This is episode 123 of changing the face of Yoga and my guest today is Carla Simpson and Carla is known for being full of energy, love, and inspiration. She's very enthusiastic about life and love and wants to experience as much of what life has to offer. She has discovered her why. My mission in life to help others live a happier and more fulfilled life. And she's going to share with us how she uses this inspiration in her yoga teaching. . And to hssist for students. She opened her own yoga school four years ago, Happy Hot Yoga, and they have a range of classes to suit everyone. And they also are a yoga community, a real family. We have social dinners once a month, workshops and yoga retreats. So welcome Carla. And would you like to add anything to that introduction?
01:47 No, I think you got it all. Thank you very much for having me on the show. And you're right. I do. I'm a big lover of life. That's cool.
01:56 Great. Okay, let's start there. You said you were on a journey of self-discovery and that's when you discovered your why. Can you talk a little bit about that.
02:02 Growing up, I hated yoga. You couldn't have got me into a yoga class at all. My mom was always doing yoga and I just remember, getting up in the morning and her out in the lounge room on her yoga mat doing in class. It wasn't me and she always trying to encourage me, but I've always been a bit of an adrenaline junkie. Growing up I got very into fitness and running marathons, things like that. It was only that my knee was really starting to ache a lot in the long runs. My physio kept saying, you should go to yoga, it will really help you. And I was like, no, I don't do yoga, I don't do yoga. Anyway one day, I cried my way to the finish of one of the races, and I was in my head, I'm not going to do this anymore.
03:04 So I'd dragged myself to a yoga class and yeah, it wasn't the first class that definitely changed my life. But in that sort of journey into the first few classes, I, I first started with Bikram Yoga, more because it was the adrenaline as well of the hotness, the hard. I found it very difficult and I couldn't believe that I couldn't do some of it. So that was what dragged me back. And then I had gone to visit my friend who lived a little bit out of the town that I live in and I thought I was going to do a Bikram yoga class. But when I got there, the teacher had said, oh, sorry, we had to change your schedule is not bikram Yoga. And at that point I would have walked away. but I'd already paid.
03:55 I was a student then, so I was like okay, fine. So I dragged myself into these class and it was like a slow class and it was strong. It was something teacher said to at the end in savasana and it honestly changed my life. I still remember it. I was just lying there and she says, so it's now time to turn off the voices in your head. If you think you have no voices in your head that was a voice that just told you that you have no voice in your head. aI was like, oh my God, I have a voice in my head and I'm not the only one. Then that was the start for me was I wanted to find out more about how to find that stillness in that space.
04:43 And I started to get really into yoga then and more into mindfulness and meditation. And I really discovered what true happiness is without our voice telling us different things or what we should be doing or could be doing. But how I could just feel happy and joyful in any moment and that it was my choice. So that was the start of my whole journey. And then I just really loved what yoga had done for me. And the closest yoga school to where I live was about 20 minutes and I just one day, sort of having a conversation with my ex-boyfriend at the time, so said, why isn't there a yoga school around our area? And then anyway, that put the plan in my head and the plan started to grow and so I opened up my own yoga school.
05:34 Oh, excellent. you say that you are helping people find their purpose and you have a multitude of ways to do it. You've been an entrepreneur or business owner, global backpacker and a podcast host. And so I like all these different ways you're looking at it, but you are a yoga teacher and so how are you trying to meet that purpose, that mission, that why through your yoga studio or your yoga teaching.
06:06 Well really, for me it's just about sharing my experiences and my knowledge throughout my class and then throughout the studio. So if you come to a class with me, you probably get one of my stories. I just spent a month working in an orphanage in India over December. And so the first part of me coming back, I was sharing stories of that and I'm really just trying to educate people that we can be happy no matter what's going on in our lives at any one point. And life is a journey. We're always going to have ups and downs. Kind of like yoga class, we're falling in, we're falling out of poses.
06:48 But that stillness in there is being okay with whatever is going on around us. So that's really what, for me it is about and just really helping people to be happy with themselves. We spend so much time growing up trying to change ourselves. Every advert on television wear this makeup, whiten our teeth or whatever it is. But I think we all can just learn that we're perfect the way we are. And it's a hard journey sometimes, but that's why I want to help people realize.
07:30 Your school is Happy Hot Yoga, so I assume that you're doing hot yoga. You said that you like the adrenaline at one point and so isome of them would probably be very physical, but it sounds to me like you are saying that and please tell me I'm wrong, the meditation, the stillness, how you think about yourself, the self-talk, all of that is more of the journey to being happy then actually the physical. Is that a fair statement?
08:09 Yeah, for sure. Yeah. The physical just helps us sometimes find that space and I think a lot of us feel good when we are being physically active as well. So we have a range of classes at a studio. We not all just power, strong classes. We have the slow, the meditation, the yin classes as well but I think that often in that flow or it's in that everyday life, where it can get chaotic that we sometimes need to learn to just be okay with the stillness and be able to find the stillness even when things are strong around us or we are caught up in an argument or whatever it is or your yoga class. I think that you find the true happiness when you can allow this, not necessarily the stillness, but you can allow yourself to have the, maybe the chitter chatter or the boys talking on the sidelines and you didn't have to be so involved in that by choosing to react or choosing to just let it pass by.
09:16 You now have a yoga studio that's in an area that didn't have one before. And how are you introducing the community to Yoga?
09:31 Well, we've been here for four years now. So a word of mouth is definitely a great tool. But I do lots of different things. Like we have obviously our Facebook and social media, but we have these signs up and I put our flyers and offer free classes to mostly people in cafes around the area. We might go out, I've spoken at events. Earlier this year I spoke at a big event in Gosford, which is a health event. So I spoke and hosted the meditation in the morning there. It's just brand awareness really, but I think what assisted me was word of mouth and it has taken four years to build the studio up. I've got other teachers now we're running workshops, teacher trainings, things like that. It has been a climb. I'm not going to lie. That's what I love about it too; is it has been journey. And I remember those days of first opening the studio and having no one show up to some classes. And it broke my heart. But as you chug on and the next class someone will show up. And that's what happened. And over time it has grown.
10:52 When you talked about your first experiences with Yoga, I think it's important sometimes that we take into consideration what the student is going through, because our own ego, like it is upsetting when you have a class and nobody shows up. I've been there. But when you're talking about, the first class wasn't all that great, but you went back and then you finally found what made sense for you. How do we make that transition for the students, especially a new student to understand that there's so much that yoga offers and maybe this particular class or this particular way of doing things, isn't it? But that there's lots and lots that they can dip into.
11:46 Oh, sure. And that I think, is something that is so important that new students understand. So when new students walk into my studio, I always introduce myself and we have a community so everyone might be chatting around and we'll introduce ourselves to the new person. Even the other students will. My students are very welcoming as well, which is lovely. Then throughout the class I always talk about picking the options that best fit you, taking your time, that yoga is a journey and we're not really here training to be able to stand on our head or to do all these amazing, cool poses. I think we're just really training to become better at life.
12:28 And that's what I often say to people is that, not every day is our day and some classes I turn up to I walk away thinking, Oh God, I've had enough. I'm done. But that's the shit that I'm going through on that day. And, sometimes we can step back from things so involved in ourselves and just let it all fall off the mat. Then we can realize that. And I do believe that it takes a new client a few classes. I do love to watch that journey myself. I always say you see these new people and I was one of them; they can't shut their eyes, their eyes are looking around at everyone else and they can't sit still, they're twitching.
13:10 But then I always say that four classes in, then you see it'll drop away and you see them slowly sink into their mat and they shut their eyes and it's like that light bulb goes off and they're like, oh my goodness. I think that it is a journey and I think it's important to explain that to clients and it's still a continuing journey to me as well. Gosh, I don't think we're ever going to be perfect. And there's no such thing anyway, but I'm training to be better at my life and I think yoga helps me become a better person and to make better choices in my life.
13:44 You've been a variety of things. I love the global backpacker, and you're doing podcasts and I assume that the entrepreneur and business owner has to do with yoga, but maybe you had other things. But why did you choose the yoga path, given all of these great things that you've done?
14:09 I still do them as well. I always say to people I am a jack of all trades. I always say yoga really changed my life and it made me become a softer person. I'm not so hard. Not that I was hard. But I still am very driven, still, that Type A personality, but yoga allows me to come back to my roots. And I still travel a lot. But yoga has taught me so much about just the way to live life, gratitude and kindness. Just trying to be conscious of the little moments that I get to experience.
15:02 So maybe once when I backpacked I wasn't so aware of everything going on around me. when now when I do it, it's a totally different experience and I'm just very humbled and grateful for the people I meet and the kindness that is shown across all areas of the world. I do think that yoga and the yoga teachings, the yoga philosophy has helped me as a person to be able to understand that and to understand myself more and to understand really what makes me feel the best. And it might not necessarily be the yoga practice, but it might be showing acts of gratitude to people, smiling at someone down the street. But for me that whole lesson came through yoga.
15:47 But you've really delve deeper into that. Do you try to introduce the yoga philosophy in your classes?
16:00 Yeah, always, but always doing different teachings. Each week I'll have a different theme in the week. We're always learning about all that. Yes.
16:08 Okay. And how do your students react to that?
16:12 Oh, they love it, they love it. Yeah. So at the studio you get like all different, you might still get a work out, but you'd definitely get some yoga learnings and I do a monthly newsletter with a little passage in it. There's always things. Then I do believe that as I just said, that everyone that comes to our studio will walk away maybe more physically fit. Yes. Maybe not. They might come to the meditation classes, but they will come with a deeper understanding of what I believe life is truly about.
16:47 Is there anything that you would particularly like to either expand on that we've talked about or something we haven't touched on at all that you would like to share with the listeners?
17:00 I mean, my purpose and my why now is to help people, to be able to make those conscious choices every day that they can choose to be happy. They can choose to smile no matter what's going on around them. And yes, for me the teachings came from Yoga, but that was my personal journey. So whatever teachings anyone can get from me or from my journey, then hopefully that helps them become better in living their life. Because I think we're all on a different journey. And yoga is so broad. There's so many wonderful things that we can learn from yoga or take from Yoga and my job I feel is just to open up what those lessons are in the way that people like to experience it at my studio. And then hopefully they can take that and share that with their life and their families and the way that their world.
17:59 You're trying to help people find their purpose is what you told me. How does that go from having a yoga class? And I understand that you're certainly trying to offer them a really large spectrum of yoga. but do you think that's how they come to that purpose when they can quiet the mind and feel a little better about themselves?
18:32 I totally believe that. Yeah. When you start to quiet your mind and you realize you've got an intuition and that intuition is talking to us, and if we allow ourselves to listen to that, that's when your purpose comes back. So sometimes it's a journey to get to that point, but that is definitely what happens, I believe, and in my own experience.
18:56 So, let's talk a little bit about the podcast. Why did you decide to start a podcast?
19:05 I loved podcasts myself. I love listening to podcasts. I have a little puppy dog and I was always walking down the street and listening to something and it just makes me smile. It was one of my favorite things to do. And I was just talking to a friend how I wanted to share my story. I wanted to share my learnings and my teachings about yoga and happiness and how I could do that maybe on the bigger scale. It was literally over a cup of coffee. She said, well, Carla, you're such a great chatter. You could do your own podcast. And then I was like, I've never even thought about it. And I was like, oh my gosh. And then, and again, a seed was planted in my head and then I sort of, again, just sort of let it sit there. And then throughout my yoga, my meditation, listening to my intuition, I decided that, yeah, I'd give it a go and see what would happen. And that's what happens.
20:09 Explain your podcast purpose or whatever you would like to call it in a few words. I know that you interview people, but what are you trying to get across?
20:26 Happiness and that happiness is a choice. So that's my main message. But then I interview different people from just all different areas of life that are doing things. And I ask them about things that make them happy because everyone finds happiness from a different thing. This is what I'm trying to change; the education is that happiness doesn't come from external things. We grow up thinking if we get that job or we get that house or we get that boyfriend, then we're going to be happy. But happiness really comes from within and the choices that we make in every day. And I think that yoga has helped me learn to listen to my intuition so that I can make those right choices and then make me a happier person.
21:11 I'm trying to get everyone's view on what they do to make themselves that little bit happier every day. And then we educate more people out there that these little things like maybe smiling at a person down the street. Someone was saying their happiest moment is when they call their mom every day just to say hello to their mom. so just that there are so many different ways we can live our life and be consciously aware of the choices we're making to make sure that we feel good and we feel happy. And we can learn to listen to that intuition and be more complete with just even the incomplete.
21:52 It sounds really interesting to have all these people talking about what makes them happy. I agree with you. I bet that most of them aren't external, more internal about what you do and what you think. So thank you so much, Carla. This has been great And thank you so much Carla for coming on the podcast. I really love your message. I think it's great and that it's coming through you as a result or as a start from yoga.
23:23 Yoga is something that's part of me now and I could never imagine my life without it. And once I could never imagine my life with it. All those people out there that haven't quite yet stepped into that. It can be scary to step onto that mat, but honestly I say to people all the time, that changed my life.
23:42 Thank you so much. I appreciate you coming.
23:45 No worries. Thank you so much for having me. It's been lovely.
website is www,carlamaree.com.au and \ www.happyhotyoga.com.au
Instagram is CarlaMareeSimpson and happyhotyoga
Podcast: Get Happy Hour podcast.
00:01 Hello and welcome to change the face of yoga teaching toddlers through golden oldies. I'm very excited to be talking to lots of yoga teachers who will explain their passion for teaching yoga to students with different ages, physical fitness levels, wellness levels, and different goals. They will explain the benefits of yoga for these students and we'll be including teacher tips and pose modifications. I am Stephanie Cunningham of yoga lightness and I've been teaching over 50s for 10 years. So this area is my passion and the passion of many other yoga teachers that you will be listening to in this series. Thank you so much for listening and let's get started.
00:48 This is episode 122 of changing the face of yoga and today we're going to do a very short, fun podcast. When I produce my podcast for release, one of the first things I do is a transcript and it is usually quite good. But I've had several guests this year that have been talking about some of the more subtle aspects of yoga and so it doesn't quite know how to translate Sanskrit and some of the things that comes up with are quite funny. I'm going to give you just a short look at this. If you are interested in looking at some more, just go to the show notes of this particular podcast and I'll add some more in, but just to give you a taste of how very, very confused the artificial intelligence transscription service gets by Sanskrit.
Let's start at the very basic, which is what does it think Sanskrit is?Well, it came up with sunscreen, which I rather liked. Hatha is hot tea and yoga is yells. I don't know where that came from, but anyway, Asana is assets, which I think we'd all agree with, don't you? Ujaii breath is with GI breath. One of my favorites was when we were talking about chanting and my guest said that her students would come up to her and say, I really liked that happy, puffy breath and this is in pure English, so I don't know just why it happened, but then it came back with happy puffy breast, which kind of reminded me of a self-inflating breast implant. I just thought it was kind of cute. I really liked that when we get into some of the terms of yoga in the yoga philosophy, it really did confuse it greatly.
03:17 Vritti: apparently it thinks of people when you say vritti so we have Christine, Ruthie, I don't know where that came from and for Richie. It took me quite a while to figure out what we were talking about when I was editing the transcript. Namaste is numbers stay and Upanishads, which I really do love is called funny shots (or open. A shoddy). Don't ask me, I don't know. Shakti is champion, which actually isn't far off. Shiva is Shavon and Jalandhara is jolly turban. I think I might always, always remember it as jolly turban from now on. Moolahdhara is Moodles. Moodles sounds nice, doesn't it? Kind of, I don't know. Something to do with poodles.
04:19 I had several guests this year about, like I said, the subtle aspects of yoga and so we talked about chakras and we talked about mudras and we talked about yoga Ninja, sorry, now it's got me saying it. We talked about yoga Nidra and they came up with some really, really funny kinds of translations. As you might've guessed, yoga Nidra is often written in the transcription as Yoga Ninja. Chakras are several things and it was interesting because Kristine Kaoverii Weber taught me how to say chakras and it is that hard cha instead of Shah. And so if I was saying it correctly, and she of course was always saying it correctly, was chockers or chuckers or choppers or chocolate and if I wasn't saying it correctly, it was called shockers. Chakras are definitely confusing to transcription. Mudras are the same. I have quite a few on Mudras. I'll just give you a few. A mood Rose. That's kind of a lovely thought, isn't it? Metrology. I'm not sure where that came from. Motors and my favorite - Madeira. Tantric was contract and I think my absolute favorite is Gomaghasana and it came out as cammo cousins.
06:10 It's always good just to laugh. There's also laughter yoga. Haven't ever taken that but I'm sure it was a really good, experience. All this is, it's just a little bit of a laughter to have us remember that laughing is also important in life. This is just a little bit of self care just to get you laughing and thinking about some of the ridiculous things that this transcription service came up with. So thank you so much. Like I said, very short, very sweet and to the point. Hope you enjoyed these bloopers. It was fun for me to gather them together and get some lists going. And just actually be kind of in awe of the creativity of the transcription service of all the different things they came up with for words that were obviously very normal to us and not at all familiar to it. Thank you so much for listening and this is Stephanie Cunningham.
07:37 If you would like to be a guest on changing the face of yoga, please go to my website, www.yoga lightness.com.au under the changing the face of yoga tab. You can complete the be our guest form after reviewing the form and finding it applicable to this podcast, and we will send you a link to schedule an interview.
Please download, review, and tell your friends of any podcasts that are of interest to you and to them. If you would like to contact me, email to email@example.com guiding you and thank you for listening to changing the face of yoga.
Chakras: child, chapter, charter, truckers, tracker, chuck rose, shoppers, shock grows, shocker is
Mudras: Mujeres, blue dresses, blue dress, motors, motorised, motive, Missouri, Woodrow(?), withdraws
Gamoghasana: goa goose center, gomo us.
Ayurveda: are yours I
00:45 This is the 121st episode of changing the face of Yoga and my guest today is Ayanna Parrent. She is a the owner and founder of Befree coaching and wellness, a wellness center whose mission is to change people's lives through Movement, mindfulness and fun. She is a licensed independent clinical social worker, registered Yoga teacher and certified fitness instructor in multiple areas. Her goal is to help people heal from issues such as trauma, addiction, depression, and other issues that get in the way of people living their best lives. Welcome. And is there anything you'd like to add to that introduction?
01:35 No. Hi, that was wonderful.
01:41 Now you say that BeFreeWellness is a wellness community and offers yoga classes there. Is that correct?
01:53 Yes. That's great.
01:54 I want to start the podcast with this great idea that you gave me, which is that you're committed to making movement, fitness classes and yoga classes accessible to all. You've designed your studio to include people of color, men and larger bodies. So can we just go into that a little bit. First of all, why do you think that's important?
02:24 Oh my gosh. Well I think that's actually most important just coming from a personal standpoint that Yoga really helped me to heal personally and change my life. I'm a person of color and I just think that what I was seeing in studios, particularly my own personal journey and just talking with friends. It became particularly hard when you would go to studios and there was prominently, mainly white women, thin, white women, and not a ton of larger bodies, not a ton of diversity. There was men, but there was, without trying to stereotype, there was like really hardcore men.
I just started just on a personal journey of yoga myself. I'm a person in recovery and it's really helped me with addiction and just to really help me with my thoughts and sort of controlling negative images of myself or anything negative. It really was the catalyst of releasing some of that. The movement piece is really important. However, I feel like the mindfulness is the key to yoga. And I feel like a lot of it's become certainly commercialized and all these clothes and stuff. Who really cares? And mats are just so expensive. Yoga teacher trainings are a gazillion dollars which would certainly block out any person of color or a person that doesn't have a lot of money. It's just finding that in order to really heal some groups of people that really need it, we have to look at it in a different way and sort of offer it in a different way and talk about it in a different way. To speak to certain communities that otherwise might not access this. I just sort of found that as my mission as I opened my studio.
04:29 What are the specific things that you're doing that is making it more accessible?
04:36 I do a lot of marketing to communities of color. I live on Cape Cod right now. It's not a huge, diverse community, but there are places where people are. I just make myself available. I really work hard to market to those areas, offer different discounts , or keeping prices low that you can access that or giving discounts to certain communities that would allow them to access it. And again, I also put in my marketing and everything that you'll see publicly that I write in there that it's for all bodies, it's for diversity. It's for people of color so that when you actually go to the website or look at any market materials, you can see that this is going to be like an inclusive place. I've had people call: I saw this, is this true? Yeah. I've had people that are larger bodies. It's hard to walk into a place. Not only am I saying that, but is that true? Like how are you doing that? So we've had people call, which I totally love and appreciate and their experience has been great. I've just asked for feedback as well.
You can still offer yoga, you can still offer Vinyasa, but you can offer it in such in a way where all bodies can access different poses so you don't have to be so rigorous. It doesn't have to be, you can show modifications. You can adapt it so that anyone one can do them. You can certainly design sequences if you have enough knowledge and background that pretty much anybody can do, but you have to have that in mind. You can't teach a Vinyasa class and expect all bodies to do it. So if I say that, I really have to hold myself accountable and the community accountable for that. That's in my teachers too, when I hire people, I'm very clear. I talk about the mission of the studio first. This is who we are. This is who we're accessible to. We treat everybody with respect and we're looking for people that might not necessarily come to yoga. We're looking to heal those communities particularly.
06:49 These teachers that you're interviewing, do they feel comfortable that they have the knowledge to teach people who don't look like other yoga teachers?
07:05 I've sought out ones that I've either taken their class or I have familiarity with.
07:13 You really have a commitment there. I see that you don't sell high end yoga clothes, but that you do offer larger sizes. Is that another way to make people feel comfortable and welcome?
07:31 I think that's really important. I think a lot of yoga studios, they'll say, yeah, I work for everybody. And then you go into their boutique and you can't get larger than a size large. Some people can't fit into that and that's okay. But to not carry it is sending a message that that's not who we want here. And I know that's not for everybody. And that's not maybe people's intentions. Because I certainly have wonderful friends that have amazing boutiques that are yoga teachers and yoga studio owners. But I do think we really have to be careful of that and calling it.
So here's my other thing that I wonder what people think about this is like in terms of accessibility. Yoga studios have like a class that's called the community class. That what's where they have would maybe offer it for $10 saying that's the community class for everybody. I struggle with that because why would you want that sort of communication that you're separating people out in some way. Is that the class for people that can afford it, the $10 or is it dumb? Dumb down sounds bad. But is it a different type of yoga? Like what is the community class that we're offering and how is that different? Is it just the price? And if it's just the price, why are we calling it a community class. Isn't every class with the community. I just wrestle with some of this stuff. I don't offer a quote community class.
I make it accessible to everyone. Then I do get push back from people a lot about like when you're running a business, you can't offer every class for people that can't afford it and Dah, Dah, Dah, which I totally get. However, if that's your mission, then you need to stand by it. I do lots of other things on the side to support the business so that I can offer affordable packages to people and I also say nobody's turned away. So there are scholarships available. I do partner with a non-profit in Boston - Namaste Sober - and so they help with some of the things as well. So I feel like you can run a business and still be accessible, but you have to really work with the money in terms of holding your own self accountable as a studio owner to make sure that you really keep your doors open to everybody. It's hard. I totally understand. I get it. It's hard. Yeah.
09:53 I talked to someone else about that and he said that the big studios and the big franchisees and the worldwide ones all across the US, they really aren't very interested in being accessible because it's not financially rewarding.
10:14 Right, right. Yeah.
10:16 So are we saying that it's really the small business owner that's going to be the one that may most likely be offering these kinds of classes?
10:28 I don't know. I'd love to not think that because I mean, it's hard. People say different things to me all the time, but you can make a lot of money and still be accessible and be community based at the same time. There is a way, but you have to be really strategic about what that looks like. You have to have it on paper and you have to market it and you have to hold yourself accountable as the leader. So I'd like to think not. But right now I think that's probably what's happening. Money is a tricky thing. They start small and they're like, yes, this is who we are. We're grass roots, right? And then they get bigger with money and values start to change. So there's a lot of attachment with money in terms of what that means and who you are. I do a lot of work around that, about staying grounded. It's all the yoga stuff, staying grounded and then who I am while building something that's still accessible to people. But you have to keep that in the forefront. If you don't, then you lose the whole purpose of what you're doing. So, yeah.
11:38 You said you have to work hard and you have to be creative. If someone came to you and said, I want to start a studio and I want it to be really accessible, what kind of advice would you give them?
11:52 One is just cultivating relationships with communities of color. I have a bunch of friends who ask me this all the time. What am I going to do? All the only people around me are white people and I don't know how to bridge that gap. There are ways to really cultivate that. This sounds crazy, but I just opened my studio and I went across the street to Stop and Shop and talked to the manager. There's a lot of employees there who are young people and people of color. There's a large economic development there that has a huge amount of people of color who work there. I offered a discount to their employees and that was a huge benefit for all of us. I'm across the street and come on over. I mean that's a creative way to really do it. You wouldn't necessarily think of like, Oh, let me partner with Stop and Shop as a studio of yoga. But I was like, wait a second. My friend actually came, she was visiting from Boston and she had that idea and was like, how about that? And I was like, oh, totally and so just starting to think of ways.
People bring up churches and churches are great. I go to the NAACP meetings on Cape Cod. I didn't know there was one, but as I was researching people in Cape Cod and where the demographics were. That's a lot of work there and just getting creative and then going to those meetings and then joining groups. There's lots of networking groups out there that are more predominant than others for people of color or diversity.
It's also really about hiring staff. People of color are going to go where there's leadership; hiring staff that are people of color and also diversity. I did workshops co-led by gay, lesbian; all the people that are representing diversity, making sure that they're a part of the community in a leadership way. Sort of how you look at racism and the anti-racism work. But it's a similar model in terms of looking at the paradigm and really working with it so that you shift who's allowed to come in your doors by what you represent.
The other thing in terms of clothing, so if you're a guy and you walk into these yoga studios and you're looking at these like pants and stuff clearly catered towards women. There's a tiny section for men and I get it. It's just about thinking about who your studio is tailored to. So my studio, if you look at it, it's pretty general literal. You wouldn't pick out necessarily one gender or the other. It's very simple stuff.
And a lot of people that I work with - a lot of veterans, a lot of people have PTSD and trauma. I work with people who just come out of jails and that community. So if we want those people to really access yoga, what would be welcoming to you when you come out of those environments? You're not something super flashy, something super warm, but not gender specific. Those are the things I've been thinking about in terms of getting creative with being accessible. And then just wiping out the community class, and saying we're community based, and figuring out other ways to offer services at a lower rate to people that couldn't afford it. Having larger sizes are XXXXL.
16:12 You said you partner with a non-profit to provide scholarship money for people to take classes who may not be able to afford very much. How's that working? Is that sufficient for what you need or do you think it's a good start?
16:41 It's a good start. I had two women the other day, single moms that were struggling and wanted to do (yoga). So I offer a life coaching program too, which is the mindfulness program and people can take the fitness classes and movement classes while they're in the coaching program. They really wanted to do the coaching but couldn't afford it. I reached out to them (non-profit) and just said, hey, listen, I have two women who want to do the specialized program. And so we just communicate about what the needs are. How can we help each other out? What can I do, what can they do? We're able to offer stuff. I can still offer it and as a business owner, not have to lose all the general money going to somewhere else. it's a good start. But I still have to get creative about bringing in money in other ways to not have to jack up prices so high to still make it accessible. But yeah, it's a good start. It's a wonderful idea. I think it's hard being a business versus a non-profit. You're still offering services and good things to people, but the business model works for me right now. Partnering is great.
17:52 Have you considered partnering with like the Big Companies? I mean I understand that perhaps you don't want to do Lululemon. Someone said they were thinking about that and I just wondered if that's a viable thing.
18:12 I don't know. It is tricky for me. Their mission really has to be on point. The people that I partner with now, their, their admission is 100%. So it's hard with larger companies but it's something to think about for sure.
18:39 You said that you're recovering and I know that you are offering Y12SR and I had Nikki on earlier. I thought it would be interesting because she told me what she does and why she started and everything. And I thought it would be just interesting to see how, how you do it at your studio from the grassroots. Getting both ends of the spectrum of that because she was great. But I just wondered how it was working for you and your studio.
19:28 Yeah. So she first of all is like my favorite person of all time. When I took her training, it was just a weekend, but I literally could have taken way more from her. In some ways I learned more from that training than I did from my 200 hour yoga teacher training. And that's saying a lot. She actually helped a lot in terms of offering and making yoga accessible to everybody. The way she teaches and describes things in a simple way, but it's still, you still get so much out of it, even though it's so simple. I just learned a lot from that. I just implemented one day a week where I did like a Sunday afternoon class and just make it for anybody that's either in recovery or has a loved one in recovery. I almost do it restorative style. So we do like an open meeting and I pick a topic or someone picks a topic and we share and then I do a really gentle flow and end with a few restorative poses and try to verbalize some of the issues that had come up in the meeting and integrate the healing into it. And I've had probably more people that have loved ones in recovery than are actually in recovery. A few of my friends have come. But it's a wonderful, wonderful class and I love it. .
20:57 And it does add to your accessible mission, I would think.
21:01 Oh totally. She's an incredible individual.
21:06 Yes, she is.
21:07 Everyone should take her course, everybody. Everyone needs to really take it.
21:16 Gee, she got a free ad there.
21:17 That's right.
21:24 To make sure I'm understanding - you've got a really strong mission, you're really committed to keeping that mission front and center. That's affecting prices, affecting who you hire, it's affecting who you try to attract. Is there anything else that you think is contributing?
21:58 What we haven't hit on is that it's just really important to, when you say that you're having a community it's really that you're drawing in members of any community. You'll see in the studio versus other studios, you'll see diversity in there. So in order to create a community, I really sort of had to cultivate it. So I have a lot of potlucks and book clubs and social gatherings and we're implementing a whole first Friday night that's going to be without alcohol. It's cultivating, reaching out to people. Lots of like dancing hip hop, like different types of music that you're not necessarily going to get into an actual class And I know some people push back on me, they're like, well, it's not real yoga if you're playing like different music, and do hip hop, which is very silly.
No, I get that. Why people are saying that because it's not traditional. However I think part of it, of what people oh, this is what I wanted to say too about being accessible. White cultures are very in yoga studios. It's like if you walk in there and you feel like you can't be loud, you can't talk, you can't laugh. It's very structured in the way where there's not a lot of vocal boisterous talking and lots of cultures and people of color are just naturally that way. I've heard that people have gone into spaces like that and feel like they've gotten like shunned, like shhh, like stop it and they're like, I'm just talking. so to allow that to be okay. So I allow some banter in the actual class. I allow laughter, I create moments where there's laughter, but then I'm really conscious about the times where we need to be quiet and really settle in. But to not have it so serious in a way where you feel like you don't belong if you don't fit that mold. If you're not a meditator that is can you sit there for long periods of time without, moving around or things like that. I'm just so really being aware of what community looks like. We all don't look the same. We all don't act the same. So being conscious of that, like what community really actually looks like and then just making sure that you're cultivating everybody's place.
24:41 No, that's a good point. I hadn't thought of that, It is very structured and often very serious in yoga studios and I kind of will always want to do something that'll liven it up, but I refrain. They're all just serious and you're thinking, oh, come on,
25:10 We can breathe and smile, Instruction too, which is great, but it's like sometimes it's taught in a way where you feel like you're doing it wrong. If the person comes over and aligns you a certain way. There are just so many descriptions and how you're supposed to hold your body. there's not room for fluidity there. There's room for conformity and there's room for doing things the same way. And there's room for looking like somebody else. And that's not what we're talking about when I talk about yoga. It's really about cultivating the person, their own spirit, their own movement, and everybody's looks different. so it's hard when I hear yoga teachers over and over again, like they'll see somebody not look necessarily the pose is supposed to look and then keep describing it over and over again. And I'm like, it's okay. It's all right.
26:08 Yeah, I've worked with seniors and after you've lived in a body for decades, it's very different from the body that's next to you. And so you get into your own body, right?
26:21 And larger bodies look different and poses and that's hard if you're not trained on that. So sometimes yoga teachers will go over and try to fix and shift and I'm like, nope. Because they're fine. Just the way they are.. And most 99.9 % of the time, larger bodies are strong and they don't necessarily need manipulating or props or chairs or any of that. It's really more a comfort level on their part to just do what works for them and then just getting them used to that. That's all.
26:53 So we didn't really talk too much about that. I think you did allude to it, but are you teaching differently and addressing people who have not the typical yoga teacher body. I've talked to people who are teaching and who have a larger body. And they said so often, teachers didn't know what to do.
27:30 Right. Yeah. And then looked at people funny. Like it's very clear when the yoga teacher doesn't know what to do with the larger body, unfortunately. Like I get it. But then it gets this awkward moment in class for both of them. That's it. I mean, I'm lucky in the way that I'm trained in like 15 different fitness modalities. Yoga is just one of them. I've taught a variety of different dance, all kinds of stuff, aqua aerobics, with a variety of different bodies. Aqua aerobics lends to a larger body, Zumba lends to a larger body. Some people think that but so it's easier for me to kind of assess and work with that. But I also have done a lot of research and taken a lot of courses on that as well, just to make sure that I'm supporting that. And honestly, most of it is just not doing such intense Vinyasas not going up and down all the time. And if you are, modifying in a way where then you're up, you're on your knees. There's different ways where it's not this intense. You can still offer a power yoga class: a larger body, should be able to take it.
28:56 Well, that's good to know. Yeah. I don't offer power classes to seniors. I don't think I want to take it either. I would like to do is to either talk in more depth about something we discussed or to actually introduce a new topic that you think is important for the listeners to know around this general podcast topic that we've been talking about.
29:34 I think just what I love to share with people is that like the reason I started my studio and the coaching that I do is just the powerfulness of mindfulness alone and movement. But that breath and connecting the mind, the body and spirit just for people that are not familiar with yoga it's just such a powerful healing tool that I feel like gets missed if we don't.
I love your whole thing of like changing the face of the yoga. Like if, if we're not getting that out to the people that aren't used to that and don't know that is out there as a healing tool. I just think it's so important for people, for yoga studios, and whoever, just to make that available to those people. And I think it's really hard for men or the veterans that I have met. I get the Veterans through my coaching program which gets them into the studio. But otherwise I'm not sure that they would be walking in just off the street but is so healing for trauma for women with domestic violence, all that. I feel like it's just the key to shifting your life in a positive direction that might not come in another way. So I'm also a licensed independent clinical social worker. So I did that for years and years. I did traditional therapy. I worked in schools in a variety of different ways. and I wasn't finding that talk therapy was helpful anymore. so that's why I integrated the movement into the actual healing process, so that people could discover a different way of healing the mind, the body and spirit as one. So I just wanted to share that.
31:23 Thank you..
32:20 I have a podcast. Sometimes I forget to mention it's called Fit Phat Chat and I do with my friend Christie. She's also a Zumba instructor. But we just started that to talk about just making movement in general, accessible for everybody. So that'd be a great for your listeners .
32:41 What's it called again?
32:43 Its Fit Phat Chat: it's on Spotify, it's on apple. All of the places.
Well thank you so much. It was great fun talking to you.
33:14 Thanks for asking a really important topic and.
33:19 I think this is a good addition to the general accessible conversation.
Podcast: Fit Phat Chat
00:45 This is the 120th episode of Changing the Face of Yoga and my guest today is Anne Noonan. She is a Silver Yogi and a food coach and she specializes in showing women how to age backwards with Yoga and mindfulness. She has a passion for showing the woman facing her second half of life that these years can be full of vitality rather than ill health or frailty. After going through her own health journey of insulin resistance, adrenal fatigue and varied menopausal symptoms in her forties and found a way to holistically turn back her inner odometer and is now thriving in her 60th year and looking and feeling younger than she did 15 years ago. She not only turned those health issues around but has transformed in the process. She now teaches women facing similar health and aging issues that through mindful, functional yoga-based movement, breath. and eating for health, you can most certainly find your strength, flexibility, and youthfulness. Welcome Anne
02:01 Thank you, Stephanie. Fantastic to be here. Look, everything you just said is pretty much a perfect summary of where I've come from. I did experience pretty serious health issues and I had to find my way, so to speak, through the quagmire. I had to find a direction that wasn't completely medical and it was stumbling across yoga. It was learning to eat for an aging body. And then combine it with the right movement for an aging body. And once I could see the results happening for me, it was like a calling. I absolutely have to teach this to other men and women who are facing those later years. So you're pretty right. You summarized that really well.
02:56 Okay. I think we should start off what you made a statement which I thought was interesting, which was we're aging very differently to the way our parents aged. Can you kind of explain that and what new things we might be dealing with that perhaps our parents didn't or vice versa?
03:22 We women, let's say we are, I'm 60 so I'm a typical baby boomer and I would hope maybe don't you know them, maybe people who are listening to this might also be in those baby boomer years. So we're the people who were born between 1946 up to 1964 and we have all had parents who may have come from the war years. Our parents are now, if they're still with us, they're now pretty much in their early eighties through to about 90 and just over 90. And in that era they aged very differently. They had different things occur in their life. They had different stresses. They had a different mindset towards aging. So by the time our mothers, us Boomer women, by the time our mothers were say 50 or 55, they were planning retirement or they were considered over the hill, sliding down the other side and starting to think and move their way into old age.
04:30 I'm not going to say that absolutely every single, elderly mother back in those days, there's some who aren't, who are an exception to the rule. But generally they did have a different attitude to aging. Now we are the daughters and we are the children of those elders, the silent generation. And we have so much more technology at our fingertips. There's so much now about nutrition. There's so much extra knowledge and things that are right there on a silver platter for us to choose from. And as far as media is concerned that the way the world has changed, there was an expectation, there's a big expectation on us to keep working, to remain employable, to continue giving and contributing to the community around us. So we cannot afford at the age of 50 or 55 to slide downhill into age. It's just can't be. As baby boomers age, we don't want to age like our mothers. We don't want to have the mindset - some might be a little bit thinking a little differently - but generally we want to stay healthy. We want to stay vibrant and God help us, we're pretty vain. We want to look darn good too. So there is a different attitude. So there must definitely be a lot of new things available for us.
06:07 So really we have many more opportunities or we're making many more. I sometimes think we're making more opportunities because we do not accept that previous model of aging. At least most of us don't. I don't think.
06:23 You're pretty right, Stephanie. We are refusing to accept it. And I'm noticing it, in like general media, if we look at the celebrities, for instance, some celebrity may not make the remotest difference to us, but even in Hollywood, Judy Dench and Helen Mirren and Meryl Streep's roles, these older women, Glenn Close, these older women starting to really lift their profiles. I guess if there's any filtering out from what's happening in the world of celebrity, it's wonderful to see the older woman is starting to become lifted, starting to become a little bit more noticeable. And I'll tell you what, the older woman still has incredible knowledge, experience. She's got goals to kick still. She's got such contribution to the world that the rest of the world and the media would, at their own peril, ignore the older woman because I think she is stepping up. And someone said, I can't remember what some entrepreneur said a while ago, it's the older woman who is going to soon be the disruptor. She will be the business disruptor. She's the decision maker. She is the one with money and she is the one whose health needs to be careful. Seriously.
07:50 Yes. I think I agree. I think we have perhaps a position of power that is not recognized yet but is still there. And I think probably it is that we have a deep (okay, I'm talking about myself obviously) but a contentment that perhaps we haven't had before. I mean we went to school, we raised children, we had our careers, we did all of that stuff and now it seems to be a time of, as someone said, we're done with the biological and we're looking towards the existential.
08:27 Yeah, that's such a good way to put it, isn't it? That's so good. And we are looking to the future now we're ready. It's our time now. You're right. We raised our kids, but then again, we might've raised our kids, but we're possibly dealing with a spouse who might not have the same attitude as us. We may be dealing with a spouse whose health is changing. Some are divorced. Dealing with elderly parents still. So there's probably still a little bit of that stress on us. And of course a lot of us are dealing with the diagnoses that come with middle to older years. We've got barriers, maybe autoimmune, different things that might've popped up that we might not be too pleased with that we might have to deal with but doesn't matter. We've still got a lot of years that this body has to serve us in and we definitely want to know that those years are going to be vibrant.
09:26 There was a show on TV last night: Catalyst. It was good about aging, stopping the aging process or aging backwards. And one of the doctors said we don't want our later years to be a long, slow, degenerative downhill process. We want those later years to be so fruitful and vibrant so that when our last year's come they're quick and they're done. So we want them to go right up to those last years really being vibrant. I have found eating the right way was emphasised in the show. They really went down into diet and the way you moved and the variety of yoga combined with the way you eat is just that perfect combination to make that possible.
10:22 Let's talk a little bit about that. I think you said in what you gave me, that the aging body requires balance, agility, flexibility, hormonal balance, calm strength and cardio and all of these are possible with yoga. I taught seniors for 10 years, so I do have some experience in this area and yes, all of that is possible, but I think it has to be managed correctly because not everybody can do everything.
10:57 That's right. In my classes, my classes might range from a 45 year olds all the way up to about anywhere between 75, 76 year olds. And I then do a special functional movement class for the 80 plus up to about 90 plus. So if we talk about that age group, 80 plus up to just over 90 year olds and admittedly they are very limited with what they can do. So we work from the chair, we make it gentle, we keep the stretch, we did the left and right brain cooperating with each other. We don't go into any strong agility or cardio. Sometimes getting up and out of the chair is enough for them. And I know I can kind of puff them out after about 30 minutes. So we're very mindful with that age group.
11:53 My general yoga class between 45 and 75, there is a dramatic range of ability amongst those girls. It all depends on what their younger years did deliver to them, what state their body is in. And it's such a variety amongst that age group. So we're careful, again, careful and mindful as to what level might individual students want to go to. But we concentrate specifically on balance first and foremost, balance agility and getting the muscles stretched. So as soon as they feel release in the body, as soon as they are releasing the tension around the hips and hip flexors and the hamstrings and sometimes the upper body and shoulders, as soon as that feels a little released, then we can start coming up into building strength. And when it comes to cardio, again, I truly believe the older person really does need to bring cardio and a little bit of high, medium to high intensity interval training to keep their heart healthy and vibrant.
13:08 And Yoga will offer a reasonable intensity in very short spurts depending on if their body's responding well to it. So I'm finding with the different programs I do that we can bring agility, flexibility and balance or not only the body but also the mind. Once the body can find balance. So too does the mind, because we can become even with age, even mindfully. That's why it's such a mindful practice. As we age, we can start to become a little bit, the word irrational is not the right word but lose a little bit of our balance. We can sometimes become a bit more reactive rather than really think it out and respond to things calmly. That's why yoga is so good because it will train the mind to think, breathe before we respond and then respond to our situations mindfully, which creates balance in the brain.
14:16 Then when you train that attitude with balancing the body on your one legged poses, some the various things we do to train balance. You've got this lovely mind to body connection happening and it's perfect and I see bodies improving all the time. In my older age group of students, I am seeing such fabulous results. They’re calmer. They can feel their minds are sharper, their bodies released and then when they start to improve then we start to liven the class up a little bit with a little bit of high intensity. They sometimes think I'm half killing them. I'm not, but they feel fabulous after the class.
15:03 What exactly do you mean by high intensity? I mean, what would that look like in a yoga class?
15:11 Well, what that looks like. For instance, when you bring high intensity into Yoga,, you only kind of bring it in for a very few short minutes. So let's say you're in downward dog. I call, it's like a burpee version of a downward dog in downward dog. We then start to come up on the toes, bend the knees slightly, and we encourage the little jumping. Now young people will jump in and out of downward dog quite easily. 50 plus doesn't find that as easy. So we bend the knees slightly, jump forward to the hands, gently come up, reverse down, come on up and then back down. Jump back into downward dog. Now we can liven that up a little further. Jump forward from downward dog. Gently jump a little bounce up into reverse swan dive, back on down again, jump back into downward dog. Let's say we do six of those. That starts to get the heart rate pumped.
16:12 Now we can do chair pose. Let's say coming back into chair pose comes back, you've got that nice deep squat. The arms come forward. Normally we would hold in chair pose, but to make chair pose a little high intensity we then swing the arms down, come up, jump, a little bounce up and then bounce back into chair pose. Swing the hands back down again, swing forward, jump up. Little chair pose, little yoga moves with a bounce. So, and that starts to just lift and of course different level of intensity depending on who's in the room. And that not only tones the body, it helps with weight loss, it lifts the cardio, and it's quite incredible. I specialize too in teaching water yoga. So not water aerobics, not water fitness, not water running, water Yoga. So once we're in the water again, yoga based move in the water, you're coming to your warriors, you come into all of these moves. But then swinging the arms through into chair pose and back again through the water also creates that little bit of resistance against the muscles.
17:28 And it starts to build the heart rate up. We do a little bit of yoga walk through the water. So moving the spine, moving the hips, moving the arms, and then we speed up a little and it's amazing how the water resistance makes the heart work. But I'm a great believer too in making it fun. We have to heal the body and healing the body is also very relevant to laughing and we've got to laugh and I make sure it's fun. I caught up with about 12 of my students this morning, just before this podcast and they were saying that we can't wait for water yoga season to start again. Because it's some of the heartiest laughs they ever get is at water yoga. I know they when get out of the pool, they are feeling good and that's such a reward for me. It's great.
18:17 It's great. You've also added some nutritional advice to what you're doing with your reversing the odometer idea. Do you feel that it has some Ayurvedic basis or is it more of naturopath, dietitian kind of thing?
18:43 I'm a qualified nutrition coach so it's more nutritional to mop up the inflammation. I know Ayurvedic is a wonderful way to eat. I didn't go the Ayurvedic route. I went the nutrition coaching route. So because I'm also dealing with 40 plus 50 class and beyond woman when we are at this age, we're holding more inflammation as the years have gone by. We hold a lot of inflammation and that's what we have to deal with is reducing the inflammation. First off that's why I love yoga so much because yoga is instrumental in helping the inflammation, mind body, inflammation to settle. But particularly nutritionally I run the roll back your body's odometer course. I run a five week transformation course and I speak and show how to cook and such with a very antiinflammatory approach to your food. I'm also a qualified diabetes food advisor.
19:51 So I teach people how to bring their sugar levels down, how to eliminate sugar from their diet, but not rob yourself of beautiful tasting food. How to bring high level macro and micro nutrition into the way you eat and mop up the inflammation. It's not a magic bullet. It's a slow process. If we've got our body into such a state at say 55 or 60, it's taken years to get our body into whatever state we might be unhappy with now. So it's kind of take a few weeks, maybe a few months, up to a year or more to really get that body into the state you want it in by changing a few habits with eating. So I'll teach people how to if they want. If a woman is a wonderful baker and she loves her cakes and her slices and she's been baking all her life. Well, we show them how to tweak up the baking.
20:53 Let's take the white flour and the white sugar out and find something else to substitute in the baking so that you can still enjoy your baked goods. Let's say a woman's an amazing cook. We work out the correct, the better quality fats, the better quality vegetables to bring into your cooking to bring the weight down, bring the inflammation down, which in turn makes the body feels so much better, clarifies the brain, sharpens the thinking and makes the joints start to feel less painful. Brings inflammation down everywhere through the body. So the combination of the right way to move, the right way to eat and calming the mind and uniting the body and brain together, body and mind together is in my opinion, the best way to reverse aging. And I'm all about reversing aging or aging as well as possible throughout these years. I am passionate about it.
22:00 You say that Yoga helps in reducing inflammation. Could you expand on that a little?
22:07 I can pretty much go by my own personal experience. I'm 60 now. Back when I was 47 I had to face a hysterectomy. I was just in a terrible state. My menopausal symptoms were through the roof. My weight was through the roof. I was aching everywhere, everywhere. And these symptoms started in my very, very early forties and that decade was hideously painful and coming into my early fifties, I had to figure out what did I have to do to make this body of mine feel better, deal with stress levels, deal with the way I deal with the pain and age better. And of course I knew, always knew exercise was important. So I went to, I had no idea of yoga back then, just had heard of it as this weird practice as you do, some wacky practice.
23:05 Somebody said Yoga, I forgot about it and thought, well I need a PT. I need to become part of a gym. That's probably what I need to do. So I was doing the circuits. I was powering along. I had a PT who would thrash me the moment I would turn up. Anne, on the field, round you go, do a few laps of the field and come back and we're going to do our calisthenics and such. What was happening to me was my inflammation was worsening. It was just worsening. My body shape wasn't changing, I wasn't losing weight. I wasn't feeling better. My inflammation was ramping up and I don't think this PT realized quite what she was doing. She was looking at me thinking, well, why isn't your body changing? Why aren't you changing the way you're eating? What's going on? And I didn't realize back then about what I was doing, how I was eating and the whole combination of what was going on with me. I was worsening and I was putting on weight even though I was thrashing myself at the gym. I soon realized sometimes that a vigorous form of exercise does not do an inflamed, midlife body any good at all. It can send you downhill. This is what was going on with me.
24:24 Okay, maybe I'll just stick to walking. Maybe that's what I need. I'll Just stick to walking. So off I go and I start walking every morning. My husband's really good. He'll get up with me, come walking with me. But what was happening was my knees were getting worse. My hips were tightening up, even walking is not doing me any good and I'm not losing weight again. Wasn't right. Someone said to me then try yoga. Yoga, what's Yoga? Oh look, I have nothing to lose. Okay, fine. I'll try yoga. And of course this overweight, achy, inflamed body walked into my very first yoga studio, but at this stage I was over 50. So what do I do? I walk into a Bikram Yoga class and there's even the instructor looked at me like Are you sure? "This is my first time at yoga."
25:29 She said, "You've never done Yoga before?" Nope. Never done yoga before. I might've followed a DVD a hundred years ago. I don't know. I've never done that before. “Have you ever done hot yoga before?” Never done hot yoga before, but of course everyone's around me going, oh it's addictive, you're going to love it. And she goes how about you stand behind that lady over there and you just watch what she's doing and just follow everything she's doing. Mind you that lady over there was a bodybuilder and powerlifter. Her body was just exquisite. And here's me at the stage when I'm thinking, I am such an unhealthy lump. I thought I was about to die in that class. So I made it through and got out and of course the instructor comes to me "Are you alright? Yeah, I think I'll be okay. Well, I went back for a second class. I realized I had to hydrate phenomenally. I didn't do Bikram again, but just those two classes of Bikram then led me into a slightly more sane temperature, more yin, and the more gentle yoga and such. My body was changing. Even after those two classes, there was a level of release. There was my knees. I just felt, oh my God, what's happened here? Something shifted, like dramatically shifted because I knew how good I felt afterwards, but okay. All right. All right. I'm going to try. I went to my local yoga studio just down the road from me. I thought, oh, I'll try a few classes there and I had this almost addicted. I have found my nirvana. I have found what my body has been screaming for all these years. It wasn't high level training, it wasn't a PT, it wasn't thrashing myself out at a gym.
27:27 It was yoga, so my body was calming. That was step one, calming. My breath - I learned how to breathe, which did wonders for my heart and my mindset. My joints started to feel like the inflammation was reducing. My weight started to behave and reduce, my strength, particularly upper body. The moment a woman feels her strength boost, the moment a woman feels stronger, her competence goes through the roof. And the moment I felt my strength build, I could see my core was strengthening, my clothes started to look better, even my skin, because I tried a few more warm classes and more. I did go into the hot yoga a little bit, not as hot as Bikram, and then the next level of hot, my skin just started to glow. So considering an inflamed body was showing all of these levels of improvement.
28:32 I could say Dear God, if Yoga is doing this 50 class body, this amount of good, and I'm surrounded by women complaining about how their menopause is just making them feel dreadful, then this must be the perfect combination for many, many, many, many other women out there. And it's proven to be exactly that. So I had to go to a few yoga classes, obviously myself and really feel the difference. Then I thought, right, I have to get my certification in it. So I went and studied and got all my titles and my training done and even while I was doing all of that, I was just purely using my own body as a petri dish. I had to watch and observe what I was going through and that was great that I was in a class with a few other older women as well and I watched how their bodies were responding to it.
29:25 It's now I'm learning with all the material I have read and I've been a teacher now from when I was about 52 or 53 when I qualified now I am 60. With all the material I've read now I'm finding doctors are prescribing yoga for the menopausal woman and for the older age men and woman. Yoga is becoming more and more and more recognized in mainstream western medicine. It's been recognized in eastern medicine forever. With Western medicine, they are really starting to wake up to the power of yoga, and because it still can be strong. I can still be a workout or it can be gentle. That's what I love for that reason.
30:08 I love the diversity of it. You can have almost any kind of class you'd want. I don't expect you to have the answer to this, but I would like your opinion. I was not having health problems when I started yoga, but I did start in my early fifties, and I also recognized the tremendous benefits. But what you see in the media is not the older woman taking perhaps a more gentle class or at least not as strong a class as might be available. And how do we get that message out that this is for everyone. This is for older women, menopausal women. You know, you're teaching people up to 90. I've done that too. I've taught 90 year olds and they're great fun actually. How do we get that message out that it's not pretzel poses, it's not having to be flexible to start with. It's not all of those things.
31:16 You are so right Stephanie, that irks me too. I see Instagram, people think yoga is about gorgeous young bodies in beautiful gear, moving their bodies into the most unnatural pretzel shapes that the older woman does get a little terrified of it. That's probably why I took so long to do yoga cause any googling I did was, oh, these beautiful young things flipped upside down and ridiculous shapes. I've had many a conversation with the older woman, a couple of which, oh, I'm not flexible. Oh No, I couldn't, I'm not flexible. I could never do that. Oh, I can't get up off the floor. I could never do yoga or Oh no, that looks too hard. I'm not 25 anymore. I don't want to wear yoga pants. I could never do yoga. That is such close minded attitude. That was probably my own as well when I was first looking.
32:17 So I make sure I bring myself into pretty normal yoga poses. I can't even do the pretzley stuff and I'll make sure I put photographs of myself and my students on Facebook, on Insta. We need more older women like us, Stephanie. We need more of the older teachers, all the yoga students getting on social media and showing not only is yoga wonderful for the older body, but it's also to show the young girls. Look young girls you will be great if you continue with your yoga at this young age. You also age well someone, some Yoga Guru said a while ago, yoga is a the fountain of youth. I totally believe it's the fountain of youth simply because it makes your body feel so good. So we have to get more older women out there not being afraid and putting their images at it so that people can say yoga is phenomenal.
33:22 I have one of the best books in the world at the moment written by Suza Francina . And she wrote The New Yoga for people over 50 so if your listeners are interested in these books, The New Yoga for people over 50 and The New Yoga for Healthy Aging by Suza Francina. They are the most fabulous books about getting yoga out to the older community. And she used 70 plus year old and 80 plus year old models in her book and they look incredible. So the moment we start saying 70 plus and 80 plus year old gorgeous models in their yoga gear doing their yoga poses, that will be what the world needs to see. So I want to get more of that out there. I see that, what's that lady's name, she's 101 years old. Yeah, she's that good. She's inspirational. That's inspirational.
34:34 And I hadn't really thought about that. But you're right, we just need to get our own photos out there of us and our students.
34:45 And we social media driven, we are image driven, we are video driven. So the only way to really get it out there is to join the social media. We can't keep this to ourselves. We've got to put it out there. The baby boomer woman is one of the biggest demographics on Facebook. We have to let these images be seen so that older women can go, oh, if it has done that for her. I'm sure I could do it.
35:22 We've had a lovely talk. Is there anything that you would like to go into in more depth or that we haven't covered at all that you think you would like to tell the listener?
35:39 I'm very grateful Stephanie. I think we've had a fantastic chat. As you can probably tell. I can go on for hours probably. I guess by the time the listeners are hearing this, by all means head to my website: annenoonan.com. au. I'm starting water yoga classes, so you've never tried a water yoga class. And if you're in this region, by all means yell out. in October as well, we'll be ticking off our Rollback the body's odometer eight week program. And I'll have that on my website as well. We do have an odometer and we can roll it back. And this is what we teach everything from nutrition to gut health to attitude, to mindset, to yoga, meditation, anti-inflammatory eating. It's a very comprehensive program and we create community as well. And that's the other really important part about aging well is having a like-minded community around you. And we're growing all the time. Quite wonderful. That's probably about all I can think of to add to that.
36:49 Contact details:
Thank you so much and it was a fun and informative podcast and I love your passion about your subject.
37:32 Oh, absolutely. Absolutely passionate about the woman or man for that matter facing the second half of life who thinks they're on their downhill side and they think all is lost and they can't change anything. You absolutely can. You absolutely can turn things around without a doubt.
37:51 Thanks so much.
37:53 Lovely talking to you Stephanie
32:03 Grief is a developmental and learning process not a healing process. Grief is not pathological; it is a normal part of life.
35:22 But you don't need closure on a relationship of a person you love who you don't want to be done with.
48:50 You don't have to believe in yoga for it to work, because Yoga believes in you.
00:45 This is episode 119 of Changing the Face of Yoga and my guest today is Karla Hilbert and Karla is a licensed professional counselor, a certified yoga therapist, a compassionate Bereavement Care Provider, certified divine sleep Yoga Nidra guide, an award winning author, and a bereaved mother. Her life was forever changed after her firstborn son died of a brain tumor in 2006. Her therapy practice focuses on loss, grief and bereavement working in particular with those affected by trauma and traumatic death. She leads classes, workshops and retreats for the bereaved as well as training for professionals on how to work with those impacted by traumatic grief. Her book, Yoga for Grief and Loss describes each of the branches of Yoga and how they are ideally suited to support those in grief. Her newest book, the Chakras in Grief and Trauma is the first book of its kind to explore the energy body and how it is impacted by trauma and grief. Both books have creative ways to bring yoga and mindfulness into a regular practice to support your broken heart and remember your essential hope. Welcome Carla. Is there anything else you'd like to add to that introduction?
02:42 Oh no, that's really long and, but really beautiful. Thank you so much. I so appreciate being here, Stephanie.
02:49 Thank you. I wanted to start by asking you in, one of the things that you said, was that there is a societal and medical model of grief and then there's yoga's model of grief. And so can we define the medical and social model and then the yoga model and compare and contrast so we can see what the differences are.
03:26 I don't remember saying that but the Western model of medical model in general of what we call mental health. I don't particularly like that label because what I really do and what the people who are therapists and who do this profession really are dealing with our emotional health as well, which doesn't really get talked about.. Our thinking, our thoughts about things are not the same as our feelings and our emotions. And I think it's really interesting that we don't even talk about emotional health. It's always about quote unquote mental health. but anyway, the Western medical model deals with disease, right? And when something goes wrong, when something has caused pain or is a disease or a problem, the medical model goes in and says, let's fix this problem, cut it out, or put chemicals on it or do something to fix this and then bandage it up, send somebody home and hope it gets better. They don't really look at the whole being.
I don't know about a social model of grief. I think so it's hard to kind of pull those things apart. Our society, again, Western society and there's so many different layers of how various cultures deal with grief and I don't really think any one culture is perfect. I think there's a whole lot of other cultures around the globe who do a better job than our culture does. And when I talk about our, I mean like the Western culture, America, Europe, Australia. So the Western model societally, and socially we are not very hospitable to grieving people. And it's interesting cause death itself is having a moment right now, which is not bad. That's good.
I don't know if you've heard about the death cafes, which I believe started in England. Now they're all over the place and it's community-based things where people get together. There's a facilitator and it may or may not be supported by a community organization like a hospital or a hospice or it could just be a person. But you find the information about the death cafe and sort of the guidelines of how you run a conversation. And it can literally happen in a cafe or it might happen at somebody's house, but people sit around and drink coffee and eat some snacks and talk about death: planning our own deaths, what death must be like or how we deal with death. But that's not the same as grief.
And grief is the experience that we have when something precious to us is gone. And that can be anything that we love. It tends to be a lot more impactful when it's a person who dies, but there's all sorts of losses that people deal with all the time. But when people die, the grieving person, the bereaved person who's left behind has to deal with how to manage existence without this person in their lives like they were before as a living and breathing presence on the earth. It's different than death itself. It's a very difficult process and it varies individually. Grief is like a fingerprint really. We all have it at some point and it's completely, totally unique to us, but our society tends to be really unhelpful sometimes.
I mean, we have groups of people who experienced what we call, marginalized grief, disenfranchised grief, where that grief isn't necessarily recognized by society. And there's lots of categories for that. But, that could be your ex-husband dies and you've separated and gone on with your lives . Maybe he's remarried. He has children with this other person and a whole life that doesn't include you, but yet you have this major grief response. It's not the same as his current wife might be experiencing. Miscarriages are one of these places. Stillborn babies often are this way that's not very recognized by society as intense grief.
There's disenfranchised grief but when it's a socially sanctioned grief, everybody knows, of course she might be grieving. There's tends to be a lot of support. And then after the funeral, a few weeks, a few months, that support dwindles away and people expect the grieving person to go back to the person that they were before, which depending on, the grief itself, the relationship itself, whether or not there was trauma involved might be impossible to do. It usually is, and grief can go on for a long time and that, and it changes over and over. In fact, it really, truly never ends. It just changes and gets different. We learn, hopefully with good support, how to grow and develop through that process. But what happens is we tend to lose more people the longer that we live. So it's a thing that we're going to go through over and over and over. So we don't have a real good social model.
And a lot of people really love to talk about the five stages of grief from Elizabeth Kubler Ross, who is an incredibly wonderful, beautiful pioneer in this field. But she herself even said that she wished that her five stages model hadn't been so broadly applied to grief. In fact, it was meant not for bereaved people in the first place, but for dying people. She revolutionized the hospice model, the hospice care field in general. She worked with terminally ill people and she noticed that they tended to go through these stages of denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance. It makes more sense in the context of a terminally ill person than it does in terms of a bereaved person.
So we don't have a very good social model for dealing with grief at all. And our medical model tends to want to pathologize grief in many ways, when in fact, grief is not pathological at all. It is a completely normal and natural response to a loss. Depending on whether trauma is overlaid, and the circumstances surrounding the death itself, and how intensely that person is grieving, how much they're functionally affected by their grief and their loss varies.
The medical community might come and say, oh, hey, you need to medicate that. It's gonna lead to depression, which isn't true necessarily. Grief and depression are two totally different things, but I see a lot, as soon as there is a death, often people days after the event or maybe even the day of are given prescription medications, either antidepressants or antianxiety medication, usually Benzodiazepines, which is really dangerous often. We see often in society people supporting grieving people and avoiding the pain. I'll come over, bring a bottle of wine and we'll just drown those sorrows for a little while. So we don't have a real good supportive, nurturing kind of model at all in the Western model period.
11:37 So how would we contrast it with either your model or a more generic model of yoga helping with this issue?
11:48 I personally feel that yoga offers us so many tools to help us deal with grief and loss. And there's not really a specific yoga grief model that really exists. I mean what I've done is taken the yoga teachings and philosophies that are already existed and applied it in this way. This is one of the things I think is so beautiful about yoga, is that we can take these tools and yoga really is the life path. It isn't just asana, it is so many other things. The asana as poses are a tiny fraction of what yoga is. I mean in fact yoga itself, the word means union. So, Yog in Sanskrit, if we spell it the way the Sanskrit translates, it's y o g with a little dot that says we say yog and that means yolk and it's this yoking together of body, mind, spirit and then our yoking together with something larger than ourselves. And that for me and for my clients, and readers who read my book, this thing that's larger than yourself is individual as well. I mean maybe that thing might be God, it could be community, it could be the universe, it could be the planet. It's something else. The thing that we really can't do alone. We need something to connect us. And then again to the tools of yoga help us.
Because I think it's crucial to continue to have a relationship with the people we love who have died. That's one of the things that I say is one of the most important tasks that we have to do is figure out how we have a relationship with somebody who's no longer physically here. And there's many tools in yoga that can help us to do that. All the branches of yoga have different tools that help us manage this. And a lot of my teachings when I work with people individually, really focus on not only different things from the various branches of Yoga, like Bhakti Yoga, Jhana Yoga, Tantra yoga, Hatha Yoga, Raja Yoga. But in the Raja Yoga branch, the Yamas and Niyamas and it comes down to the first thing that's the most important is ahimsa, which is do no harm.
And so this is also nonviolence, meaning with yourself. We start with ourselves. Iyengar said in his book, the Tree of Yoga, which is one of my favorite books where he talks about the branches of Yoga. And I see how essentially within all the limbs of yoga, each limb is within all the other limbs. So you can practice one limb and you're practicing the whole entire branches and all of the tree of yoga itself. But he says about ahimsa he says I don't know why everybody focuses on the violence in the world when we don't first look at the violence in ourselves. So I talk to people about self-care and self-compassion, which can be very difficult to do in early days of grief, in traumatic grief because people tend to not want to care about themselves. It's very difficult to care about themselves or to have compassion for yourself when you're in such a terrible state.
But it is very important because, as I learned through my own research and I probably learned this in my initial teacher training but it really like hit me in a different way in all the research that I did. These things are in order. The limbs are in order. The yamas come first, and the first Yama is ahimsa. Everything else builds upon that. And so first you look at how much pain am I increasing for myself? What can I do right now in this moment to have compassion and care for myself? And that is the crux of my teaching with people, because sometimes that's just the very place to start. Which would be an awesome place too, for society to start.
But I know what's happening is that people who are in grief and in pain, it's difficult for other people to witness that pain. And I know that most people want to genuinely help. But the fact is, is that you can't just take this away. And even there's times when I'm with somebody who's in intense pain and I wish I could ease that pain and I know I can't, but also that grief is there and they have this grief for a person because they love that person so deeply. A good friend of mine who I work with Joanne Cacciatori says, where there is extraordinary grief, there is extraordinary love. And it's true, and again, this is one reason I support people in using Bhakti practices, the path of devotion, which is all about love and all about the heart, connecting with the love they have for the people who have died. Because I've not met a person yet who would trade the love that they have for this deeply beloved person to be rid of the grief. I've not met that person. And so when we can remember that right now I'm in this kind of pain and grief because I love this person so much. It really can help to soften the pain. And it is also a mindfulness practice because it's asking the person to be present in their pain, have compassion for themselves in this pain and recognize that its existing right now because of this deep love, which is really beautiful. So when we cannot escape pain, what happens is we get really scared of the pain. People are afraid of the depths of this pain that they can be in and the depths that they can go to. And I totally understand that. When we can be present to that and have compassion for ourselves and say, okay, let me connect with the love I have for this person I'm missing so much right now. It can really help us to be present instead of run away from the pain like everybody wants to do. Nobody wants to be in pain. And then to say, okay, I can bear this because of this love that I have. It's a strength and it's weird. It's almost like the pain can soften. And then what you learn is that you have the capacity to be present with that.
And every time you get through, I call them grief bursts, we go through these, like everything else in the universe, contraction and expansion. When we go and move into the winter time, when we move into that state, the earth moves into that state. It's contracting, and then it's going to expand again in the spring. Nothing lasts forever; no feeling. The poet Rilke said, no feeling is final. And that's true. No matter how much pain you're in right now, it's not going to stay like this. It's going to change. And if you allow yourself to be present and watch how that happens with compassion and as little judgment as possible, you can see it happen. And then what you learn is that you can trust yourself to move through these places of pain and then you come out of them. It's simple, but it's difficult, but it's kind of amazing. And all of that I learned from Yoga.
19:37 Some people will think they're helping by emphasizing positive thinking to bypass pain and that has a yoga link that would help in that particular instance. Because I have a lot of people say, oh no, I'm fine, I'm fine. I'm getting through this. It's okay. I'm not sure that helps a lot sometimes.
20:20 Well, I mean the person themselves is saying, oh no, I'm fine, I'm getting through this. It does depend on the context, where are you have somebody saying that and you're standing in the grocery store, it might not be the best place to say, oh no you can really tell me how you're really feeling. It depends on the context, and if the person themselves is saying, no, I'm fine, then maybe that's okay. I mean, cause we don't want to insinuate ourselves too much into somebody else's emotional place. I mean, that's another thing I talked to clients of mine about actually moving into the, the second Yama - Satya, (nonlying). So telling your truth, that follows ahimsa. And so again, this is the rule. Ahimsa comes first, do no harm or as little harm as possible, right? Nonviolence, it would do harm to you to start talking about your story right then or if you feel this is too sacred to share with somebody, then don't do it. You don't have to tell the truth all the time about how you're feeling. I mean, grieving people are approached a lot with questions that are very hard to answer and sometimes, how are you is one of them?
After my son died, I took like two weeks off of work. It had been six months of him dying and I had gone to work part time and one of us was home with him 24 hours a day. One of us was always with him and I stopped working for two weeks and when I came back it was really hard. I mean it was very difficult to go back to work and be able to focus. There's so much that that's going on and your entire being is consumed with this grief. It's very difficult to focus.
It really affects us on every layer of being. Yoga has this awesome model called the Koshas, which really helps us understand this. It impacts us physically, energetically, mentally, intuitively, emotionally, spiritually. The Koshas is a beautiful model for helping people understand that. And also teaching yoga teachers and therapists how to help people manage it. So when I went back I was like, okay, I know people are going to ask me how I am and I don't really want to stop in the hall and start talking about how I am. Because I don't want, this was me, to do that in the middle of the work day. I can't because I can't keep it together. If I do that, I know knew where I could go: coworkers, friends of mine, I could go in and have a safe space. If I needed to, I could go in my office and shut the door and cry, but I didn't want people talking to me. So I thought I have to come up with something. And so I couldn't say I was fine cause I wasn't. But to me I could say I'm okay. because to me that meant I'm here and I'm breathing and I'm getting through this day. And so it wasn't a lie, but it wasn't also the full truth either.
So sometimes we don't need to ask the grieving person. But sometimes it's helpful to be a listening, nonjudgmental, compassionate ear for this person to say, how are you really? And if it's an appropriate kind of context and space, then that's beautiful. It gives somebody the space to tell their story, which a lot of people really don't. And I think that this bypassing that you were saying like bypassing the pain with the positive stuff. So if a grieving person says the positive things, that's okay.
I mean, there's a lot of things that a grieving person can say that somebody else shouldn't say like for example, anything that starts with at least, at least you have all your other children, at least your house isn't burnt down or whatever. At least anything is never good. At least he's not in pain anymore. Now the grieving person can say that and that's okay to a point. Because it's true that everything can be worse. Things can always be worse. And sometimes that's kind of comforting in a way, to me anyway, to say, okay, and it helps you sort of put things in perspective. And for a long time I said things like that to myself, well, at least he didn't die in pain, I hope. At least he wasn't afraid. At least he was surrounded by love, at least, he was with us - all these things. At that time when my son died, there was a lot of focus on awful things happening in Darfur and how mothers were witnessing the death of their children right in front of them in terrible ways. And I just thought, well, at least that's not happening in our town where we live. There was a horrible murder of an entire family. And I just was like, at least he didn't die in that kind of way. And so, but eventually I had to say to myself, I need to stop saying that because what happened was bad enough. And I felt if I kept saying this at least stuff, then I was harming myself because what I was going through was bad enough. And I felt it was not honoring him and his life and also was not honoring myself and my own grief where I was. But it took me awhile to realize that.
I don't think, unless somebody could say to me in a compassionate, loving way: hey, I feel like when you say that over and over, this is harmful to you and here's why. And that's okay. And I think you've got to have a really trusting relationship with somebody to be able to say that to them. Because grieving people can say a lot of things that other people shouldn't. Like he's in a better place. People would say that all the time. And that's hurtful because to a mother there's not a better place. Was I glad he wasn't in pain? I wouldn't want him to be in pain, of course not, but I didn't feel he was in a better place necessarily. There's no better place.
This is another thing I hear all the time from people. People say they're in a better place, but where are they really? I don't know. And so when other people say that sort of line, it just sort of triggers, could potentially cause this cascade of other thoughts in the grieving person head. Well I don't know that they're in a better place. What is it really like where they are? I don't know where they really are and who knows? It's very difficult. I get in conversations with people fairly regularly who say, well people are just trying to be helpful and being defensive about it. And I say, I know that, but often it's not. It's so unfair to the grieving person that often the onus of educating the people falls on us. So it's either we say nothing or we get really angry, some people get really angry, which I totally identify with. That happened to me a lot. And then say things we might regret or mean things that maybe we don't mean in that moment out of pain or we feel like we have to educate you. And I wish it wasn't.
I don't mind educating people. It's my job now. I call myself a grief activist, because I feel like it's my job now to educate the public on how to deal with grief. But it shouldn't be on the newly grieving person and they don't know, you're so vulnerable and you're desperate. And it's just this really open wounded space that you're carrying around. And there's so much pain that's heaped on top of the pain when all they really need is compassion and non-judgment and presence and love.
And that is also a thing that yoga really teaches beautifully. It is also based on the teachings. The first thing is always ahimsa. And if you don't know if what you're about to say it's going to cause pain. Don't say it because it's better to say: I don't even know what to say to you. I'm so sorry. I just don't have the words. It is so much better than saying something that could be painful.
People really do think it's okay to say a lot of stuff that may not be because they've not been in that situation and I get it. If they express to you, well that's not helpful or that's hurtful or I don't think they're in a better place than don't argue it. Oh well I'm sorry. I didn't know. Tell me, tell me how you're feeling. Having active compassion for this person and open to wanting to hear what they're saying. Ahimsa, I don't want to do any more harm. Tell me what would be helpful or tell me what you're going through and then to be really aware of your own discomfort around it because it's uncomfortable. It's uncomfortable when you don't know what to say or if there's silence.
But in general, in our culture, I don't think we're very good at listening to people. We're thinking about what am I going to say to them before they're even done talking which means you're not really listening. To be able to really listen, you have to be fully present, which is another thing yoga can teach us how to do. You talked earlier about this bypassing and I think some of this comes along whenever I talk about aparigraha for example. So non-grasping and you hear a lot that you have to let it go and you can't hold onto that pain or whatever.
People when they are supported and they're able to grow; grief is really a developmental process. I haven't just learned this on my own because I've done a lot of study and work. But I do remember the moment when I was on my own and I was looking at a tree and it had been like five years since my son had died. I was doing this work at that point. And I had written a lot about healing and I talked about healing and I was trying to heal and doing my own healing stuff and I was looking at tree and how it was growing. I love trees; I find a lot of comfort from trees and nature. But I thought, what if this is not a healing process, but what if it's a growth process and a learning process? And that made sense to me because I want to always be growing and learning forever for the rest of my life. I saw a quote yesterday from Eartha Kitt that said, I'm always learning and my gravestone will be my diploma. I loved that. Anyway, I thought it's a growth and a learning process. What if it's not a healing thing? And at that it really felt like a weight was lifted off me because I thought, oh, what if I don't have to heal? And it was just so freeing because I am not going to heal from this. I don't need to heal from grief.
Because grief is not pathological. It is normal and it is natural. You don't need to heal from it. Now you can heal from trauma of all sorts. You can heal from the pain and relationships. So you might have unfinished business when the person has died and that can be healed. Any situation that is traumatic can be healed and integrated and processed. But the grief itself does not need to be healed. It's a normal and a natural thing that we're always moving through and growing through. There's not an end place.
Coming back to the yoga piece and the bypassing and looking at aparigraha and let it go and all these things, it doesn't make sense. it depends on the loss and it depends on the person. Like yesterday. I still have a landline phone. I'm one the very few people. I do have also a cell phone and we have an answer machine that's digital and it had like 14 old messages on it from when my daughter was like three. And there was a message to me on my birthday from my grandmother who died this past March and there was messages, all these birthday songs and just people's voices and we kept them for a long time. There was some weird things going on with the phone yesterday and it was beeping and doing weird things and ringing. I was touching buttons on the thing and then the man's voice said deleting all messages, all messages deleted. And I was like, oh my God. And I like was so devastated. That was a loss. And I thought, oh my gosh, I'll never get those things back. Like it was a loss for me. I was very upset for a few minutes and then I just thought, okay, I can let that go. I mean I have other things. I've got pictures, I've got some voicemails on my phone, there's videos of the same people talking. I can let that go. There's some stuff we can just let go.
Often really intense grief helps us to let things go. After my son died, I just didn't care about stuff anymore, my material things. That was an interesting because I collected a lot of different things and I don't care. And so when we moved, shortly after he died, which is a hard process, I got rid of so many things and I just did not care about the stuff. It was interesting how this changes you, but in terms of people letting somebody go, closure is not a real thing. It's really not. You might get closure on an incident and say, okay, this is done. But you don't need closure on a relationship of a person you love who you don't want to be done with. I'm never going to stop being his mother. If when somebody's parent dies, you don't stop being their child, when your friend dies, you don't stop being their friend.
It's weird to think like that to me now, but it's a cultural thing, but also what makes sense in terms of letting something go and grow. There's a difference in grasping onto something and releasing it. It's just holding with what is - is what I say. You don't have to let go of things. Our brains are literally wired for attachment. We have evolved to the state that we're in these big, huge brains that we have because of our ability to attach to each other. Our social attachment is our life. If we don't attach to others, we don't live. If a mother doesn't attach to her baby, that baby's not going to thrive. If you don't attach to your partner, then you're not going to have a good solid family unit and then you probably won't have children. And then the biological imperative to create the children isn't going to be there. All these things we're meant to attach and that doesn't go away.
It's a balance; are you grasping and that's different and maybe we can talk about that. Somebody in early days (of grief) you don't want to have that conversation with because they are grasping everything. Later when you're comfortable and you're growing in your grief, this is what happens when you develop as a being through your grief. You don't necessarily have to hold on to everything. But that's also individual. I mean I know people whose children have died and their room is exactly the same as it was the day that they last saw that person a lot. And that's fine. Look at Graceland, it's an entire house and this dude has been dead for a long time and people go to see it all the time and they don't even didn't even know Elvis in his life, but they want to go see his house, which is a memorial to him. Nobody thinks that's weird, but somebody thinks it's weird if a person keeps their child's room the same. I don't see the difference. I mean, in fact, it makes more sense that you would want to keep your child's room this way. What's interesting is that probably it changes over time that room. Little things happen and it evolves and it's fine.
But we need these attachments. There's a whole thing in grief now called continuing bonds. It's makes sense. Grieving people know that it makes sense, but now it's a therapeutic technique to help your clients have continuing bonds with their deceased beloveds. Because we know it's healthy. Instead of saying, Oh, I'm cutting it off, I'm getting closure. It doesn't make sense. The love goes on and the love can continue to grow. In fact it's like that relationship with that person can grow over time and you grow and you change just like it would if they were here. You grow and develop in that relationship in different ways.
But I think yoga also supports that through ahimsa and telling your truth and being aware of your own truth. You're the person who you have to tell the most truth to, 100% of the truth if you can. And then being honest with what you need and how you feel. Yoga gives us these tools to be able to do it. And then, having self-study around svadhyaya. You have the definition that includes holy scriptures, but I don't see how anybody can be helped by a holy scripture if they can't apply it with self-awareness, which is self-study and self-inquiry. And so you do this and you really look with honesty and with the most amount of compassion and how your behavior, how your inner dialogue, how it's affecting you and it helps you to grow through your grief and develop as a person. So you become more emotionally well-rounded eventually. If you let it, grief can just make you so much more compassionate and open to others. But it requires being present to your pain and hopefully having good support.
39:47 It's a really different way to think about it because I do agree that the societal norm is that this is going to end and that you will become okay and then it's all over with. I used to teach seniors and of course grief was something that was in the classroom often and anniversaries and stuff were always hard. I had some limited knowledge of that, but you've explained it very well. I think that's excellent. We don't have a whole lot of time left and I understand this is a very complex topic, but talk a little bit about your book about Chakras.
40:56 The first mention about the Chakras was in the Yoga for Grief and Loss book and the Tantra Yoga Chapter. That's where I first mentioned it. And when I started writing about the Chakras, I just kept going and going and going and going. And my husband said, you can't keep doing that. You can't write that much. I can't stop. I did go through all seven of them. But then I literally took it out and put it aside for later. It's interesting and I got this feedback from clients of mine who read it and friends too. And one person had said, you should have written this one first. And I said, well, I couldn't have because it just kinda grew from the other one. She said, well, it's so much easier to understand. And this is from a person who is not a yoga person at all and had no previous knowledge of Yoga.
And then I realized what the difference is. And I think it's true because the charkra book really talks about each of the chakras and describes some basic information about each one, the senses which each one is connected (the Muladhara, the root Chakra is connected to the sense of smell) and the colors and that basic sort of information. It talks about how each one of the chakras might be impacted in trauma and also grief. It's also about non-death trauma as well.
People who read it will say, oh my gosh, I totally understand that because that's exactly how I feel, that's what I went through. It totally resonates with my experience. Whereas the yoga book is more instructive. It does have some of that really personal stuff in it. It reads like a conversation that we might have. And I mentioned some of my story and talk a lot about social stuff around grief, but it's not that really intense inner experience. And I think when people read the Chakras book, they resonate with it because it mirrors their experience whether they know anything about it or not.
I've said before that I don't care whether people believe that they're real. It makes no difference whether you think that there are actual things that really exist. And I know in a lot of Tantric texts, they're meant to be points of meditation, but they do correspond with physical places in the body, like marma points do. So they're points on the body where you would put your focus. A lot of people have said, well all of this modern interpretation is not based in vedic texts, but I see sort of an inner interwoven place there. I think that the vedic texts really do talk about a lot of these things because it mentions the correspondences and it's all symbology as well. And I think it works metaphorically just as well as it works if you think it's factual. If you think I really do have this energetic space at the base of my spine and I'm going to work with it because I know it's there, it works just as well to see it as a symbol. I don't care either way.
I do a lot of artwork with people and all of that stuff, symbol, everything that we work with that's in our Vijnanamaya kosha, the wisdom body is a symbol. Like we're a whole being. We're spiritual and emotional and there's so much that resonates in the symbolic spaces for us. It doesn't mean it's not real quote unquote real. Because it definitely affects us in our real physical world. So to me it makes no difference. think they're real, but you don't have to believe they're real to get the benefit from looking at it this way. The book deals with each of the seven Chakras and speaks to my thinking around grief and trauma as a developmental process that we learn and grow through this process.
And we do that by having balance as much as possible in our lives and in all of our koshas. And we don't stay balanced all the time. It's not normal for your chakras to be balanced all the time. It's just like your physical body. It's always working toward homeostasis the best that it can. And so does our energetic body and this book really gives suggestions and ways that you can work with your own energy and to be as balanced as possible. And I think the Chakra system and the Chakra book itself breaks down a grief and trauma process in these ways that make sense in terms of the emotional aspects, the physical aspects, and the interactive social aspects. All the things that go along with each of the qualities of each different Chakra. And so you can think, oh well I know I've got those Chakra issues, let me read that chapter. You can do that. Or if you know nothing about chakras at all, you can read the introductory chapter and it helps to make a lot of sense of what that system can potentially do for you. You can read it straight through and there's so many exercises. I do energy work with people too. And I really try to tell people, look, you don't need me to do this for you. You need to be doing this at home. Like learning how to do your own energy work and have your own balancing. If you go get a pedicure, it's nice that somebody else can do it for you. Sometimes you just relax, but you can do it yourself if you need to know. And maybe you should take care of your nails yourself on a regular basis.
It's the same kind of concept, but I think it's a more personal, intimate look at your individual experience through grief and trauma. The yoga book doesn't do that exactly. In the Yoga for Grief and Loss book, l each chapter talks about a different branch of yoga and why that particular branch of Yoga is very helpful in grief. It gives you exercises and it says try these things. But I think the Chakra book really says, Oh, I can see you and this is your experience. And it's very valid thing to a lot of people. You don't have to believe in yoga for it to work, because Yoga believes in you. And it's like the force, when I explain Prana, I'll talk about it in terms of Chi and Qi. It's the same life force, but really it's also the thing they talk about in star wars. It's this force that binds us and surrounds us and connects all of us. And whether you believe it or not, these tools of Yoga work to support that. And then you end up getting the benefit, whether you believed in it or not in the first place. And I just think that's amazing.
49:07 Yes, I agree with you. It is amazing. Thank you so much Carla. It's really been interesting. I've heard other people talk about this idea of grief not being something that stops exactly, but your idea of it being an evolution, a growth opportunity. And I think your point about as we get older, we're going to have to deal with it more and more becomes quite relevant to know that this is something that just happens as lots of things happen in life. So I want to really thank you. I think it was really interesting. I think using yoga in this way is definitely an expansion of the way that people think about yoga. So, it was great to talk to you.
51:14 Oh, thank you. Stephanie. I'm so happy that you do this program because people have this really limited idea about yoga. People would even say to me, Oh, I really want to read your book, but I can't do yoga. People have this idea of what they think yoga is. And your show really flogs this and helps people to see, Well maybe this is something that I might be interested in. Maybe it is something that could be helpful to me. I really appreciate that because the concepts of yoga really help us to live our lives day to day. Thank you so much.
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