TRAUMA RELEASE PROCESS – 03.12.15 (Learning to “Suck It Up”)

We all experience trauma.  The level and degree of our trauma is individual to us.  The world can rate our experiences and compare our experiences to others, but a system of measurement does not do us justice.  Our physical bodies are wonderfully different and, in turn, experience trauma differently.  There is something that we can all do.  Talk.

The video above is an example of the effects of trauma.  The men and women of our armed forces put their bodies and minds at risk for a truly noble cause.  Our freedom.  The statistics of the number of men and women both in the armed forces and civilian that suffer from PTSD is staggering.  We are all holding on to trauma mentally and physically.  To say that the trauma you and I experience is any less is not to slight any of what they sacrifice for us.  It is to say that we all need to talk.

When we carry something, it puts pressure on our physical body.  When we carry something emotional, psychological, and traumatic, it puts pressure on our physical body.  Our physical bodies are effected regardless of the origin on the stimulus.  The only difference is that one can sometimes be seen by others (a cast around a broken arm, scrapes and cuts from a dog attack, or the lose of an appendage) and the other may never be known to the world.  A physical cut may be followed by the phrase “suck it up.”  An emotional turmoil over the lose of a loved one can sometimes be met with that phrase as well.  Love is not the ability to cause physical harm to someone, physically, psychologically or emotionally.  So when we tell someone to “suck it up” then we are telling them to live with the pain.  And the pain grows.  

“We cannot selectively numb emotions, when we numb the painful emotions, we also numb the positive emotions.”  This quote comes from Brene Brown.  She is famous for her stand on vulnerability and shame.  As we go through life, we will all continue to encounter trauma.  It is part of the human life experience.  What we have choice over is how we choose to deal with the past in the Now.  Will we talk and start the healing?  

Yoga provides a means to talk, but not necessarily with others.  Our ability to feel safe in giving parts of us comes from first talking to ourselves.  In the moments of meditation where the eyes are closed and we are left to our own mind, the ability to feel and talk to ourselves is healing.  We love ourselves and we talk to those we care about.  Take a moment to let our eyes close and have a conversation with the one we love.  Us.

Learning to “Suck It Up”

Psycho-emotional trauma – the kind of trauma caused primarily by social conditioning.  Situations that threaten our social self such as rejection, shame, fear of failure, and negative judgment by others cause us to react in the same manner as if we were being threatened physically.  The body takes up a position of submission and withdrawal, slumping forward with the head down – the precise posture it assumes when threatened by physical trauma.

A case in point.  When an African American girl turned eleven, her parents decided to send her across town to a junior high school in a culturally different neighborhood.  Her experience up to that point had mostly involved middle class African American and Japanese American families.  So when she was put on a bus to attend a school in an all-white affluent neighborhood, she wasn’t prepared for the culture clash she was about to experience.

Her first traumatic experience came when, because her stop was one of the last stops of an already overcrowded school bus, no one wanted her to sit next to them.  Since she was perceived as “shy and nerdy,” they didn’t care to scoot over and allow her to share their seat.  Each day, the bus driver ordered one of the students to move over, and even then the young girl found herself with one three inches of seat.

Each day, for fifteen miles, she balanced herself on the edge of the seat so she wouldn’t fall into the aisle.  Next to her sat a resentful student who had yielded almost no space, but who enjoyed taking advantage of the African American student because she was meek, mild, and non-confrontational.

Unfortunately, kids can be cruel to each other at certain times in their lives.  For the one who is being shunned, it’s a stressful, anxiety-ridden, traumatic experience.  Most days, this young girl cried silently all the way to school.

At school, the culture clash didn’t turn out to be as bad as the girl had imagined.  She found she had much in common with one of the local girls, and they became friends.  The kids in her own neighborhood began whispering and laughing as she walked by.  Soon, they were taunting her, telling her she was a traitor, calling her hateful names that stabbed her heart.

It’s stressful growing up in our schools.  Most of our kids exist in a state of high anxiety.  All they can do is “suck it up.”

BOOK – “The Revolutionary Trauma Release Process” by David Berceli (BUY IT!)

YAMAS AND NIYAMAS – 03.10.15 (Svadhyaya – Projections)

I began my public education career as a middle grades science teacher almost twelve years ago.  I started with vis-a-vis wet erase markers and an overhead projector.

Now that I’ve dated myself a bit, there is no difference in the technological advances of today.  Classrooms have become equipped with Promethean ActivBoards or SMART Boards (and other competitor variations).  The concept remains the same.  The content that is on the transparency or in the computer is projected from one place to another.  Participants study the material and prepare for an assessment of some sort.  What is in is sent out, what is sent out is taken in.

Let’s apply this concept to ourselves.  What is in is sent out.  Svadhyaya asks us to take time to self-study, self-reflect.  Math, science, language arts, social studies and school in general is relatively straight forward in what is inside.  We can open a textbook and have a pretty idea the content that is inside.  We are quite the amazing variable.  We can look at each other and make inferences about the past, the present and the future.  However, we will never know a complete story.  We will never know each other completely.

What is in is sent out.  Therefore, we are asked to look inward and see our content, our character.  If we see hate and anger and bitterness in the world, then are those a part of us?  Where did they come from?  Why are they there?  If we see love and beauty and joy in the world, then are those a part of us?  Where did they come from?  Why are they there?  The projections that we see in our world cannot come from the outside in.  They come from the inside out.  Before we move quickly to judge the actions of the world around us, let’s first ask … what is inside us?

Svadhyaya – Projections

Do this experiment now:  without thinking, quickly write down the first five things that come to your mind that describe the world as you see it.

Every comment that you have used to describe the world will tell you more about yourself than about the world.  Every comment you make about the world, about another person, about an event, about life, is a projection of yourself and a clue to your interior landscape.  The world is your autobiography.

The world and others simply reflect back to us what we are seeing, not what is there.  It is as if wherever we look, there are only mirrors that show us pictures of ourselves.

“We cannot love or hate something about another person or the world unless it is already inside of us first.”

The world changes to fit the story you are telling.

As you begin to steadfastly pay attention to what you are saying to yourself about the moment, the other person, yourself, and life, you will get clues about the “boxes” you have wrapped yourself in that create you own little universe.  All of these utterances are projections of the parts of yourself you love, don’t love, can see, don’t want to see, or accept or can’t yet accept.

Book – “The Yamas and Niyamas” by Deborah Adele (BUY IT!!!)

PERFORMANCE YOGA – 03.09.15 (Intensity – Own Your Zone)

Life is full of ups and downs.  Yin and yang.  We ride along waves.  There are moments of absolute zen that we wish could last forever and then there are moments that seem to last an eternity that we wish we could destroy.  The moment during a 5k where it feels like we’re in mile one but we’re heading toward the finish line.  We throttled up and are about to set a new PR!  The moment during a basketball game where we come off the bench nervous, anxious and promptly dribble the ball off of our foot.  We throttled down and lost our focus on the moment.

The balance of intensity is where we find the zone.  We look to athletics as a means to find that balance.  The moments that exist in the present are opportunities to see if our training and practice of managing intensity can help us perform at a peak level.  There is a moment prior to a contest where a team will do one of two things.  They or the person may get so pumped up and excited with the crowd backing them that they come out making careless errors.  They’re way too far up on the throttle spectrum of intensity.  They or the person may come out already looking defeated with poor body language.  They’re way too far down on the throttle spectrum of intensity.  

The San Antonio Spurs of the NBA provide a gorgeous example of finding their place on the intensity spectrum.  Their bodies and minds are engaged in what they are currently wanting to achieve, but there are no extremes.  What is absent is the over-the-top hype that is believed necessary to intimidate an opponent.  Each play down the court is an opportunity to find the balance.  The body language of players does not show a disinterest or dislike for one another or the game they are playing.  There is no absence of love for the game of basketball.  The Spurs are a beautiful example of the balance of intensity.

We go up and then we will come down.  Let’s work to make our movement along the intensity spectrum less extreme.  Let’s work to find balance and see shifts that are small and controlled.  This is where we find “the zone.”

Intensity – Own Your Zone

“Don’t get psyched up, get psyched right” – Anonymous

When athletes are “flowing” or “in the zone,” they are maintaining a certain intensity level while being mindful of the moment, which helps them achieve their peak performance.

Consider the following strategies to increase or decrease your intensity levels to meet the demands of the situation.

  • Throttle Up
    • Take three to five forceful breaths.
    • Create a powerful image such as  battleship, a fierce animal or a volcanic eruption.
    • Make powerful movements such as pumping your fist or clapping your hands.
    • Repeat energizing thoughts such as “Yes, I can!” or “Get my A-game on!”
    • Recall your favorite up-tempo song.
  • Throttle Down
    • Take three to five calming breaths.
    • Imagine a serene scene such as a cool mountain lake.
    • Perform light stretches.
    • Think calming thoughts such as “Clear mind, relaxed body.”
    • Recall your favorite relaxing song.

The next time you are practicing or competing, ask yourself, “Is my intensity level too low, too high, or just right?”  Adjust accordingly to achieve your ideal zone for peak performance.

BOOK – “The Champion’s Mind:  How Great Athletes think, train and thrive.” by Jim Afremow  (BUY IT!)

YAMAS AND NIYAMAS – 03.03.15 (Svadhyaya – Self Study)

We enter into the month of March continuing our study of the Yamas and Niyamas.  Svadhyaya, or self-study, asks us to look inside.  Self-reflection and self-study can be difficult to swallow.  We may find ourselves drifting back into the past and filled with regrets spiraling down into depression.  We may find ourselves looking to far forward into the future and becoming filled with anticipation that takes off into anxiety.  So let’s take a look inside our box …

The analogy of a box allows us the safety of the interior and the unknown of the exterior.  Our physical bodies are represented by the box.  My physical body has many forms.  I am a hockey player.  I am a guitar player.  I am a teacher.  I am a triathlete.  I am a friend.  And I have so many more roles in life.  Our bodies are quite sturdy and capable of withstanding a decent amount of what life can throw at it.  Our box may be kicked, punched, yelled at, screamed at, defaced or covered with graffiti.  The world can see the damage done to the exterior.  The world cannot see our interior.

The safety of the interior can initially seem like a prison.  I am guilty of becoming trapped in my own thoughts and becoming stagnant in my life.  It was not until I became comfortable with what was on the interior of my box that I began to smile more, give more and love more.  As we look deeper into our box, a place where no one but ourselves can dwell, we must become comfortable with what we find.  Do we love ourselves?  Even when the world attempts to destroy us, what beauty is inside the box?

No one will ever truly see the inside of our box.  A family member, friend, loved one, spouse … we will share some of what is inside, but the lid will never be fully open.  We are the only person with knowledge of its contents.  As we take a moment to look in our box, do the contents make us smile?  make us laugh?  make us fall in love with ourselves?

Svadhyaya – Self Study

Svadhyaya, or self-study, is about knowing our true identity as Divine and understanding the boxes we are wrapped in.  This process of knowing ourselves, and the boxes that adorn us, creates a pathway to freedom.

The yogis teach that we, as human beings, are packaged much like this diamond ring.  We are, at the core, divine consciousness.  Around this pure consciousness, we are packed in “boxes” of our experience, our conditioning, and our belief systems.  These boxes are things like how we identify ourselves, what we believe to be true, our preferences and dislikes, our fears and imagination.  All of these boxes are informed by country, culture, gender, town, ancestors and family history, groups we belong to, and our personal experience.

We suffer, the yogis tell us, because we forget who we are.  We think we are the boxes we are wrapped in and forget that we are really the Divine “holding” inside.  We can find clues about our boxes by watching our projections, by the process of tracing our reactions back to a belief, and by courageously looking at life as it is.  This process of knowing ourselves, and the boxes that adorn us, creates a pathway to freedom.

Book – “The Yamas and Niyamas” by Deborah Adele

PERFORMANCE YOGA – 03.02.15 (Body Language – Part 2)

Take a moment to check out these body language statistics.  Pretty cool.  http://publicwords.com/the-body-language-infographic/

There is a motto that states, “fake it ’til you make it.”  It is an interesting motto.  There are a number of us that live by this motto.  I’ll dare to ask … why?  Life isn’t easy.  I agree.  I’ll dare to ask … when was the last time we smiled?  Something that made me smile today was this …

IMG_20150303_111554419_HDR

I’m extremely blessed to be a middle grades educator (in my twelfth year) by day and a Yoga instructor by night.  Are middle schoolers perfect every day?  Nope.  Do they make me laugh, get frustrated, cry, get upset, and get out of my comfort zone?  Yep.  My scholars see me every day.  They see my body language.  If I come into class without a smile, then they know something is wrong.  Their day may be negatively affected by my mood.  I may truly be having a bad start to my day, but the present moment is an amazing place.  In the moment that they enter our classroom, we transform from individuals into a family.  We bring all of us to the room, but we respect that the moments we have together.  So we smile … a lot :).  Not because we are faking it, but because we find the beauty in our moments together.  Isn’t that a beautiful moment above?  #fishface

My point in sharing them with you is that we all have jobs that are hard.  We might have a frustrating boss, a co-worker that can push our buttons to the point of tears, or that person or team that always seems to know how to defeat us.  Do we “fake it ’til we make it” or do we choose our BEST?
1.  https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-body-blog/201411/don-t-fake-it-until-you-make-it-7-zen-habits
2.  http://www.inc.com/christina-desmarais/why-fake-it-til-you-make-it-bad-advice.html
3.  http://darrenhardy.success.com/2014/08/dont-fake-it/

We can challenge ourselves to change the motto.  Perhaps we can roll with “love it ’til we make it.”  Each moment affords us a chance to create so many sweet life pictures.  Our next training session allows us to fall back in love with our sport or hobby.  It gives us that moment to remember why we truly love what we spend hours and hours upon.  We were only able to capture one brief moment above.  Let’s take this brief moment to smile, show our BEST and display the amazing person that we are.  Our body language says more about us than our words can ever say.

Body Language – Make a Golden Impression (Part 2)

1.  Just smile, you’ll feel better.  Findings from a 1988 research study by psychologist Fritz Strack and his colleagues revealed that simply creating a smile by clenching a pen lightly between the teeth will almost immediately make people feel happier about what it is they are doing.  So keep this discovery in mind when you need a quick boost in mood.  Put a big confident smile on your face!

2.  Always give your BEST.  Psychologist John Clabby has coined a handy acronym for giving one’s BEST – “Body Language, Eye Contact, Speech, and Tone of Voice.”  Working on them at practices will make them automatic in competition.

3.  Dress for Success.  Wear your uniform with pride.  Deion Sanders excelled at the highest level in both football and baseball.  “If you look good, you feel good.  And if you feel good, you play good.  If you play good, they pay good.”

Techniques to build your mental strength in practices and games include utilizing the BEST routine, valuing your appearance, and putting on a smile to push you past your perceived physical limitations.

BOOK – “The Champion’s Mind:  How Great Athletes think, train and thrive.” by Jim Afremow  (BUY IT!)

YAMAS AND NIYAMAS – 02.24.15 (Tapas – The Control Burn)

Farmers use the concept of a “control burn” or “agricultural burn” to clear their fields of material that is no longer needed.  Growth has occurred and the crop has been since taken away.  What is left no longer serves a purpose and it must be removed to make way for new growth.  The removal of the waste material is the foundation for new growth.  Fire provides that transition.  In the presence of the fire, the organic material releases energy from the burn and cycles through the Earth.  In the wake of the destruction, new life grows and the waste has been the foundation!  

http://www.kinston.com/news/local/controlled-burning-prepares-ground-for-season-s-crops-1.160681

In the article, there is a quote that stands out.  “The only thing the farmers have to be really careful of is making sure that the fire doesn’t hop over that fire break and get into nearby surrounding woods,” Adams said. “On rare occasions, that does happen.”  The fire itself is all consuming and some of us are just not ready for the transformation.  Transformation cannot be forced upon us.  Maturity through Tapas happens when we are ready to let go.  I ran and ran from Tapas for a majority of my life because of the fear of what I would lose in the fire.  We all hold something with a tight grip because of fear.  A memory, a possible future, a person, an object … and we are driven by fear to not let go and possibly miss the experience of what may rise from its burning.

When we enter into Tapas, we are entering a field that is on fire.  We may not be aware of what that fire will consume about us, but we rest assured that we will be changed for the positive.  This doesn’t occur magically once in our lives, but becomes a routine.  As farmers practice this annually, what can the practice of Tapas grow in us each present moment?

Tapas – The Control Burn

Somewhere we forget that we had to learn how to walk, like young birds had to learn to fly.  We forget how many times we fell.  We forget that things take practice.  Ray Charles was asked later on in his career if he still practiced and prepared for concerts.  He replied that he played scales everyday, because when the scales were in his fingers, he could play anything.  The question becomes for us, what are we practicing for?  When is the last time we asked ourselves this question?

In yoga, having a daily disciplined practice is referred to as Sadhana and is much like doing a small controlled burn on ourselves.  It is the discipline of putting ourselves in places where the old debris that has collected in us can be removed.  We engaged in this process when we pay attention to the amount and kind of food we put in our body, when we move and exercise our bodies through walks, yoga, and other activities, or when we expand our mental ability.

Lord make me an instrument of thy peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
Where is injury, pardon;
Where there is doubt, faith;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
Where there is sadness, joy.
– St. Francis of Assisi

This is a profound plea to change us from haters to lovers and from disturbers of peace to makers of peace.  This is the prayer of Tapas, and it invites us to be in life in a different way.

Book – “The Yamas and Niyamas” by Deborah Adele

PERFORMANCE YOGA – 02.23.15 (Body Language – Part 1)

A key topic in the business world is a term called “power pose.”  It’s all about body language.  It’s all about the persona you project.

The TED Talk above does a great job of explaining the detail to which body language has been studied.  And it has been researched to quite a deep level.  The speaker explains how these postures can truly change our body chemistry.  It is incredible to see (literally) how our physical posture can either aid or damage our body.

1.  Increase in Testosterone – http://www.healthline.com/health-slideshow/benefits-testosterone (Benefits of Testosterone)
2.  Decrease in Cortisol – http://www.adrenalfatigue.org/cortisol-adrenal-function (Dangers of Sustained High Levels of Cortisol)
3.  Study Proving Data – http://www.people.hbs.edu/acuddy/in%20press,%20carney,%20cuddy,%20&%20yap,%20psych%20science.pdf

Tonight in class we took the time to hold postures a little longer than we typically do.  We were very powerful.  Airplane, Warrior 2, Side Angle and Reverse Warrior asked us to be strong, open and powerful.  Why did we do this?  Because we knew the benefits, internally and externally, that our bodies would absolutely thrive on.

Western culture asks us to hunch over our computers, curl in to look at our phones, and slouch down in our couches.  I’m guilty of all of these (even as I sit here typing this).  Am I saying that we should refrain from all?  No.  “Everything in moderation, including moderation” is the popular phrase from Oscar Wilde.  So let’s hunch over our computers in moderation, curl in to look at our phones in moderation, and slouch down in our couches in moderation.  With amazing benefits of increased testosterone and decreased cortisol, how will we let the world see us?  

Pregame is always an interesting time in a sporting event.  Players and coaches usually do the “eye test.”  They watch one another closely for information.  Incredible to think that posturing prior to games isn’t “show-boating” … there’s science here that proves that it has profound positive effects.  So it’s fourth and goal … game is tied and you have one free throw left … penalty shot is called and the goalie looks on … what will we show the world?  Show power!  Nothing can beat us … no matter what!

Body Language – Make a Golden Impression (Part 1)

Body language is a two-way process:  Your own body language reveals your thoughts and feelings to others; and other people’s body language reveals their thoughts and feelings to you.

On game day, what is your body language saying?  What image do you want to project?

Positive/Upbeat Body Language – Smiling, Chin up, Shoulders back/Chest out, Standing tall, Walking strong.

Negative/Glum Body Language – Frowning, Shaking your head, Eyes downcast, Shoulders hunched, Dragging your feet.

When you are gassed at practice, stand tall and walk strong.

Your body language will send the right message to the opposition:  You can’t be mentally beaten or fazed – no matter what happens.

BOOK – “The Champion’s Mind:  How Great Athletes think, train and thrive.” by Jim Afremow  (BUY IT!)