As I work on my own practice, I’m always amazed by how important connection is. It’s so easy to stay in our head and try to work out our issues.
What yoga teaches us is that getting out of this solitary unconnected mindset is conducive to freedom. It’s not that we don’t need to use our intellect to make choices, (like what time you’ll be practicing tomorrow), but connection with others peels away much of the mental fuzziness and confusion associated with too much lonely self-centered thinking. Classes, teachers, meditation groups, and community of all sorts are remedies for these counterproductive thoughts.
This is an essential part of our overall strategy to stay present with ourselves and live in a way that brings us peace and energy. There will be times when it gets really tough to maintain your practice. Lethargy and self-doubt are a part of our experience of being human. With community and connection already in place, we can lean on it in times of need. When the going gets tough, the tough ask for help. So, this month, ask yourself if you have the support you need to support your practice. As we do this, we are often reminded that our practice helps others around us.
And the beauty of being human is revealed.
One of the most common questions I get asked at my seminars is how to stop binging behavior. Often we binge eat to repress unwanted emotions. I commonly hear fear and loneliness being cited as reasons for binging. I also see that it is comforting for many people. I would like to offer my perspective on this complex problem with which many of us are dealing.
Binge eating to supress emotion is habit-forming. So you may be suppressing emotions which are currently being generated. You may also be in the habit of suppressing these emotions with food, even though the emotions themselves have resolved. It is important to stay open to this possibility. We must always be ready to be done with our problems, or we will always be living with them. Either way, we are addicted to the state of deadened feeling. Our practice is to open ourselves up and enhance our awareness. We then get addicted to this open, aware state and it gradually overtakes our need for deadened states.
‘Gradually’ is a key concept here. If we force ourselves to stop binging right away, it is possible those emotions will come up and release before we are ready. The uncomfortable feeling this produces can send us right back into binging behavior—possible more intense than before. We must first establish our practice of enhancing awareness in a safe way so that we can get used to idea and feeling of being aware. As we realize that it is actually liberating to live in fuller awareness, the need to suppress emotion diminishes naturally.
So we practice yoga asana with awareness on the breath first. We sync breath and movement to allow ourselves to feel prana (energy) move in our body. As we get used to this feeling, it becomes uncomfortable to block this feeling with food.
We also spend time doing deep relaxation to keep our nervous system in check. This helps us stay in a state of receptivity and awareness, and away from fear-based responses.
Finally we practice meditation. This allows us to separate from reacting so much to thoughts and emotions.
Once these practices are firmly established, then we may work on curbing our binges. When these practices are in place, we are able to see clearly if we are ready to stop. Often we are. But, as always, we take a slow, compassionate path with ourselves. We allow our natural awareness to shine first and help us wash away the behaviors that are not serving us.
As always please email me with any thoughts or questions
Loka Samastha Sukino Bhavantu
May all beings be free and happy
There are many ways to approach weight loss. From one point of view it is a simple mathematical equation—less food = less weight. Eat a bit less than you need to sustain your weight and the pounds will come off. This is, of course, true. We know it because we have dieted and then seen the results. Most likely, though, the pounds didn’t stay off. We went back to our old way of being and ended up back where we started.
Another way to see our condition is to look down one layer below our physical to our energetic system. A simple way to conceptualize this is to see the energetic system as the part of you that makes you feel aware and energized in your body. When this system is in shape, one is able to bring attention to any part of the body and feel its “aliveness.” A sense of feeling, instead of a sense of dead weight. If this is difficult, then it is possible that your energetic system needs a bit of work.
Why bother? Because when this system is running properly, the body feels better—when the body feels better, the mind feels calmer. When the mind is calmer, it doesn’t send confusing weight-gaining signals to the body. Basically, a well-functioning energetic system immediately creates harmony in the physical body. Once this harmony is achieved, the actions needed to make weight loss happen become obvious and easeful. Working at this level makes the discipline of losing weight less stressful. In other words, once you set the stage by tuning your energetic body, the weight loss becomes just a final integration—an aligning of the physical with the energetic.
Do how do we tune the energetic? The regular practice of asana in a way that leaves you relaxed and energized is a great path. Combining breath and movement in any way will do the job as long as it has the result of lowering your stress levels and increasing your ability to enjoy and be aware of the here and now.
Try this simple version of mountain pose. Stand feet hip width apart and bring your arms up alongside your ears as you inhale. On the exhalation, arms back down to your sides. Make sure that you are moving with your breath so that the breath is longer than your movement. Do 12 breaths of these twice a day and see if you are more sensitive and aware of your body when you are done.
As always, email me with questions or comments.
May we all realize we are nourished and cared for.