Trees, trees oh how I love trees. They always make me feel so stable. My favorite trees are in Ireland. These are from Wicklow Gardens in Wicklow, Co. The trees in Ireland are so old and beautiful. They seem to hold the history of the land. Stories that can only be shown not told. Ireland is like a second home to me. A place I love to wander and explore. Where the people are as beautiful as the land. Where my love of tea began. But back to trees. I have a special relationship with trees that began with a beautiful big ole tree that is across the street from my old job. It is the last tree to turn in the Fall and it goes brilliant orange. That beautiful tree was my savor over the years. My job was high stress and complex. It was a joke amongst the staff that the tree was “my tree.” When feeling stressed or overwhelmed, I saw that tree as my guide. That tree made it through rough winters, hurricanes, rough winds, crazy rain storms and never a branch broke. This is often true of trees. Branches brake at times but far more rare than the storms that whip them around. Tree trucks break at times as well but even in a far rarer rate than branches breaking. Trees are able to stand the test of time. Their age is their beauty. The marks they were show their strength and courage to last through the toughest of times. What would it be like for us to see each other in this way? What if we saw that the marks we have are adornments of our strength; of our valor? Huh, interesting concept, right?
I often speak about trees with my clients as a.metaphor for grounding or centering. In the therapy world, one of the things we are often working with people on is managing life’s storms by teaching “emotion regulation skills.” What this means is we are trying to help people stop freaking out, raging in traffic or tantruming like 2 year olds. Who couldn’t use a little of that? LOL You know that look, that look you get when things don’t go your way. It looks a wee bit like a kid who is screaming for the toy at the store! We all have been there. In my post Whyyyyyy? But whyyyyy? I talk more about how integrative health can help us better manage these emotions as they arise in the mind and body. Today we will chat about the skills of yoga and mediation. The Yoga Sutras are the like the guidelines to living a a yogic lifestyle which includes but is not related to the physical practice of yoga. This is a very rudimentary explanation of something that is far deeper and complex than we have time for today, so bear with me:) The second of the yoga sutra is “yoga chitta vritti nirodhah” which can be understood as “yoga is the cessation of the fluctuations of the mind.” While we often think of yoga as a form of exercise, the journey of a yogic path is to help calm and center the mind and body. Emotions reside in limbic region of the brain. The limbic system has a direct connection to the autonomic nervous system. The amgydala resides in the limbic system and is responsible for activating the sympathetic fight/flight response. This response is automatic and can get activated with immediate or perceived stress. The para sympathetic nervous system activates the relaxation response. Through linking breath with movement yoga turns on the relaxation response allowing the fluctuations of the mind to slow down. Over time you may even be able to activate the relaxation response off the mat by accessing this calm space within. This means you are more capable of managing the daily frustrations of life. Wow, seriously, you say? Yes, seriously, we can learn how to have some control over whether we become a crazy lunatic or that smiley face on the “Life is Good” t shirts. This can occur despite what may have gone on in your past, what may be happening in the present moment or what could potentially happen in the future. Yoga gives you back control over how you react to your emotions. Ok…now seriously…who doesn’t like a little control???
When I started my yoga practice in 2000 I could never have imagined it would help me be calmer. I just wanted a long lean body, like most 20 something girls that go to class. What I have discovered is that yoga has great capacity for healing. It can take your splintered stressed out self and make it whole again. My process has taught me that the wisdom of the soul is in my body, not my thinking rational mind. My mind holds my fear, my body has the capacity to unlock that fear. The world of psychotherapy has begun, over time, to take interest in incorporating a variety of mindfulness practices into traditional talk therapy. I have heard many people tell me that they “kinda sorta” think that therapy could be helpful but the thought of sitting in a therapist office going over every detail of their past and constantly linking it to their present makes them want to well…vomit. I can say I get that, even as a therapist:) Talk therapy was very useful for me and it was also pathologizing. I outgrew the paradigm once I began to heal through the wisdom of my body. I am not interested in being locked in that jail cell. Like my grandmother likes to say “it is what it is.” We can begin to help people heal on a deeper level when we incorporate the insights the mind can hold with unlocking the stuck energy from their body. Our past informs how we got here but it also is a part of our karma that we are here to work through. I believe that there is a reason all of that happened for me and why things occur presently If I can use it all as a life lesson I can see that this lifetime is just an opportunity to work through my karma so it doesn’t follow me into the next. We are not victims, we are active participants as well.
Yoga to me is empowerment; especially when used off the mat. Your breath is always there to guide you along your way through life. Life is a journey meant to be lived. The mind has an amazing capacity to do a bunch of different functions. It, however, can high jack the rest of the body when the fight/flight response is activated. The window into your soul is through calming the mind and allowing it to be put into it’s perspective place within your day to day life. It’s there to help inform you but the real guidance comes from your heart and soul. So now for that question, can you, just for today, embrace your markings as beautiful adornments of your strength and courage? Step by step, moment by moment, breath by breath.