Calling Up The Brave

Let me just say this. The affliction we have as teachers (be it yoga teachers, or any kind of teacher really) to show up a ‘certain way’ is toxic.
To think that we have to be a certain perfect version of ourselves in showing up as leaders is not giving any space or permission to our community to be as they are. Although we may think or have been taught that leadership needs to look ‘put together’ or somehow have a stamp of ‘ok-ness’ on it, it’s actually in realness and truth that those we support can thaw and melt into their own Selves. This is what I have been learning through my experiences with teaching and leadership over the last couple of decades. It’s been s-l-o-w learning until recently, I lived for the first chunk of my life in the persona of sunshine-y leadership, always presenting myself in a positive and ‘all good’ kinda way. This decade of my 30’s has led me to a more authentic showing up, ie- a more real, messy, open-hearted, honest, down and dirty truth expressing version of myself. In doing this, I have witnessed my community softening into the truth of who they are right along with me. I don’t believe this is coincidence!

On a Zoom Yoga Nourishment session earlier this week (yes online connection is IT right now because: COVID) it was mentioned by someone that they had wanted to not show up because they didn’t like the way they were feeling and hence didn’t like the way they would look and come across in front of everyone. There were some feelings shared that our bodies are ‘betraying’ us and not feeling or ‘doing’ life the way we want which prevents us showing up as ‘presentable’ the way our ego wants us to. Who hasn’t felt this way before?…No.human.ever. Am I right?!

What was beautiful about this interaction though was that these people DID show up, they owned the challenges they were feeling, spoke to it and let themselves be witnessed in community. THIS action, in and of itself, simply allowed them to shift their state of being. Vulnerability and willingness to stay in the tension of discomfort was at the heart of the practice here. At the end, one of the people shared that love had come back into their heart and they realized that showing up as they are is the gift they have to offer the world! BAM. So good.

The truth of this time is that we are being called to collectively heal. I think most would agree that enough time has been spent pretending that we are perfect or that we are feeling good when we are not. That seems to be much of what has got us into this global mess in the first place. Now is the time to rise into authenticity which means, for many, we have to get real with the yucky things living in ourselves (in our shadow), that are not easy or pleasant. We have to train ourselves to sit with ‘what is’, taming the mind of its aversion through one breath, one move, one community connection at a time. It’s not enough to be perfect in our homes on our cushions- in fact, that isn’t too real at all. What’s real is showing up on a zoom session with your community and allowing the truth of your heart body and mind to be witnessed. This great witnessing is the medicine that we so need right now.

We do not heal in isolation.

Mother Earth is here to take some support off your shoulders. We started the movement practice by laying on and leaning into the earth – feeling her support under us…Surrendering any parts of our bodies/minds that could relinquish the holding on, the gripping, and the fear. We sank into the arms of the Mother, and let her hold our pain and tremble so we could rest.

For those of us with the privilege of being in leadership roles right now, it is up to us to soften into the truth of the moment, to unveil that which we don’t like about the moment and see it, allow it to be as it is. This is the exact requirement for those very things we don’t like to change if they are meant to. For us to change ourselves or the world we first must get real about where we are. I believe that is an opportunity of this time we are living in.

Perfectionism is harmful. It is poisonous and a lie.
Uncovering the layers of perfectionism is what sets us free from ourselves, and what actually allows connection to birth and awaken.
The reason people come to my yoga classes is because we show up to what’s REAL in the space, there is no plan, no prescription, no persona. There is raw, true community, full of tears and anger and dissonance at times and full of joy and peace and excitement at others.

To get better at being real we have to practice being real.

That is what I witnessed today in our class. It was difficult – it wasn’t a pretty packaged yoga class. It didn’t have a nice ‘ring’ to it with all the right poses and smiles and deep breaths. It had tears and anger and grief and gratitude and pain all mixed together like a soup for the soul.

Leaders, we don’t need you to be armoured. Leave that to the the many others who don’t have to capacity to take their armour off. You DO. Remove the layers of persona that keep you hidden and set yourself free on the wings of the truth. The truth is the only place that healing happens. The truth is the nourishment we are so seeking. And no the truth isn’t always kind and we don’t always like it, but realness is a healing elixir and the truth is always fucking real, you can count on that.

Feeling heavy hearted for my community today – feeling their collective pain and anger and sadness. I am with you, we are together. And I will not leave you alone there. Lean in dear ones, we must lean in to one another (through the screen or whatever we’ve got) and choose realness, right NOW.

~Be Brave enough to look in the mirror and see the true reflection of yourself.

~Be Brave enough to speak from your heart and share what’s on your heart- not what’s in your head.

~Be brave enough to stay generous during this time and filled with gratitude.


~Be Brave enough to believe that healing is possible right now, individually and collectively and that it is your responsibility to do your part in moving towards that healing.


~Be Brave enough to move towards possibility and hope versus doom and despair. This doesn’t mean you don’t feel all the feelings of this time but it does mean you take responsibility for them and don’t spew them out as a discharge for everyone else to deal with .


~Be brave enough to know that self responsibility is the ultimate spiritual practice. Owning all the parts of yourself (especially the hard ones that you don’t particularly like) and befriending your totality is the truest and deepest spiritual work.


Being a good person isn’t the work of a spiritual being. Being a real person is.

There is no time like the present for authenticity. Your anger can be transformed to action. But you have to feel that anger for you to action it in a good and useful way. There is no such thing as a bad emotion. What makes it bad is when we let it fester or we expel it and discharge it to be someone else’s (or the planet’s) problem. E-motion = energy in motion. Our feelings need to move so it’s up to us to express them, and then make a choice to move towards that which takes us to the truth of who we are and who we want to be. Yes, it’s about choices. At some point we have to begin to take authority on how we feel day to day, moment to moment. This spiritual practice is one that takes time and repetition. To start we have to learn how to feel.

That is what we do in my sessions, in fact some might argue that that is the whole point of how I teach yoga. To feel, to get real, and to integrate that which needs to be anchored and shift that which needs to be transmuted. What it leaves us with is an elevated, consolidated and more authentic version of ourselves. What the world needs is more authentic, consolidated and elevated people.

Elevated doesn’t mean we don’t have the hard feelings anymore. Elevated means we are real about what’s up for us in the moment and then we let that shit move so we can come back to our highest place again and again. This is the practice as I see it.

From my Fierce Heart to yours, Be Brave my friends.

Love Lindsay

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

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