Chasing Your Glory Days: Don’t Look Back, You Are Not Going That Way!

I had a loved one call me for help today. He hurt himself doing plyometric push-ups in his morning work out. He said that he had done something like 3 sets of 15 reps (of plyo pushups?!?!) and it wasn’t until the last few of the last set when he felt his neck go- “uh-oh”. It was the push-past that caused him injury…pushing past the appropriate level of challenge, load, energy requirement and so on. You get the idea right? We’ve ALL been there.

After we chatted a bit and I gave him a few suggestions to help himself reduce the discomfort, he asked me, “so what do I do tonight at kickboxing and hockey practice”? I literally began to laugh as we had just finished talking about resting before he asked me this question. My answer to his question is outlined below, although I didn’t answer it in as much detail. It inspired me to make a video about the topic of over-doing, of working ourselves to exhaustion chasing a past ideal of ourselves and to look at ‘who’ exactly is running this show. What part of us is awake in this behavior and what parts are we ignoring? It’s a relevant topic as I have these conversations with so many people, and so often. The false ideal that more is better is still ubiquitous in our North American culture. We ALL struggle with it on some level it seems. And so, I wanted to offer my support and experience on the matter. Enjoy the read below and of course, you can watch the video here if you like: https://www.facebook.com/lindsay.knazan/videos/10161426132600612/

I listened as my loved one asked me for things he could do to get out of pain as quickly as possible. He asked for stretches to do. It was clear that he wanted to be able to DO his way out of the pain. My suggestions of course, were more about his ‘being-ness’ versus what he was doing. This was hard for him to hear and I get it. I suggested that he play with small, slow movements, working on areas close to and around the neck to support unwinding it so it could feel safe again and begin to calm down. I suggested that he play with doing less and feeling more as a means for healing. Again, he wasn’t so keen to adopt that line of thinking. Everything in his over-stimulated system was screaming, “NO – I have to keep going!” Again, I get it; I’ve been there.

When we work within an appropriate ‘load-ability’ of our body, or just a little bit past this, we grow stronger. If we are constantly working well beyond our capacity for load; Whether that be in the number of reps, level of resistance or complexity of movement in physical exercise; or, alternatively, in the load of life (i.e.- mental and emotional stress, chaos, illness or trauma), we will consistently wire the patterning for compensations to occur in our bodies, brains and nervous systems. These compensations, although serving us in those moments and maybe for some time down the road, will likely come back to get us in the future via pain, injury, poor coping or recovery mechanisms.

Now I am not saying that working into challenge is bad, in fact, we must challenge ourselves beyond our current capacities if we expect to grow from our current state. I am also not saying that compensation is bad, however, if we have physical pain or mental overwhelm showing up consistently, or worse, we are always hurting or feeling bad, then this is problematic it seems to me. Clearly it is an indication that we aren’t aligned in some way with the life we are meant to be living. Pain (physical or emotional) is simply a sign that we need to do something different. It is an alarm system to let us know that something isn’t quite right, cueing us back IN to our bodies for awareness, check in, and adjustment, so we may realign with ourSelves. Ambition is appropriate and beautiful when it aligns with our current state of being.

Over time, living in a ‘more is better’ world, our nervous system will become constantly vigilant, as the load will continuously tax this system and take away the things that are needed physically and mentally to down regulate. Our body will become tense as a baseline, we won’t be able to unclench, and this wreaks serious havoc from the outside in. I believe this is why my loved one hurt his neck. His baseline was already stressed with his intensely demanding lifestyle, so no surprise that plyo-push ups put him over the edge into pain.

In my past experience living with a vigilant, activated nervous system, it caused a lot of ill effects that I couldn’t acknowledge were related at the time: digestion slowed down (or seemed to stop altogether, eek!), sleep became difficult, sweet/salty food cravings increased as my endocrine system adjusted hormones to try and counter the chronic stress response alive and kicking in me, wrinkles came quicker and my hair started to thin and fall out a lot (not too mention it didn’t grow at all!), and my organs were being squeezed and held so tight by my overall body tension that it was hard to even take a deep breath anymore! The result…I felt like shit most of the time, and then of course, one day I got really sick.

This is all to say, the power of the metaphorical unclench is not to be underestimated. If we don’t consciously practice this engagement with our relaxation response, i.e.- the rest, digest, relax and repose part of ourselves (body and brain), we are headed for a more and more rigid future in all matters of life. One has to think about that and decide who they want to BE, both now and in our golden years. Do you want to be someone who is youthful and supple in appearance, who has grace and strength alongside fitness both mental and physical, someone who can flex and flow with the changes of life and family without limitations? Or, do you want to be someone who gets more and more stuck with every year of hard earned living, someone who grows more rigid in thought, action and mobility every single day? I know you can picture both kinds of people in your mind right? Which person inspires you? What you practice is what becomes permanent, not what becomes perfect. If you practice well, you get well. If you practice in tension and force, you get rigidity and a hard-edged brittleness that builds over time.

And one last thing (while I am standing tall on my soapbox LOL)…Do you enjoy ‘it’ or does your ego enjoy you doing it? (By ‘it’ I mean the push-past workouts, your busy life, the constant striving.) Does it bring you true joy and nourishment to do it that way? If not, then you gotta ask, what the fuck are you doing it for? And if it is for your ego that’s totally cool, just know that your ego is insatiable and immortally unfulfilled, so you will never actually be able to work hard enough to satisfy it. Why not appeal to the True You, the one that actually KNOWS who you are and what you desire and truly need? If you listened to that part of you – how many reps would you do today? How hard would you push? What would be your sense of fulfillment then?

How you feel while you’re moving is a more important skill to hone than how you are doing the movement overall. Learning how to feel and then to actually respect those sensations is a skill that builds sustainable strength, and greater resilience overall. It can also in some cases lead to more intelligent movement patterns which allow for greater opportunities to move without pain or injury and allow you to BE and DO how you most desire.

Conversations With Liberation

 Sometimes there are lots of people, sometimes there are few. 
The only thing that matters is that you are the most YOU.
 
Show up and grow up,
Ascend and Transcend.
 
The glory is in the connection,
Between two students, two humans, two friends.
 
There is no power like presence,
To see and be seen.
To behold the truth in our hearts,
And all the scars that lie in between.
 
We are exposed in the light of truth,
Bare naked and stripped of all veils.
Seeing from this place brings wonder, curiosity,
And blows apart the fairy tales.
 
Children as open vessels, we long to reclaim this way.
To be wide open and overcome by simple joy,
Oh this is truly play!
 
And so, we continue, collecting consciousness and reclaiming
ourselves.
Piece by peace unifying,
Story by story slowly dying.
 
Our freedom is born in the light of truth, the spark of joy
illuminating.
Liberation ascends within, clearing tired energies that have
been ruminating.
Awareness, compassion and love unify our humanness,
Many hearts - many souls, free, sacred and luminous.
 
~Lindsay Knazan

UNITY

Oh my dear sweet child.

Rest yourself here in my arms, my embrace.

I’ve got you.

Lay your burden down. As the tears fall,

So too the shroud of sorrow that surrounds and casts shadows over your radiance.

Give me your heart and I will return you to

Grace.

Give me your grieving heart and I will bring the solace of self-compassion.

Give me your love and I will restore your faith.

For your holy heart is worthy of pure love, the love that can only pierce through when

I  am  present  in  you.

So know my dear one, that I am inside of you: you are me, and your heart song is my voice through your being. And so, your sorrows are also mine – I hold you close as you float in the river of tears – I am your river banks and the current that washes it clean again.

I am a part,

And you are the WHOLE

When we are united.

goddess~Lindsay Knazan

Learning to Accept with Grace

Well I haven’t posted in ages…Been a lot of challenges this year for me, so computer time plus writing time has felt limited. As many of you know, reflection, silence and rest have been the daily agenda this year, alongside my regular life/work happenings, as I have been struggling with my health in various ways.

On that note-today is World Arthritis Day, I just found this out! September is Arthritis awareness month but I didn’t know there was also a day dedicated to it too-that’s cool. As someone who lives with Ankylosing Spondylitis (spinal arthritis), it matters to me to take some action on a day like today, so I thought I would share a blog post as my action step.

What does this mean to me to take a step in this regard? To me it means I feel called to speak out and share a little bit about what it’s like to live with Arthritis, particularly because right now the disease is kicking my ass a little bit…so here it goes.

It’s like…

~A force that bowls through you that you have no control when or where it hits. When it does, BAM, you are toasted for a while and the road back requires soft slowness and doing waaaay less. This gearing down from life isn’t typically what one WANTS to do, alas, it is what is required for recovery.

~A heaviness that drops itself on your chest and makes you remember that deep breathing is a privilege of the healthy.

~A limp that slows you down, forcing a walk when you want to run, or a single step at a time when you want to leap.

~A depression that comes in the night, a feeling of loneliness inside the pain, where it seems abysmally dark and cold and endless.

~An isolation where you think you are the only one. Even if you know you aren’t, it just feels like you are on your own with it as it rips the layers of identity out of you.

Is it all bad?

Well of course not. This is me we are talking about ;D

The gifts of it include…

~A slow down that allows you to see who you really are, what you are made of, beyond the identities that busy you daily.

~A coming home to surrender and acceptance and what is everyday: A new set of skills that help with the rest of life beyond the flare up.

~A learning how to feel, albeit feeling pain is hard as hell. It rings true over and over that feeling leads to healing.

~An opening to different possibilities in life-different perspectives and a shit ton more compassion, both for self and other.

There are so many things I am learning from having AS and navigating the ups and downs of it. The amount of acceptance that is required to be with this condition so it doesn’t become me-so I don’t dissolve in it- while also maintaining a sense of hope that change is possible feels massive right now. So.much.surrender.required.

Meditation feels easy compared to this journey! The fact that I get to CHOOSE to meditate is the first way that it’s easier, because my condition is not a choice. I didn’t choose this, nor is it my fault, and yet, it’s in me. I am recognizing that the choice is in how I navigate it every single day, and how I treat myself along the way.

And so, I sit on my cushion a lot these days, to offer myself a reprieve, a place to practice receiving the moment and remembering the richness of life beyond the challenges of my body today. Maybe tomorrow it will be a hike or someday again a run in the woods, but for now, it’s a quiet sit in a sunbeam with my puppies nestled next to me. That is how I am healing.

In honour of #WorldArthritisDay, please take a moment and find gratitude for your healthy body and life. No matter what ails you, acknowledge the parts that feel whole and healthy inside (physical or beyond!), and the deeper knowing that you are enough just as you are-arthritic or not!

From my FierceHeart to yours~

Lindsaywad-logo

 

 

 

 

Why Belly to Spine Should NOT Be On All the Time!

Let’s just get down and dirty and talk about how potent the ripple effect of the cue ‘suck in your belly’ or ‘draw navel to spine’ is in our yoga/fitness and women’s health culture in general. As a girl who grew up with two older brothers and a family dialogue that on the one hand deemed any excess as disgraceful, and on the other had a lot of body image challenges and struggles with food, I have had a long history and struggle with presenting myself as physically integrated, fit, and confident. Sucking in my stomach was a norm I learned very young and it was part of my identity for a looooong time (and it can still show up sometimes even now when situations get scary or stressful). I was an athlete in my teens who spent any extra time outside sports and school in cadets…Oh and doing drill was my favourite, so it was all about ‘stand up straight’ and ‘suck in your stomach’ and ‘feet together’ blah blah blah! In university I worked as a bartender so physical appearance was a piece to the job and a place I learned a lot about ‘putting up appearances’…From there I became a personal trainer, fitness instructor and yoga teacher and now I own my own martial arts and therapeutic yoga business, so I really have a full spectrum perspective (as well as a very personal experience) with regards to our obsession with a flat, firm belly.Deep_Breathing_36ac6d4c-e3e8-4c1a-b54e-1f338f7a84a6_1024x1024

So, you wanna know why I stopped sucking it in???

Well gee, let me count thee ways.

-I had constant and chronic back pain
-It perpetuated my anxiety.
-I had heart palpitations and chest pains from the tension in my ribs, stomach and chest.
-I was constipated all the time. (YUP-it’s connected!)
-I had gas and bloating most days, and always felt like I couldn’t have a good poop to start the day! (And well, let’s be serious this is a very important ingredient to a HAPPY life!)
-BM’s were unpredictable, and always seemed to come at the most inopportune times!
-Sex was tricky because relaxing into intimacy and sucking in your stomach are counter-intuitive and opposites. It’s reaaaaally hard to do both at the same time (and believe me, I tried)
-I had stomach aches most days, and always felt sick after eating. I also always overate and struggled to feel satiated.
-I felt scared a LOT. A low level feeling of dread like something bad was going to happen.
-I couldn’t take deep breaths, hence it felt like I couldn’t relax. My upper body was like a rock- solid, and yet-I didn’t feel free. I felt trapped. I felt caged and blocked up and stunted.
-I was sick of pretending.

Now, I didn’t know these were caused or connected to my belly issues before I started to unwind it, but in retrospect, I see all the relationships and how much has shifted for me as a result of getting embodied in my belly. And that, my friends, is why I feel inspired to write this blog and share it with you, so you may discover some possibilities for yourself ❤

A teacher showed me that it was possible to unwind my belly and not fall apart. At first I felt scared that I would lose core strength, that I would get ‘weak’, and that my stomach would lose tone. Working with her and an amazing pelvic floor physiotherapist helped me see that the strength of my core was NOT predicated on how well I could suck in belly to spine; in fact, the more I stopped doing exactly that, the better my lower back and neck started to feel. (Both areas of which had been chronically sore and tight for me since I was in middle school).

I started to notice that when I was sucking it in and looking the mirror, my whole face looked tense and it kinda looked like my head might fly off my body at any moment (like I was squeezing myself up and out from this inside out). I realized how unattractive this was to me, especially because once I noticed it in myself, I started to see it in other people too. I found myself feeling compassionate for those people and wanting to help ‘set them free’. Because that’s what it felt like once I started to unwind my middle, it felt like I was getting out of jail in a sense. And I could breathe, I could actually take a breath in without my shoulders going up to my ears…

I noticed that when I let my belly guard down, I felt more connected to my intuition. I felt like I could see more clearly, and tune into my own needs more clearly.

linz quote2

On occasions when I had a big release through my belly and things felt way more free, I noticed that the skin of my face and throat looked softer, and it seemed more youthful. I felt like I actually aged down! Um, yes please! 😉 Since then, I have seen this response in many of my yoga therapy clients as they unwind, it’s a beautiful thing.

I never really knew what I wanted to do/be in my life growing up and through my 20’s, I always had more questions than answers for myself it seemed: Holding my belly felt like a way to control the fear I felt that I DIDN’T KNOW who I was. As I softened through my abdomen and started letting it go, the KNOWING began to rise up in the most spontaneous and delightful way. I recognized how hungry I was for this knowing, and the feeling that goes with it: A taste of freedom, a taste of confidence, peace, and most of all, TRUTH.

Ah yes, truth. This leads me to the biggest reason of all that I released my belly.

I didn’t want to lie anymore.

Holding in my belly was living a lie. I was trying to present as a controlled version of myself, something/someone to be contained and held together, an idea of what I thought could be perfection. The feeling and energy of sucking it in became a constant reminder that no, I was not perfect, that I was something that needed to be squished in to fit in. As various truth bombs were rising in me in moments of freedom as my belly unwound, self-love and acceptance were also rising with it, and I began to sense that I liked letting myself ‘be’. I liked leaving myself alone and letting my body take up the space that it needs to, breath by breath.

linz quote

I always felt so very very tired. I hated how I felt objectified by men or other people and then it hit me that it was also ‘I’ who was objectifying myself. It was ‘I’ who was displaced from her body and so judgmental of it. This started to feel like a betrayal of trust after a while. And I noticed when I was sucking my belly in, it was a sign that I was misaligned with my truth in that moment, ie- I wasn’t feeling safe or comfortable in the experience I was having or decision I was making. And so, what has emerged as I have let my belly guard down more and more, is a rapid emergence of what feels like a primitive core stability, an inner authority both physically in my body and also spiritually in my being.

I am more integrated.

There is an inner trust growing into the belief that I AM perfect with an open belly. I AM in fact contained when I am not bracing my core because I am allowing my body to have space INSIDE of itself and INSIDE OF my experience of life. It’s like comparing the difference between tunnel vision versus peripheral vision. When we tunnel our vision, everything narrows and we lose sight of details and perspective, and we see a small scope of what’s there and it’s limited. When we expand and open to our periphery, a whole world of sight opens up for us and we get so much more information and details to support our journey. We access more space. The same is true in our bellies, we lose sense of ourselves (extremities in particular, arms to hands and feet to legs) when we cut ourselves off with a sucked in gut. The grip of it chops us up into pieces, and we lose the ability to flow.

This flow is what core stability means to me, not the rigid crunches or 100’s that we might rock in our bootcamp or pilates class. Embodied flow is feeling engaged and awake through our core, grounded and wide through our hips and feet, abdominals responding with deep inner support versus a desperate holding on. This leaves us light on our feet and feeling supple and steady. Now I don’t know about you, but that sounds pretty damn sexy to me! I know my husband likes me more as supple and steady versus rigid and stuck 😀 There is a thickness to this kind of stability, where we become able to stand our ground and not be pushed. To stand our ground, we first have to stand open wide in our core, letting it shine out from the belly. The truth flows and from the truth comes love.

donna farhi quote

As amazing yoga teacher Donna Farhi says, “We don’t have to ‘feel bad to look good’. However, we may have to change our definition of what looking good means to us.”

It is amazing how much we think we are ‘hiding’ it by doing this, and yet, it is so obvious when you begin to look at people and notice how tense they are. It’s impossible to suck in your stomach and not have a ripple through your whole body and through your breath. You may think you are fooling those around you, (and maybe you are trying to fool yourself too?), but we are intuitive creatures, we feel when people are hiding things from us.

So I invite you to begin a belly awareness practice: look around at people-see if you can notice people who are sucking it in. Take them in when you notice it and really see the person in front of you. Can you FEEL their tension? Is there anxiety, or hiding in it? As you feel it, notice what it evokes in you. Then take a deep breath and allow your belly to relax as much as feels available and safe for you. And when you start to explore, know that only you are in charge of how deep you go in releasing. You can start to ask what is underneath all that tension? Who is hidden away in that held belly? How free could you be if you relinquished the fight with your guts? There may be tears in there, yes, years of tears and fear of losing control; there may be rage; or a desperate desire to be acknowledged. And through all the wounds that got us to where we are, deep inside lies the diamond that is who we really are. As the tension and armour melt away, we begin to shine brighter.

Shine on friends…

OH, and a little PS for those of you who still aren’t quite convinced…

Chronic belly holding can lead to chronic neck and shoulder tension, lower back pain, sciatica, breathing dysfunction and chest pains, incontinence, anxiety, hip pain, constipation and digestive problems. Serious issues. Is it really worth it?

Oh and the idea that your belly will stick out more if you stop bracing it in all the time is b.s. If you are walking around in a constant state of contraction all day long, you can get those ab muscles are freaking exhausted, and you are actually making them weaker? You might think ‘Um, how can they be getting weaker if I am engaging them all the time???’ The answer is simple: for a muscle to be strong it must be able to completely contract, and completely relax. BAM. How do you like them apples. Do you even know HOW to relax your tummy muscles? Perhaps letting it ‘hang out’ is as important an exercise as your weekly crunch workout???

Much love from my FierceHeart to yours~
Lindsay

A Humble Currency

A soft pillow, beckoning me to lay my head down-
I feel the rest calling.
She whispers sweetly as if to say:

“Come now sweet soul, and lay your burden down.
What in you can surrender to receive? Your mind? Body? Your heart? Soul?
What in you can believe in giving and receiving as a form of caring currency and let go of the tit for tat?
Who are you when you receive? Can your heart take on a new dimension as Love & Trust build themselves into each life offering heartbeat?

Then a pull from the earth herself, beckoning me to offer my heart forward-

I feel the gift of giving is within me.

She whispers softly as if to say:

“Come now fierce One, and open your heart to it all.
What in you can offer yourself up to the joy of generosity?
What in you can surrender the bounds of your body, mind and stories to let your heart expand beyond to something bigger than you?
Who are you when your heart is full of offering?

She speaks more firmly now, and commands:

Go NOW, and BE that which opens you fully. Then be sure to stay open. Give. Receive, and invest your heart stocks in this humble currency. It will create in you a wealthy soul.”

The generosity emerging in my heart feels delicately dangerous and simultaneously liberating. I am learning that when we allow people to help us, when we can take in the support of a caring soul, we truly learn to receive. As we CAN receive, we become able to GIVE too. It seems these are not mutually exclusive-but rather-they are married skills. This humble currency is the most surefire investment of your life. Like a boomerang, what you spend from your Heart will always come back to you: As we receive, we give…as we give, we receive.

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Now this sounds so simple, and yet, I have found it to be a great challenge in my life. I feel as I learn to receive, it’s as though I am thawing, melting away years of un-trust woven through my being; an intricate suit of armor that has kept the love stuck inside. It feels so lonely locked in that suit and stuck, unable to share the vast love in my heart. As the armor liquefies, I find my heart is growing like the Grinch’s, expanding as each layer of self-protection drops away.

jv-quote

So often people give (gift) us things, for example a compliment. When we redirect it back to them without acknowledging it- we are neither receiving, nor are we giving in that moment: we are stealing. We are taking away the generosity, the care and forethought of the person’s giving of it and we are negating the vulnerability and the love that is required to have given it authentically in the first place. When we can’t absorb it and we reject it in this way (albeit unconsciously for many of us), we are in fact stealing the experience of the gift both from ourselves and from the giver. Yeeps, that sounds un-fun doesn’t it? I find it is much easier to practice saying ‘Thank you’-even when I can’t fully take it in. Listening and not immediately bouncing it back has been a huge step towards acceptance for me. Listening, hearing and allowing without altering is part of our great practice isn’t it?

This post is dedicated to my dear friends J & J, whose honesty, friendship and humble gifts inspired my sharing this post. You are gems my elephant friends.

From my FierceHeart to yours~
Lindsay

The Abyss

owl-1As I fall into the darkness I reach out and find a hand—

A hand I recognize as my own.

Am I alone in this Abyss?

I call out to the shadow of Darkness surrounding me, and the black silence provides my affirmation.

This desolation–this vastness– seems to be where I begin.

This is where ‘I Am’ slumbers, equanimous and deep in its’ existence; never changing or disengaging regardless of the blips of arrival and quick departures from my ‘Self.’

Presence is meeting my hand in the dark.

Presence is feeling the aloneness of these fingertips meeting the cold and unknowing-Trusting the warm touch of Truth as I make my way towards the light.

‘I AM’ stands alone. I AM is not afraid of the dark.

I AM is present in every shadow and every sun beam.

SO HUM.

~Lindsay Knazan Dec 2016

hafiz-quote-fh