shining soul fitness

shine from the inside out


September 2016

A Little Respect

As you may know, I lead Yoga Teacher Trainings in my role as a Senior Master Trainer for YogaFit. Recently, I was teaching at a Mind Body Fitness Conference and had finished teaching the first 2-day training, leaving one more 2-day training to go. I was speaking with my husband on the phone at the end of Day 2 and telling him that it was going well. I also told him that I expected the next two days to go even better, as I had led the upcoming training multiple times and it was about yoga to address Depression and Anxiety- I mean that’s my thang. I could feel my head growing larger… And then I said, “But I don’t want to flip my kayak, so I will focus and do my best with this training, even though I have done it before.” (He laughed and asked me if I had written my blog yet…thanks for the inspiration, babe…)

Let me give you the back story here.

My husband and I have a friend who has land on a river in Middle Tennessee. We love going to ‘The River’ to unplug, camp, and kayak.  The portion of the river that we visit is small-ish and relatively calm as far as kayaking rivers go.  There are even peaceful portions where I can stop paddling and just float while taking in the beauty of nature.  Aaahhh, it recharges me in so many ways.  

Last summer, with our new kayaks, we set out on the river and I was feeling a bit too confident.  I had floated this river multiple times, I had a low center of gravity in the kayak, it was a beautiful day…what could possibly go wrong?   I got into the water with the attitude of ‘I got this-no problem!’ and something that may have been along the lines of ‘This is my river!’. 

The float was going well and there were 5 of us enjoying the peace and beauty when we came upon a turn with a downed tree.  There was also a much stronger current here and it was deeper than some other areas of the river.  This downed tree was one that had 2 trunks that had grown up out of one.  One side of the tree was submerged and one was protruding out of the water.  I took the turn too wide and was swept into the tree.  As that happened, my kayak flipped and began to fill with water.  I couldn’t right the kayak and I couldn’t stay in it, so I slipped out and as I did, the kayak went underwater and between the 2 trunks.  The current now had me pinned against the trees as it pressed against my back.  Luckily, I could stand up, but I couldn’t move as the water was stronger than I was.

My husband pulled his kayak to the bank and washed over to me to help me get off of the tree and down the river.  Our friends were gathering things from my kayak like my seat, the wetbox, and my cooler as they floated down.  And the guys went back into the strong current to push my kayak through and free from the tree.

Once it was over, we sat down for a moment to catch our breath and I recognized that the river was teaching me some respect. And reminding me that I am not in control as much as I like to pretend that I am. I was definitely scared for a moment and grateful that it turned out as well as it did. 

I haven’t forgotten the lessons from that day. Since then, I have seen how my ego gets in the way when I think I can “coast” through. How the quality of my work suffers and things fling out of control when (as we say in the south) I get too big for my britches. How every time I think I am so “smart” I don’t need to prepare, a curve ball comes flying at me and I have duck back into line. 

So, I do my best to stay humble. To be present. To respect forces that are bigger than I as well as my lack of control on the world around me. The second training at that conference did go very well, but I also mindfully prepped, focused, and thanked the Universe for the opportunity to do what I love. 

Remember, the only thing you can really control is you. And when you go into anything with the intention to do your best and to respect what others have to offer you- whether the others are trainees, coworkers, Mother Nature, or your kids- you will be successful. 

I have a hard head, so sometimes my lessons have to come from a swift flip of the kayak. However, it was an effective way to make that lesson stick. May your experience turn out as smoothly as mine did. Perhaps you could just learn from mine and try going into things with good intention, respect for the lessons that you can learn, and an open mind. 

Good luck and you know I will be tryng my best right along with you.

Talk again soon,


Just keep swimming

Sometimes when things are really hard, I just want to quit and run away.  I remember in college telling my father that if I was ever missing, to check the streets off Broadway because I was just going to pack up my car, drive to NY, and try my hand at being an actor there to escape from the madness of real life.  (Acting is still on my bucket list, just a tad smaller of a venue- something more like community theater where I live.)

This is a natural panic response when I am feeling overwhelmed and my nervous system feels like it cannot handle what is going on.  It is the “flight” reaction, which I am sure you have heard of.  Needless to say, I don’t act on this impulse, but the thought is rather soothing at times.

As a Senior Master Trainer for YogaFit, I lead a yoga for PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) and TBI (Traumatic Brain Injury) training and we not only talk about the responses in the body to trauma and brain injury and how to help manage those responses with yoga, but we also process the experiences of the people participating in the training.  This can be both heavy and healing for those involved.  I repeatedly feel both honored and compelled to continue contributing to the effort to support healing from trauma.

In these trainings, in my role as a Licensed Professional Counselor, as well as in private yoga therapy sessions, two of the most frequent comments I make in supporting the healing process are to breathe and to just keep going day by day, hour by hour, or even moment by moment.

If you know anything about Harriet Tubman, you most likely know that she was involved in the Underground Railroad and helped to free hundreds of slaves in her lifetime.  After escaping from enslavement herself, she had an amazing way of knowing when to stop, when to run, when to change directions, etc. as she was guiding others to freedom. Stephen Cope reports that “none of the obstacles that she faced ever stopped her for long.” Her motto was “just keep going” and she allowed her gut to lead the way.  She lived by a refrain from the Underground Railroad: “If you are tired, keep going; if you are scared, keep going; if you are hungry, keep going; if you want to taste freedom, keep going.”  This refrain strikes me as incredibly applicable in the effort to heal from trauma.  If you want to taste freedom, keep going.

When things become overwhelming for the nervous system, we revert to our survival instincts and rational thought stops.  This can take several forms and manifest in a multitude of ways.  Many times however, people feel overwhelmed, helpless, out of control of their own bodies, and unaware of how to make it through what they are experiencing.  In yoga, we address how experiences store in the body and how to help to find some relief through breath, movement, and numerous forms of meditation.  We also train ourselves to notice what we are experiencing and breathe through it as a way to tolerate discomfort and stick in there.

In yoga, we also teach the Niyama Tapas, which is about finding the discipline to keep going even when you want to quit.  Not only finding that fire within to push through, but also to view the hard situation as a fire that is molding you into the next best version of yourself.  That doesn’t mean that it will be easy or that while you are surviving the worst, you will easily think, “oh this is shaping me in some way for the better”.  It does, however, mean that you are choosing to keep going– one step at a time- and that you will at some point try to find how to use the experience to aid in your own growth.  This is much easier on some days than on others, but if we call upon our true identity- the spirit inside of our bodies (and wiser than our brains)- we can make it through.

I believe that if you are alive, you have been through trauma.  Some, more than others, but we have all been tested and stretched and overwhelmed.  Life is hard.  We have all had thoughts of giving up or running away.  We have all not known what to do and felt that we had nothing left to give.  But if we can stick with it, if we can try something different, if we can- just for today– not give up, we can make to the point of freedom.  We each have to make this decision for ourselves, though.  No one else can do it for us.

art williams

Shoma Morita was a Japanese psychiatrist and creator of Morita therapy which is aimed at accepting life as it is rather than fighting against it.  It is about letting go of comparison and expectations and judgment (which, by the way, we also teach in yoga) that form our perspective on our lives.  He is quoted as saying, “when running uphill, you can give up as many times as you want as long as your feet keep moving”.


So, give up in your head if you want.  Curse.  Cry.  Scream.  But, don’t stop going.  You can take a breath, you can ask for help, and you can do all of this while your feet are still moving.  You are making it.  Right now, in this very moment, you are ok and you are doing it.  So push on to freedom, my friend.  It will be worth it.

And I will be pushing on right with you.

Talk again soon,


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