Category Archives: Life

Free Fall: Forgoing Coping Mechanisms for Real Vulnerability

We tried an intense social justice training designed to help us serve a higher purpose. Here’s what we learned about trauma, transformation, and taking care of yourself.

I’m standing in a circle of 30-some people in a rustic yoga studio, peering through oversize windows at the lush, soggy woods outside—and trying my absolute best not to dissociate. It’s the last day of a five-day Yoga, Purpose, and Action leadership training with the yoga and social justice organization Off the Mat, Into the World. Cofounders Seane Corn and Suzanne Sterling, along with facilitator RW Alves, are reading self-identifying statements aloud, such as, “If you have family and friends who are incarcerated…” “If you or someone you know has had an eating disorder…” And “If you have an advanced degree…”

The exercise, called the Ally Circle, goes like this: When you hear something that applies to you, you step into the middle of the circle and notice who else is there and who isn’t. It feels a little bit like an emotionally charged, high-stakes version of that game called Never Have I Ever. But instead of earning cachet by admitting to having sex in a public space or smoking a joint before high school, I’m about to reveal the things I’m most ashamed of. My heart is pounding, and my thoughts are on fire: I don’t want these people, many of whom were strangers a week ago, to know any more about me. I inadvertently label some of the statements “good” and others “bad.” (And then noticing my own biases and judgments, I feel guilty about them.) I warm up with the questions about higher education and eating disorders. When I hear them, I take tentative steps toward the middle of the circle and realize that while I may be …

2020 Yoga Bills in Congress

This year is going to be a big one in Washington. These are the yoga bills to keep on your radar during election season.

Did you know that it’s illegal to teach yoga in the Alabama school system? 

For school kids

Yoga remains illegal in Alabama public schools after a proposed state bill failed last spring that would have lifted the 1993 ban prohibiting schools from offering the practice, likening it to an Eastern religion. Though the bill, introduced by Representative Jeremy Gray—a former football player turned yoga practitioner—had support from 18 representatives on both sides of the aisle, it never made it to the House floor for a vote. 

Gray says he’ll reintroduce the bill next session. “We’re doing kids a big injustice if we don’t implement yoga in K through 12,” he says. “Children are going through traumas every day—some are living in poverty or being bullied. Yoga helps people learn how to deal with daily stressors in a critical-thinking capacity, and teaches them how to reflect. It’s a mental health preventative method.” In fact, Gray credits the mindfulness and mental resilience he learned through yoga with helping him win his House seat despite having had no prior political experience. “I’ve seen [what it did for] me, and I want to be an advocate for it,” he says.

See also Yoga for Kids

For veterans

Elsewhere in the country, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs has been ramping up its complementary and integrative care (it now covers, for instance, eight different interventions, including yoga and meditation, in its medical care packages). Going even further, the department is now implementing a “whole health approach,” designed to consider each veteran’s overarching health needs. That means less focus on doctors treating ailments only as they manifest, and more focus on …

Do You Need an Anxiety Detox?

Since anxiety is so thought-provoking—meaning it’s hard to get your mind to stop chattering—it makes sense that you might see your thoughts as the root of a problem. The reality is, worrisome thoughts can happen only when your body is restricting the inner movement of energy. Here’s how to process this debilitating emotion and break free from the stress it can cause.

Relief from anxiety starts with processing your emotions.

No matter the root cause of anxiety, you know the symptoms: sleepless nights; that pit in your stomach; feelings of distress, frustration, and self-doubt.

You might think that the anxiety cycle begins with an anxious or negative thought or comment, but that is not necessarily the case. They cycle starts when you hold back the inner movement of your emotions, which keeps you locked in your brain. Have you ever been around someone who says it like it is? Maybe you were thinking something negative and that person called out, “This sucks!” Perhaps that made you feel relief, like you were not alone. This relief came because calling out discomfort or a negative experience externalizes (even if only temporarily) what you may be feeling.

Since anxiety is so thought-provoking—meaning it’s hard to get your mind to stop chattering—it makes sense that you might see your thoughts as the root of a problem. The reality is, worrisome thoughts can happen only when your body is restricting the inner movement of energy. Since your emotions and physiological reactions to them are made of energy (molecules and atoms in motion), this means when you avoid or hold back on allowing your emotions to circulate throughout your body (e.g. , constricting them to your head or shoulders or chest), you increase the likelihood of fearful or negative thoughts arising and lingering, which continues the …

The Namaste Breakup

To the casual observer, maybe you were the perfect couple—the nubby fabric to each other’s Velcro, the oat milk to her latte, the peanut butter to his jelly. But on the road called adulthood, lots of things lose their magic. That industrial-strength, grape-flavored sugar-goo we ate on sandwiches in kindergarten? Wouldn’t touch it now. Relationships can be like that.

Breakups are never easy, no matter who initiates the split. By nature, decoupling injects fear and doubt into so many parts of our lives. It can make us question our very identity: How could we have been so wrong about something so important? And because many of the things that seem to matter most in society are at stake—who our friends are, our economic standing, where we live—breaking up muddies our thinking; it can leave us feeling ungrounded, and it can turn our support systems upside down.

Twelve years ago, when my first marriage ended, I suddenly found myself lost in a strange and unfamiliar world. Up to that point, I’d spent most of my adult years as half of a pair, and suddenly I was…alone.

Or so it felt at the time.

During my divorce, people whom I’d assumed would always be there for me vanished. Others fumbled along, offering questionable advice and mixed messages. (My own mother, who has been married to my father for 51 years, still wistfully recalls things that happened at my first wedding while forever stumbling over the name of my current husband of nine years.) Some friends hedged their bets, picked sides, or went silent. Traitors! I thought.

Somewhere deep down, though, I had the feeling that I’d come out OK. I’d spent most of my adult life playing roles—mother, wife, daughter-in-law, student, employee—and in the midst of this breakup-induced gigantic upheaval, I hoped …

Noble Art: Spreading the Message of Love

This LA yoga studio teamed up with an artist-activist to try and out-scale the proposed US-Mexico border wall.

Jessica Rosen grew up photographing graffiti in 1990s Detroit. These days, as the owner of One Down Dog yoga studios in Los Angeles, she was eager to bring a reminder of the artwork that inspired her youth into the community she was cultivating in LA. “I wanted the space to feel like a place you’d want to hang out in and connect and talk—not like, I come here and I leave,” says the 37-year-old yoga teacher. “In Detroit, there were beautiful murals everywhere, so bringing that into my studios makes it feel like home.”

Rosen’s former yoga student (and teacher at One Down Dog), muralist Joerael Numina, has spent most of his life living in border states—from Texas to California to New Mexico. In 2016, he launched Mobilize Walls, a mural project that he calls “a petition of scale,” intended to counter the divisiveness and dehumanizing rhetoric that comes with the Trump administration and its pursuit of an expanded border wall. Numina has embarked on creating a network of murals across the country, largely influenced by his yoga practice, that today spans about 10 miles, including the 16 he’s created at Rosen’s three One Down Dog outposts. He hopes other artists and activists will join him in spreading a message of unity and equanimity through art by donating their own mural or wall to the cause.

See also How to Talk About Tough Stuff in Your Yoga Classes

“Yoga is a spiritual practice meaning union,” says Numina. “The border wall is divisive and centralized and toxic to the environment and the national budget. Mobilize Walls is transformational and inclusive. It creates dialogue and cultivates empathy and compassion. That’s what art …

YJ Tried It: Stick Mobility

Up your creativity and flexibility by practicing with a 6-foot-tall bendable stick.

You can imagine my roommate’s surprise when I walked through the door with three lengthy bright-orange sticks. They were each as thick as a fist and ranged in length from four to six feet.

“What can those possibly be used for,” he asked.

“Stretching,” I said, as I tried to balance one of the sticks straight up in the air on my finger.

They’re light and surprisingly bendy, with a satisfying feel in your hands that keeps you going back for more every time you put them down. I knew I was going to have some fun with this unorthodox exercise device.

It’s possible to get a deeper stretch with a stick.

What is Stick Mobility?

Stick Mobility is reminiscent of TRX bands as a full-body fitness product to be used in a customizable training program that provides companion certification courses for coaches and physical trainers. The system emphasizes joint mobilization, strength training, and deep fascial stretching to improve performance and recovery. Six principles in particular govern the Stick Mobility experience, and they are leverage, stability, feedback, irradiation, isometrics, and coordination. Basically, the principles encourage you to see and feel when you’re out of alignment in a pose, and to use the Mobility Stick to get you back to where you’re supposed to be. To get started, you can simply access their extensive video library to engage with instructions and demo videos on how to use their signature dowels made with blended materials for target-area exercises.

Dowels are skinny rods that can be any length, and are often made out of wood, metal, or plastic. You’re more likely to find them at your local hardware store than anywhere else. Yoga practitioners have used them for decades to assist …