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Photo by Anupam Mahapatra on Unsplash
by Lucinda Staniland

Movement. It’s a big deal. Humans move often, and in varied ways, and when we don’t do this (like when we sit for 8+ hours a day which is the norm in many countries now) there are consequences. Most of us will have experienced some of these consequences in our own bodies to some extent, whether that’s through pain, injuries, disease or other physical challenges.

In recent times, yoga has become increasingly popular as a way to get moving.

Of course, there’s much more to yoga than asana, but in this article, it’s specifically the movement aspect of yoga that I’m fascinated by, and that’s what I’ll focus on.

In yoga class, we mindfully move our bodies in diverse ways: We learn to coordinate the movement of our limbs and core. We hone our ability to balance. We notice where we are restricted and begin to develop greater mobility in those areas. We build strength. We pay attention to the breath and calm our nervous systems.

So yes, there’s a lot of good movement opportunities going on in yoga. And yet, what I’m discovering for myself is that there’s more to movement than yoga, a lot more in fact.

And by only practicing yoga, I’ve been missing out on some crucial movement ‘nutrients’, to borrow from biomechanist Katy Bowman’s concept of nutritious movement

“I propose that movement, like food, is not optional; that ailments you may be experiencing are simply (and complexly) symptoms of movement hunger in response to a movement diet that is dangerously low in terms of quantity and poor in terms of quality—meaning you aren’t getting the full spectrum of movement nutrition necessary for a baseline human function.”

Katy Bowman, Move Your DNA

When I first discovered yoga it was a revelation. At the age of seventeen, I was fit and active. Growing up I played a variety of sports and did lots of walking, running and cycling. In terms of movement nutrients, these activities involved plenty of endurance and fitness and certain kinds of strength and power, but I was deficient in mobility, balance and coordination.

Enter yoga. I’d never moved like that before and I was blown away by it. The movements I learnt in yoga class challenged and delighted me in equal measures with a combination of mobility, coordination, balance, strength and relaxation. In that first year, I learnt a plethora of new movement skills and I began to feel at home in my body in a way I had never known before.

But then yoga became my main form of movement. I stopped playing sports and instead I spent my evenings and weekends attending classes and workshops. I also had a home yoga practice which I did every morning.

This continued for the next eight years. I just wasn’t interested in trying anything else. I liked yoga, I was good at yoga, and it had (or so I thought!) everything that I needed in terms of movement. I came to believe that other forms of movement were somewhat dangerous or unsafe, like running, for example, which I was sure would wear down my knees. I was also attached to the identity that came with being a person who practiced yoga, especially as yoga became increasingly trendy, mainstream and universally perceived as ‘healthy’.

But I wasn’t healthy. Despite my regular yoga practice and an almost obsessive focus on ‘safe alignment’, I developed injuries and chronic pain. 

Fearful of more injuries and pain, I moved less and focused on ‘safe’ and therapeutic yoga poses. I stopped going to group yoga classes because I no longer trusted yoga teachers to keep me safe. And still the pain and injuries continued, in fact, they got worse. In desperation, I was finally driven to consider other movement options. I’d heard about Feldenkrais before but I’d thought it was slow, boring and just not that cool, something for stiff old people, not my young, flexible self.

But when I gave it a go, I had another movement revelation, no less profound than my first yoga class. Once again, I encountered a way of approaching movement that was totally new to me, and which had powerful effects on my bodymind. In Feldenkrais, I did not encounter strict alignment principles, nor did the teacher adjust me or try to get into a ‘correct’ position. There were certainly no impressive postures to post on Instagram later. Instead, there was playful, explorative movement, guided by a profound understanding of the nervous system and brain.

Exploring this kind of movement heightened my awareness of how I was moving and opened up new possibilities, and it got me out of my head and away from my increasing obsession with ‘alignment’. And it finally clicked that other movement practices might have something to offer me that yoga couldn’t

After this epiphany, I started taking Tai Chi lessons at my local community centre. It’s another form of movement that I previously considered b-o-r-i-n-g, but turns out that I love it! It challenges my coordination and balance in ways that are brand new to me, and it exposes me to different ways of thinking about movement and breathing.

Some of the movement nutrients that I was most deficient in during my eight-year yoga-only diet were strength and power. So I’ve started to build up my intake of those nutrients by exploring jumping, hanging, crawling, squat and lifting heavy things. Some of this I do at home or at work (I love incorporating ‘movement snacks’ into my day as much as possible) and some of it I’m practicing with a personal trainer and in gym classes.

I’ve even started running again, just for the pleasure of it, and damn does it feel good!

I’m excited by all the different ways there are to move and experience my body, and I sense that this is where I’ll find healing and growth.

In addition to getting more movement nutrients, there’s also value – for the body, brain and nervous system – in simply moving differently. Kathryn Bruni-Young, a yoga teacher whose personal story is similar to my own, writes about the magic of novel movements:

“If novel movements have little to no associations, we can have new experiences of our bodies when we practice. This is really good news for those of us who have experienced pain and injury or are just feeling uninspired… When we practice and move in new ways that we aren’t used to (but are accessible and appropriate for us) we are able to have new and hopefully enjoyable and playful experiences of our body. When we learn new strength movements we are able to experience ourselves as strong and capable, this provides benefits that far surpass tissue health and bone density.”

Kathryn Bruni-Young

And while it’s certainly possible to incorporate more novel movements into an existing yoga practice, I’ve personally found value in stepping outside of the yoga world altogether.

Don’t get me wrong, I love yoga. I think it’s an amazing practice and it has provided me with a useful education in certain ways of moving.

I also don’t blame yoga for the pain and injuries I’ve experienced. It’s not the fault of my yoga practice, it’s my fault for only doing yoga and nothing else.

Because yoga does not, as it’s generally taught, provide the full spectrum of movement nutrients. It has a healthy dose of mobility, flexibility, balance, coordination and a fair bit of strength, but it’s definitely deficient in power, fitness and endurance. And, as I’ve discovered, in certain kinds of mobility, coordination and strength. (Check out this excellent article from Jenni Rawlings for a more thorough breakdown of how yoga stacks up in each of these categories)

The problem is not yoga per se, the problem is that most of us modern humans don’t move often or in varied ways—most of us deficient in a LOT of movement nutrients—and we need a varied, nutrient-dense movement practice to make up for that. We can’t meet all of our movement needs from yoga alone, or maybe we can, but only if we practised yoga in a specific way (and probably incorporating movements from other disciplines!).

Plus it’s fun, mind-expanding and liberating to play with new ways of moving that aren’t part of the yogic repertoire. The human bodymind is complex. It makes sense to me that no one movement modality will have it all figured out, but that there’s something of value I can learn from all of them.

There are so many different ways to move well and in varied ways. Your way could (and most likely will) look completely different from the path I’m taking, depending on your goals, needs and context.

If I could give one recommendation, it would be to experiment with an activity that is different from what you normally do. If you’ve never taken dance classes before, why not try it? Or how about strength training? Surfing? Pilates? Rock climbing? Martial arts? Extra points if you pick things that help correct some of your movement nutrient deficiencies!

What I’ve found for myself is that exploring different ways to move makes me feel better in my body.

Yup, it just feels SO damn good to move and play and get present in my body in different ways (not to mention getting stronger, more powerful, more coordinated, more mobile, and more balanced) that I naturally want to move more.

There’s a whole world of movement out there to explore, get to it!

About Lucinda

Lucinda has worked at The Yoga Lunchbox since 2012 and has been the Editor since 2017. She loves the opportunity to be constantly immersed in the world of yoga, and particularly in the vibrant NZ yoga community. Lucinda is also a constantly curious learner and researcher, particularly in the areas of movement and health.

She loves to hear from Yoga Lunchbox readers, so get in touch with her via email with your questions, ideas and stories.

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Photo by Anupam Mahapatra on Unsplash
by Lucinda Staniland

Movement. It’s a big deal. Humans move often, and in varied ways, and when we don’t do this (like when we sit for 8+ hours a day which is the norm in many countries now) there are consequences. Most of us will have experienced some of these consequences in our own bodies to some extent, whether that’s through pain, injuries, disease or other physical challenges.

In recent times, yoga has become increasingly popular as a way to get moving.

Of course, there’s much more to yoga than asana, but in this article, it’s specifically the movement aspect of yoga that I’m fascinated by, and that’s what I’ll focus on.

In yoga class, we mindfully move our bodies in diverse ways: We learn to coordinate the movement of our limbs and core. We hone our ability to balance. We notice where we are restricted and begin to develop greater mobility in those areas. We build strength. We pay attention to the breath and calm our nervous systems.

So yes, there’s a lot of good movement opportunities going on in yoga. And yet, what I’m discovering for myself is that there’s more to movement than yoga, a lot more in fact.

And by only practicing yoga, I’ve been missing out on some crucial movement ‘nutrients’, to borrow from biomechanist Katy Bowman’s concept of nutritious movement

“I propose that movement, like food, is not optional; that ailments you may be experiencing are simply (and complexly) symptoms of movement hunger in response to a movement diet that is dangerously low in terms of quantity and poor in terms of quality—meaning you aren’t getting the full spectrum of movement nutrition necessary for a baseline human function.”

Katy Bowman, Move Your DNA

When I first discovered yoga it was a revelation. At the age of seventeen, I was fit and active. Growing up I played a variety of sports and did lots of walking, running and cycling. In terms of movement nutrients, these activities involved plenty of endurance and fitness and certain kinds of strength and power, but I was deficient in mobility, balance and coordination.

Enter yoga. I’d never moved like that before and I was blown away by it. The movements I learnt in yoga class challenged and delighted me in equal measures with a combination of mobility, coordination, balance, strength and relaxation. In that first year, I learnt a plethora of new movement skills and I began to feel at home in my body in a way I had never known before.

But then yoga became my main form of movement. I stopped playing sports and instead I spent my evenings and weekends attending classes and workshops. I also had a home yoga practice which I did every morning.

This continued for the next eight years. I just wasn’t interested in trying anything else. I liked yoga, I was good at yoga, and it had (or so I thought!) everything that I needed in terms of movement. I came to believe that other forms of movement were somewhat dangerous or unsafe, like running, for example, which I was sure would wear down my knees. I was also attached to the identity that came with being a person who practiced yoga, especially as yoga became increasingly trendy, mainstream and universally perceived as ‘healthy’.

But I wasn’t healthy. Despite my regular yoga practice and an almost obsessive focus on ‘safe alignment’, I developed injuries and chronic pain. 

Fearful of more injuries and pain, I moved less and focused on ‘safe’ and therapeutic yoga poses. I stopped going to group yoga classes because I no longer trusted yoga teachers to keep me safe. And still the pain and injuries continued, in fact, they got worse. In desperation, I was finally driven to consider other movement options. I’d heard about Feldenkrais before but I’d thought it was slow, boring and just not that cool, something for stiff old people, not my young, flexible self.

But when I gave it a go, I had another movement revelation, no less profound than my first yoga class. Once again, I encountered a way of approaching movement that was totally new to me, and which had powerful effects on my bodymind. In Feldenkrais, I did not encounter strict alignment principles, nor did the teacher adjust me or try to get into a ‘correct’ position. There were certainly no impressive postures to post on Instagram later. Instead, there was playful, explorative movement, guided by a profound understanding of the nervous system and brain.

Exploring this kind of movement heightened my awareness of how I was moving and opened up new possibilities, and it got me out of my head and away from my increasing obsession with ‘alignment’. And it finally clicked that other movement practices might have something to offer me that yoga couldn’t

After this epiphany, I started taking Tai Chi lessons at my local community centre. It’s another form of movement that I previously considered b-o-r-i-n-g, but turns out that I love it! It challenges my coordination and balance in ways that are brand new to me, and it exposes me to different ways of thinking about movement and breathing.

Some of the movement nutrients that I was most deficient in during my eight-year yoga-only diet were strength and power. So I’ve started to build up my intake of those nutrients by exploring jumping, hanging, crawling, squat and lifting heavy things. Some of this I do at home or at work (I love incorporating ‘movement snacks’ into my day as much as possible) and some of it I’m practicing with a personal trainer and in gym classes.

I’ve even started running again, just for the pleasure of it, and damn does it feel good!

I’m excited by all the different ways there are to move and experience my body, and I sense that this is where I’ll find healing and growth.

In addition to getting more movement nutrients, there’s also value – for the body, brain and nervous system – in simply moving differently. Kathryn Bruni-Young, a yoga teacher whose personal story is similar to my own, writes about the magic of novel movements:

“If novel movements have little to no associations, we can have new experiences of our bodies when we practice. This is really good news for those of us who have experienced pain and injury or are just feeling uninspired… When we practice and move in new ways that we aren’t used to (but are accessible and appropriate for us) we are able to have new and hopefully enjoyable and playful experiences of our body. When we learn new strength movements we are able to experience ourselves as strong and capable, this provides benefits that far surpass tissue health and bone density.”

Kathryn Bruni-Young

And while it’s certainly possible to incorporate more novel movements into an existing yoga practice, I’ve personally found value in stepping outside of the yoga world altogether.

Don’t get me wrong, I love yoga. I think it’s an amazing practice and it has provided me with a useful education in certain ways of moving.

I also don’t blame yoga for the pain and injuries I’ve experienced. It’s not the fault of my yoga practice, it’s my fault for only doing yoga and nothing else.

Because yoga does not, as it’s generally taught, provide the full spectrum of movement nutrients. It has a healthy dose of mobility, flexibility, balance, coordination and a fair bit of strength, but it’s definitely deficient in power, fitness and endurance. And, as I’ve discovered, in certain kinds of mobility, coordination and strength. (Check out this excellent article from Jenni Rawlings for a more thorough breakdown of how yoga stacks up in each of these categories)

The problem is not yoga per se, the problem is that most of us modern humans don’t move often or in varied ways—most of us deficient in a LOT of movement nutrients—and we need a varied, nutrient-dense movement practice to make up for that. We can’t meet all of our movement needs from yoga alone, or maybe we can, but only if we practised yoga in a specific way (and probably incorporating movements from other disciplines!).

Plus it’s fun, mind-expanding and liberating to play with new ways of moving that aren’t part of the yogic repertoire. The human bodymind is complex. It makes sense to me that no one movement modality will have it all figured out, but that there’s something of value I can learn from all of them.

There are so many different ways to move well and in varied ways. Your way could (and mostly likely will) look completely different from the path I’m taking, depending on your goals, needs and context.

If I could give one recommendation, it would be to experiment with an activity that is different from what you normally do. If you’ve never taken dance classes before, why not try it? Or how about strength training? Surfing? Pilates? Rock climbing? Martial arts? Extra points if you pick things that help correct some of your movement nutrient deficiencies!

What I’ve found for myself is that exploring different ways to move just makes me feel better in my body.

Yup, it just feels SO damn good to move and play and get present in my body in different ways (not to mention getting stronger, more powerful, more coordinated, more mobile, and more balanced) than I naturally want to move more!

There’s a whole world of movement out there to explore, get to it!

About Lucinda

Lucinda has worked at The Yoga Lunchbox since 2012 and has been the Editor since 2017. She loves the opportunity to be constantly immersed in the world of yoga, and particularly in the vibrant NZ yoga community. Lucinda is also a constantly curious learner and researcher, particularly in the areas of movement and health.

She loves to hear from Yoga Lunchbox readers, so get in touch with her via email with your questions, ideas and stories.

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Jase Te Patu, winner of the 2018 Mind Body award, with Persephone Singfield
by Persephone Singfield, Courage My Love

Hey New Zealand – it’s time to nominate your favourite yoga teacher for ExerciseNZ’s Mind Body Award!

True Dedication

You may not realise it but hundreds of hours go into making an amazing yoga teacher. It takes true dedication and your teacher will have studied and practiced to get to a point where he or she can hold the space for your transformation within that short amount of time we call a yoga class.

Like in any professional field, yoga teachers who have put in the hours and live by their teachings stand out in our community. Now is your chance to honour your favourite yoga teachers for the hard work, long hours and dedication they have given to the role.

Yoga teachers teach for the love of it! The Mind Body Award is a way to give them some love back.

How to Nominate your Favourite Yoga Teacher

Head on over to the Exercise Industry Awards Website: exerciseindustryawards.co.nz and nominate that special teacher for the national Mind Body Award. Teachers can also enter themselves for the Awards here.

Select Nominate from the top menu, fill out the form and click the Submit Nomination button at the bottom of the page. Be sure to select Group Exercise: Mind Body in response to “Which Category are you nominating them for?”

Proud Sponsor

Courage My Love is the 2019 sponsor for the Mind Body Award category. The winners of this award are those who have made an impact on others through teaching exercise which brings both the mind and body together. Many yoga teachers do exactly that!

Exercise NZ is a non-profit organisation that proactively supports a sustainable exercise and fitness industry in New Zealand by growing participation in structured exercise through advocacy, information and industry standards. ExerciseNZ now also specifically support yoga teachers in New Zealand and they host the annual Hauora Yoga Conference and Hauora Yoga Roadshow.

As part of their mission, ExerciseNZ created the Exercise Industry Awards which have been running since 2005 and are designed to recognise those making a contribution to the health and wellness of New Zealanders through exercise and fitness.

Last Year’s Winner

This is Courage My Love’s fifth year sponsoring the Mind Body award category and we’re thrilled to be recognizing the great work of yoga teachers. Jase Te Patu of M3 Mindfulness for Children and Awhi Yoga won last year – out of all the entrants he exemplified the ideal Mind Body teacher.

Here’s what the judges had to say about Jase:

“Jase embodies Maori principles and values into his yoga teaching, offering his students a rich philosophical tapestry to practice by. He is a leader in his ability to teach from the heart and guide a wide range of people deeply into mind-body connection.”

And in our opinion, that’s what yoga is really about: connecting the mind and body in a way that makes you feel amazing.

Feeling Awesome after Yoga

Have you ever felt completely awesome on all levels after finishing a yoga class?

Chances are you have. That’s why yoga is so popular – it works!

As yoga students, we get to attend a class (sometimes entering it in quite a stressed-out state) and be completely guided by our yoga teacher. We breathe deep and trust our teacher to guide us through a mind and body experience. A good yoga teacher creates a class which can help us quench our deep thirst for ‘me time’. Yoga class becomes a timeout for ourselves and a much-needed break from our daily routines.

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by Susan Pryor,

Kara-Leah Grant’s third book, Sex, Drugs and (mostly) Yoga: Field Notes from a Kundalini Awakening, is an epic auto-biographical journey spanning fourteen years of Kara-Leah’s life.

The journey begins in an acute psyche ward in Vancouver where Kara-Leah found herself after her first psychotic episode involving hallucinogenic drugs.

Kara-Leah, a practicing yogini, went from being a freedom-loving 29-year-old engaged to-be-married party girl indulging in various recreational drugs and freelancing as a journalist in Whistler to being diagnosed Bi-Polar II and committed to the psych ward after her second psychotic break a few weeks later. The book ends up some 14 years on – or as Kara-Leah writes; “half a Saturn cycle – it takes Saturn between 27 to 29 years to travel through our natal chart” – back in her home country New Zealand, now a successful author, retreat leader extra-ordinaire and life-transformer walking what she calls the path of the ‘Awakened Heart Warrior’.

In Sex, Drugs and (mostly) Yoga: Field Notes from a Kundalini Awakening we travel this half Saturnine cycle between these two times and places with Kara-Leah as she explores the part drugs, sex and yoga played in her psychosis or ‘awakening’ as she describes it.

As Kara-Leah’s journey continues, she learns that there is a significant and growing body of health and alternative holistic practitioners and yogis who recognise ‘that Kundalini awakening could look like psychosis’, leading Kara-Leah to ask, “are the world’s psych wards actually littered with people who were not psychologically prepared for the purifying power of Kundalini?”

As she explores these questions, I admire Kara-Leah for being the kinda’ author that has real guts; the kinda’ guts that lie at the heart-of-courage! As a result, I feel that sometimes it takes guts to read her work. When I first heard that the title of her latest book was Sex, Drugs & (mostly) Yoga; I was certain there would be challenges. A quick skim of the book and I discovered this is not a read for the faint-of-heart! And not being faint-of-heart I resolved to navigate this courageous work.

I felt Kara-Leah’s writing of ‘Sex, Drugs & (mostly) Yoga’ to be resoundingly-undoubtedly courageous and as a result, I believe it takes a courageous heart to read this book.

When I began reading this book the intensity shocked me, (now, coming from the heart I experience this as more of ‘awesome’ than ‘shock’). It caused me to question myself, then critique my choices and; then – above-all I discovered as I read I was generously offered a portal into becoming ‘honest’ with myself – as honesty-begets-honesty, but only – only if I had the courage and compassion! Three reads in and the courage and compassion are without doubt!

At first, I journeyed at times being barely able to breathe, eyes glued to each word and sentence as page-after-page-turning-page drew me into the extra-ordinary boldness Kara-Leah exhibits as she contemplates; “What response was truth? What was unconditional love? Could I hold him in his truth without betraying mine?” These sentences stood out to me because this became the on-going paradigm that was my reading companion as I took in Kara-Leah’s words, exposing her experiences, laying out her life – stripped bare – and I found myself asking; “What is my response here – what is my truth? What is unconditional love here as I read this and can I continue to hold Kara-Leah in her nakedness-of-truth while daring to view my own nakedness in my own truth…”

At times I wondered, is this book too much book, too much truth, too intense, too intimate for me?

Yet – read on I did! The words and sentences and pages unrolled before me effortlessly in a story-that-isn’t-a-story, but Kara-Leah’s truth; as Kara-Leah herself says in the Prologue “This memoir is not “what happened” … It is just my perspective…”

Kara-Leah strips herself bare in this book; I believe not so much to reveal herself publicly; but with her trade-mark huge-hearted-love, to offer me, the reader a way into the labyrinth of self-discovery and compassion – compassion; because I know from my own experience that compassion is absolutely essential on the journey one takes in peeling back the layers – to discover the truth of who one is, in the eternal existential quest of humanity to know, ‘Who am I – really?’

‘Why’; Kara-Leah asks; ‘are we so afraid to feel emotional pain? Why are we so afraid to be emotional in front of other people?’

From the start, she dives straight in with brutally raw honesty and there-in was the sensual challenge I met as ‘the reader’; could I match her pace; word-for-word feeling the belly-blows, the heart-wrenches and mind-fucks; as page after page they landed before my eyes…?

At the same time, the thread of compassion woven through-out ‘Sex, Drugs & (mostly) Yoga’ oft as not brought me to tears and feelings of the breath-being-baited and fingers-crossed at moments of joy; deliciously expressed, as Kara-Leah does, in words that evoked wonder, clarity and optimism as moments of ‘enlightenment’ that cast everything else into shadow.

Kaleidoscopic in its richness of human experience this is a book I truly embodied; Kara-Leah’s words echoed as they edged me closer to the heart of my own truth.

A truth inspired by the unwavering headlong courage Kara-Leah delivers line after line; as she offers those readers like myself; with Hearts-of Courage, fear-full yet yearning to live fear-lessly my truth, a gift riding on her uncompromised words of reality – the only place I believe we can free ourselves of suffering and begin to live with integrity and authenticity.

You can purchase Sex, Drugs and (mostly) Yoga: Field Notes from a Kundalini Awakening at Kara-Leah.com.

About Susan Pryor

Amongst other things (Professor Emeriti) Susan Pryor is currently the Editor of ‘Yoga Scene – TODAY!’ online magazine, Poesia, Priestess, Amateur Astronomer, Healer, Yoga and Meditation Teacher and Perma-culture Farmer and Life and Land Designer; Susan has always written, she is an award winning poet and for a number of years wrote a regular Arts column and Nature Column in ‘The Waihekean’. Susan has written for ‘Rainbow News’ and various rural papers and academic peer reviewed journals, and is an invited International Conference Speaker in the Pedagogy of Language learning and teaching teachers. She has published one book ‘Musing on a Guru’ with her latest book ‘Caring for the Carer’ and Caring for the Carer retreat centre soon to be launched.

You can contact Susan via email or find her on Facebook.

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by Susan Pryor,

Kara-Leah Grant’s third book, Sex, Drugs and (mostly) Yoga: Field Notes from a Kundalini Awakening, is an epic auto-biographical journey spanning fourteen years of Kara-Leah’s life.

The journey begins in an acute psyche ward in Vancouver where Kara-Leah found herself after her first psychotic episode involving hallucinogenic drugs.

Kara-Leah, a practicing yogini, went from being a freedom-loving 29-year-old engaged to-be-married party girl indulging in various recreational drugs and freelancing as a journalist in Whistler to being diagnosed Bi-Polar II and committed to the psych ward after her second psychotic break a few weeks later. The book ends up some 14 years on – or as Kara-Leah writes; “half a Saturn cycle – it takes Saturn between 27 to 29 years to travel through our natal chart” – back in her home country New Zealand, now a successful author, retreat leader extra-ordinaire and life-transformer walking what she calls the path of the ‘Awakened Heart Warrior’.

In Sex, Drugs and (mostly) Yoga: Field Notes from a Kundalini Awakening we travel this half Saturnine cycle between these two times and places with Kara-Leah as she explores the part drugs, sex and yoga played in her psychosis or ‘awakening’ as she describes it.

As Kara-Leah’s journey continues, she learns that there is a significant and growing body of health and alternative holistic practitioners and yogis who recognise ‘that Kundalini awakening could look like psychosis’, leading Kara-Leah to ask, “are the world’s psych wards actually littered with people who were not psychologically prepared for the purifying power of Kundalini?”

As she explores these questions, I admire Kara-Leah for being the kinda’ author that has real guts; the kinda’ guts that lie at the heart-of-courage! As a result, I feel that sometimes it takes guts to read her work. When I first heard that the title of her latest book was Sex, Drugs & (mostly) Yoga; I was certain there would be challenges. A quick skim of the book and I discovered this is not a read for the faint-of-heart! And not being faint-of-heart I resolved to navigate this courageous work.

I felt Kara-Leah’s writing of ‘Sex, Drugs & (mostly) Yoga’ to be resoundingly-undoubtedly courageous and as a result, I believe it takes a courageous heart to read this book.

When I began reading this book the intensity shocked me, (now, coming from the heart I experience this as more of ‘awesome’ than ‘shock’). It caused me to question myself, then critique my choices and; then – above-all I discovered as I read I was generously offered a portal into becoming ‘honest’ with myself – as honesty-begets-honesty, but only – only if I had the courage and compassion! Three reads in and the courage and compassion are without doubt!

At first, I journeyed at times being barely able to breathe, eyes glued to each word and sentence as page-after-page-turning-page drew me into the extra-ordinary boldness Kara-Leah exhibits as she contemplates; “What response was truth? What was unconditional love? Could I hold him in his truth without betraying mine?” These sentences stood out to me because this became the on-going paradigm that was my reading companion as I took in Kara-Leah’s words, exposing her experiences, laying out her life – stripped bare – and I found myself asking; “What is my response here – what is my truth? What is unconditional love here as I read this and can I continue to hold Kara-Leah in her nakedness-of-truth while daring to view my own nakedness in my own truth…”

At times I wondered, is this book too much book, too much truth, too intense, too intimate for me?

Yet – read on I did! The words and sentences and pages unrolled before me effortlessly in a story-that-isn’t-a-story, but Kara-Leah’s truth; as Kara-Leah herself says in the Prologue “This memoir is not “what happened” … It is just my perspective…”

Kara-Leah strips herself bare in this book; I believe not so much to reveal herself publicly; but with her trade-mark huge-hearted-love, to offer me, the reader a way into the labyrinth of self-discovery and compassion – compassion; because I know from my own experience that compassion is absolutely essential on the journey one takes in peeling back the layers – to discover the truth of who one is, in the eternal existential quest of humanity to know, ‘Who am I – really?’

‘Why’; Kara-Leah asks; ‘are we so afraid to feel emotional pain? Why are we so afraid to be emotional in front of other people?’

From the start, she dives straight in with brutally raw honesty and there-in was the sensual challenge I met as ‘the reader’; could I match her pace; word-for-word feeling the belly-blows, the heart-wrenches and mind-fucks; as page after page they landed before my eyes…?

At the same time, the thread of compassion woven through-out ‘Sex, Drugs & (mostly) Yoga’ oft as not brought me to tears and feelings of the breath-being-baited and fingers-crossed at moments of joy; deliciously expressed, as Kara-Leah does, in words that evoked wonder, clarity and optimism as moments of ‘enlightenment’ that cast everything else into shadow.

Kaleidoscopic in its richness of human experience this is a book I truly embodied; Kara-Leah’s words echoed as they edged me closer to the heart of my own truth.

A truth inspired by the unwavering headlong courage Kara-Leah delivers line after line; as she offers those readers like myself; with Hearts-of Courage, fear-full yet yearning to live fear-lessly my truth, a gift riding on her uncompromised words of reality – the only place I believe we can free ourselves of suffering and begin to live with integrity and authenticity.

You can purchase Sex, Drugs and (mostly) Yoga: Field Notes from a Kundalini Awakening at Kara-Leah.com.

About Susan Pryor

Amongst other things (Professor Emeriti) Susan Pryor is currently the Editor of ‘Yoga Scene – TODAY!’ online magazine, Poesia, Priestess, Amateur Astronomer, Healer, Yoga and Meditation Teacher and Perma-culture Farmer and Life and Land Designer; Susan has always written, she is an award winning poet and for a number of years wrote a regular Arts column and Nature Column in ‘The Waihekean’. Susan has written for ‘Rainbow News’ and various rural papers and academic peer reviewed journals, and is an invited International Conference Speaker in the Pedagogy of Language learning and teaching teachers. She has published one book ‘Musing on a Guru’ with her latest book ‘Caring for the Carer’ and Caring for the Carer retreat centre soon to be launched.

You can contact Susan via email or find her on Facebook.

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Photo Credit: Pete Longworth
by Kara-Leah Grant,

Prefer to listen to an audio version of this article? Click here.

The news isn’t getting any better. Extinction is looming for 1 million plants and animals, thanks to human activity, says the UN. Trump’s Administration heralds melting sea ice as opening new opportunities for trade. And global beverage giants continue to bottle New Zealand’s water at aquifer-destroying rates.

Storms are worse. Refugee numbers are climbing. Our rivers are increasingly polluted. We’ve cleared 75% of our forests, and a whopping 95% of our wetlands.

We don’t know what the next decade or five is going to look like for our society. We don’t know how habitat destruction, pollution and climate change will impact our weather systems, and ability to feed ourselves. Scientists can create models to attempt to get some kind of idea – but humans beings are not great at choosing to respond to potential long-term threats, instead prioritising immediate goals and needs.

Can Yoga, a framework that has evolved over the last 5000 years as a way to be a self-realised human being, speak to any of these external challenges facing humanity?

The question is itself loaded. It presumes that these challenges are external. That what’s “out there” is the problem. Yoga is all about “what’s inside”. The two seem mutually exclusive.

However, the work of Deep Ecology, Alanna Mitchell and Charles Eisenstein takes a different approach. Charles’s book The More Beautiful World We All Know is Possible says that

“Fixing” our environmental problems begins with examining the underlying social narrative giving rise to the actions and behaviours that have created the “problem.”

That’s the same place Yoga starts – what’s the story we’re telling ourselves about our experience?

In Charles’s case, he points to the Story of Separation as the dominant global myth, that has colonised other social narratives that honor the Earth. The solution, he says, is to create and live from a new story – that of Interbeing. A new story that isn’t new of course, but speaks to many indigenous people’s from around the globe.

Alanna Mitchell in her earlier book Dancing at the Dead Sea says the same thing, asking if the human race has a death wish, and pointing to the need for ‘new legends’ that account for our inclusion in it all.

It’s the same story Deep Ecology points to – that we are not separate from, but part of it ALL.

Deep Ecology is:

“A holistic approach to facing world problems that brings together thinking, feeling, spirituality and action. It involves moving beyond the individualism of Western culture towards also seeing ourselves as part of the earth. This leads to a deeper connection with life, where Ecology is not just seen as something ‘out there’, but something we are part of and have a role to play in.”

That role is one of protector, of guardian, of Kaitiaki. But before we dive into exploring what that role asks of us, and how we can step into it… let’s go back to the narrative that Charles Eisenstein, Deep Ecology, Alanna Mitchell and many indigenous cultures share. Because it’s the same narrative as Yoga.

It’s the story of interbeing, the story of oneness, the story of connection, of community.

And it’s diametrically opposed to the dominate narrative of the Western World – which is of the individual striving to gain success through any means possible.

This is the way most of us live, unconsciously dominated and dictated to by a story that separates. We strive for individual success – for fame and fortune, and the trappings of wealth. And when these things seem out of our reach, we often believe there is something deeply wrong with us, and we fall into depression, anxiety, addiction and despair.

But what if our increasingly high levels of mental illness are symptoms of the sickness of our dominant narrative? What if it’s the story that’s wrong? What if we change the story? What would that look like? What would that change?

Practicing Yoga is one way to KNOW oneself beyond the individual identity, but when the practice of Yoga is embedded and transmitted through a culture anchored in the exaltation of the individual… the practice is often corrupted and becomes just another prop of the identity. Look at the ‘advanced’ postures I can do!

For Yoga to truly do the work of dissolving the identity the practice has to dismantle one’s world view along with one’s samskaras.

As one’s world view begins to dismantle, the traditional markers of success – job, salary, house, car, partner, acclaim, start to look and feel empty. Which is exactly why so many yoga practitioners often leave their jobs, their partners, their houses and go and do yoga teacher trainings or step sideways into coaching, mentoring, massage or reiki.

People want out of the rat race. Yet still the story of separation goes deep, and they’re still surrounded by a culture championing the individual and so the new pursuit is framed by the old story. Create a successful yoga studio. Become a popular yoga teacher. Gather followers. Gets fans. Now, there’s a wave of people who left the corporate world to pursue their passion… and some are discovering it’s near on impossible to make a decent living, and they’re contemplating going back.

Only it doesn’t have to be ‘going back’. There’s another way to see it. This re-entry is not capitulation or failure, this is infiltration and disruption. If someone has shifted their personal narrative from separation to interbeing, from individual to collective, from self to oneness… and can live from that space while stepping back into the so-called “mainstream”, then it’s possible to begin to shift the culture from within.

Because the idea of “mainstream” and “alternative” is just more… separation. We’re all in this together, it’s up to all of us to change, together.

How many people does it take to change a culture? How many people need to embody interbeing before it disseminates and becomes the norm?

These are the questions I’ve been contemplating over the past few years – since becoming disillusioned with the yoga world’s focus on the individual, and stepping back. I’ve been spending more time with people focused on conscious business and regenerative lifestyles.

Here’s what I’ve realised.
  1. Change isn’t legislated – it’s embodied. We don’t have to wait for “the people in charge” to do the thing – we can simply LIVE our way into the thing.
  2. The roadmaps already exist – we just need to find them and follow them. Here in Aotearoa, Māori world view is an example of this. In the Māori worldview, humans are connected physically and spiritually to land, water, air, forests; people are an integral part of ecosystems and ecosystems are an essential part of people’s whakapapa (genealogy).
  3. We are infinitely powerful. Greta Thunberg has proven this – one person can make a tidal wave of difference.
  4. Together we rise. We can’t leave anybody behind – environmental action that fails to address social biases and issues, like institutional racism, doesn’t go far enough. All people must be included and accepted.

The trick is getting to the point where we say ENOUGH. NO MORE. This was Rosa Parks on the bus in Montgomery in 1955. It’s the establishment of Parihaka by Tohu Kākahi and Te Whiti o Rongomai. It’s Hone Heke standing up for self-determination, no matter. It’s Kate Shephard and the suffragettes collecting massive petitions on women’s right to vote.

When we don’t do this – when we don’t stand up and say, ‘Fuck this shit, I’ve had enough’, we’re like the frog in the slowly-heating pot of water who stays in and boils to death.

And this is why the work of decolonisation intertwines with the work of environmentalism and the work of spirituality. The colonial narrative of separation displaced a narrative of connection that had supported healthy communities and ecology for centuries. (Even accounting for the hunting and extinction of large birds pre-European.)

We can’t stand up for the environment without standing up for indigenous self-determination and decolonization. We can’t care for our bush and our rivers and our birds without caring for our tamariki and our tīpuna.

So where do we go? What do we do? How do we act?Here’s a few pointers
  1. Commit to a daily sadhana and know yourself as part of the whole. When you feel the forest as if she is your flesh and bones, everything changes.
  2. Immerse yourself in Tikanga Māori, learn the wisdom of those who came before.
  3. Join other people doing the work in your community. Plant trees, clean waterways, join Big Buddies.
  4. Leave the job that supports the culture of separation. Or commit to being an agent of change within that job.
  5. Learn how to anchor in love at all times.

That last one, it’s a biggie. It’s the game-changer that moves people from the story of separation into the embodiment of interbeing. When you know yourself as love, and you embody that love for all beings, everything shifts. That means when you show up to the protest march, you’re opposing the behaviour or actions of the corporate world or the government, but you stay anchored in love for the human beings taking those actions.

This is crucial, because the moment we go into rejection or demonisation of ‘the other’, we’re living out the story of separation. And when we’re living from the story of separation, it doesn’t matter what noble actions we seem to be taking… we’re keeping the old story alive – a story that feeds on the idea of “us and them”, the good guys and the bad guys.

And that’s the part of the whole I’ve chosen to focus on. In 2010, I took a vow of unconditional love and truth, which began my practice of living from these two values. It’s still a practice, I’m not perfect at it, I’m learning, but I’m seeing the huge shifts in my experience of life, and in my interactions with other people.

And now it’s work that I’m able to teach and transmit, through the path of the Awakened Heart Warrior. This is the role I can play as a guardian, as a kaitiaki. I can embody truth and love, and I can support other people to step into truth and love, no matter what too. Learning how to open our hearts, and stay open no matter, is the work of a warrior. It takes great courage and fortitude, and it can be painful. We have to have the strength to feel all things, knowing that feelings are temporary and will always come and go.

This loops back to the work of deep ecology, which asks people to feel the grief of the destruction of nature. Feeling the grief fully may seem counter-intuitive, but there is a real power in meeting the truth of reality that leads to inspired action. And when we can handle feeling the pain of ecological destruction we can also hold the anguish of those of us struggling with mental illness. Everything is connected.

From this place, of knowing oneself as love, of aligning to truth… the harsh realities of a changing society become easier to bear.

Our connections and communities become stronger. We can hold each other up, no matter what happens. And nobody is left behind, nobody is excluded, nobody is forgotten, nobody is overlooked.

From a foundation of love and truth, we rise, together.

Ready for Awakened Heart Warrior Activation?

Join Kara-Leah for an activation designed for people who care deeply about the world and want to be the most effective and powerful leaders in their field. It’s a consciousness shift, with real-world practical applications.

Who are you, when you stand in Truth and operate from Unconditional Love?

Come, find out.

Awakened Heart Warrior Women’s Retreat, Taupo, New Zealand, August 30 to September 1, 2019. Find out more.

Awakened Heart Warrior Activation, Mexico, September 29 to October 4, 2019. Find out more.

More from Kara-Leah
✨ What is an Awakened Heart Warrior? ✨ - YouTube
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By Sandra Palmer,

I am a talker, a chatterbox even. So, I received some surprised responses (shocked, disbelieving and even amused!) when I informed people that I was attending a seven-day silent retreat.

Some friends were plainly envious and thought it sounded divine. Many were curious:

But why?

They asked.

Why would you do this?

What is the purpose of being silent?

Others wanted to know how hard it would be for me. I did not have answers to these questions. I was too busy asking myself those same questions!

To be honest, I had not been naturally drawn towards attending a silent retreat. I was attending it as part of my iRest® certification process and I did not know what the purpose of attending it was other than to “deepen my practice” – whatever that meant.

Before leaving I felt both nervous and filled with curious anticipation. Would I like it? Could I do it? What would I experience? I had so many questions.

When we gathered together that night, (there were 79 of us, in Sydney, lead by iRest trainers Dr Richard Miller and Fuyuko Toyota) the purpose of silence became clearer.

It was explained to us that silence was more than the absence of speaking. The purpose of silence was to support us to find the inner stillness within us, the silence that is always there but often gets pushed to the background in our busy lives. An outcome of doing so would be to notice where attention was going (being hooked) and unhooking from attention itself. We would focus on Being. Simply Being. And Being in Awareness (and as Awareness) and resting in our True Nature, our essence.

As Richard Miller likes to point out, “what you are looking for is here right now”, we just don’t have time or space to notice. The retreat was an opportunity to have that.

That first night, I walked back to my single room. There was simply silence everywhere – what I would describe as a “pregnant silence” empty, but also so full. No one talking to each other. No one talking on phones.

We were kept busy with practices designed to support us to remain with that sense of Being. The day started with an early morning hour-long practice of chanting, pranayama and meditation. This was followed by 3 hours of meditation, Bodysensing ® (gentle movement coming from a place of Being), and iRest Yoga Nidra (bliss layered upon deliciousness, layered upon joy!). Then an afternoon of lunch and contemplation, and afternoon sessions that included Being with other people in dyad work, Being with trees and nature and Being with the space between trees. After dinner, we had review sessions and opportunities to ask questions (yes, by speaking).

And…I loved it! My first observation was how fast I was moving – showering, cleaning my teeth, walking to and from places. I was moving like there was something else I needed to be doing or somewhere else I needed to be. But I didn’t. Eventually, I could feel my body-mind take a deep breath, sigh and start to slow.

Just Being. No reading of books, no social media. Just Being.  Spacious. Open. Timeless. Connected. Whole. Perfect. Just as I was in that moment of Being.

As my body-mind slowed, I went inwards to my inner landscape and I noticed my thoughts. So many of them. Almost constantly. I never even noticed how many thoughts I have when I am busy and Doing.

I began to slow right down and reside in my inner stillness and silence. The stillness remained in the foreground, and every time my attention got caught elsewhere I felt those subtle contractions and brought myself back to Being.

The purpose of a silent retreat had become clear and it made so much sense: Being in Awareness. Jumping into the void. Trusting in the unknown. Love. Bliss. Stillness (even in movement), peace, ease, calm- all qualities of our True Nature.

I did experience some moments of agitation. On day two, I just wanted to DO! I walked myself around the streets of northern Sydney in my walking shoes. Fast. And then I slowed again. I let go of expectations and waiting. Of wanting any particular experience.

The strangest part of a silent retreat was sitting with a group of people eating and not talking. It felt like social conventions were thrown out the window. Just mindfully eating. I felt that all social pressure was taken off me. I didn’t have to think about where I would sit, whether I was making friends, or who I wanted to talk to. I felt immediate relief at not having to “perform”, show myself at my best or make people like me. All I had to do was sit. And eat. And Be.

And then the silence ended. We were given a choice to remain in silence wearing special cards in our lanyards with “In Loving Silence” indicating we would not be talking. I chose to remain in the silence as I simply was not ready to talk, to lose that delicious feeling.

When I emerged, the world felt loud and busy, and I immediately lost myself in the external world.

And then I remembered and brought Being to the foreground again. Since then, and since returning to normal life, this has been the constant process – one of forgetting and remembering, and forgetting and remembering again.

And that’s OK. I feel forever grateful to remember each time I am drawn back.

I am now saving for another, longer silent retreat as, surprisingly, seven days did not feel long enough for me! I am curious about the experiences I will have when I can stay inside for longer, without interruptions or attention being caught anywhere. Just Being.

If you are curious about a silent retreats, there are a few opportunities coming up:
  • Sandra is holding a one-day silent retreat at The Resting Place, Waipu on August 17, 2019. Visit Integrative Therapy for more details.
  • Senior iRest trainer Fuyuko Toyota is teaching a partial silent retreat at Mana Retreat in Coromandel in October 2019. Go to Mana Retreats for more details.
If you want to learn more about iRest: About Sandra Palmer:

Sandra Palmer is a yoga teacher and Registered Psychologist.  She was drawn to yoga by the calmness and clarity it provided her and is curious about the interface of yoga and psychology to support wellbeing.  She is on a lifelong journey to lead a slower, less stressed, more embodied and mindful life fuelled by her practices.   She focuses on teaching slow yoga practices which support healing and awareness of self.  

Sandra has completed 500-hour yoga training with the Contemporary Centre for Yoga Studies, Embodied Flow yin training, TCTSY Trauma Sensitive Yoga training, Somatic Stress Release () Foundational training and Level 1 and 2 iRest® yoga nidra training and is enrolled in the iRest certification process.

As a psychologist, Sandra works in private practice primarily working with those recovering from trauma, as well as supporting people living stressful lives to move towards wellbeing.  She also works in the suicide prevention and post-vention fields.

Find out more at the Integrative Therapy website.

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Image by Justin Martin from Pixabay
by Lucinda Staniland

I used to think that alignment and biomechanics were the answer to the riddle that is chronic pain. If only I could work hard enough to correct my hyperlordosis, strengthen my weak glutes, and reverse my scoliosis then my pain would ease – right? At least, that’s what I was told.

Now, I’m not so sure.

In fact, I’ve found that I’ve been able to reduce my chronic pain significantly without changing my biomechanics or alignment at all. In fact, I now wonder if my focus on these factors was actually making my pain worse.

Although yoga is a holistic practice, I’ve found that when it comes to pain, many yoga teachers focus almost exclusively on biomechanics and alignment.

At first, this seemed intuitive to me. I have pain, I thought, so I need to fix the damaged tissues that are causing pain, and then also fix the structural imbalances that are damaging my tissues.

But when I started researching pain science, I realised that, strangely, this isn’t actually how pain works. At least, not chronic pain, which is defined as pain that lasts more than 3 months. In chronic pain, tissue damage is just one factor that can cause pain. And, sometimes, it may not be the most important one.

In fact, research regularly finds that asymptomatic populations – a.k.a those fortunate pain-free people – often have significant tissue damage, such as herniated discs, torn rotator cuffs and osteoarthritis. On the flip side, it’s also common for people with chronic pain to show no sign of any tissue damage or structural abnormalities at all.

As Melaine Thernstrom says in her extraordinary book, The Pain Chronicles:

“The relationship between pain and tissue damage can be compared to the relationship between love and sex: it may or may not exist.”

So if people can have tissue damage with no pain and pain with no tissue damage…. What does this mean?

What I’m learning is that pain isn’t as straightforward as I thought. Pain is complex, unique to the individual, and multi-factorial, which means that the extent to which we experience pain is affected by both biological factors (think tissue damage and inflammation) AND psychological and social factors (think beliefs, emotions and stress). This way of understanding pain is called the bio-psycho-social model.

This doesn’t mean that pain is ‘all in your head’ and it certainly doesn’t mean that the body is irrelevant in the treatment of pain. It just might not be as relevant as you expect.

In some cases, a focus on biomechanics is appropriate. For example, I have pain in my Achilles tendon due to tendinopathy. In this case, progressively loading the tendon with calf raises has been the main course of treatment for curbing the pain. Simple. Problem solved. But for chronic pain with minimal tissue damage (which I also experience) a truly integrated approach to pain is needed: one that addresses the biological, the psychological and the social.

In some cases, biomechanical interventions may be the least effective strategy to help a person in pain.

A great deal of research has been done on the relationship between postural alignment and pain, and the correlation between ‘bad’ postural habits and pain is astoundingly weak.

Here are just a few examples taken from Todd Hargrove’s excellent article on the subject of pain and biomechanics:

  • “Teenagers with postural asymmetry, excessive thoracic curve and/or lumbar curve were no more likely to develop back pain in adulthood than peers with “better” posture (Dieck 1985).
  • Pregnant women with larger increases in low back curve during pregnancy were no more likely to develop back pain (Franklin 1998).
  • A review of ten studies found no correlation between thoracic kyphosis and shoulder pain. (But there was less shoulder ROM) (Barrett 2016).
  • Teenagers with slumped forward head postures didn’t have more neck pain (although they were more depressed.) (Richards 2016).
  • No association between low back pain and spondylolisthesis (a condition where a vertebra has slipped forward, and which is often corrected by fusion surgery) (Andrade 2015).”

With so much evidence to the contrary, why do so many of us still focus on ‘correcting’ postural habits to treat pain?

In addition to possibly being ineffective, I’ve noticed for myself that this approach can be actively harmful as it causes me to focus on what’s (supposedly) ‘wrong’ with my body.

Some days felt a lot like this….

In fact, as I immersed myself in the world of pain science, I was astounded to realise just much fear and anxiety I was experiencing in relation to my pain.

I noticed that I wasn’t having much fun in my yoga and movement practices anymore because all my energy went to correcting my ‘defects’. In addition, I was convinced that something must terribly wrong in my tissues and I spent many hours in fearful contemplation of what that might be.

But now, feeling empowered by what I’m learning from pain science, I’m beginning to process and apply some pain science principles in my daily life.

I’m carefully reintroducing activities that I love – swimming, long walks, dancing, running, a more active yoga practice. And I’m exploring new ones, namely Feldenkrais, which I’ve found to be a wonderful way to safely explore fun, novel movements.

With the help of meditative practices like iRest Yoga Nidra, I’m examining my beliefs about my body. And I’m inviting in new concepts and possibilities: What if, instead of being weak, broken, and fragile, my body was actually resilient, adaptable, intelligent, and strong?

I’m not doing so many corrective exercises, I’m not searching for new health care practitioners in the hope that they will fix me (although I have found a pain specialist, whose help has been invaluable) and I’ve eased up on the freaking out and catastrophizing.

The result? My has pain eased significantly.

It’s not gone completely, and there definitely are some biomechanical factors at play which I’m working to address, but overall the level of physical, mental and emotional suffering I was experiencing has dramatically shifted in the direction of greater well-being. Instead of fear and frustration, I’m now much more likely to feel curiosity and awe towards this very human experience that we know so little about.

Although I’m still coming to grips with the implications of pain science, I find it to be a fundamentally hopeful and life-enhancing approach.

I know now that there are many things I can do to address my pain, of which biomechanics is just one. I feel hopeful that I can live a full and meaningful life, one in which I can move, play and feel good in my body. I even feel hopeful that I could do that alongside the experience of pain.

Pain just doesn’t seem so scary any more. Complex, mysterious, fascinating and strange, yes. Frustrating, often. But scary? Not anymore.

Recommended Pain Science Resources About Lucinda

Lucinda has worked at The Yoga Lunchbox since 2012 and has been the Editor since 2017. She loves the opportunity to be constantly immersed in the world of yoga, and particularly in the vibrant NZ yoga community. Lucinda is also a constantly curious learner and researcher, particularly in the areas of movement, health and embodiment.

She loves to hear from Yoga Lunchbox readers, so get in touch with her via email with your questions, ideas and stories.

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Legskin tights by Courage My Love Clothing
by Sonya Simpson,

Early in my yoga teaching career, I guided a group of five website developers in a corporate ‘one-off’ that a young, confident business owner from Sydney arranged. He called it a chance for his staff to do ‘something different’.

Within the practice I guided a tall lanky man with an awkward gait through a chilled, gentle practice. He was clearly uncomfortable on the yoga mat.

I got the impression that he felt anxious being with me, a stranger, in the small studio space. I tried being warm, humorous, simple… but nothing worked to calm him and by the time the hour was over he was drenched in sweat, and I swear it wasn’t the heat in the room or the pace of the class.

After sitting with him and the group for a while, he started to open up and he showed me the hypermobility of his joints. He could turn his leg so that his foot pointed straight out behind him and it seemed that every joint in his body had similarly exceptional ranges of movement. Yoga was new to him and he had no idea where his own body would go in the practice. He was used to sitting in a chair and keeping his body as still as possible because he couldn’t trust it not to do anything wild.

His proprioception – perception or awareness of the position and movement of the body – was completely out of kilter and his levels of anxiety were at towering heights.

I wanted so much to assist him in being present and comfortable in his skin. I never saw him again even though I practically begged him to continue exploring this method of connection.

That was a major fail for me, thank The Goddess for the Yama of forgiveness… What’s that you say? No such Yama? I’ll go with Ahimsa and Santosha then, some healthy compassion and contentment. The silver lining is that I’m a lot bossier these days when it comes to connecting with self and igniting proprioception and interoception in my classes.

Why is it so important to me? Because I’ve not only experienced first-hand the way that becoming present helps alleviate anxiety and depression, I’ve been told numerous times over the years from people who practice with me that it helps them. I’ve also seen the long descent down the rabbit hole that comes from losing connection to self. That to me is reason enough to champion the practice of proprioception.

Here are my tips for cultivating proprioception in your own yoga practice:

Start in restorative rest pose; lying on your back with your knees either bent or resting on a bolster, soles of your feet on the floor. Drop into your body, connect, feel the floor under your body – all the points of connection – and the weight of your body releasing down into the earth. Notice that you no longer need to hold yourself up, you can release and let go. Notice your breath. Sometimes it helps to have your hands resting on your belly, so you can be aware of their rise and fall. How are you feeling? Are there any sensations of pain or discomfort? How are your energy levels? Bring your soft awareness to your mind, how are your thoughts? Is your mind busy? Notice your thoughts without trying to change them and then slowly begin to move your soft focus back to your breath, the sensations in your body and your connection to the earth. With the information that you are receiving in this pose you can inform your practice. It’s right there in the word INFORMation. You can be the judge of what you need. You know your body best.

Take a pranayama that works for you. One that may work well is to slowly make your way to a seated cross-legged position, find your sit bones as they connect to the earth, notice the way gravity draws you down but the energy of you rises back up. Breath through your nose if you can, and perhaps practice Ujjayi breath with a slight restriction at the base of the throat. On your inhale lift your arms and your gaze, then with your exhale twist to the side allowing the opposite hand to touch lightly on the opposite thigh and the other down to the floor beside or behind you. Inhale back to centre with the raised arms and gaze, exhale to the other side. Notice the moments of suspension between each phase of the breath, and honour that moment of stillness before the breath flows again.

Move through a vinyasa of your choosing but in keeping with gentle kindness, so no pain. Try moving with your toes and fingers connected to the floor in any poses where you would normally lift them, as though you are making patterns in chalk on the ground. After you’ve moved for a while – say, the time it would take you to do three salutes to the sun – come down to child’s pose or a seated pose and centre again. Notice; is there any pain now? Discomfort? Tension? How is your energy? Your breath? Be aware.Continue to move through a flowing sequence at a different level than before, on hands and knees perhaps, or if you were at that level before then standing or lying down.

Be aware of the sensations that occur within your body. Move when you want to move, be still when you want to be still, flow like a dancer, or rest but always listen and respond. Become the curious child who hasn’t yet been told to be still and quiet, and then stay that way; out in the world, at work, in bed, at home, in your relationships and in all of life. If that means an enormous change for you then start slow.

Lie down and notice. How is your body now? Is there pain that wasn’t there before? Feel the way that your breath moves your belly up and down, the way your chest moves. Rest one hand on your belly just beneath your belly button, the other under your rib cage or perhaps on your sternum. Notice the way your breath moves your hands gently up and down and away from each other and then towards each other again.

Practice self-love. This is your body and you reside within it, be present and don’t try to make it do things that it’s not comfortable with. Come home and leave behind the insta-yoga, trade it in for intra-yoga. The yoga of connection.

About Sonya

Sonya Simpson is a yoga teacher, content writer, business director and mother of two small boys. She lives with her partner in Auckland and teaches a style of yoga that is based around kindness to self, inquiry through movement and freedom to explore. Sonya is passionate about yoga and exploring the ways that cultural and societal expectation has affected wellbeing. Having experienced the benefits of returning to self through yoga during over 20 years of practice, she is passionate about continuing to research and explore how it can help others both inside and outside of the yoga community, sharing her findings wherever she can. More information can be found on her websiteFacebook or Instagram.

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Photo Credit: Pete Longworth
by Kara-Leah,

It can be scary and painful to see the truth of the moment as it is.

But many of us have been learning how to do this in our personal evolution as awakening human beings. We’ve been learning how to work with fear. How to sit with grief, shame and guilt. We’ve learned that by doing this, we can then release the wounds, the traumas and historical pain and free ourselves from the past – our own past, and the past of our ancestors.

What’s this got to do with Climate Change? Everything.

Our willingness to face into pain and suffering is paramount if we are going to respond to climate change with wisdom and power.

In the coming decades we are faced with unprecedented change that we have little or no control over. It’s going to impact every system in our civilisation – transport, food, power, water, politics – everything.

In some parts of the world, this change is already happening. Usually in poor countries, populated by people of colour, which doesn’t seem to make the mainstream media as much. In countries like New Zealand, Australia, Canada and the United States, we are more insulated from catastrophic weather events. But they are happening here too.

What I see is very few people, so far, daring to read the science, study the reports, contemplate the implications, and take action now.

And of course! I mean, if it’s not having a direct impact on your life right now, why bother? Especially as reading the science, studying the reports and contemplating the implications can be overwhelming and scary.

It’s the kind of overwhelm and fear that leads to paralysis and a desire to run like fuck and hide away and hope that:

A) It’s a myth
B) It’s not going to happen
C) Someone else is going to take care of it.

But eco-sphere devastation it’s not a myth. It is happening. And it’s US who needs to take care of it – ALL OF US.

This is the part when it becomes really useful to be able to sit with challenging emotions, to feel the fear and to stay connected to one’s centre and wisdom, so it’s possible to act from this place.

This is when all the work that the conscious community could pay off collectively. The conscious community values embodiment, intuition, wisdom, heart-centered presence, relationships, care and love. All of which we will need in spades as the world changes, fast. We need this so we don’t degenerate into fear and exclusion and instead focus on leaving no one behind, no matter their colour, race, religion or country.

This process begins like any process begins, with awareness. We need to be aware of what is happening now, so that we can begin to feel into the needed response.

The trouble is, our Conditioned Minds run all kinds of programmes which hold us back from feeling the deep awareness of what is happening now. We don’t even realise that these programmes are running – we don’t notice that we look away from articles on climate change, habitat destruction and species extinction without reading, without seeing, without wanting to read and see.

Our Conditioned Minds instead like to distract us with rationalising and arguments. We waste time and energy on debating IF climate change is a thing at all. But it doesn’t matter – whether climate change is happening or not, whether human beings have caused it or not – this doesn’t even matter.

Because when you look at the planet, it’s clear that destruction of nature is happening on a huge scale. And that destruction – man-made or not – is unsustainable. In short, we are headed for extinction. If we, human beings, continue to consume and destroy at the current pace, we are finished in our current form. It will likely happen within our lifetimes. And, not just us, but countless other living beings – it is their homes that we are destroying too.

Does that scare you? Do you want to argue against it? Resist it?

Notice that – notice what your Mind is doing right now. And choose not to believe it, if just for a moment.

Instead, I want you to run a thought experiment for me. Can you do that? Play along? Experiment?

If humanity is on a trajectory toward extinction… If that were true…

How does that make you feel?
And what’s under that feeling?
Is there anything under that feeling?
Have you got what it takes to sit in ALL those feelings?

What then?
If you’ve felt all the feelings…

What comes up?

If humanity is on a trajectory towards extinction… who would you like to be in the face of that?

What do you feel called to do?

This is what I’m exploring right now.

Because now that I’ve sorted out my personal life and healed from psychosis – using my power and energy to build a personal empire holds zero appeal.

Because what for? Why build a personal empire when Rome is burning?

Because while all of this is Very Serious, there’s no reason why we can’t dance and play and enjoy transitioning our world to a society that loves and cares for every living being as if it were sacred.

Instead, I’m feeling into how to be an agent for change… an agent to birth the new earth, an agent to make the transition from a consumer society to a regenerative society as smooth as possible, and as fun as possible.

Because it is – life IS sacred.

And if we don’t start treating it as so… we’re screwed. And it would serve us right.

So that’s my mission now – to educate myself, to connect with other people taking action, and to embody the love and care needed to shift our dominant culture here on earth.

I’m not the only person doing this either. Just check out the list of speakers at Titirangi’s Earth Festival next Saturday, April 6th. All those people care, and they’re all taking action. Or take note of the climate marches that THOUSANDS of children and young people attended on March 15th across New Zealand. Check out the rapid rise of Extinction Rebellion around the globe. A shift is happening, and it needs you to join.

Together, we can change the dominant capitalist, consumer, destructive culture. It starts by opening to the truth – painful as it might be – of what’s actually happening on our planet right now.

Only through feeling what’s happening can we open to the wisdom to know how to respond.

Do you want to get involved and do more?

Check out Extinction Rebellion, you’ll find them across the world. And here’s the New Zealand version, Extinction Rebellion Aotearoa NZ

Join Kara-Leah at the Titirangi Earth Festival on April 6, 2019. She’ll be speaking in the Afternoon Symposium & Open Panel Discussion about ‘From Overwhelm to Inspired Action’. Get your tickets here.

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