“Or this could be Hell.”

Awareness Ishvarapranidhana Living Yoga Meditation Yoga

I attended a yoga class 10-or-so-years ago that was themed around this line from the Eagles’ Hotel California:

“This could be Heaven or this could be Hell.”

The intention behind the theme was to emphasize the idea that we can influence our experience of things. An experience, in this case, a set of challenging asana (yoga postures), could be heaven or hell depending on how we respond to it.

Wisdom has a way of weaving itself through our lives, and I recently had this lesson come back to me in a powerful way. I was sitting in my meditation practice, and I was feeling strong urges to get things done. My mind kept wandering to things I wanted to get done, and physically, I felt like my body was a firework about to explode. Sitting still felt out of line with everything my body wanted to do in that moment.

About midway through my practice, the lyrics popped into my head:

“This could be Heaven or this could be Hell.”

And with that thought, my body softened and my mind settled. I wasn’t going to cut my practice short to try and get more things done, so I could either sit and agonize over not being able to do other things in this moment or I could meet myself where I had committed to be.

Recalling the song lyrics reminded me that there was choice in this moment. There are many things that I can’t control, but my thoughts are not one of those things. It was completely within my power to engage differently with this experience, and so I did.

I accepted that I wasn’t going anywhere until my practice was complete. And, in accepting where I was, I found significantly more ease and even some enjoyment in the moment. I reconnected with my commitment to the practice and the powerful change it has facilitated in my life. I remembered that – for better or for worse – I chose this.

But life can throw things at us that are much more challenging than yoga. Things we didn’t choose. Things no one would choose. Things that are hard and heartbreaking.

It is still worth considering that there is wisdom in reflecting upon how we respond to things, but perhaps it might be better to say something along the lines of:

“This could be [hard and heartbreaking] or this could be Hell.”

This experience could be a challenging one that pushes me beyond what I thought were my limits, or it could be a horrible catastrophe that I can’t see myself moving through. We are not born with a fixed amount of resilience. We can improve our ability to cope. The ego may not love the idea that we could make changes to bring more ease into our challenging experiences, but paradoxically, we tend to feel rather proud of ourselves when we do.

A Mother’s March

Photo by Mark Dixon

I took my 16-month-old daughter to the Women’s March today.

When my husband picked us up at the skytrain station, he said to me, “Are you okay?”

My response was: “I just feel like crying.”

It was exhausting, surprisingly exhausting. It wasn’t just about getting down to the march with a stroller and a baby and all the baby paraphernalia. And it wasn’t just about the two pee soaked pairs of pants and the diaper change on the floor in a random building. It was this: today, one day after the US presidential inauguration, I felt a profound sadness for my daughter.

I don’t want to take anything away from the hope inspired by so many people coming together, but it breaks my heart to feel a palpable sense of regression around the rights afforded to women. I feel sick to my stomach when I think about many of the things that have been in the news since my daughter was born: that a man can rape a woman and then, with regard to the length of his sentencing, have people say, “What about his swimming career?”, that a presidential candidate can be caught on tape saying, “And when you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything. Grab them by the p—y, you can do anything,” and still become president.

I am still unpacking and wrestling with my own beliefs that come from being raised in a patriarchy. How do I raise a daughter to challenge the prejudices I can’t see? How do I explain to her why it is important to fight for gender equality without making her feel like she is limited because of her gender? How do I teach her that men have been privileged in our culture but that men are not the opposition?

Through my yoga practice, I am learning to hold conflicting emotions and different stories. My daughter has been incredibly fortunate in her young life. She is truly blessed. I know this. I am deeply grateful.

In the past, the pain and heartache of this time would have consumed me. It would have pulled hope from my heart and left me feeling trampled upon by this cruel and unjust world. I would have lost track of the good stories and would have become an embodiment of sadness, anger, and despair, my world coloured by misogyny and sexism.

Today, I find myself able to feel the pain and see the beauty. I still don’t have the answers about how to raise my daughter in the midst of the messiness, but I have a hunch that teaching her to be able to see beauty while feeling pain will help.

Yoga for Pain Relief Course – Starting March 19

Yoga for Pain Relief Course – Starting March 19

Events News Yoga

My next 7-week course in therapeutic yoga and pain education will start Thursday, March 19, 2015.

This course is designed for people interested in exploring yoga as a tool to support their health and well-being.

There will be a maximum of 8 students in the course.

Keep reading to find out more…

Yoga for Pain Relief: Therapeutic Practice & Pain Education
A 7-week course with Sarah Jamieson

A growing body of scientific evidence shows that stress exacerbates pain and that practicing yoga can significantly reduce stress. This course will bring together new science in pain neurophysiology with the well-established wisdom of yoga. Understanding the neurophysiology of pain will help you explore the relationship between your body, your mind, and your pain and it will give you more control over your relationship with pain. Through a variety of yogic tools, including lecture, breath work, meditation, movement, and restorative postures, you will learn to deepen your body awareness, calm your nervous system, and improve your functional movement. This course is for anyone struggling with any type of pain – from pain conditions like fibromyalgia to “everyday” pain, like recurring headaches or hip pain – and it will empower you to address and minimize the pain in your life.

Dates & Time:
Thursday afternoons, 3:00-4:30pm
March 19 – May 7
(No class on April 16)

$150 for 7 sessions

Ocean and Crow Yoga Space (formerly Eastside Yoga), 1707 Grant Street, Vancouver, BC

Register early to secure your spot. Preregistration is required.
There will be a maximum of 8 students in the course.

Click here to register online or contact the studio director Julie Peters by email julie@oceanandcrow.ca to arrange registration in person or by phone.

If you have any questions about the course, please email me yoga@sarahjamieson.ca


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