Before Yoga Therapy training, my definition of yoga was completely different than it is now; similar to changing lenses on a pair of glasses. Through the elimination of expectation, I embraced many forms of yoga based on my daily senses and where I was in the present. However, through self-compassion and listening to my own body, I’m drawn to practices that create meditative, gentle relaxation and release.
In a world where we strive, fight, and compete, I embrace the opposite. I let go and allow; this is where freedom and compassion blend into endless possibility. Learning to be gentle with myself is what I have taken from gentle yoga. Previous injuries that have been worked on through a lot of rest and recovery is a lifetime of gentle yoga practice, and I am committed to just that. The push, pull, and strain of other modalities and practices led me to a place of nurturing my cells, breathing out toxins, and creating bliss while strengthening and stretching. My old type-A self would not have embraced gentle yoga. My new self, on the other hand, yearns for it, as I have learned to listen to my body, surrender to it, and not fight or compete with anyone else. The true nature of respecting yourself and what is needed while truly listening to your inner wisdom is, to me, the definition of gentle yoga.
I believe in balance and what is a gentle balance that meets you in the middle of your journey. “Yoga is not for one who eats too much, or for one who fasts too much, nor sleeps too much or sleeps too little, but instead lives in a harmonious flow along the middle path.” – Bhagavad Gita Starting in the teachings of restorative yoga, diving in head first and understanding the benefits and practicing gentle poses is a topic that continually comes up for women blending balance into their daily lives. Learning to nurture yourself at any age is imperative, it is strength, strength in that you matter and self-care is everything. When I feel the strongest and healthiest is when I have focused on strengthening my foundation as a practice, strengthening my body through exercises that build this power, blending it into soft comforting, and distressing the nervous system which is restorative yoga. Strength training and building a solid foundation is crucial, and with that, a blend of balancing the sympathetic and parasympathetic through a nice restorative yoga class is balancing.
During times of stress, blending strength through body and mind exercises combined with relaxing soothing meditations are beneficial to radiate and sustain energy levels. The so-called “fight or flight” response is different for men and women. Women tend to process stress differently; as a man’s instinct is either to flight or flee, women are wired to protect. We tend to release stress by sharing with others and expressing our feelings. When we limit this and don’t speak up, we listen intuitively and instead withdraw, and that is where we can get off balance. A topic that comes up a lot with my female friends parallel to this is balancing our masculine and feminine sides and nurturing both. Women are strong, and we need to stop underestimating ourselves and continue to be persistent, loving our bodies, nourishing them with confidence and perseverance. When I started strength training, it was a good parallel to my work-life balance. When I worked in corporate America/startups for 13 years, I continued to practice my meditations combined with visualizations, continued persistence, and strength; wonderful accomplishments took place. Our internal strength, focus, and our strong mindset takes us to places, and when we bring compassion to ourselves we can let go, soften, and let in; we can enjoy the ride. When we embrace our strength and ease, we start to infuse this into our environment, our lifestyle, our diet, and our relationships to holistically balance out, so our true nature aligns. In yoga poses, when I am supported and grounded with confidence, my yoga poses reflect that. Sthira is the ability to hold steady in poses, breath flows with ease, and become patient, vigilant observing whatever arises when thoughts float away. During meditation, the Sukha blends in and manifests into a balance of energy, free-flowing showing up in joy, awareness, and spacious abundance. When we take these ways of living off our mat and into the world, change takes place internally and extends externally.
For years working my way up to a leadership role, where I am one of very few women in my field at that level, has taught me a lot of lessons. One of the lessons is, believing we can grow and change our perspective by balancing strength and restoration to empower others. Restoration resembles warmth, softness, gentleness, and feeling grounded. We can be powerful, strong, confident women yet gentle, and do not have to apologize for it. Being a strong direct woman in an industry and practicing boundaries comes with knowledge, experience and time. We outperform men on many levels and have strength that sometimes we are unaware we have. The label “bitchy” needs to change when women become successful, outperform or have boundaries and are able to hold their ground. We need to stop saying we are sorry understanding there is a time and place to apologize, but we have a habit of being overly nice at times to justify or apologize for our strength. Yet “niceness” is not a sign of weakness but a testament to holding our value system as long as we hold our strong boundaries. When we say what we mean and what we want, we are heard, understood, and respected. I would re-label it as warriors. We, women, are smart, worthy of respect and assertiveness, and should embrace it; we balance the sweetness with strength. Powerful women stick to their standards and morals, and I found that the moments when I followed my intuition, stuck to my guns, followed my path, a true essence arose. Our intuitive wisdom is always to be first and foremost trusted, as it comes from the solid foundation of knowing. When we bring in compassion for our self, know our strengths, self-worth, know the growth we desire to achieve, and where we have come from, we are unstoppable.
When we listen to our heart and mind, asking for our internal clarification, there is the slightest self-doubt which comes from being still. Understanding our belief systems and recognizing them, while channeling our inner wisdom is where meditation increases guidance — finding time to meditate breaks the stress cycle. Meditation has helped me not only in the business world but in many parts of my life to assist with protecting my boundaries and centering myself.
Some affirmations that help:
“I deserve to be in a relationship where I feel comfortable; I deserve to be heard; I deserve to have my sensitivities respected; I deserve to express and share my true needs.”