Soothing your inner dragon trigger monster

Dear One,
 

How well do you know your nervous system?

Chances are, your nervous system overheats on a regular basis. Whether your stress comes from work, relationships, politics, your health, or your own traumatic history, your nervous system gets triggered to respond to threat in one of 3 ways : fight, flight or freeze.

That moment you feel your hackles going up? That's FIGHT mode.

That moment you want to just get the hell out? That's FLIGHT mode.

That moment when you draw a complete blank and lose your words? That's FREEZE.

Here's the thing : your ability to fight, get out, or play dead can be a life saver when the threat is real.

But when the threat is a critical email, a thoughtless comment, a setback, a life change, or any other "normal" vulnerability of living, your nervous system may still interpret this as life threatening and trigger you. And engaging with the world from a triggered mindset is damn stressful because it heightens the stakes of every. little. thing.

So what to do? Answer : Teach your inner old dog new tricks.

Yoga, meditation and mindfulness helps you re-educate your nervous system. To help it realize you're safer than it thinks. To be able to over-ride the trigger response and cool down more quickly when you overheat.

I'll be offering a nervous system cool-down this Saturday 5/20 from 2-4pm at JP Centre Yoga : Radically Restorative Yoga. This workshop is an embodied exercise in getting grounded and accessing your inner surfer dude. The gentle yoga postures become ultra relaxing with the addition of hands-on support, offered by 4 different bodyworkers. It teaches your nervous system to be in the present, receive support and to embody self-compassion.

Then of course there's yoga therapy if you're seeking 1-on-1 support, and professional yoga therapy training with me in Vermont in June/July if you want to soothe nervous systems for a living. See below.

But even if we won't be practicing together, I hope you'll get to know your nervous system better. Start to recognize your FIGHT/FLIGHT/FREEZE symptoms. Figure out what helps you cool off when you overheat. Practice NOT engaging with the world from your triggered state. Read Buddha's Brain. Be the change you wish to see in the world by overriding your inner dragon trigger monster and radiating physical, mental and emotional safety into the world. We need it.

I'm practicing right alongside you.

May you thrive, 
 

~Alex

Let the change begin with you

Where do you go when the pain rolls in?

Whether the pain is your own, ancestral, communal or global, where do you go?

Do you go away? Scroll faster? Click "next"? Reach for a treat? Slip under the covers of numbness? Do you freeze into paralysis? Do you lash out? Do you don horse shudders and turn towards the sun?

Now, can you forgive yourself for all the ways you avoid pain? Can you appreciate the instinctual force with which your body & mind turns away from the ache? Can you smile at the part of yourself that cries, "But I don't wanna!!" and fold it into your strong embrace?

And then the work can begin.

When you start the process of changing, you can only see a few steps ahead. You can only see the first few obstacles and the first few opportunities. But then you keep going. You change more. And just like the horizon that advances as you travel forward, you'll encounter obstacles and opportunities that you couldn't see before. And you deal with them, one courageous feat of strength at a time.

At a time when the obvious need to change the world can be paralyzing in its enormity, start with yourself. And so much more will be revealed as you go.

May you thrive,
~ Alex

Why "Urban" Awakening?

Do you ever wish you could press pause, zoom out for a birds-eye-view of your life, and give a tune-up to the parts of you that are ailing? Most of us seem to think we have to "go away" and "retreat" from real life to do that.

But practicing in the midst of real life and all its sh*t-storms can be the strongest practice of all. You don't have to run away to Bali, hike into the mountains, or take up with a monk. Perspective, mindfulness and clarity can happen right in the midst of your day-to-day life.

Over the course of 4 weekly Monday night sessions in June, you'll get to press pause, slow down the merry-go-round, bring new perspective to your stressors and apply mindfulness tools right here, right now. The workshop is called "Urban Awakening" and it provides structure, accountability and community for a month of self-exploration. All while saving money on airfare. Details below. Will you join us?

Holiday Traumas & New Year's Awakenings

How is your body responding to the "holidays"?

The night before Thanksgiving at my mom's house, I realized my body was in a subtle-but-powerful trauma trigger -- irritable, lashing out, throat and chest tightening, mind spinning, fury. This had a tiny bit to do with watching the Scientology Documentary on TV, and a whole lot to do with my body's and nervous system's imprint of what holidays "mean". Because my body and my nervous system long ago formed powerful assumptions about the holidays, thanks to the yuletide emotional bootcamp circa 1993-1995.

Back then, the massive inflow of emotional, energetic, analytical and physical data ran through the matrix of my pre-teen brain and amounted to this: Holidays = scary, fighting, disappointment, heartache, disconnection, not belonging, being left out, sad, fury, alienation, pain. And somehow, my body and nervous system were still holding those assumptions, even though life is so much sweeter now.

Trauma triggers are useful. They can show us where our unfinished business lies. But what do we do with our triggered selves? Here are some strategies that help me, and they might help you too:

1) Acknowledge with compassion. Consider that your inner bitch is actually an ancient inner trauma response. Your emotions and intuition are valid, even if they're sometimes misplaced. There's a reason you're upset. Honor it.

2) Create some comfort and safety. Soothing your body and your nervous system takes you out of trigger mode and gives you some space and perspective. Try: deep breathing, having a good cry, having a damn cookie, leaving the room, seeking out an ally, etc.

3) Explore the threat. What is actually taunting my nervous system? What's happening now that's bringing up a fight/flight/freeze response? What's the unfinished business or the unhealed wound?

4) Consider choices & respond consciously. Is this something I need to make peace with independently, or are there conversations to be had, questions to be asked, skeletons to be pulled out of the closet, truths to be confronted?

That night before Thanksgiving, I was very fortunate. I had an amazing conversation with my mother that helped me calm my nervous system, because I was able to shed pent-up tears and be deeply heard by her. She held space for me as I identified the unfinished business from my past, which the holidays were kicking up for me. And she's been my ally these last few weeks as I've pulled some family skeletons out of the closet and had difficult but freedom-inducing conversations. And I've finally made my peace with December.

To all you emotional freedom-fighters out there, I wish you the happiness that's a by-product of truthful expression and scary-courage. I wish you the satisfaction that comes from trusting, honoring and positively utilizing your gut response, your body's reactions, your nervous system triggers. Cheers to you. I know that's what you're practicing for when you get on the yoga mat.

Below you'll read about several workshops to help us honor this season, and all that it stirs, together. For some extra support, Yoga Therapy Gift Certificates are now on sale.

Happy freakin' holidays. May you thrive.

~Alex  


Why change?

Dear one: We all need a gentle kick in the soul every now and again to spark the fire of change. Personal growth isn't change for change's sake -- it's a deliberate, empowered way of updating our inner workings so that we can re-align our outer circumstances. It's how we build, raze, re-build and nourish the life we want. It's how we build, raze, re-build and nourish our inner capacity for awesomeness.

Join me for some yoga-inspired personal growth awesomeness over the next few weeks in Boston, including Body Wisdom starting Oct. 31. No tricks, just treats for your body, heart and soul.

Freedom from assumption

Stop for a moment.
Take 3 big breaths.
And ask yourself, "Which assumptions are driving me, right now?"

 
Like it or not, your brain is brilliantly designed to work something like this: Take in new information. Transform information into assumptions. Go off into the world reacting accordingly. Resume taking in new information. Use information to confirm existing assumptions. React to the world accordingly. Repeat.  

The assumptions that drive the biggest roots into our Selves are those assumptions formed when we are at our most neurologically vulnerable: when we're young and/or when we're experiencing traumatic stress. In these vulnerable times, the assumptions we form are crude, over-simplified, and biased towards a negative interpretation of -- well, everything. Then, these deeply rooted assumptions become our rules of engagement for life.

Our brain is wired like this because it helps us survive. But it doesn't always help us thrive.

To thrive we must somehow transcend the rule of assumptions that were birthed in our darkest, scariest times. We must replace the negativity bias with loving compassion for ourselves and others. We must be able to see the glass half-full. And to do all of that, we must update our neurological hard drive and delete some very old assumptions.

This is really why many of us practice mindfulness-based yoga. The physical, mental and emotional practices of yoga are re-training you to figure out what's really, actually true, right now. Through your body, nervous system, and prefrontal cortex, you discover the possibility of new assumptions that are rooted in compassion, patience, trust and abundance.

This is what inspires my yoga classes, yoga therapy sessions, twice-monthly Radically Restorative Yoga with bodywork (next one this Saturday at JP Centre Yoga), and therapeutic yoga workshops like Body Wisdom (coming up in just a few weeks at Akasha Roslindale).

It's hard work updating your internal operating system. But that's the work that will give you freedom from the assumptions that no longer serve you.

And I'm right there with you my friend. May you thrive.
~Alex

PS: Send me a note, let me know what this sparks for you. xo  

Yoga to recharge this weekend and beyond

Radically Restorative Yoga with Alex Bauermeister

Ah, September.

For many of us this time of year, there's an energetic swing towards the hectic, overly scheduled hustle. This time around, what if you...
... refused to get on the hamster wheel?
... scheduled breathing breaks?
... committed yourself to periodic self-care?

You are an incredibly resourceful, beautiful force of productivity in the world. But you can't refuel your gas tank without pulling off the road every once in a while.

It's not always easy to take a time out -- it takes commitment, healthy boundaries and interpersonal support. But it is possible to engineer some peace into your life. And those moments of peace will amplify your energy so that you can show up fully for everything else.

With Intra Yoga Therapy, you'll find lots of opportunities for mind-body-tune-ups this fall, starting with Radically Restorative Yoga at Akasha Roslindale in Boston THIS SUNDAY 9/13 from 4-6pm!

May you thrive.  ~Alex

A Body Wisdom Story by Elizabeth Gilbert

Many of my yoga therapy clients are dealing with chronic pain/discomfort. This is an awesome story about changing one's relationship to that pain/discomfort. There are no quick fixes, no easy diagnoses for so much of our body stuff. But so often we miss a crucial part of the process -- asking to understand what our body wants from us. And examining our belief system around our body. And then adjusting accordingly. Please enjoy author Elizabeth Gilbert's amazing story of mind-body connection. #bodywisdom

"PERHAPS I AM STRONGER THAN I THINK" — Thomas Merton

Dear Friends -

I've spent the last eleven days hiking in the Italian Alps.

And that is a sentence that — 15 years ago — I would never have imagined myself ever writing.

I used to have a bad knee. It started during my divorce, when every part of me was falling apart — head to toe, inside and out. But my left knee was the worst of it. I twisted it one day, and it was never the same again. I couldn't even walk up a flight of stairs without pain. At the time I went to see a doctor about it, who said simply, "Well, that's why they call it getting older, and not getting younger." (Thanks, doc.)

For years, I babied my knee. I identified myself as someone whose knees were "bad", the way certain dogs and neighborhoods are called "bad". If I took a yoga class, and the teacher asked if anyone had any physical limitations, I dutifully raised my hand and explained that I had a bad knee. I was given special movements, and told to be extra careful. Every new doctor was told about my bad knee. My friends knew about my bad knee. I iced it and heated it and put braces on it and took tons of ibuprofen and kept my range of motion limited because of it. I visited all kinds of professionals — traditional and alternative, alike.

But my knee never stopped hurting.

Untill 5 years ago.

Now listen — before I go on here, please don't do anything stupid to your body because of what I'm about to say, OK? I'm not a medical professional, and you must be a wise steward of your own lovely physical being.

But here is what happened to me.

One day — and it did happen suddenly, one day — about five years ago, I asked my knee what it wanted from me.

I literally spoke to it. I got very quiet, and very sleepy, and I said, "Tell me what you need from me, dear knee. I'm listening. I''ll do whatever you say. Surgery? A replacement? More gentle care? More acupunture? A change of diet? Reiki? Just give me the word."

Then I got very quiet, and my knee told me what it wanted. I heard the answer in the depths of my mind, as clear as day. It said, "GO FASTER."

Go faster, said my knee. Go running. Go climbing. Go dancing. Use me. Jump up and down on me. I am a KNEE. There is absolutely nothing wrong with me. I am wonderously designed, said my knee. I am not a weak point, but a strong one. I am part of your body, and I want to be used. I am not a symbol of your divorce. I am not a sign of aging. I am not a problem. Don't baby me. I don't want to spend the rest of my life being treated like a Victorian invalid lady who has to take to her bed because of her fainting spells. I am not weak. Stop this. Please, please, please — said my "bad" knee to me — please stop using me as an expression of your weakness, fear, and emotional fragility. Please talk to your therapist about whatever troubles are ongoing in your mind, but don't blame for everything. Please just trust me. Please just use me as I was designed. Use me as a freaking KNEE.

The next day — hand to God — I went running for three miles and I was fine. I've been fine ever since.

Again — PLEASE don't go and do anything physically stupid to yourselves because of this story. I can barely explain it myself — how suddenly my "bad" knee was no longer bad. I have never been able to speak to a body part so clearly again, and I know it seems crazy that it happened at all.

But it happened.

There was pain (remember — that was my "divorce knee") and then I was finally ready to put the pain away, and to stop using my knee as a pain-memorial.

All I know is this — that pain is a complicated and multi-layered force. Nobody experiences pain the same way, which is why it's so difficult to treat. Some of our pain abides in the body, and some of it abides in the mind, and some of it abides in our histories. As pain moves through us, it passes through what scientists call "amplification centers" in our beings. Our emotions are amplification centers. our fear is an amplifaction center. Our imaginations are amplification centers. Our anger, too. All of these parts of ourselves amplify the pain in our mind, and sometimes commit to that pain fully — forever.

I had a friend once who injured her back during a hard time in her life, and it didn't recover for years. One day, a doctor finally asked her, "What was the first thing you thought, when you felt your back go out?"

My friend said, "I thought, 'This is going to hurt me for the rest of my life''.

The doctor, very kindly, said, "Maybe it's time for you to stop thinking that."

Her healing began there.

I believe that I did hurt my knee 15 years ago — but mildly, temporarily, and not in a way that it needed to cause me pain for a decade. I believe that my "bad" knee lived on inside my mind, not in my knee itself. When pain abides in the mind, it does not mean you are crazy, or that the pain is any less "real". Trust me, my knee HURT. It just means that pain is living on within your body because — for some reason — it must. Because you are not done suffering. Because I was in heart-pain for ten years, and that pain needed a location. My poor knee took the pain for me. Until it didn't want to any more.

Anyhow — what if you are stronger than you think?

I am all for people treating themselves with gentle loving care (and maybe part of my recovery from emotional pain was all about focusing on treating my knee like a poor, suffering baby — so that I could take care of myself with kindness at some level. Maybe that helped me to heal my heart.) But what if there are parts of your body that don't want to be babied foever?

What if every single part of us longs to be USED?

What if our bodies long to be freed from the past, so that they can move as they were designed to move?

What if our hearts long to love?

What if our minds long to be creative?

What if our spirits just want everything to be forgiven?

What if your knee wants you to climb a mountain, to show you how powerful you actually are?

Wouldn't that be crazy?

Wouldn't that be freaking wild?

Wouldn't that fill you with so much joy, you feel that your heart may burst from it?

ONWARD,
Liz Gilbert
(as shared on her Facebook page 8/14/15)

‪#‎bodywisdom‬

Untangling your inner truth ...

Have you ever confused intuition with fear? Conflated knowledge and assumption? Mistaken survival instinct for wisdom? Waged a war of heart vs. head?

I'll tell ya ... it's hard work being aware of all the forces that play tug-of-war with our heart strings. Yoga and mindfulness help us tune in ... but what happens when the inner messages contradict each other?

Sometimes awareness simply isn't enough. We must learn to practice what my yoga therapy mentor Michael Lee calls discernment -- understanding subtle differences and nuances.

Discernment involves learning to identify a deeper inner truth that's stronger than the white noise of fear. It's a practice of noticing your body's response to different potential paths forward. It's the art of knowing when to move forward with a decision and when to ride out the waves of emotion without action. In other words -- practicing good judgment.

So how do you strengthen your good judgment muscle? Practice, practice, practice. Below are some upcoming Boston-based opportunities to help you bulk up. And in the meantime, here are 5 key questions to ask yourself to lay the groundwork for becoming a kick-ass discernment ninja:

  1. What does fear feel like in my body? Track the things in your life that induce muscle contraction, tension, pain, digestive disruption, fatigue, etc.

  2. What does truth feel like in my body? Track the things that create muscle relaxation, openness, relief, vitality, natural highs, etc.

  3. Which activities exacerbate fear and muddle my sense of self? Notice the effects of toxic conversations, imagining worst case scenarios, rushing, comparing, reacting, etc.

  4. Which activities help me get clarity and hear my own truth? Notice the effects of journaling, talking to a certain friend, going for a walk, therapy, making art, yoga, etc.

  5. Now how can I adjust accordingly?  

May you thrive. 
~Alex 

Tell your mind who's boss

IntraYogaTherapy

So, you're now reading my 3rd draft. Humor me, will ya?

Sometimes the struggle to say something profound gets in the way of authentic communication. I'm totally stuck -- newsletter writer's block. So, I pause. I'm ask myself yoga therapy's magic question: What's happening now? And I notice that I'm all up in my head.

My mind wants to get up on a soap box and say something new/inspiring/motivating. Meanwhile, my body is closing off. My perception narrows as my ego-driven mind slams itself into the driver's seat and takes off, kicking intuition to the curb.

Noticing this, I tune in to the other parts of me. What does my body want? My body wants to simply soften into the moment, let go of agenda, and open up to whatever imperfect wisdom wants to spill from my fingertips. My intuition wants to come through and just share what's true for me now, hoping that it will inspire you to check in with your own truth today.

We are composed of so much more than our silly little amazing brains. We are also body, energy, emotion, and intuition. Ideally, these parts of ourselves collaborate with our mind to navigate life with resilience and grace. But we live in a culture that worships the mind above all else. Sometimes we need some extra tools to re-align our body, heart, and mind -- which is why I teach programs like Urban Awakening, coming up in May in Boston.

They say the mind is an awesome servant, but a terrible master. Which parts of you do you worship the most? Which parts of you get forgotten? How can you throw them a lifeline?
May you thrive.

~Alex 

PS: Want to get monthly newsletters with workshop and yoga therapy offerings? Sign up here.

What makes you come alive?

Got cabin fever?

I aim to live a deeply inspired life, but sometimes my couch holds me hostage. There's nothing like 3 weeks of snow storms to shine a light on our shadow. Who do we become amidst postponements and cancellations? What do we choose to watch on TV? How many times per hour do we check Facebook? Who do we become in frustration ... in overwhelm ... in boredom?

Howard Thurman was a civil rights leader who encouraged us to pursue what makes us come alive. I don't know about you, but sometimes I need a little kick in the a*s to remind me that I have an inner fire that needs oxygen.

Yoga -- in all its different forms -- helps us come alive. Check out some Boston yoga workshops to help you come alive and stoke your inner fire in the next few months.

Got Body Wisdom?

You. Stop. Breathe. Read.

Most of us spend the majority of day to day life in our HEADS. Our awareness is clogged with to-do lists, shoulds, wants, fears, judgments, distractions, regrets ... basically lots of crap that keeps us either in the past, in the future, or numb, at the expense of enjoying the present.

So if you weren't in your head, where else could you be? Here's a hint: in your body. To some, that sounds blissfully awesome. To others, the idea of being in your body can be foreign, frightening, impossible, unsafe, cheesy, or plain boring. But here's the thing: our bodies are better truth-tellers than our minds. Your mind is a practiced fiction writer. Your body is a compassionate autobiographer.

So why not learn to read your body's wisdom?

Yeah, you guessed it: there's a workshop for that. "Body Wisdom: 8 weeks to befriend your body, calm your mind & re-inspire your life" starts March 1st in the Boston area. But even if you can't attend the workshop, STOP, breathe and ask yourself 3 things:

  1. What's happening for my body right now?
  2. What's my relationship with my body? Are we friends, enemies, strangers, absentee landlords, or something else?
  3. If I was to listen to my body, what is one action it would want me to take in the next 24 hours?

May you thrive -- in body, heart and mind. 

~Alex 

Happiness is a practice

Let me remind you: Happiness is a practice.

Our mainstream culture would have you buy into the myth that happiness is an end state. A place you will reach when you finally get that house/job/relationship/shoe/validation. There's this misconception dressed up as truth that you're either happy, or you're not. And if you're not happy, you must be failing at life.  

But happiness is a practice. It's a process. It waxes and wanes. It can be self-contradicting. Our amazing hearts can hold great happiness and deep unhappiness side by side. Happiness might spark unhappiness (love lost) and unhappiness can lead to happiness (transformation). Your willingness to feel unhappy is as important as your willingness to feel happy. It means that you are making yourself beautifully vulnerable to the realities of life, love, loss and learning. It's all part of the practice.   

Engage that practice with appreciation for the joy of the high's as well as the instruction of the low's.  May you thrive, be nurtured and share warmth this season.  

~Alex

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