Women’s Empowerment Retreat with the Yoga Shrink (9/12- 9/16/15)

I am so excited about my upcoming Women’s Empowerment Retreat in Bozeman, Montana with Dr. Tanda Cook this September. I was thinking about the many reasons why I love leading transformational/personal development retreats. I am so grateful that I get to explore the world and share new experiences with like-minded people. I love the sense of connectedness and community I experience when I lead these programs. People show up so open and willing and the friendships that are formed are unlike anything I have ever experienced or witnessed. So the reason I facilitate these retreats is because I am committed to guiding people to step into their natural Greatness. I have seen it time and time again during programs like, PYT’s 30 Day Digital Yoga Challenge, 40 Days to Personal Revolution, our 200 Hr. Teacher Training Program as well as Yoga Shrink Retreats. Participants are able to let go of their self-limiting beliefs and step into their natural state of Perfection. The best part of it is that I never laugh more than I do when I lead one of these programs. Learning to laugh at ourselves and our crazy thoughts is so beneficial. Why take yourself, life, or anything for that matter so seriously?

If you are looking to spend some time exploring your Greatness with a group of powerful women on a ranch in Bozeman, Montana where you will eat fresh, local, organic food, engage in daily yoga and meditation as well as have time to connect with yourself, nature, and some amazing women, then sign up now and join us.

As a former retreat participant stated, “Christen’s retreats are the best! What’s better than a mix of learning about yourself and laughing uncontrollably” (Kate L.- has been to 2 retreats with Christen).

For more details on the Women’s Empowerment Retreat in Bozeman, Montana (9/12- 9/16/15), go to: www.poweryogatribe.com/retreats/

 

Dropping Back Into Service & Trust

Last weekend I was leading a Certified Teacher’s Assistant training for Wild Abundant Life, LLC, in Rhode Island. It was amazing. I always find so much inspiration from leading trainings and programs. As I was teaching and explaining how to assist someone who is ready to drop back into wheel from standing up, I just did it! It was the wildest thing. I have been able to do it at the wall but never on my own, without a spot. I was stunned that I had such a breakthrough.

As I was thinking about it the next morning, I came to an “Ah Ha” about the drop-back. When I was doing it, I was demonstrating something to students. I was in a place of service. It wasn’t about me or my ego. Because it was about them, I was not thinking about myself, especially not, “I am going to fall” or “Who am I, to be trying this.” I was just in service, in the present moment, and thus, in my Higher Being where anything and everything is possible.

The other thing this “drop-back breakthrough” brought up was trusting myself. I have a very strong wheel. I can often stand up from wheel, lift my arms in wheel, and stay there for a long time. I also have the core strength and back flexibility to drop back from camel. So doing a drop-back to wheel was more of a mental breakthrough than a physical one. As I dropped back and put my hands down to catch myself, I realized that the reason I hadn’t been able to do it before was because I did not trust myself to catch myself. My drop-back was a breakthrough in trust that I could take care of myself and a realization of how powerful I really am.

I keep seeing and hearing the message, “You already have everything you need within you. Stop looking outside yourself, it is all within you right now.” I truly believe that. What an amazing experience to realize that I stand in my Greatness when I show up in service of others. I feel blessed to experience such breakthroughs on and off my mat. That is why this journey will never get old for me. Namaste.

The Magic Never Ends

When I first started practicing yoga consistently, I was practicing Baptiste Power Vinyasa. I remember my first all-day immersion with Baron Baptiste in Washington, D.C. He signed my Journey Into Power Book with “The Magic Never Ends.” I thought it was so awesome but I had no idea what that quote truly meant until recently.

The yogic path is an incredible one. I say all the time that we are a crazy bunch of yogis because we are basically on a journey where we will never arrive at a destination. A friend added, “and the more we are on the journey, the further the destination gets.” It is so true. The longer we practice yoga, the more we realize there is no destination or end point. Despite no end point, we never stop growing and evolving. I think, in part, the reason yoga is so magical is that the growth is continual and there is always somewhere new to explore.

I have been consistently practicing yoga for over 12 years yet I still feel as though I keep getting stronger physically. My awareness and connection to my physical body has deepened. I also continue to build muscle based on my practice. Since starting to practice more inversions, I have increased strength in my back muscles and my core. It is so incredible that even after 12 years I continue to build physical strength, flexibility, and power in my body. On the emotional and mental realms, I also continue to grow and evolve. Yoga has led me to start a daily meditation practice. The combination of daily yoga and meditation has allow me to live more mindfully and in the present moment. I continue to learn to be the witness observer of my thoughts so they impact me less. I am amazed at how less emotionally reactive I am due to this daily work.

Most importantly, I would say that yoga has led me to a life of connection and service. I have met some of the most amazing people through yoga. I have felt more community and connection in my life since making yoga a way of life. At times, I feel so much gratitude, joy, and love that I am moved to tears. Recently, showing up in service of others has been huge for me. Being a stand for others and inspiring others to live in their Greatness has become paramount to my life. I believe that all of this is part of the yogic journey.

I love the quote, “the Magic Never Ends” because it doesn’t. If you are committed to this path, the treasures you uncover about yourself are endless. Enjoy the journey and all magical things that come your way. Namaste.

Take Aways from the 1st Yoga Shrink Retreat

Last weekend I led the first Yoga Shrink Retreat in Jupiter, Florida, where I currently live. It was a life-changing weekend. It is amazing because, as the facilitator, I grow and transform just as much as the participants do. If you are open and willing, you will grow and transform especially when you are surrounded by a supportive community. The concept of the retreat was “Create the Life You Want to Live.” So we let go of what didn’t serve us, envisioned what we wanted, and set forth into action to create our lives.

For me I had so many take-aways from the weekend. On a personal and business level, I realized that running personal development retreats is definitely my Zone of Genius and something I plan to do a lot more of. I show up as my biggest, best self when I am doing this work. I realized that I am my greatest when I can be 100% authentic, hiding absolutely nothing. Authenticity and vulnerability create connection and through connection we realize that we are really all the same. I have heard it said, “Connection is the cure.” We definitely experienced that this weekend.

Another take-away was that when I shine, I give everyone else permission to shine. The Course in Miracles says, “The sun never apologizes for how brightly it shines.” When we are great, we allow others to be great. I often say that we have no idea how inspiring we are. We see it time and time again when someone breaks through a world record, then everyone starts to break the record. We give each other permission to be our Greatest selves. We experienced this on and off the mat this past weekend. Everyone was inspired and inspiring.

Laughter is the best medicine. I find this to be so true. Even in the midst of deep transformative work we can have fun and be light. We can be silly and not take ourselves so seriously, even our crazy thoughts. Embracing joy and laughter feeds our soul. I never laughed so hard and so much as I did this past weekend.

The biggest take-away is that I, the Yoga Shrink, am in the process of planning a 3-day Women’s Retreat in Bozeman, Montana with Dr. Tanda Cook, a naturopathic doctor, at the beginning of September 2015. Stay Tuned for more details.

 

 

Flooding Fear

In psychotherapy, there is a technique called “Flooding” or “Exposure Therapy.” It is a therapy used to treat phobias specifically.The concept is that you expose the person to the feared object a lot and the person becomes immune to the fear because nothing bad happens to them. It is a huge step out of the comfort zone to engage in this technique because you are literally facing your fears.

I started thinking about all of this after reading an article about how one man made rejection a game. He had so much fear of rejection that he made himself get rejected everyday so that it had less of an impact on him. Here is the whole article:

http://www.npr.org/blogs/health/2015/01/16/377239011/by-making-a-game-out-of-rejection-a-man-conquers-fear

A student of mine once gave me a mug that said, “Give Fear the Finger.” I thought it was great. But in thinking about fear and my relationship with fear, I think it is evolving from “give fear the finger” to “make friends with fear.” That is basically what this guy did. He made friends with his fear of rejection; he sought it out. So when he got rejected, he won. What flooding does is it allows you to be with the fear, notice it, but not let it dictate your actions. It can be an extremely freeing experience.

So what fears are you willing to make friends with? How can you expose yourself more to what you are afraid of? Perhaps it’s fear of success which means you must step even more into your Greatness. Whatever your fear is, be open to stepping out of your comfort zone and exposing yourself to your fears. Who knows what can happen when we stop avoiding fear and start making friends with it.

 

Just Take Action

I was journaling the other day in closing out 2014 and embarking on 2015. A question I came across asked, “What do I want my life to really be about?” I sat and thought about it for a minute and I immediately wrote down what came to mind:

“Connecting people to their Greatness, to help end the suffering created by ourselves and our thoughts, and to create a legacy so this continues beyond my lifetime”

In thinking about it, that is basically what my life is about because I created it that way. So much of the past 5 years have been about getting to where I am now: moving to Florida, getting married, opening a yoga studio at the beach, and creating a vibrant yoga community in the Power Yoga Tribe. I believe so much in creating the life you want to live as opposed to letting life happen. The reason I am where I am now is because I moved into action and made it happen. I am now committing to living this on a much grander scale!

Dreams are great but dreams remain in the dream world when we stay in our heads. Action is the key in terms of making changes.  One of the best ways to move yourself into action is to have an Action Plan. Envision what you want your life to be like in 3-5 years. Be specific in writing down how you see your life. Then write down what you want to accomplish and by when. To further move you into action on one or more of your goals, write down what you are going to do within the next 30 days towards this goal, then what you are going to do in the next week towards this goal, and then within the next 24 hours towards this goal. This is the accountability factor. You are now writing it down and committing to doing something towards this goal.

Setting an intention (i.e., what you want your life to really be about) is a great way to start everyday. Be clear about what it is you want to create and do something every day towards that goal. The only thing that is going to get in the way of you getting what you want is You and Fear. When fear and resistance show up, notice them and keep on moving into action.  You will look back and be amazed at what you can create when you Just Take Action.

You Don’t Like Me…So What?

Just like everyone else, I want to be liked. I want people to like me and think I am a good person because I am. However, with the work I have done in yoga, I have dropped a lot of people-pleasing from my life. I often speak directly to people without trying to “sugar-coat” what I say. I also hold people accountable at work and in my personal life. I believe that, most recently, I have been standing in my power, living my truth, and being impeccable with my word. It can be challenging to do this on a daily basis but I am committed to my process of transformation because it has brought peace, joy, and connection into my life.

What I have noticed over the past few weeks is that people do not always respond favorably to my way of being. I have heard that people are gossiping about me and a lot of what I have heard are untruths. At first, I really struggled with this. I wanted to tell everyone what the Truth was because I want to be right and liked. What I realized is that all of this, all the gossiping, untruths etc…have absolutely nothing to do with me. It has all to do with the people doing the gossiping. They are unhappy with me. It is them who have a problem with my way of being. So why does this have to impact me? I know who I am.

The other day I realized that the reason these issues are presenting themselves to me right now is because this is my work. It is my work to accept that people may not approve of the way I live my life, may not like my way of being, and may actually have their own perception of me that is different than my own. So when I want to tell people the truth, I have to realize that their beliefs about me is their truth. So there is nothing to say, nothing to do, and definitely nothing to fix. So what…they don’t like me. I can not change who I am to please everyone.

The lesson has been profound. Not everyone is going to like me and some people may actually have strong negative opinions of me. I am okay with people having their own perceptions of me that are different from my own. I do not have to tell them my truth or change their opinions of me. I know who I am and I am proud of how I live my life. This experience has allowed me to embrace myself and others from a place of total acceptance. I totally accept who I am, who they are, and the fact that not everyone likes the same things.

Next time I hear that someone was saying something negative about me, I am going to say “So What,” mean it, and continue doing me!

 

The Body Remembers

A year ago last night a car crashed through our yoga studio while I was practicing and my husband was teaching.  Everyone was okay and no one was fatally injured.  (“A Glimpse of Truth,” October 2013 post describes the incident.)  As I always say, everything unfolds in the exact manner it is meant to and there is nothing wrong.  I truly believe that about the accident.  I gained a new perspective on life and a deeper relationship with God.  Because of this, I felt as though I had healed emotionally from what happened.

So last night, my husband and I decided to take class at our studio.  Although the accident occurred on 10/25/13, last night’s 6pm class was the same class last year when it happened.  I mentioned it to my husband before we went into class that tonight was the “anniversary.”  The practice was awesome; it was a fun Friday night Happy Hour class.  I was doing all sorts of things and having breakthroughs on my mat.  Then at the end of the class, I was in classical headstand and I felt myself falling over.  It is one of my greatest fears- falling out of headstand, forearm balance, and handstand.  It is just such an out of control feeling.  Well, guess what?  I fell yesterday. I hardly ever fall out of that particular pose too.  As I was falling, I had a sense of everything that happened during last year’s accident as I was in the air.  When I fell, I tucked and rolled and I was fine.  But when I went to lay back on my mat, my body could not stop shaking.  I have had that feeling before and people have described it as your body releasing energy.  Aside from facing my fear and falling, I feel that what was being released was energy from the accident that was still lodged in my body’s tissues.

Have you ever been in a yoga pose and all of a sudden felt a strong emotion, like sadness, anger, agitation?  What happens is that energy gets stored in our bodies.  I like the phrase “issues in our tissues.”  I have been in hip openers, like pigeon and frog, and just started crying.  I felt sadness but I did not know why.  I just allowed it and felt lighter when I was done.  That is what I believed happened to me last night.  I feel as though I was able to release something my body was still holding onto energetically from last year.

If strong feelings start to come up on the mat, just let them be, stay in the pose, and just witness all of it.  Issues you think are resolved may still be holding on energetically.  Your body has a wisdom and yoga allows your body the space to heal itself physically, emotionally, and spiritually.

Namaste

Adversity or Opportunity…You Decide.

I have started a Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) course this week and it has been life-changing.  The idea of mindfulness is to pay attention in a particular way.  MBSR was created by Jon Kabat-Zinn out of the University of Massachusetts to help medical patients deal with chronic pain, illness, depression and anxiety.  Our homework this week was to meditate for 45 minutes a day.  I have had consistent mediation practices in the past but none that recently.  When I did meditate, it was usually for 10-15 minutes at the most.  45 minutes is a long time.  What happens in that 45 minutes can be quite crazy. This week (Week 1) our meditation is the Body Scan.  As you go through body awareness meditations, your mind wanders off to all sorts of places.  In the past when I have meditated, the minute I realized I was thinking I made myself go back to the breath.  (The breath can be an anchor in meditations.)  It was almost in a punishing, fix-it kind of way.  This mindfulness practice was different.  Every time you notice that you are not paying attention to the point of focus and your mind has wandered, it is seen as an opportunity to practice mindfulness.  So instead of seeing myself as a bad meditator, now when I am thinking, I realize how this is an awesome opportunity to practice mindfulness.

What has been really cool is that it has already had an immediate impact my life.  I have been dealing with a great deal of anxiety this week.  Due to my mindfulness practices, I have been able to notice my body sensations and also see them as opportunities to practice mindfulness.  Instead of giving meaning and interpretations to the feelings, I pay attention to them.  I have had a few challenging situations come up this week and one was with my husband.  Instead of emotionally reacting or getting into a story, I was able to observe my body sensations, thoughts, and feelings without giving them any meaning.  What seemed like adversity was an opportunity for growth.  Instead of reacting, I choose to be mindful and from that there has been amazing opportunity for growth and connection.

Week One of MBSR has shown me that what may appear as an adversity is actually another opportunity to practice mindfulness.  It is amazing when you approach life this way.  Although I am fully aware of my feelings and thoughts, I am able to witness them and allow them to be just as they are.  #witnesseverything #nostruggle

Laughter is the Best Medicine

I just returned from a Karma Yoga Service Trip to Nicaragua.  My friend, Elizabeth, and I led a group of 10 people through 6 days of community service, yoga, connection, and relationship building in a small Nicaraguan town called Jiquilillo.  It was incredible on so many levels.  What was amazing to me was all the connection that occurred over the 6 days.

On the day we were traveling to the airport, I came down with a “bug.”  It was a pretty severe stomach virus which caused me to have to use the bathroom about every ten minutes.  We had a 4 hour drive to the airport some of it on a bumpy dirt road.  My stomach was reeking havoc the whole time.  What was amazing to me was the way the group was able to “take care” of me.  We joked, we talked about the funniest movies we ever saw, etc… Every time I was focused on the group and laughing, I didn’t experience distress even though I was sick.  Once it got quiet, I started to notice the nausea and stomach cramping.  Now I know those feeling were there the whole time I just wasn’t focusing on it when I was engaged in the group.

This is what it is like in a yoga class for me.  Even if a pose is difficult or causing me some physical distress, I look to the group, listen to my neighbor breath, and the distress disappears.  This is also how I saw a lot of our time in Nicaragua.  At one point during the trip, we went to cook and serve lunch at a garbage dump where thousands of people live. While the food was cooking, many of us played with the local children.  We were blowing bubbles, playing soccer, and face painting.  The kids were over joyed because the focus was on having fun and not on what they did not have.

We had a lot of jokes and laughs on the Karma Yoga Service Trip to Nicaragua.  A big take away is what we focus on, we give energy to and that laughter is one of the best medicines for really anything!