by Nicole Becker
This is a perversion of teachings about non-attachment which can easily lead us to sterile perfectionism and fundamentally condemns our humanness.
In the second camp the pendulum swings the other direction and we are encouraged to FEEL EVERYTHING.
In reaction to our generally emotionally repressed cultures there is the counter message to dig deep, lean in, uncover every shadow, relive every trauma, get to the bottom of every feeling, empathize with every beings' unique suffering, and express what's real for you right now! This is of course exhausting and if this indulgence goes unchecked it leads to depression, overwhelm, anxiety, and so.much.drama.
In the middle, of course is the path we aim to navigate. Where emotions are honored and welcomed as evidence of our humanity (and needs) but we are not enslaved by them to the point that we lose the sense of our larger self.
But the question is HOW.
The answer boils down to safety and trust. In order to have healthy emotional regulation, expression, and healing, we must have reliable trusted ground within ourselves from which we can safely explore and to which we can safely return.
Typically we outsource this reliability to a therapist, friend, partner or even a pet! But the problem is that we develop a dependency on them rather than maturing our inner-dependence.
This path of inner-dependence is both a mundane and deeply spiritual path. It is crucial therapy for the nervous system as well as the spirit.
The tools for true mature inner-dependence are honed in the spiritual heart. The spiritual heart is the "Pure Land" within that is free of emotions and thoughts in the sense that it is previous to them and also unperturbed by them.
It is here in the spiritual heart that we drink the nectar of wordless bliss and unconditional love. By spending time here, in our ground of being, we come to know our wholeness and perfection. As we are.
This wholeness is the real you. It is in you, as you, through you, and all around you.
Just as you are in this moment.
Can you feel it?
#spirituality #emotions #monkeymind #peace #remember #anxiety #anger #depression #overwhelm #middlepath #pureland #meditation #inneryoga #healing #unconditionallove
One of the down sides of not being the physical yoga studio together is that we don't have quite the same time or format for the natural questions and personal needs and interests that come up around Yoga.
One of my favorite parts of teaching is to be "available"... to give you a direct and specific answer to a specific personal question or interest.
We all have so many questions! From anatomy, injuries and alignment to how to deal with emotions, spiritual questions of the heart... and everything in between!
Sometimes it's not so much a question, as just wanting to let your teacher know about something that is going on with you and getting a compassionate listening ear!
Now for sure some of these things are best answered in a private yoga session but there are a lot of questions - the answers to which - would benefit more than just yourself!
So, I've decided to open up a version of "office hours" on my Facebook Group: Habitat Restoration for the Soul. If you're not already in the group, come on over! Once you're in you can ask me anything! I'll be making personalized video responses to your questions! And if you have something that is too private for the group you can send me a direct message and I will answer you privately!
I hope we can enjoy deepening the conversation on this journey together.
All My Love,
by Nicole Becker
I was exhausted.
Did I mention the 2.5 year old?
The Yoga Teacher Training requirement was that we practiced 1.5 hours of asana at home 5 days a week and go to 2 classes per week with our teachers. These were intensive classes that pushed us to our edges. I still have permanent injuries from those days (don't get me started on my tirade about that!)
Now I was a Yoga Teacher but the problem was that I was so exhausted that I just couldn't keep up my intense home practice like before.
So I Quit Yoga!
I stopped doing these 90 minute intense home practices and going to classes.
But it was like my dirty little secret!
Because Yoga Teachers are supposed to have a home practice!
It's a cardinal rule!!!
Ok - well I didn't really quit Yoga. I just quit pushing myself to live up to some imposed standard of what a "real" yoga practice should look like. I quit trying to hold myself to a standard that was depleting me rather than nourishing me.
I told myself that for ONE WHOLE YEAR I would let myself do ONLY Restorative Yoga at home.
You see the photo in this post? I basically did some version of that almost every day for 15-45 minutes per day.
Sometimes I would do it in the bathroom of the office where I worked!!! Seriously! I would bring a beach towel and put it on the floor in the bathroom and put my legs up the wall during my lunch break. To be fair it was a BIG bathroom!
For a whole year.
That's the only physical Yoga I did.
I had to deal with a lot of self-imposed guilt and it actually took me years to admit to fellow teachers that I wasn't doing an active asana practice at home - or pretty much at all. But it felt soooo goood.
I gained so much energy back. I actually gained more strength and flexibility too! My intuition and subtle awareness opened up and I could read stress patterns in my students more easily. I became an avid student of the nervous system, geeking out everything I could find out about the physiology of stress and the science of relaxation.
As I dove into the scientific side of rest I better understood how Yoga improves our health from every angle - physical, mental, emotional and spiritual.
But for Yoga to be healing, it must be practiced holistically!
Yoga is a system (an ecosystem) of movement, breath, rest, meditation, and surrender into something bigger than yourself. If you are missing one part or have too much of another, you create imbalance.
When I surrendered to Restorative Yoga, I was surrendering to the wisdom of my body/heart telling me I desperately need rest. Funny how we always make change once we hit a wall.
I try not to hit the wall anymore before making a needed change.
And my mission is to help those of you who are exhausted to fill up again. Not just with rest, but with kindness and self-acceptance. With joy and vitality.
And for those of you who can appreciate the preventative approach, I am here to help you maintain and deepen a practice of radical self-care that honors every layer of your being.
So, I hope you'll "Quit Yoga" with me sometime and take part in a class or course that encourages you to drop the artificial standards of perfection and embrace yourself right where you are!!
I have several classes and programs that might be useful so feel free to message me if you're wondering where to start this journey of deep wellness.
All My Love,
by Nicole Becker
Most Yoga/Meditation out there these days is what I call "empty calories". It's like health food that doesn't really have any nutritional value. Like the chips section of the natural grocery store. We love the chips!!! But they're not really doing anything deeply nourishing or restorative for us in the long run.
Empty calories yoga has a healthy label but is really just junk food. It feeds superficiality and keeps people stuck in the endless loop of "never-enoughness" and incessant "progress".
Then there is the organic, locally grown, vibrant, rich and nutritious Yoga/Meditation that simultaneously cleanses you and nourishes you. It's medicinal and sacred and radically healing.
This is the Real Yoga that restores the natural habitat of your soul and psyche so that you return to SUPER NATURALNESS. Vibrant, balanced, full of aliveness, integrated into an ecology of deep wellness. Wholeness.
Real Yoga is the practice of returning to our full HUMAN-NESS, which is WHOLINESS.
Yoga/Meditation is meant to help us rest, reconnect and repattern our inherited/learned patterns of grasping, separation, and fear.
Do you want to be reinforcing the cultural conditioning of superficiality or nurturing your true nature/naturalness that is perfect and alive???
by Nicole Becker
Stop thinking and feeling?
This is not exactly the advice you usually get.
This is definitely not what any good therapist would tell you.
Or anyone in the healing professions, for that matter.
Therapists and healers of every stripe encourage us to examine, inquire, think and feel deeply. Many of us have spent countless time and money to uncover all the deepest roots of our psyche and shadow in order to bring our unhealthy patterns to light and finally resolve them.
This is good an important work, BUT
There is a lot more to you (and your mental well being!)
than your thoughts, emotions and stories.
In Yoga we recognize 5 layers of our being (koshas) that require tending:
To tend the body we do our physical practice
To tend the breath/life force we do breathing practice
To tend the mental-emotional layer we rest the senses
To tend the wisdom body we practice inner absorption
5) SPIRITUAL HEART/JOY
To tend to the spiritual heart we practice meditation in presence
So what do I mean when I say, "stop thinking and feeling"?
In Yoga, there is no doubt that as we explore the layers of our being that we are examining, experiencing, inquiring, and feeling deeply!
So what do I mean when I say "stop thinking and feeling"?
What I mean is: stop rehashing your problems, stories, traumas, emotional baggage and suffering. Periodically. As a healing practice.
I am not saying ignore them, bypass them, avoid them or never tend to them.
I'm saying that Yoga practice is about connecting to the part of yourself that needs no improvement!
Maybe you noticed that in #3 in the list above, that tending to the mind/emotions did not involve more thinking/feeling! It involves resting the mind and emotions by going inward.
The great Yogis tell us we are already enlightened!
Time and time again across the ages, the great yogis and sages tell us that we are all already enlightened! We just don't recognize it because we are terribly busy with all our suffering.
Yet most of the time our modern solution to suffering is to think about our suffering and try to think ourselves to the bottom of it.
You cannot think yourself into wisdom or enlightenment.
You can only let go. Let go of the past, the future, the labels, the stories... all the concepts.
It is there - in the quiet and pure aliveness of presence - that the wisdom of your deepest self can come forward! The practice of Yoga is a "trust fall" into the nourishing support of the eternal present moment.
It takes practice. But when you stop over-thinking and feeling you will find the wisdom presence right there. In You. As You. Through You. And All Around You.
This is what real Yoga will help you with.
A chance to uncover your pre-existing condition of enlightenment!
For a supportive journey into your natural wisdom, check out the new "Nourishing Ojas" Online Immersion Program
by Nicole Becker, founder/owner
It was the last straw. I realized I had my mission...
In 2004 I completed a year-long intensive Yoga teacher training. I had been studying and practicing Yoga for 10 years already and was participating in Master Classes just for Yoga teachers. In these mastery sessions we practiced all sorts of intense complicated "advanced" postures.
One session, the teacher had us practicing fore-arm balance (scorpion pose/Vrischikasana). I had trouble doing this pose without the support of the wall and I remember my teacher admonishing me that "If you want to be a teacher you have to be able to do this pose away from the wall".
That sentence was the final straw. I thought to myself, "What a load of crap!" I couldn't have disagreed more! I was fortunate to have had a lot of wise teachers and beautiful examples of real Yogis in my life and the assumptions behind that one sentence infuriated me! Right then the dream of my own Yoga studio began. I wanted to create a place where that type of systemic pressure toward superficial achievement of postures was non-existent.
In my teaching experience hardly anyone can safely do "advanced" postures anyway! Besides which, "advanced" postures do not make you a better person! I've met plenty of jerks who can get their leg behind their head! It is depth of presence in any moment that makes for an advanced practice.
Most people are just normal everyday people with busy lives and lots of aches and pains and only 1 or 2 times a week to dedicate to a movement practice. Most people are interested in feeling better in the body but also want to feel connected to their inner wisdom and deeper truths.
But most popular Yoga is taught with the implicit assumption that how you get better at Yoga is by being able to "do the postures" in a specific way and that everything else is just a modification until you "get it right". This - topped with contradictory platitudes of "just be okay with where you are now" plus "practice hard, find your edge, you can get good at it if you try more" - is a violence to our psyche that I cannot get on board with!
So, I created Ojas Yoga Center as a sanctuary for yoga students who are tired of superficial Yoga. At OYC, we teach Yoga that meets you where you're at and nourishes you body, heart, and soul.
OYC is for students who want to feel like they can show up any day, week or month and not have to be "in shape for Yoga" and they will not feel pressured to perform poses in a way that might hurt them.
OYC is for students who have big hearts and big lives that want to be met with depth and authentic practices that enrich their lives.
On October 23rd, it will be 10 years since Ojas Yoga Center first opened it's doors. Although our doors may not be opened in the physical location for some time to come, our virtual doors and our hearts are wide open to you just as you are. We look forward to practicing with you soon!
To our teachers, our teachers' teachers, our inner teacher, each other, and the whole world family - we bow.
With Love + Ojas,
COMING SOON 'NOURISHING OJAS' 8 WEEK ONLINE COURSE
with Nicole Becker
Cultivate vitality and joy with this 8-week healing journey. Find grace through the struggle and build resilience on every level with this rich series of writings, video practices, and journaling. Click here to learn more
by Nicole Becker
The Powerful Healing Tool that gets Overlooked...
No matter the form of your suffering - physical injury, emotional or mental anguish, or spiritual questions, the first thing to try is REST.
Over the years I've worked with thousands of people on a huge spectrum of issues. And the one thing that people consistently overlook is the therapeutic power of rest.
I've had people come to me with frozen shoulders, sciatica, displaced vertebrae, torn knees, headaches, insomnia, depression, grief, you name it. By the time people are exploring Yoga as therapy, they've been to the doctor, the physical therapist, and the psychologist. None of whom suggested or discussed the possibility of just resting.
Why not REST FIRST?
Few think to try rest first because we are convinced that we must DO SOMETHING in order to FIX the problem. Since rest is technically "DOING NOTHING", we overlook or dismiss the idea entirely.
But my own personal experience with my body/life, and results with countless students is that slowing down, stopping, and resting is exactly the SOMETHING that is required.
REST AS FIRST AID
We all know the drill: Rest, Ice, Compress, Elevate. That is certainly great in an acute first aid situation like a sprained ankle. But I'm talking about after that. How thoroughly are you going to rest that ankle before you get back up on it? How soon are you going to be trying to "get back to normal" - potentially sooner than you should because you have to?
I've helped several people heal from shoulder injuries just with the simple suggestion to put the arm in a sling for as much of the day as possible for 2-3 weeks. The healing was profound and much more significant than the weeks and months of physical therapy they had already tried.
DEEP REST for DEEP WELLNESS
But beyond first aid, our issues are much more deeply ingrained. For mental, emotional and spiritual health, we need a whole spectrum of rest from regular sleep to regular breaks from work, and a lifestyle that supports deep, consistent, regularly scheduled, conscious and complete relaxation. That means yes to the nap, yes to the lounging around, yes to saying no to whatever is taxing you, yes to the vacation!
And this of course means:
Yes to Yoga and Meditation!
All of our Ojas Yoga classes are designed to nourish, rather than deplete you. But the absolutely most restful is Restorative Yoga. This class is the antidote to exhaustion, overwhelm, 2020 malaise and great for anyone who needs some extra TLC! Do you know someone like that? Bring a friend! WEDNESDAYS 8-9 PM (recording sent to all registered).
And be sure to check out this new course!
Ojas is the Sanskrit word for the physicalized essence of vitality and resilience.
On October 23rd I will launch my new 8-week Course:
"Nourishing Ojas: Essential Practices for Vitality and Joy".
This self-paced journey is designed to empower you to reclaim, protect and refine your vitality. Click here to get on the list for updates!
by Nicole Becker
(reposted from our community newsletter 6/7/2020
by Nicole Becker
re-posted from our community newsletter from May 31, 2020
We stand with our black siblings...
We at Ojas Yoga Center stand with our black siblings as one world family.
The Yoga philosophy of nonviolence (ahimsa) does not mean inaction.
On the contrary, we are duty-bound as students of Yoga
to protect life and work to dismantle hatred, greed
and violence within ourselves and the world.
Reverend, Doctor Martin Luther King studied the Yogic philosophy
of satyagraha as taught by Mahatma Ghandi.
Satyagraha means "the force of truth".
A true pacifist is not a pushover.
A true Yogi is a heart-driven warrior
for Liberation for All.
The work of our daily spiritual practice is to both soften us and strengthen us.
We practice in order to soften and open our hearts,
which makes them stronger.
We strengthen our reservoir of health and inner peace
so we can go into the world and serve.
by Nicole Becker 2/6/2020
This past Christmas I spent seven days valley hopping through Death Valley National Park. My boyfriend and I drove mile after bumpy off-road mile into the rocky, shrub-and-cactus-dotted wilderness to find that special quiet you can only get when you are far away from cities, people, wifi and cell phone service.
Each day we explored a new valley or canyon. Around every bend and turn we gasped with delight and surprise at the beauty and immensity of the wilderness. The simplicity of our short winter days and long winter nights were book-ended with frosty mornings and fireside nights. All we did was cook, drive, get our minds boggled with beauty, cook, sleep and do it all again!
The vastness of the desert is matched by a vast stillness and silence that felt like vitamins for my nervous system. It was like super-food for my soul. Usually when I am out in nature I take time to make some type of prayer or offering. But out there in the expanse of it all I completely forgot. At first I thought, 'Oh my gosh, I had better make an offering!'. But when I checked in with myself what I realized was that my rapture and awe was the offering. When I inquired even further into the experience, the answer that I received was that nothing extra was needed in this moment. The sheer power of being present to the expansive natural wonder was totally complete in and of itself. And so was I. Sometimes we think we need to add to something to make an experience more memorable or sacred or special. But what I noticed was that it was the utter simplicity that made it completely sacred. Just pure being. Nothing added.
Could you use an inner peace plan?
Yoga & Sacred Silence Retreat - Northern California
with Nicole Becker June 2020
Author, Nicole Becker
Yoga Therapist, Retreat Leader, and Heart of Yoga Teacher, Nicole Becker offers yoga and self-care insights and tips.