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Zen and the Art of Vroom Vroom

My dad once told me he likes to ride motorcycles because, “the bullshit blows off in the wind.”

I agree. And there’s almost science to prove him right.

My dog and I used to live in the mountains, with lots of wildlife frequenting our windows and yard. On one occasion, a bird flew in the house (to my dog’s delight), hit a skylight (not to the bird’s delight), and fell to the ground, motionless.

Knowing the trauma response common to many animals, I wrapped him up and took him outside to a safe place, where he lay still for hours, until finally shaking and flying off to wherever tiny mountain birds go.

When an animal faces a traumatic event, once clear of the danger it pauses and shakes. This is how animals naturally respond, as kind of a system reset so they don’t carry stress with them, like humans do.

(Read more about this in Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers, by Robert M. Sapolsky.)

People are just bipedal animals with egos. We have the same need to release trauma and stress as our four-legged and winged friends, and when we don’t, it gets stored in our bodies. We need to shake sometimes, just like we have a need to lie down when we’re tired or how our bodies bruise when we run into a table.

But because we’re humans, we also have the incredible ability to ignore how we feel. We can stifle trauma, stress, grief, and pain for a very long time before the body gives up and forces us to listen. Have you ever had a really stressful week, and then you’re sick all weekend? That’s your body asking you to slow down. Shaking is one way to release the stuck stuff in your system.

Don’t believe me? Listen to this PTS survivor’s relationship to trauma and shaking.257H (1)

So here’s my theory: The vibration of a motorcycle is similar to the stress/trauma shaking response. It’s literally shaking your whole body while your system’s stress or, “the bullshit,” moves. You can also call this “wind therapy,” if you like.

I don’t have research or scientific evidence to back this up. But from my experiences on motorcycles, there’s certainly something freeing, something that shifts the present experience into something lighter and more manageable.

If you don’t have easy access to a motorcycle, luckily there are other tools to help us learn to listen to our bodies and prevent or deal with the eventual “crash” of ignoring symptoms. Therapeutic yoga can help connect you to these tools. Whether you’re ready to join a public class, try a one-on-one session, or receive tools from a virtual session in your home, know that the tools are available for you, and all you have to do is ask.

Self Care Inquiry

“Sattva is growing in consciousness through self-care and right living.” – Durga

The idea of self-care is very attractive and can be so vague. I frequently hear students and yoga teachers (myself included) with the intentions of self-care, and when I ask what that means to them, it’s usually left as a question mark.

Does self-care mean going to bed at a certain time? If something tastes good, spit it out? Does self-care need to have a specific emotion or task behind it? Read more

Yoga Nidra Through the Koshas

One of the primary causes of suffering in humans is the feeling or belief of a separate self, individual from other humans, animals and nature. This kind of self-separateness can make our experiences feel big, unmanageable or overwhelming. Inviting reminders of connection and unity can help relieve these unnecessary sufferings and better connect us to our true selves.

Yoga is union, integration or the absence of conflict. Practices like yoga nidra (yogic sleep) can help us remember our union throughout the constant flux of remembering and forgetting who we really are. Read more

Why I Talk to my Body

“Hey knees. I’m really grateful for all the ways you let me move and play. I know we’ve had our disagreements over the years, but I feel like we’re taking care of each other these days. I appreciate you. I love you. I’m sorry about the scrapes and bruises . . . but that was fun, eh?”

This is a pretty typical conversation between me and my body. It’s a casual chat in gratitude for all the parts that keep me going how I’m going. Read more

The Impact of Language

Gratitude

“Gratitude”

In 1994, Masaru Emoto started conducting a series of experiments to determine the effects of different energies—through pictures, words, and music—on water crystals. What he found was nothing short of amazing: In his experiments with words, the water that was exposed to positive words like “gratitude,” “truth,” and “peace,” created beautiful, symmetrical patterned water crystals. In contrast, the water that was exposed to negative words like “evil,” “you disgust me,” and “you fool,” created disfigured crystals.

“Evil”

Emoto’s experiments found that the words we use have a huge impact on the physical form of water. Read more

The Curious Emotional Circle

elliebio2Some of my best learnings are prompted by my dog.

A few weeks ago we had a home disaster (a literal s#!t storm) that involved calling three plumbers to the rescue. While they waited outside my house, terrified of my dog, she got more and more excited about the idea of seeing people.

When I got home I let them in and introduced them to my very friendly, albeit highly enthusiastic, dog. In her extremely excited state, she got to the point where she could no longer physically contain her emotion and threw up all over the floor in front of the plumbers. I was laughing so hard I had to sit down, and the plumbers looked at us like we were both crazy. Read more

Yoga on the Slopes

While yoga can be a beautiful preparation for the athletics of skiing, it can also be a great way to keep your muscles working between runs.

Skiing specifically puts stress on the quads, gluteus, hip flexors, and IT band. You might also feel tight in your shoulders or back if you’re skiing tense. After a full morning of powder (or ice, or whatever else the mountains throw at you), you might be feeling it and in need of a good stretch. Instead of unbuckling, unsnapping, un-velcroing all of your gear, take a couple minutes to stretch out in your skis or boots.

Try out these geared-up stretches on the mountain: Read more

Dear Yogi – A Love Letter

Dear yogi—

I was so proud of your for trying your first yoga class. I was there when you went way out of your comfort zone, when you apologized to the teacher for being new. I was there when you looked around the room to see if you were doing the same thing as everyone else, as you adjusted your baggy running clothes. I saw your self-consciousness and your weakened ego.

I saw you before you saw yourself. I watched as you came back for more, determined and a little angry with your body. I listened to the pleas for your legs to stop shaking, for your brow to stop sweating, for your heart to stop pounding. I listened when you stopped breathing. I was there when you remembered to breathe. Read more

Non-Attachment

“Abhyasa Vairagyabhyam Tannirodhah” –Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras 1.12

The idea of non-attachment is foundational to yoga. In the Yoga Sutras, Sri Swami Satchidananda translates Patanjali’s 1.12 sutra as “These mental modifications are restrained by practice and non-attachment.” The “mental modifications” are fluctuations of the mind, mind chatter, or really anything that takes us away from the present moment.

Through a combined one-two punch of yoga practice and non-attachment, Patanjali says we can free ourselves from those fluctuations and just be here now. Read more

Old Patterns and New Choices

“If you think you’re enlightened, go spend a week with your family.” – Ram Dass

For those of us who traveled away from Boulder for the holidays, we can be pretty quickly confronted with the reality of the world beyond our bubble.

There is a certain flavor of the place we grew up, the people who helped shape us into the people we are today. Sometimes it’s exciting or nostalgic to look back on those people and places. Sometimes it’s painful or sad.

Whatever the flavor of “home,” relational patterns tend to resurface when we’re around our families, even after being away for a year or more. These old patterns might throw us off our yogic center, trigger something, or push a button. Read more