Blog Writer: Emilia Wheaton
Blog Editor: Kristen Kennedy Smith
Photo Credit: Tucson Strength
When you think of yoga do you envision impossible contortions, ancient India, or Instagram models yoga posing on white sand beaches? It can be all of those things, sure, but many may not envision the physical, mental and emotional benefits a yogic practice can impart on the bodies and minds of Powerlifters. Competitive lifters, in particular, can benefit from the therapeutic stretching and present-mindedness that come along with yoga.
Yoga combines physical postures with intentional breath work, which work in conjunction to bring us mind-body awareness. Powerlifters can practice this breath-movement union and apply it to their competitive lifting. The presence of mind achieved by yoga can directly translate to other aspects of our life, namely the moments in which we are on the platform, when we need to be completely present and aware of every muscle’s interaction as we squat, bench press or deadlift. Harnessing the breath while deadlifting, for example allows our concentration to narrow on just our body and our breath working as one to accomplish our physical goals.
Yogic theory also adapts its own version of the yin and yang principle, where all powerful, strenuous, taxing energy be compensated with a restorative, flexible, softness. If Powerlifting is the yang in this case, yoga can provide the counterbalancing yin to both soothe our stressed and contracted muscles while reinforcing musculature that is not targeted by lifting. Building muscle requires for the muscle to heal and stretch, which yoga is perfect for. In fact, according to this study, “certain yoga techniques may improve physical and mental health through the down-regulation of the hypothalamo pituitary adrenal (HPA) axis and the sympathetic nervous system.” Involving yoga in our lives is a holistic approach to managing the stress of our daily lives and the physical stress of our powerlifting careers.
Let’s break this down. This HPA axis thingy that I don’t remember hearing about since 12th grade biology? The scientists behind this book describe the HPA axis as being responsible for our reactions to stress and regulating digestion, the immune system, mood and sexuality and (drumroll please) energy usage! Lifting is very much a sport where energy must be harnessed and then pushed to explode as we complete a lift. Yoga’s benefits for the HPA axis then translate to an improved ability to use our energy most efficiently and appropriately as we (“lift”).
Yoga can truly be used as an effective practice for stressful lifestyles and for the physiological stress athletics put on our body. Through yoga, we are able to regulate our stress responses, improve our mood, and find mind-body awareness while at the same time soothing and building the muscles so integral for intense sports like powerlifting. Balancing the rigid with the flexible will bring peace, security, empowerment and a newfound way of caretaking our bodies which we expect so much from.
Reach out to us to learn more about our approach to yoga for Powerlifters, our class schedule, and other resources!
Dharma is a Sanskrit word for purpose. "Do your dharma" loosely translates to “do your job" in today's terms. This is a term that dates back to ancient India and has modern prominence in Yogic tradition and Ayurvedic medicine. Dharma is slightly different than a calling or a vocation; it is something that was intended for us before we could even discern decisions for ourselves. As humans, we have the choice to do our dharma in this life or not; however, life becomes a heck of a lot more difficult when we choose the latter.
Doing your dharma does not just mean that we select a job or occupation and do it well. It does not mean that we step into our responsibilities and show up for our families and friends; it is much more complex than this. These are all examples of living a life of honor, dignity, morality, and good intention; however, we each have a very specific purpose for our lives and we are in this exact moment, in our exact situation for a reason. We experience everything that we do in this life so that we have the tools that we need to do our dharma and fulfill our purpose for this lifetime. Some of us can recognize our dharma based on our personality traits, our interests, our passions, our goals, or our strengths. We may recognize that we have confidence in performing certain tasks or we easily understand specific topics. These are all clues to recognizing our true dharma, but we must dig deeper than these to truly recognize our path.
The path to recognizing your true calling in this life is to integrate all of the information you take in on a daily basis and combine this with the interests you have and your innate strengths and gifts. These gifts are those that make you unique and of service to others. Each person possesses abundant ability to develop into the highest evolvement of themselves in this lifetime. Many of us decide to ignore our gifts out of fear, insecurity, or pursuit of the ego. The ego is another term that is thrown around quite frequently these days. The ego is the part of the self that seeks achievement, recognition, praise, pleasure, or other self-indulgent, external rewards. The ego teaches us a lot about ourselves but, in order to do our dharma, we must put the ego aside and make choices that are for the betterment of human kind.
Once we decide to put the ego aside and to step into our highest self, taking our skills, gifts and intentions in the direction of our life’s purpose, we have the potential to make a lasting impact on this world. There are many socially acceptable forms of purpose or life calling. Many people who are dogmatically religious seek priesthood in the form of an ordained, trained position within their religion. Others may become a priest or priestess for a particular topic, reaching a magnitude of people to bring a widespread message and to guide others. There are archetypes that define this and other types of natural born constitution. For example, a person’s priestess dharma could be to educate others on the importance of taking care of Mother Nature, so that we return to our ancient respect for her, by educating others on the importance of clean soil. Still, others’ dharma may be to work on a smaller scale and create change in the world by listening to and counseling those who are not heard, empowering them and breaking down systems of injustice and power in this world. Both forms of dharma are meaningful, but each requires a unique set of skills, gifts, and intention to make a true impact.
Dharma is also recognized when we are in a state of flow. When we are doing our dharma, we do not face the same frustration, confusion, low self-esteem, low vibration feelings that arise when we are out of alignment. When we are in alignment with our true purpose, everything seems to align in a state of flow. Flow means that we are able to think clearly, we do not feel anxiety or depression, we exist at a high level of presence and consciousness, and we are able to receive messages to guide our path with ease.
Conversely, when we are not doing our dharma, we experience setbacks, frustration, anger, confusion, low self-esteem, exhaustion, and overall imbalance. Such imbalance creates anxiety, depression, and overall dissatisfaction or disappointment. When we ignore the messages or are simply too foggy-minded to recognize them, we are not able to progress and develop. We also have minimal impact on the world when we try to force a path that does not align with the higher self. We may even experience significant fear if we do recognize the signs and the path to doing our dharma because the path may appear treacherous, out of our comfort zone, or just straight up weird.
This fear resides in the root Chakra, located at the base of the spine and the legs on the physical body, and keeps us from moving forward. When we live in fear we are operating in a state of survival and scarcity. We are constantly in fight or flight mode, prompting even more anxiety and depression, and we are not able to move into higher vibrations or states of consciousness. Here, consciousness relates to a state of being when we are in the present and are aware of how our mind, body and spirit feel at all times, as well as aware of that which is occurring around us. When we are able to move beyond this fear, we can clear any presence that resides in the root chakra and we can move into a state of pleasure, joy, and abundance.
Recognizing that we do not need to run and hide or stand up and fight moves us closer to our dharma because we will not be working just to put food on the table and to pay the bills; we will not fear that our shelter or food will be gone or that we will be under attack. Moving into the sacral chakra, which is located at the hips on the physical body, we can start recognizing that which makes us happy, gives us pleasure. Here, we can start to experience abundance. Abundance in this context means that we have more than we need and no longer need to live in a state of fear or scarcity. When we have abundance, we can explore our interests and we do not feel guilty utilizing our skills to pursue activities outside of work. These activities teach us more about ourselves and allow us to develop our confidence.
When we step into our confidence, we are able to experience joy and feel comfortable investing in ourselves because we recognize our self worth. This confidence and self-worth reside in the solar plexus chakra, which resides in the stomach on the physical body. When we are able to step into our confidence we own and accept our abilities, skills, interests, bodies, minds, and make these a part of our identity. Such an identity empowers us and makes us less likely to be persuaded, controlled, or convinced that we need to do a certain job, follow a certain path, or pursue popular interests. We are ready to step up and claim that which makes us unique and brings us joy. We are then ready to share this with others!
Sharing our unique gifts and talents with the world is just one step towards pursuing our dharma. When we accept our abilities and are filled with joy, we can’t help but share these with those that we love, such as our family or friends, or those to whom we easily relate. Using our gifts, skills, abilities, and talents to help others brings us into the heart chakra, which is located in, you guessed it, the chest region on the physical body. The heart chakra is responsible healing and caring for others. In our society it is related to love. When we work from the heart, we can do great things and take a step closer towards doing our dharma. However, we can still work from the heart and be on the wrong path. Someone who goes into nursing or teaching but faces great frustration, challenge, roadblocks, anger, or other forms of alignment is not doing their dharma. Their heart may be in the right place because they seek to help others, but their higher self may not be on this earth to be in a position of authority, to work twelve-hour workdays, or to work under someone else. Therefore, doing your dharma goes beyond this point of evolvement, too. We must be able to live our truth and live in a way that resonates with who we are at our core, as well.
When we are true to ourselves we speak our truth in several ways. Each person expresses thoughts, emotions, ideas, concept or opinions in a unique way; some people enjoy writing, others prefer speech, while some prefer to use body language or expressive movement, such as dance. Each form of expression comes from the throat chakra, which is located at the throat and neck on the physical body. When we can fully and enthusiastically speak our truth and step into who we truly are, our quirks and all, we take a step closer to our dharma. Remember, our dharma is uniquely ours, nobody else on this planet can fulfill your dharma but you. Therefore, speaking your truth and expressing yourself honestly and fully is an essential step to doing your dharma. However, if we are not receiving guidance and listening to the messages being sent our way, then we may allow the ego to step into the throat chakra instead.
Listening to messages and guidance is fairly simple. We must exist in a state of awareness and consciousness; we cannot be thinking in the past or worrying about the future if we wish to receive these messages. Receiving messages is a process that occurs using the third eye chakra, which is located on the forehead between the physical eyes. If you are a spiritual person, you may receive these messages during prayer or meditation. If you are an earthy person, you may see these messages in nature among animals, plants, or weather. If you are someone who relates to the stars and astrology, then you may see these messages based on a horoscope or astrological forecast. Each one of us receives messages differently and we must be open to receiving these messages in order to make decisions and recognize opportunities that guide us to doing our dharma. It is not until we receive these messages that we can truly understand that which is our dharma.
Pure knowledge and understanding the higher self allows us to recognize our dharma and step into flow. This pure state of awareness and acceptance allows us to move beyond the ego and fully pursue our purpose on this planet. This state of knowledge and understanding resides in the crown chakra, located at the top of the head. This is where we are closest to our highest self, to source (otherwise known as God, Goddess, the Universe, etc.). In this state, we can enter a state of knowing and can receive important information that we will use to bring important messages that must be communicated to the world in our own unique way. Your dharma is necessary and important. You have your own audience, no matter how big or small it seems, and you possess all of the skills required to fully step into this role and make an impact on and for others. There is no person on this earth who cannot live out her dharma. Need we go through the steps from root to crown consciously to fulfill our dharma? Absolutely not. Do some of us benefit from going through this process on a literal and conscious level? Absolutely. Each person is unique. Some people are born automatically owning their dharma and know exactly why they are here. Others benefit from the growth process of moving through the phases and this process is necessary so that they are prepared to do their dharma here.
Hold no judgment regarding your individual process or that of others, for we are all intended to go along our own path. Is it possible that some of us do not ever recognize our dharma and pursue our dharma? Absolutely. We are beings who make choices. It is easy to recognize a person who is not pursuing their dharma because they are not on the path to contentment, peace, and flow. They are those who are constantly in a state of stress, frustration, and misalignment. This is not something to judge, we cannot force anyone to do anything and it is not our job or role to think that we know their dharma. We can be messengers and can help them along their path, but that is ultimately their choice.
When you are able to step into your dharma you will not tote your achievements or feel driven by external rewards. You will more than likely possess such achievements or external rewards, but these will not mean the same thing to you as they once did. Your only contentment will come from doing your dharma and fully living out your life’s purpose. This state of being is so euphoric that no low vibrations, judgment or disapproval will influence or affect you. Stepping into your dharma is a process, but there are resources to help you along your path. Even though this is your path and yours alone, do not hesitate to seek out guides, healers, mentors, teachers, and others who can help you progress along the path more smoothly. I am here as a resource, as well, and hope that you feel a sense of excitement and contentment moving forward.
Healthy boundaries are often misunderstood. They are like the second cousin of personal bubbles, once removed, in our culture. It takes confidence and authority to set up healthy boundaries and some of us, okay most of us, lack the confidence to set them. We are afraid of what others will think of us, we fear that we will let someone down, we are scared that the other person will walk out of our lives, and we are most of all shying away from the discomfort. You are allowed to feel these things. However, from experience, I have learned that establishing healthy boundaries truly saved me from anxiety, be it social or random, and from being a serial people pleaser; you know, the kind that are always going along with what others want them to do because they are afraid to stand up for themselves.
I have always struggled with boundaries and setting limits. It is no coincidence that I have also experienced difficulties with my digestion and that my stomach hurt 95% of the time. The stomach is our power center. It is where we assert our confidence, empowerment, courage, self-esteem, pride, and, you guessed it, it is where we set boundaries.
The stomach is also known as the Solar Plexus Chakra. A year ago, I had never even heard of a 'Solar Plexus' and now I think I mention it at least once a week, sometimes ten. This Chakra holds confidence, power, joy, excitement, anxiety, and nerves. There are so many emotions that move through the stomach and they impact how we digest food and how we feel physically. Do you ever get a sharp pain in your stomach when you feel stressed? Do you often feel bloated when you are feeling insecure? Do you ever experience nausea when you are trying to make a decision? These are all common signs of a Solar Plexus imbalance. One of the many reasons we experience this imbalance is because we are not honoring our time, our choices, and our thoughts. When we are not respecting ourselves in this way, we are often giving so much without stepping back to consider what we want, need, and think.
Setting boundaries is intimidating. In our heads, we may picture it as a wall that we are putting up, or, we may be worried that we are running away from our problems. However, this is not the case. Setting a boundary is simply saying to others that you respect yourself enough to remove yourself from situations that are not in your best interest. You are teaching them how to respect you. It is clichÃ©, but we can choose to receive the respect we think we deserve.
Setting boundaries does not mean that you need to be mean or bitchy in any way. If this is not part of your personality, then I advise that you avoid taking on those qualities because this is how we grow a culture of respect. Be an example for others by restricting them to boundaries. If a conversation does not align with your values or if you feel attacked in any way, say so! If that is not respected, calmly explain that you are going to leave if the conversation continues. And, the most important step of all, if the conversation continues, then you need to follow through and create a physical boundary between yourself and those who are disrespecting the verbal boundary you laid.
You may be thinking, âWell, that just sounds rude. My family and friends would never accept that behavior from me.â However, they will respect it if you continue to demonstrate such confidence and poise. They will respect you and will learn how to act around you because you are showing them how and you are educating them about you and your values. If you feel as though a conversation or experience is not safe for you, either physically or mentally, then setting a boundary is the best way to show that person that their behavior will not be accepted and that you are strong enough to forge your own path.
Creating a healthy Solar Plexus is one of the most effective ways to assert such authority and confidence. Pay attention to how your stomach feels in certain situations or if there is a pattern to when you get stomach aches, bloating or nausea. If you are not aware of the subtle attacks consciously, your body may be taking on the discomfort subconsciously. Naming and recognizing the imbalances as they arise will help you determine situations that need boundaries.
If you are anything like me, you may like to practice to gain confidence. When I started asserting healthy boundaries, I decided to practice how I would verbally set a boundary because I recognized that in uncomfortable situations I would either run away, shut down, or get overly emotional and lose my authority. When I was prepared with a phrase or a posture while setting a boundary, I could enter discussions or conversations that were difficult for me with greater confidence. Another important part of my Solar Plexus development was using affirmations to grow my self-esteem. The more I told myself I am worthy of receiving respect form others and that I deserve to be heard, the more I actually believed it! Using 'I am' statements, looking in the mirror, holding my right hand on my stomach, and speaking through my diaphragm really helped me grow and develop my ability to set boundaries!
If this resonates with you, consider using a journal to make notes of things that cross your boundary and make you feel uncomfortable. You can also make notes of when you experience stomach issues and if you notice a trigger for this discomfort. Comment below if you have can relate or if you have any questions about setting healthy boundaries, I would love to hear from you!
eLearning is a term well known in the corporate and military sectors, but is emerging at a rapid rate in the spiritual and holistic health spheres. Healers around the world are recognizing their potential reach beyond the yoga studio and treatment room by taking their wisdom to the World Wide Web.
As a millennial, I grew up in a unique time. Our generation was born just before smart phones were invented and social media existed. We saw the progression from dial-up to Wi-Fi, from MySpace to Facebook, and even Twitter to Instagram. We understand how to use this technology and have a firm grasp on how we can use it to communicate globally. Being a millennial is a unique position as a holistic healer; we have the knowledge and expertise to apply our online skills to reach more people than we could ever see in a private, or even group, session.
Historically, holistic wisdom and teachings are passed down to family or community members by word of mouth, by means of apprenticeship, or by written text. Recently, the digital age and the wave of the Internet entirely shifted the way information is passed along to others. Instead of waiting to receive sacred texts or wisdom from elders, those seeking holistic wisdom and teaching can simply search for articles, follow healers on social media, or even participate in online courses.
With this shift to eLearning brings a challenge for healers and holistic health coaches to create quality courses for their clients and students. Many of these healers are not educators by trade and do not have experience in online instructional design. There are many online courses that are simply âpage-turnersâ with primarily text or videos and limited interaction or problem solving integrated into the courses. As an instructional designer and a holistic health practitioner, I understand how vital it is to integrate such student engagement with this new age of online learning. The information healers are passing along should reach as many people as possible to continue the healing process. However, this information will create a lasting, meaningful impression on students and clients if they can also relate the lesson to an experience, as if they are in person for a training or session.
Traditional eLearning mirrors traditional classroom learning: I talk; you listen. However, the new generation of learning demands and expects more. We are a tactile society, used to touch screens and interactively gaining knowledge. Therefore, our eLearning should reflect this desire for interactive digital activity. Imparting knowledge is a tradition of the past that should be held sacred, but todayâs holistic healing humans are interested in experiential learning, as well.
As a holistic healer who wishes to develop meaningful, valuable, and relevant online courses, I seek to learn from those currently in the field and to also apply my skills as a professional educator. I hope to make the learning come alive by applying best practices and utilizing the instructional design theories that I studied.
The ancient wisdom and teaching that are resurfacing in the 21st Century have a large audience of conscious-minded learners, ready to meditate, stretch, balance, and develop as the best versions of themselves. They are learning to trust themselves as their own gurus, selecting the teachings and traditions that work for and resonate with them. We are no longer limited to the lessons from our immediate, physical community; rather, we can learn from anyone, anywhere in the world. Such freedom and accessibility provide ample opportunity for building community, sharing, applying problem solving, and creating a cultural shift.
The future of online, holistic health courses moves beyond reading articles and watching webinars. Integrating community discussion, problem solving, application of skills, interactivity, virtual reality, augmented reality, and gamification have great potential to open the doors of communication for modernized, ancient wisdom and teachings to come to life. The goal is to create an authentic learning experience, as if the students are experiencing an in-person session. The first step to achieving this goal is to recognize how we can best serve the online learners in a way that makes a lasting impact.
How will you contribute to this movement?
Comment below with your reactions and responses. I would love to hear your ideas and opinions!
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