Breathe in love. Breathe out peace.

 
 

Do you know what it feels like to be trapped in your own body? How toxic it can be at times? How hopeless?

This past month has been such an immense challenge for me. The bar has been set higher, mostly in my own mind, which is intense. Choosing not to be a victim to my pain can be a catch-22. Sure it means I go on and challenge self-limiting thoughts, feelings and behaviours. But it can also mean I push too hard too soon. This past month has forced me to take a BIG step back and re-evaluate my boundaries. My personal limits. And more importantly, my ego. I have days when I feel I could run a marathon and my body can fly. The difficulty lies in not taking advantage of those days. Not trying to rush to the finish line just because it is in sight. For it is when I do this that I end up right back near the beginning again.

I have great flexibility in my body but not enough strength, pelvic floor strength especially. This means I am susceptible to injury if I’m not careful. I’ve spent these past two weeks taking it very easy as my back had completely given up. Just the slightest fold forward gave the sensation of a thousand knives stabbing into my lower back and left leg. It’s been confronting, upsetting and to some degree embarrassing. Feeling so trapped in my own body. Like there is a lock that is firmly fastened and holding me back. The moment I try to fold I’m jolted back just as a car seatbelt locks if it’s pulled too quickly.

Yesterday was a wonderful day. I felt amazing. Everything had relaxed, pain still there but a 4/10 compared with the 9/10 it has been this past week. So what does Jessica do? Well, I practice without boundaries, without limitations, only to clearly cross a threshold without realizing and end up virtually crippled again today. Whilst I want to cry – and I did for a brief moment – I always look for the lessons in these experiences. The pain hurts, but it’s the restriction of movement which hurts me more and can be so frustrating. But I need to accept this. I need to accept that these are all lessons, progressions in themselves. That mentally I am becoming stronger, more aware, more accepting. I’m learning limits by pushing them a little. Clearly a little too much in this case. We train for four hours a day six days a week and I’ve not missed a single practice because I will not give up on me. The challenge is not in the hours of practice, but in knowing when to pull back.

But whilst I can lay here typing away and say it’s good to be positive about the challenges in life – whether that be pain, heartbreak, loss, anything at all – the fact of the matter is, it’s still shit. I don’t enjoy pain. I don’t want to be like this, to be limited like this. To be trapped in my body as I am. But the thing is, I don’t have a lot of choice. I need to work with my body as it is. Through this trial and error I will learn how to strengthen my back, how to maintain a normal life regardless of pain and how to help others through my personal experience. If I don’t, then life stands still and that’s not much of a life.

So to those who feel pain – any pain – play with it. Challenge it. Learn to trust it. For it is when we can accept and observe pain in this way that we can work with it, heal from it and keep moving forward.

Sending big hugs,

Jessica xx

P.S. Thank you for all the hugs and supportive messages/emails sent to me last week in response to my blog post. I felt so loved and very comforted hearing from everyone. Certainly much less lonely! I'm so grateful to have such incredible people in my life. Again, thank you.

If it's easy, is it worth it?

 
 

Everything hurts. From the top of my head down to my little toes, it’s all sore. I forget how challenging it is training here in Mysore, India. But in saying that, my aching body is a fabulous reminder of why I come here each year! No, I’m not a sucker for punishment. Rather, I understand it is through this intense level of practice that I progress. That I am coming to know myself a little more every day.

There is a huge misunderstanding in the west that yoga is easy. That it’s all about relaxation and some gentle stretching. This couldn’t be more wrong. Whilst these classes exist, and I LOVE to attend them occasionally, for me this is not what the practice is about. The challenge of the practice, continuing to attend class even though everything hurts, is all yoga. The discipline is yoga. And what I’ve personally come to experience through this intensity is how quickly my body responds to it. Yes, there are the initial aches. The initial, “I can’t get off the toilet seat,” moments. And it’s going to last a few days. I know this. But this is good pain, and its temporary.

Nothing in life comes easily. Nothing. I believe how we practice is a symbol of how we live our lives. Do we look for the easy path or are we open to the challenge?

Whilst I hate to say it, and accept in some instances, to live a life we are truly proud of, one we are truly connected to and that is meaningful, requires effort. Work. With yoga, we talk about bringing the lessons we learn on our mats into our daily life, a statement I fully support. I’ve found that the more confronting the practice, the deeper the lessons. Conversely, the more detached or ‘going through the motions’ the practice, the less I learn.

Yoga does not discriminate and it will ruthlessly illuminate the bullshit we tell ourselves and the areas we need to work on. How we move our body on the mat is a reflection of how we live our lives. Does the alarm go off in the morning and you think, “I can’t be bothered today, I’m going back to sleep,” or does the alarm go off and you still think, “I’m tired, I can’t be bothered with my practice, but I know it’s important so up I get!” BIG difference between these two mindsets and something to really contemplate as it will set the tone for your day and your life. I too, struggle with this. I am not some yoga machine who does not feel pain, get tired or want to run away and hide sometimes. As I mentioned earlier, my entire body is in pain right now. To sleep, to eat, to shower has all become an effort. If anything, I just want to sleep for the next month because I’m human and I’m bloody tired!

But I won’t give up on my practice as I would consider it an injustice to myself should I give up and allow the temporary aches dictate how I approach each day. Why? Because this would not just be a reflection of my practice, but it would also be a reflection of my life. Of my approach to life.

So with all that said – I figure it is a new year and let’s all take advantage of that. We have new ambitions, desires, goals we want to achieve – all of which can only be achieved through action. Even when you don’t feel like it, or it’s been a shitty day that you want well behind you – act. Don’t give up on You. Try not to allow external forces out there dictate how you live your life. Develop rituals to ensure each and every day is bringing you a little nearer to your goals. Try not to fixate on the goal either. Enjoy the journey. The struggles. The aches and pains. View these challenges as growth. Learning. An opportunity to deepen your connection with yourself. If you practice yoga and a posture is tough that day. Work with it. Don’t give up. Explore it a little more. Challenge yourself a little further. You might be surprised what you uncover in the process.

And remember, it is the moments when you want to run and hide that you need to face head on. Sure, it’s uncomfortable. Yes, it may hurt a little. But at the end of the day, there is nothing more satisfying than achieving something you have worked hard for.

So get back on your mat, be present in the moment, don’t give up and enjoy the bumps along the way :)

Sending hugs from India

Jessica xx

The Inner Critic versus the Inner Mentor

 
 

I’ve been listening to a wonderful book by Tara Mohr called Playing Big (I'm the slowest reader on the planet so listening is my preferred method). I’m only a third of the way through but I’m finding it to be profoundly important, especially at such an uncertain time in my life.

In her book, Tara explains how powerful the voice of the inner critic can be. She refers to this voice as one which tends to, unintentionally, keep us small. To stop us from ‘Playing Big’. This voice in our minds eye is there to protect us. It protects us from being vulnerable should we be placed in foreign situations. Unfortunately, however, it’s this same inner voice, this inner critic, that prevents us from trying new things, from experiencing new potentials. It’s the voice that tells us we have nothing valuable to say when we sit down to write that blog post or start the novel we’ve been planning to write for the past 5 years. I know my inner critic has prevented me from doing many things with my life. Why? Because I allowed it to. It felt safe and comfortable listening to this voice, indulging it. I didn’t have to try as much for I had an excuse not to. After all, “…as if you have the power to influence others in a positive way Jessica? Who would want to listen to you?” See how it works.

When I met the wonderful man in my life 10 years ago, he saw just how paralyzed I was by this internal world I had created for myself. Just as we get stronger when we go to the gym and do weights every day, this inner voice, my inner critic, had developed Hulk-like strength. This voice dictated my life.  It was so limiting that leaving the house without having mopped the floors and done my washing on a Saturday was verging on unbearable. OCD much! Heaven forbid had I left the bed unmade! 

10 years ago I made a decision I didn’t want to ‘play small’ anymore. I didn’t want to allow myself to live a life that was so bound by (my own) rules, so afraid of change and so victimized by the negative stories I repeatedly told myself – over and over and over again. So I began the long and ongoing journey to begin strengthening the voice of my inner mentor, as Tara would call it. She is the person I aspire to be. The person who is free from worry, from irrational thought, and is completely secure in how she stands in the world. She is the person who reminds me to keep going even when the present world around me feels as though it’s about to fall apart (which is most days at the moment – there’s no point lying!).

At the end of the day, I don’t know all the answers. God help me if I did! But what I do know is I’m taking active steps every single day to be the person who I believe I can be. To do what makes me smile and what gives meaning to my life. There are days when I allow the inner critic to take control of my thoughts and therefore my behavior. Those days are generally not fun at all. But when I take a moment to gather my thoughts, breathe deeply and just be, suddenly the drama disappears and my self belief reappears. This doesn’t mean the difficulties are gone. Let’s be totally frank here – life is always going to be filled with challenges. The difference is in how we respond to those challenges. That is what defines us.  That is what determines whether you follow a meaningful path, headed toward the place of wisdom where your inner mentor waits, or weather you remain stagnant, afraid and playing small.

For 10 years now, I’ve always maintained an attitude that anything is possible, and I maintain it to this day. Through my career in Rehabilitation, I’ve seen people recover from some of the most horrendous accidents whilst others who have had relatively minor incidents in comparison spiral downward. Why? Because it comes down to our choices. It comes down to the person we want to be in this life. No drug, no outfit, no amount of yoga can turn your life into what you want it to be. You need to want it for yourself, believe it can be yours and then fight hard for it. From here, yes, absolutely anything is possible.

So with that said, take some time to think about the stories your inner critic likes to share with you on a daily basis that keep you small. Be grateful for them and then graciously let them go. Visualise your inner mentor and the characteristics she/he possesses. When you feel anxious about a decision, ask yourself, what would my inner mentor do? And do that. Remember, your inner mentor is your place of wisdom, a place you can trust. There is nothing to fear here for he/she holds all the qualities you’re aspiring to possess. He/she is now showing you how to attain them.

I would love to hear from you? What is something in your life you dream to do but fear trying? Moving house? Changing jobs? Going on a holiday – alone! It could be anything. Then – let me know what your inner mentor would do in the same situation? You might be surprised at would you find out.

Be strong. Be powerful. Be you.

Sending huge hugs and love your way,

Jessica xo

Thank you Guruji. Thank you.

 
 

Dear Sir,

I’m writing to you as I wanted to share my thoughts about the most challenging, intimidating yet also rewarding months of my life. As I sit on my living room floor (where else would I be!) writing to you, reflecting about the month just gone, I can’t help but feel an overwhelming sense of gratitude and peace for having taught alongside you,Guruji, for the past month. Words cannot describe how important this was for me.

But before sharing these thoughts and feelings about the month just gone, I firstly wanted to recap about how we met.

At a time in my life when work was extraordinarily stressful and life had become mundane and dull, I came across a yoga teacher whose approach (to yoga) so inspired me that I knew if I was ever going to become a teacher myself, I would seek out the person she trained with. I knew they must be brilliant. That person was of course you. When the moment was right to begin this journey as a teacher, I sought you out and committed to three months in India. Leaving my entire life as I knew it behind me was extraordinarily challenging, but nonetheless exciting. Getting to know you during my first visit to Mysore was one of the most memorable and meaningful times of my life. Despite the intense physical and mental challenges faced through your training, life was becoming so exciting with the possibilities I knew lay ahead. Returning to Australia after spending so much time together in the Shala was the next challenge. I was nervous about no longer having your ongoing support and guidance (in person). I knew there so much more to learn from you and that a certification to teach would not suffice. My journey as a your student needed to continue. This was why I made the decision to approach you regarding the possibility of assisting with the upcoming TTC scheduled for March 2016. Whilst this would mean sacrificing being trained by you (as a practitioner), to teach alongside you would be the most incredible experience as I would be granted the opportunity to observe how you interact with your students; how you correct them; how you sequence your classes and more. With a commitment to being the best teacher I can possibly be, I knew this would be an invaluable experience - for whilst there are many brilliant yoga practitioners in the world, there are few equally as brilliant teachers.

Asking to assist was quite possibly one of my most vulnerable moments as to be rejected would have been so disappointing. However, whilst there were natural moments of doubt and fears of rejection, I knew it was important to take the risk and enquire. To have been accepted for this opportunity was quite possibly one of my greatest honours and your kind and welcoming support made this experience even more special.

The months leading up to the TTC were a rollercoaster of emotions. Worry, nervousness, excitement, gratitude… Observing my emotional state during these months was an interesting process. Ups, downs, round and rounds! Fluctuations as you would say.  I feared not having the stamina, mentally, to get through the month. I knew what was in store for the students (after having gone through it myself) and I questioned if I could go through it again - and more!  But worries aside, I knew I needed to be there and that I would find the courage to keep going when the time came. And of course, this time certainly came - over and over… and over again.

In March I flew to Mysore and I came to visit you the moment I arrived. I remember crying last year as I hugged you goodbye, feeling so saddened by the knowledge I would not see you again for sometime. But there I was, back again and now preparing to teach alongside you. How humbled and honoured I was to sitting and talking with you that afternoon. I shall never forget that conversation.

The following day, our month long journey together would begin. During that month I was challenged in every possible way. Physically, as an advanced teacher and practitioner, I was pushed to limits I once never thought possible. Pratima, who trained with me in between the TTC classes, certainly doesn’t settle for mediocrity with her practitioners! But physical challenges aside, this past month has been more a challenge of the mind. There were days when I felt totally drained, inadequate and lacked confidence. Whilst I’m too stubborn to quit anything I commit to (sometimes to my own detriment) there were days when I questioned my silly decisions to put myself through such an intense experience. But of course, the sane and logical part of me always pulled through and reminded me of what a life changing experience this would be. Of the honour it was to assist you, Guruji. So I kept going and gave 2000% to everything - my time, my personal practice and of course my support of yourself and the students…. There was absolutely no way I was going to let you, the students or myself down. This was far too important.

 
 

So as I sit here and reflect upon the month just gone, there are many special moments I shall hold dear for the rest of my life. It could have been just a simple nod of approval, a smile or sitting alongside you at the front of the Shala. Whilst to you or others these moments may have seemed insignificant, to me they were powerful and hugely meaningful.

So as a final word, I want to sincerely thank you for your ongoing guidance and support of my journey with yoga. For believing in me as a teacher and practitioner. I have learned more than I could have possibly ever imagined, and this experience has made me not only a better teacher, but a better student, practitioner and person overall. I cannot wait to return next year to continue this journey with you and step it up to the next level. Thank you Guruji. Thank you.

Much love,

Your student, Jessica.

 

Yogacharya Bharath Shetty