Long ago before Lululemon was the norm in class, there was a dude named Paulie Zink who taught Taoist Yoga. He was also a master of martial arts and used his yoga practice as the base/foundation for his training. He would start with supine poses which he held for 5-10 minutes. Two hours later, Paulie would begin the Yang portion of his training. At this point in time, Taoist Yoga is what we know as Yin yoga today. However, not in its entirety. Only the part dealing with Yin principles.
Taoist Yoga | Father of Yin Yoga
Paul Grilley is the most well-known teacher in the Yin style. He met Paulie Zink in 1989 and trained with him for one year.
“The deeper we exhale, the greater is our capacity to inhale new, fresh air.” B.K.S. Iyengar
Two years ago, I spent most of my year traveling and teaching yoga. I started to notice that as soon as I returned and stepped back into LAX, the energy of Los Angeles was one of anxiety and chaos mixed with some anger. It is an overpopulated city where a fight over a parking space or allowing someone in your lane on the freeway results in one person hammering on their horn for 10 minutes while the other throws up the middle finger and relentlessly honks back. The city as a whole needs to exhale.
We all need to exhale before we end up being the crazy person going loco in a public place and unraveling in front of everyone. Be honest, we have all been there at least once. As a human being, you can only hold on and hold on for so long. But if there is no letting go process in place, the body and the mind will eventually do a forced reboot. For me, this happened last Tuesday, and I learned an important lesson that day.
The opposite of exhalation would be inhalation. As much as exhales are for “letting go” inhales are about allowing yourself to “receive” while trusting and letting your life unfold. We can receive and draw in energy from the earth, from our environment. Our inhalation allows us to empty the thinking mind so we can live in the present moment, instead of spiraling with thoughts of past and present. The trick is to find the balance of both–inhales and exhales. Letting go and receiving, so we can flow freely through any obstacles placed in our day and lives. In reality, you’re one step ahead if you have just the awareness, which then allows you to fully practice these concepts.
I realized that I needed to give up control for wanting things to be a certain way and just accept the present moment exactly how it is without the desire to change it. The bigger lesson was in understanding that I need to allow myself to “receive.” I’m good at being of service but I have a very much “I’ve-got-this” attitude. The truth is, I don’t always “got this.” I’m going to work on allowing myself to ask for help when needed and to allow myself to receive from my community as I continue to be of service and give.
As you take time to reflect on this, what do you need more of in your life? If it is the need to “let go,” do you have a process for this work to take place? You must not only acknowledge the need but also take action to do something about it. If you need to “receive,” then investigate where from and how you go about creating this?
“Don’t run away from heavy emotions: Honor the anger, give pain the space it needs to breathe. This is how we let go.” Young Pueblo
“While producing art works, illusions appear from time to time due to my mental illness. Every day is a struggle for me.”
I recently had the privilege to see Yayoi Kusama’s exhibition at The Broad museum here in Los Angeles. I knew absolutely nothing about her prior to going which is a bit unlike me. I like knowing everything about the person before checking out their work. In this case, her exhibition looked magical and I can always use magic in my life.
My student told me to look into her story and once I did, my admiration for her only grew. Like my idol Frida Kahlo, they both paint their reality. Frida painted her painful, tormented life and marriage while Yayoi paints her hallucinations. I was surprised to see how parts of her work displayed similarities to that of my Ayahuasca experience. However, it made perfect sense once discovering that she suffers from intense audio-visual hallucinations among other mental issues. These hallucinations started while being abused by her mother during childhood and have continued her whole life. Yayoi is 88 years old and has lived in a psychiatric hospital in Japan since 1977. Her art studio is across the street where she walks to and works daily. She states that if it wasn’t for the escape her art offers her, she would have killed herself.
I find Yayoi Kusama and Frida Kahlo to be such inspirational women. At a young age, they went through something dramatic that could have crippled them forever, yet they persevered. Would they have shared their work with the world if it wasn’t for the trauma experienced during childhood? Was that a necessary part in order for their gifts to manifest? I don’t know. There’s so much about life that we question and wish to know and yet we most likely never will.
What I do know, is that if you look at the story of someone you admire, that you deem successful, and aspire to accomplish what they have accomplished, a lot of times you will find past trauma came from a rough start in life. It is during this time that we are shaped and molded into what we become today. Like these women, giving up and playing the victim was not an option and although Frida was crippled in her body and Yayoi deals with mental disease, they both persevered and continue to inspire.
You don’t always know someone else’s story. Choose to be inspired by others and yourself. Live and develop your story. Your truth.
With Thanksgiving taking place this Thursday, I think we can say that the “holiday season” is starting to get underway.
The holidays are portrayed as a magical time full of joy, laughter and family and although this is true for some, it is not the standard for all. It is also a time where people are reminded of loss, triggering unexpected and deep-rooted tough emotions.
It is a time where we often fall back into the same patterns of behavior we once had growing up. We play the role we were given in the family dynamic rather than what we have chosen to grow into as adults.
This causes us to be in a state of reactivity treating the present moment as our enemy rather than our friend.
But what if this holiday season, we switched our approach?
What if we treated this as a time of reflection? An opportunity to notice how much we have indeed progressed on this journey called life and yet, how much more capacity we have to grow. I often find myself in situations asking; what would Mother Theresa and Buddha do? Life is gracious and it will keep giving you opportunity after opportunity to learn your lessons. So let’s move beyond it this year.
Treat the present, as you would a beautiful moment in your life. Accept your life as it is right now and look for what is right. If you’re not able to find anything, please keep searching. You can start by being grateful for your life. For having a roof over your head. For your eyesight. For your voice.
Treat the present, as your friend, not your worst enemy. The other shoe doesn’t always drop. The other shoe could be a sheer figment of your imagination. All I’m saying is watch your attitude. Be honest with yourself. What are you truly creating?
You might even put yourself in an adult “time out” and take a few minutes to inhale up the spine and exhale out of your mouth. Connect to your physical self and shut down the thinking mind. If that still doesn’t work, remind yourself that you’re a bad ass and do a handstand even if you have to use the damn wall! Throw a spontaneous dance party!
If you’re life and family are perfect, great, but for the rest of us, let’s do this. See the good inside of you and others. Be kind. I guarantee you that we are all much more alike than we are different.
If you’ve been to one of my public classes in the past year, you will hear me say “be at peace” at the end of class. It is something I wish for in myself and others. For better or worse, we tend to duplicate the same pattern of behavior we ourselves were shown and experienced growing up. Take a second and try to honestly think back to your childhood. What kind of household were you raised in? What behaviors you learned as a child then are you duplicating now as an adult? The first step to maturity is becoming aware and noticing if the patterns you’re recreating from childhood are helping your potential or hindering your current life.
My biological parents and early gymnastics coaches communicated through physical and emotional abuse. It’s no surprise that, as an adult, I’m prone to acting out of anxiety and fear. Lately, I’ve been experiencing longer periods of peace.