fear, know that it is human to do so now. 

Resting and acknowledging and tending to our mental and emotional needs is also Yoga. When you are ready to do more, do more. Yoga gives us a framework, a platform, tools, and practices to regulate our nervous system, to tend to our whole being with discipline and compassion, and a big part of that is our participation in our communities. The first step is Svadhyaya, self-reflection. We all have our work to do to ensure that this never happens again.



Anjali Rao
 came to the Yoga mat at nearly 40 recovering from surgery from Breast Cancer. She studies, teaches, and writes about Yoga philosophy/ history from a socio-political perspective and is deeply interested in the intersectionality of race, culture, gender and accessibility of Yoga practices. She aims to make the practice Yoga on and off the mat accessible, helpful and joyful to people across ages, genders and abilities. She is a part of the teacher training faculty in 200 and 300 hour programs in the Bay Area and teaches Yoga for Cancer Survivorship for the Stanford Cancer Program. She serves on the Board for HERS Breast Cancer Foundation, a non-profit that helps survivors and those going through treatment regardless of financial status. She is a lifelong student of Indian Classical Dance, a sucker for puppies, loves dark chocolate, the ocean and old trees. https://www.yoganjali.me/



This post was edited by Patrice Priya Wagner, Managing Editor of Accessible Yoga blog and member of the Board of Directors.

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Sunday, January 10, 2021

Racial Justice: Beyond the Book Group

Jake Angeli on Jan. 6 after storming the Capitol as part of the Trump-backed riot

by Patrice Priya Wagner


While many people are calling what happened at the US Capitol last Wednesday an insurrection, it looked to me more like a major battle in an ongoing civil war. Keeping the yogic concept of satya, non-lying, truthfulness, close to my heart, I feel the call to speak these words. The more I hear and read about the events of the attempted coup by a mob of violent White Nationalists, Q-Anon followers, and other extremists, the more the situation appears like a war.

The US is a divided country and what I thought was a range of gray tones that differentiated political opinions appears to be a stark contrast in black and white. The Trump supporters who ransacked the Capitol on January 6 carried Confederate flags and wore shirts bearing racist and anti-Semitic messages such as Welcome to Camp Auschwitz and 6MWE which means six million wasn't enough, referring to the number of Jews killed by Nazis in WWII. According to New York Times' writer Astead W. Herndon, "The most ardent portion of Mr. Trump's white base are engulfed by a toxic mix of conspiracy theories and racism."

As I see it, you either agree with the US Constitution or you don't; you either want the country to offer the same rights and privileges that you receive to citizens who may look, sound, and think differently than yourself, or you don't. There isn't a lot of wiggle room there.

Please don't think of last Wednesday's events as actions of a group of citizens exercising their constitutional rights because what transpired was illegal. Breaking and entering, vandalizing a building, and defacing public property are criminal offenses that have been on the books for many years.

As a White woman working for racial justice and social change, I could see the ugly face of White Privilege on display as I watched the events of the day unfold. Listening to a CNN news segment on TV, I felt encouraged when Brian Stelter, @reliablesources, answered a question with: "White Supremacy. What happened was because of White Supremacy." I rarely hear this truth spoken aloud on mainstream television news and nearly fell out of my chair.

Most of the members of the riot mob were White or appeared to be White; their attitude of intolerance has existed in this country for centuries, and last Wednesday it reared its ugly head for all to see. Whether the mob is deemed to be a vocal and violent fringe group or a sizable element of the political spectrum, it's time to deal with the prejudice, White Supremacy, and White Privilege that has been built into the infrastructure of our society allowing something like the riot to occur.

President-elect Biden made a public statement that day saying, "The scenes of chaos in the Capitol do not reflect a true America, do not represent who we are." While I appreciate Biden's attempt to bring calm to a chaotic situation, I agree with some civil rights leaders who, according to Astead W. Herndon said, "took away the opposite message, that it was time to recognize the scope of the challenges facing the country" in addressing racial injustice.

Herndon continued with, "Rashad Robinson, the president of the civil rights group Color of Change, said the incoming Democratic administration should make racial justice a governing priority, not just an idea to pay lip service to on the trail... He added: We don't get racial justice out of a true democracy. We get true democracy out of racial justice."

When Trump posted a video after the riot, speaking to his supporters and others, I was chilled by his sentence near the end: "Our incredible journey is only just beginning." Trump and his supporters won't quietly slip away but are here to stay. Just because some of them will face legal repercussions for their actions, they'll continue to act reprehensibly.

I won't be silent and inactive at this juncture because that would make me complicit with them. I'll be reviewing lessons from Beyond the Book Group that taught me how to effectively converse with someone who holds racist views. The four-week online program, being offered again in a few weeks, gave me the tools to engage in conversation with someone who doesn't believe in the importance of Black Lives Matter or just doesn't care about BLM.

Amber Karnes, Accessible Yoga board president, provided in her recent post about the insurrection a list of suggestions on how to get involved in racial justice.

We'll see what additional opportunities for service arise in the coming days and weeks––there's so much work to be done and it's high time we roll up our sleeves and get to it.


This post was written by Patrice Priya Wagner, Managing Editor of Accessible Yoga blog and member of the Board of Directors.

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Wednesday, January 6, 2021

Trauma Informed Yoga is People Informed Yoga

Hala Khouri

by Hala Khouri and Laura Sharkey

 


“Trauma informed” and “trauma sensitive” yoga trainings are getting more and more popular these days as research is showing the benefits of yoga for those struggling with trauma symptoms. Yet being trauma informed is not just necessary when teaching people who have trauma symptoms, it is important for everyone. Everyone has experienced some sort of trauma, big or small, as well as general stress, and both can impact our ability to self-regulate (to feel safe, grounded, and present).

 

The yoga postures offer a unique opportunity to both strengthen the muscles and stretch areas that carry tension. This combination, along with an emphasis on breathing and mindfulness, is why yoga is often called a “mind/body” practice––it can get us in touch with our sensations and emotions. This is different from other workouts that don’t emphasize body awareness.

Stillness is not a regular part of the average person’s life. When we step onto the yoga mat and move and breathe consciously, we can get in touch with emotions or sensations that are uncomfortable and that we’ve managed to avoid. For people with complex trauma or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), this discomfort can be overwhelming and even re-traumatizing.

Yoga has been found to have a beneficial effect for people struggling with trauma symptoms. Margaret Howard’s article in the Huffington Post, Why Trauma Training Should be Mandatory for All Yoga Teachers, is an important one. She argues that not only are we likely to have people with major trauma in our general yoga classes, but that we will also likely encounter “people who have been in car accidents, witnessed violence, been affected by national tragedy, or served or treated traumatized persons in helper roles such as medical and social workers, psychotherapists, crisis line workers, juvenile court personnel, victim advocates, police, EMS, and even parents whose children have been through traumatic events. Indeed, even the loss of a loved one can cause traumatic grief, which is different than ordinary grief.”
 
When a yoga teacher understands that students walk into class carrying lots of different experiences in their body and hearts, and that during class the students may connect with parts of their body and psyche that have been shut off, she/he will treat them differently if she/he sees them struggle or get distracted. She/he has an opportunity to normalize how uncomfortable it can be, and offer techniques to work with that discomfort.

A trauma informed perspective asks us to come at our students with compassion and curiosity rather than judgement or pressure. This perspective isn’t afraid of discomfort, and doesn’t ask everyone to be happy all the time (one of my pet peeves is the instruction to smile during a pose).

Here’s an example:


Celine had a very sick child at home. He was on a respirator and needed medical attention 24/7. One day she finally makes the effort to get to yoga. She’s constantly nervous that there will be an emergency, so she keeps her phone discreetly by her mat just in case. She knows this will be the only way she can get through class without getting up to check it. When the teacher sees the phone, she comes over and tells Celine, in a critical tone, that phones are not allowed and that she must put it away because phones are simply a distraction. Celine is terribly embarrassed and ashamed. She doesn’t have the courage to speak up to the teacher, so she quietly leaves class.


A trauma informed approach might have looked more like this: “Excuse me, I see that you have your phone with you. We don’t normally allow that. Is there something going on that makes it necessary for you to have your phone?”

Being trauma informed doesn’t mean we assume everyone is broken or hurt, we just err on the side of caution so as to not create shame, pressure, or pain unnecessarily as we take people into vulnerable territory. Just like we are taught to offer safe physical alignment to everyone, not just those with injuries, being trauma informed is a safety protocol that we should offer all students.
 
Whether someone is suffering from full blown Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, or simply feeling stressed because they have a lot going on, they will benefit from a teacher who understands that human beings are complex, and that part of healing means feeling safe to go into the un-investigated parts of ourselves with courage and compassion so that we can shine a light on the areas we’ve been too afraid to acknowledge. A trauma informed teacher will first assume that a student has a perfectly good reason to do what they are doing whether they have their phone out, are resting, look distracted, or don’t want to use a strap.

Here are some guidelines for teachers wanting to be trauma informed in a general class:
  1. Assume people are doing the best they can. Approach them with curiosity and kindness.
  2. Take responsibility for your own triggers and reactions. Don’t come at a student if you are having a big reaction to them.
  3. Remember that it is not your job to fix anyone. Your job is to do your best to create a safe environment for students to move through what they need to at their own pace.
  4. Let go of your agenda. Some people may find peace through their practice, but others may connect with sadness, grief, or anger. Don’t make them feel wrong for feeling bad. Rather invite them to be compassionate.
  5. Know your scope of practice. If someone is in severe distress, refer them to a good therapist for help.
This is by no means a comprehensive list. For more information on being trauma informed check out the article 12 Simple Ways to Make Your Class More Trauma Informed in Elephant Journal.



Hala Khouri, M.A., SEP, E-RYT, has been teaching yoga and movement for over 25 years and has been doing clinical work and trainings for 15 years. Originally from Beirut, Lebanon, she has dedicated her life to the study of trauma, justice and building resilience. She earned her B.A. in Psychology from Columbia University and an M.A. in Counseling Psychology and an M.A. in Community Psychology from Pacifica Graduate Institute. Hala is trained in Somatic Experiencing, a body-based psychotherapy that helps resolve trauma and its symptoms. Hala is a co-founder of Off the Mat, Into the World, a training organization that bridges yoga and activism within a social justice framework. She leads trauma informed yoga trainings nationally. Hala also works with A Thousand Joys training direct service providers and educators to be trauma informed and culturally responsive.  She leads a monthly, online membership program called Radical Wellbeing. Her first book, “Peace from Anxiety: Get Grounded, Build Resilience and Stay Connected Amidst the Chaos,” comes out in April 2021. offthematintotheworld.org



Laura Sharkey left the corporate world in 2011 for health-related reasons and used the challenge of chronic illness as an opportunity to shift their focus to their life-long interest in social justice. They teach meditation and have participated in several of the Yoga and Body Image Coalition’s campaigns, including a spotlight in YBIC and Yoga International's ""This is What a Yogi Looks Like"" series  and Mantra Yoga + Health's ""Every Body is a Yoga Body"" feature.   They are passionate about working to make yoga and meditation more accessible and welcoming to everyone, with a special focus on dis/ability and neurodiversity. halakhouri.com



This post was edited by Patrice Priya Wagner, Managing Editor of Accessible Yoga blog and member of the Board of Directors.

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This article first appeared in Accessible Yoga's Journal for the Conference Online in October 2020.


Wednesday, December 23, 2020

How Can Yoga Help You Today?


by Nina Zolotow


We’re all going through this pandemic together, but, if you think about it, our individual circumstances still vary widely. Some of us are sheltering in place while others are working hard at essential jobs. And among those sheltering in place, some of us are alone, some are with just one person, and some are in a busy household with multiple people. So how yoga can help you right now is going to depend on the current circumstances of your life. For example, do you need a moment of quiet? Or are you feeling discouraged and sluggish from being alone all the time? Maybe you’re sitting all day and feel like you need to move. Or maybe part of your body aches from the work you’re doing, whether out in the world or at home?

And while it’s safe to say we’re all stressed out, how we experience stress also varies from person to person. Some people feel anxious, some feel angry, and some feel depressed. Others experience stress in very physical ways, such as digestive problems, headaches, insomnia, or even breaking out in hives. So how yoga can help you right now is also going to depend on the way you are personally experiencing stress right now.

There was a time in my life, back—in the nineties—when I was super stressed out. (I was working full-time at a computer software startup company that was trying to finish the Beta version of the product while co-parenting two children with my husband, who also had a high-stress full-time job.) I was actually doing yoga at the time—two days a week in a class in my office building. And when I was feeling the most stressed out and had terrible insomnia, I did try practicing some yoga at home because I heard that “yoga can help.” But the problem was—I can see that now in retrospect—I was just doing things we did in my classes, such as standing poses and Sun Salutations, without understanding how they were affecting me. Since these are energizing practices, they definitely weren’t helping to calm me down!

Since then I’ve learned so much about how different yoga poses and practices affect me, and when I’m feeling stressed or having some kind of physical problem, rather than just doing any old yoga sequence as I did back then, I start by asking myself: How can yoga help me today? Then, when I identify the kind of help from yoga that I need, I’m able to come up with a practice that will provide that help.

So, when you’re ready to do some yoga, even just a pose or two, I suggest that you start with the same basic question: How can yoga help me today?

Here are few things you might consider:
  • Do I need to escape from the family/housemates for some quiet time?
  • Do I need energizing and/or uplifting?
  • Do I need cooling down?
  • Do I feel scattered, distracted, or unfocused?
  • Do I need to reduce stress with quieting practices?
  • Do I need to move my body and release some energy?

Is there a physical ache, such as back pain, neck pain, leg pain from standing, that yoga might be able to help with? Then, after identifying what’s going on with you on a given day, try to figure out, which poses, sequences, or practices have helped you in the past with these types of issues. Without being prescriptive about it (you need to figure out what works for you and what doesn’t—see If It's Not Working For You, It's Not Working For You), here are some ideas:
  • Escaping from the family/housemates for quiet time: Try going somewhere by yourself, shut the door (and ask someone to watch the kids for a bit if needed), and do a favorite calming yoga pose or two, meditate, or do a calming breath practices—or combine those.
  • Energizing and/or uplifting: Try practicing back-bending poses, either passive or active, and/or moving in and out of poses with your breath (Sun Salutations and other vinyasas). End with a relaxing pose or practice so you don’t over-stimulate yourself.
  • Cooling down: Try practice forward-bending poses and/or supported inverted poses. 
  • Focusing: Try practice balancing pose or any kind (wide-legged standing poses count), chair yoga poses where your legs are active and feet are pressing into the ground, a concentration meditation (yogic style meditation where you focus on your breath, an image, a mantra, etc.), or a concentration breath practice, such as Alternate Nostril Breath, that takes a lot of mental focus. End with a relaxing pose or practice.
  • Reducing stress with quieting practices: Try practicing classic stress management techniques of your choice (see LINK for a large selection).
  • Moving your body and releasing some energy: Try practicing standing poses, moving with your breath (Sun Salutations), and/or twisting poses. End with a relaxing pose or practice so you don’t over-stimulate yourself.
  • Physical aches, such as back pain from sitting, neck pain, leg pain from standing: Try gentle movement and/or gentle stretches in the area where you’re experiencing the discomfort. For back pain in particular, some people find backbends help but others find twists or forward bends helpful, so you’ll need to experiment to find what works for you if you don’t already know. End with a relaxing pose or practice because relaxation can also help with pain.

The ability to identify how yoga can help you and then practice what’s right for you on a given day is one of the great gifts of home practice! And many say that this process of taking time to study yourself and exploring how various practices effect you—and help you—provides a deeper way to experience yoga than just taking classes. As Timothy McCall wrote in his book Yoga As Medicine:

"If you are taking yoga classes but not practicing at home, you may be missing the best—and potentially most therapeutic—part of yoga. Your personal practice is where the deepest work happens, when you go inward and go at your own pace."

Of course, if you’re feeling lonely, isolated, or disconnected and taking a class (in whatever form) feels like the best option for you today, then that’s the best option for you today!


Nina Zolotow
is the former Editor-in-Chief of the Accessible Yoga Blog, and
 current Editor in Chief of the Yoga for Healthy Aging. Nina is also the co-author of Yoga for Healthy Aging: A Guide to Lifelong Well-Being.



This article was originally posted on 4/10/2020 as part of the Blog's Home Practice Series.

This post was edited by Patrice Priya Wagner, Managing Editor of Accessible Yoga blog and member of the Board of Directors.

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Wednesday, December 16, 2020

Grief and Yoga: Interview with Dr Lynn Somerstein


Nina: Thanks so much, Lynn, for the interviews you did with me about Yoga and Anxiety, Yoga and Depression, and Yoga and Anger. Today I’d love to hear your thoughts about grief.

Grief is such a complicated emotion, I think. It seems to me that people can experience this emotion—or maybe this set of emotions—very differently from one another, and that grief may not always feel like sorrow. From your perspective, how do you understand grief?

Lynn: Grief follows loss; the griever feels broken, like a tree killed by a hatchet. With time, branches and leaves can grow on the tree’s stump, grief changes to sorrow, and the heart softens and stays open. Alternatively, grief can be unchanged, the tree stump dies, and the heart becomes frozen, perhaps bitter; the heart stays closed for what feels like protection. Mourning calls for courage.

Nina: Although people tend to think of grief as a feeling we have after the death of a loved one, is this a feeling we can have over other losses? And do people tend to feel more grief during times of change?

Lynn: Death of a loved one, a parent, a spouse, a friend, a child worst of all, brings grief, of course. At other times the lost loved one is the self, lost through many little deaths, such as bodily change, cognitive harm, or social disability. Accustomed ways of being or doing disappear.

Right now, we are all suffering many little deaths. Covid-19 has produced a world of loss. We are grieving, but not yet able to metabolize our grief into sorrow. We live in between. Covid-19 has changed out world; our past is disappeared, our present is ambiguous, our future is unknown. What happens next?

Nina: I’ve heard from various experts, including a death doula and a hospice nurse, that grief needs to run its course. They say it needs to be felt completely and given as much time as it needs. What do you think about that?

Lynn: Grieving is an organic process that needs to run through the body/mind in its own way and its own time, and like a deep yoga practice it effects every cell.

Nina: How can yoga support us while we are moving through grief?

Lynn: Yoga helps us stay in the moment while realizing that moments are temporary and so are we. We learn to be patient with pain and not jump away from it or from ourselves, to endure, to treasure joy, to know life and all things are fleeting.

Nina: What are some of your favorite poses and practices for helping people who are experiencing grief?

Lynn: A full yoga experience of whatever style wakes you up to your feelings and attaches you to your body/mind is key. Child’s pose and Yoga Nidra, after your body has been reached and relaxed, are ways to live with your grief, and then much later, cultivate contentment.

Nina: My own experiences with grief felt a lot like stress, maybe stress mixed with sorrow. If you’re experiencing stress, anxiety, depression, or anger as a part of your grief, does it make sense to use yoga techniques that might help with those emotions?

Lynn: Yes, seek whatever yoga feels appropriate, from strenuous to restorative. Forceful movements can release anger. Breathing techniques reduce anxiety and depression. We feel stress mixed with our sorrow because we are breaking open. Yoga Nidra and Savasana can help people feel protected so that they can grieve safely.

Yoga helps us recognize and accept who we are, where we are. Most of us have had the experience of suddenly sobbing during practice, or remembering, realizing, understanding something that we weren’t even conscious of thinking about. Yoga helps us open and connect with our deepest emotions.

Nina: Can people get stuck in their grief? If so, how someone tell? And can yoga help with that?

Lynn: Grief can become an endless cycle of remorse and pain, recriminations of whys and wherefores, repetitive and going nowhere. Sometimes people feel it is disloyal not to remain in grief. Not so.

Nina: Are there any yoga practices and/or poses that people who are grief should avoid?

Lynn: Proceed with your whole heart into the practice that calls to you. Do not avoid your grief, sorrow will come and your heart will open to find space for joyfulness sometimes, too.

Nina: Is there anything else you’d like to say to our readers about this topic?

Lynn: “Practice and all is coming…” This is a phrase often spoken by Sri K. Pattabhi Jois.



Lynn Anjali Somerstein, PhD, NCPsyA, LP, RYT, is a licensed psychotherapist and yoga therapist in private practice, specializing in anxiety, depression and PTSD. She is also the author of numerous articles about yoga, anxiety, attachment issues and psychotherapy. Lynn is grateful to her many teachers at the Integral Yoga Institute and the National Psychological Association for Psychoanalysis who offered her extensive and deep training in yoga, yoga therapy, and psychoanalysis. See lynnsomerstein.com for more information about Lynn.


This post was edited by Nina Zolotow
Editor in Chief of the Yoga for Healthy Aging. Nina is also the co-author of Yoga for Healthy Aging: A Guide to Lifelong Well-Being. 


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Saturday, December 12, 2020

La evolución del Yoga

Por Jivana Heymann, traducción al español de Alma Durán

This article was previously posted in English.


Investigaciones recientes han revelado que a través de millones de años, cinco tipos independientes de animales han evolucionado hasta convertirse en cangrejos. Si: has leído correctamente. Cinco tipos diferentes de animales han acabado convirtiéndose en cangrejos al pasar por su proceso de evolución. Es sorprendente si consideramos que los cangrejos son tan efectivos y eficientes en términos evolutivos que otros animales se han transformado en cangrejos también, o en algo bastante similar.

Los resultados de estos trabajos de investigación me han llevado a reflexionar sobre la condición humana y nuestra tendencia a recrear en nuestras vidas personales aquello que no hemos logrado resolver satisfactoriamente––¿Acaso no acabamos casándonos con alguien que es exactamente como uno de nuestros padres, o, literalmente, terminamos siendo como uno de nuestros progenitores conforme envejecemos? Pienso también en la tendencia que muestran las naciones a repetir su historia. Cualquier estudiante de historia identificará fácilmente los paralelos entre el gobierno actual de los USA y el de la Alemania nazi antes de la Segunda Guerra Mundial.

Parece que estamos destinados a seguir redundando en nuestros errores, tal vez es parte de irrevocable de nuestra condición humana. Me pregunto: ¿Está pasando algo parecido en el mundo del yoga? La historia del yoga en las Américas proporciona un considerable número de ejemplos de imperios construidos a base de manipulación y abuso. Los mas recientes son Bikram, Sivananda Vedanta y Kundalini, todos los cuales han protagonizado escándalos por sus abusos mayores en los últimos años.

¿Estamos destinados a redundar en nuestra historia, o será que después de esta crisis del COVID podremos encontrar otra forma de seguir adelante en la que sea posible relacionarnos con nuestra práctica con tal efectividad que podamos ver mas allá de nuestras samskaras (las tendencias de nuestra mente)? Hace unas semanas la cadena mas grande de yoga estudios del mundo, YogaWorks, se declaró en bancarrota. “La pandemia del COVID-19 ha creado retos sin precedentes para nuestra industria y negocio; aún y cuando los centros podrían abrir, éstos tienen que cerrar a ciertas horas y guardar medidas de seguridad y distancia personal que afectan la capacidad y operación de los estudios,” indicó Brian Cooper, Director General de YogaWorks. Honestamente, esos son los daños menos graves que la pandemia ha ocasionado. ¿Y que dice sobre el hecho de que la mayor parte de los estudios independientes han tenido que cerrar definitivamente sus puertas, y que l@s maestr@s de yoga han caído en el desempleo?

La pregunta es: ¿Será que la desaparición del estudio de yoga moderno ofrece la oportunidad de construir algo nuevo en su lugar, o estamos destinados a recrear los mismos problemas que plagaron la industria antes de la pandemia? Esas lacras incluyen la falta de accesibilidad, el racismo, el abuso y una apropiación cultural que ha sido largamente ignorada. Todas estas calamidades han sido generadas por un sistema basado en la avaricia y la especulación, ya que se han ignorado las enseñanzas fundamentales del yoga

En otras palabras, la industria del yoga se convirtió en un caparazón hueco que servía a un tipo de práctica completamente divorciada de la filosofía y las bases morales que son en realidad parte intrínseca de lo que, supuestamente, estaba vendiendo. La industria del yoga se transformó en un cangrejo–– evolucionó en esa dirección en la medida en que cayó en los patrones en que nuestra codicia y egoísmo con frecuencia recrean: un sistema centrado en ganancias y balances finales jugosos.

De hecho, las enseñanzas del yoga están en conflicto con el capitalismo. Literalmente: no se puede vender el yoga. Lo que puedes vender son los sofisticados artículos que pudieran asociarse a su práctica, puedes vender un tipo de cuerpo aunque en realidad no tiene nada que ver, pero el yoga en sí no lo puedes vender. Puedes vender tiempo en un espacio con un maestro, libros, cursos en línea, pero el yoga no.

¿Cómo podemos rehacer la industria de mejor manera?¿Como instaurar una comunidad real de yoga, en vez de una industria interesada en las ganancias? Con toda honestidad, quizá no es posible. Lo mas probable es que vamos a crear otro cangrejo. Pero podría ser que un pequeño grupo de nosotros decida separarse y encuentre la oportunidad de evolucionar en otra dirección... ¿quizá en una medusa o un pulpo? Me imagino que el yoga comercial regresará rugiente en algún momento. Pienso que no es factible detener esa evolución, pero eso no significa que tengamos que contribuir a ella.

Podemos instaurar un tipo de comunidad de yoga diferente cimentada en las bases éticas del yoga: ahimsa y satya, benevolencia (compasión) y verdad (honestidad). Esto significa que necesitamos empezar por reconocer el daño que se ha hecho en nombre del yoga y comprometernos con el cambio. No se trata de avergonzarse, sino de obtener claridad (viveka).

No estoy sugiriendo la creación de una nueva organización, ni nuevos estándares para la acreditación de maestr@s, tampoco un nuevo estilo de yoga. En vez de ello, simplemente pregunto ¿Cómo puedes vivir mas coherentemente la verdad del yoga en tu vida? (Y me estoy haciendo las mismas pregunta a mi mism@.) ¿De que forma que podemos dedicarnos a lo verdaderamente importante en el yoga, en vez de mentir con mercadotecnia? Esta exploración empezaría al hacernos preguntas como las siguientes:

  • ¿Que significa el yoga para mi?
  • ¿Se puede decir que mi práctica y mis enseñanzas reflejan esa verdad?
  • ¿Integro ahimsa (compasión) y satya (honestidad) en mi práctica?
  • ¿Son tanto mi práctica como mis enseñanzas accesibles, activamente anti-racistas y combaten el problema de la apropiación cultural? 
  • ¿Estoy dedicad@ a lograr mi libertad individual y el empoderamiento de mis estudiantes? 
  • ¿Cuál es la relación entre mi libertad personal y la libertad de la comunidad? 

Una de las peculiaridades mas asombrosas del yoga es su naturaleza simultáneamente personal y comunal. El trabajo que hago en mi mism@ contribuye al bienestar de la comunidad porque genero menos sufrimiento en el mundo. Mi práctica me permite también verdaderamente servir a los demás al mostrarme cómo nutrirme a mi mism@ en vez de constantemente necesitar que otr@s me validen o me proporcionen soportes externos. La forma en que enseño tiene un impacto aún mayor en el mundo. Mis palabras y los mensajes que comparto pueden crear dependencia o inseguridad. Pero también tengo la opción de guiar hacia el camino de la independencia, el empoderamiento y la libertad.

Tod@s l@s practicantes de yoga deben considerar la forma en que practican y enseñan, así como el impacto que tienen en el mundo que les rodea. Esta intima exploración personal nos permitirá acercarnos grupalmente de manera bien intencionada y crear una comunidad de yoga con solidas bases morales. De otra forma, solo terminaremos convirtiéndonos en cangrejos.


Jivana Heyman
, C-IAYT, E-RYT500, es fundador y director de Accessible Yoga, organización internacional sin fines de lucro dedicada a incrementar el acceso a las enseñanzas del yoga. Accessible Yoga ofrece conferencias, conversaciones comunitarias, un blog, y el Programa de Embajadores. Jivana es el creador del Accessible Yoga Training, y autor del libro “Accessible Yoga: Poses and Practices for Every Body” (Shambhala Publications, 2019). Se ha especializado en enseñar yoga a personas que enfrentan retos de salud; a partir de esta labor creó la organización Accessible Yoga con el objetivo de educar, entrenar y promover políticas de empoderamiento; el cambiar la percepción pública del yoga forma también parte de su misión. Para mas información, visita por favor
jivanaheyman.com

El original en inglés de este artículo fue editado por Patrice Priya Wagner, Gerente Editorial del ACCESSIBLE YOGA BLOG y miembro del Consejo de Dirección.

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