Yoga: It is an Honor to Meet You

by Rachel Heron

Rewind…October 1992

A rainy day in New York City. I walk into the Jivamukti Yoga Center on 2nd Avenue and 10th Street. The walls of the yoga studio are purple. There is an altar with pictures of Ram Dass, the Beatles, Jesus, and almost every guru in every lineage of every eastern mystical tradition. The heavy scent of Nag Champa incense is in the air. I am transported from the chaotic streets of Manhattan into…I don’t know what. A familiar feeling of recognition and home in myself, a feeling that I am absolutely in the right place…and I have no idea why.

25 years later…

 

My perspective is this:

Hatha yoga (the physical practice) is a gateway toward the more contemplative practices.

It grounds us in the physicality of being human. We learn to breathe and feel. We learn to tolerate a certain amount of discomfort, not as a value or an attachment to pain, but as an inevitable aspect of life and a way to cultivate our inner witness.

I teach from a place of honoring.

• I honor myself and what is true for me about the depth of this practice and the related practice of seated meditation

• I honor my students by offering gentle guidance and encouragement to explore their bodies and minds without bias or judgement

• I honor what is profound about embodying presence, and experiencing ourselves in physical form

• I honor the limits of our physical bodies and guide practitioners toward exploring meditation and other contemplative practices

Please join me in this inquiry. I look forward to meeting you, exactly as you are.

Rachel Heron will be teaching our upcoming 3-week Intro to Yoga Series.  She teaches from a place of deep intuition and a desire to share the potency of the practice.  “Yoga has given me many things, but one of its greatest benefits has been increasing my ability to tolerate challenge and it’s accompanying uncomfortable sensations.  I believe that when we can stay present in a pose, truly present to the fluctuations of energy, sensation, breath, thinking-we are able to take that experience into our day-to-day lives, and find a more harmonious relationship to the mystery of life unfolding.”

The Intro to Yoga series offers basic instruction of this contemplative movement practice, and the chance to explore the foundational elements of breath and mindful awareness. It also provides a way to become familiar with our studios and guide you toward the appropriate next level of classes going forward.

We’ll create a safe space where you can connect with yourself in movement and meditation, and be able to ask questions of a Namaste teacher (me!) who loves introducing people to this life-changing practice. Please arrive a few minutes early to settle in and lay down your mat. We invite you to have a cup of tea before or after class, and spend some time orienting to the studio.  Learn more about the Intro Series here.

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Kundalini for Transformation

Kundalini means “creative potential.” It is a powerful form of yoga that can lead to transformation.

We wanted to know more.

We checked in with Sariah Sizemore for more details and to gain a deeper understanding.

“What can one expect from a Kundalini workshop?” Hear her description in her own words below.

 

Sariah’s offerings are an opportunity to heal in a focused way. Her upcoming event works with Kundalini Yoga and Breathwork to heal habitual unwanted patterns, however those may be revealed in your life.

Step 1: Identify Unhealthy Patterns

Take a moment to write down one or two habits that you want to release. These can be addictions like drinking or eating unhealthy food, or they could be more subtle patterns like watching too much TV, working too much, or getting angry while driving. Get clear on the pattern that you are looking to let go of.

Step 2: Breathwork Practice to Release Unwanted Patterns

 

Step 3: Join us

Sign up for Sariah’s upcoming workshop Healing Habitual Patterns: Kundalini Yoga and Shamanic Breathwork, on Sunday, July 15 to go deeper into the realm of transformation.

 

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Yoga for Cancer Support

Yoga can help reduce anxiety and improve physical wellness in our stressful everyday.  The effects can perhaps be even more pronounced when one is in the experience of living with cancer.  Although not a cure, yoga can help soothe the nervous system and encourage the body to relax and heal.  Gentle movements linked with breath can help practitioners cope with challenges and uncertainty.  Try this home practice to help with your journey.

You can also catch Poh for weekly classes:

Sun 9 – 10.20AM Yoga for Beginners
Grand Lake
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5 Questions to Ask Before a Yoga Teacher Certification

If you’re on the mat regularly you know the power of the practice. But are you ready for a yoga teacher certification and training? Trainings have become increasingly popular – with different focuses on everything from social justice to healthy aging. If you know that you are ready to go deeper but are unsure if you need a yoga teacher training to accomplish this, reflect on some of the following questions:

1) Do you have a regular meditation or home practice?

Having a regular yoga or meditation practice is an important first step towards deepening your practice. Although maintaining a regular home practice can be difficult, it is something that most studios encourage before making a commitment to a teacher training. You don’t need to be practicing yoga every morning at 6 AM  – but you should spend time exploring a home practice and make a concerted effort to practice on your own as much as possible.

A good way to gauge if you have a healthy home practice is if you can say, with confidence,  that whenever you feel the need to tap into your body you know how to get there on your own, in a personal, sacred way. Learning how to make yoga personal and how to practice on your own are crucial building blocks for developing a practice that is meaningful and rich.

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2) Have you felt cues from other areas of your life encouraging you to dig deeper?

If your life feels like you are ready for a big shift, a teacher training may just be the spark you need. A teacher training will force you to focus, to dig down deep into your inner desires and values, and to learn how to express yourself in more authentic ways.

Often we may feel ready for a lifestyle change but are lacking the right environment or supportive community to help us achieve our goal. A teacher training can be a perfect opportunity to bond with fellow beings who are interested in curating a life of healthy choices and honest living.

3) Do you feel like you are in a supportive, stable place in your life?

A teacher training carries a lot of commitments. Not only will you be investing your money, but you will be investing a good amount of time, energy, and emotions. It is important to feel confident that your living situation, your personal relationships, and your finances are all in a stable place.

If it is a financial stretch, you are going through a rough breakup, or in the middle of moving – then taking a training right now may not be the wisest choice. Although it may sound like a fun distraction – the likelihood of you being able to tap into the inner wisdom you seek will be highly diminished. You want to be in a clear, stable place in your life where you can dedicate yourself fully to the teacher training journey.

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4) Are you feeling the desire to learn and become a student again?

Learning is a lifelong process. If you are feeling the burning desire to become a student again, there is no better way to answer the call than to take a teacher training. A yoga teacher training is an opportunity to not only advance your asana practice, but to dig into the philosophy and history of yoga. You will be in a classroom setting again, with fellow students whom with you can study, brainstorm and debate. You will be able to process all of your new knowledge under the guidance of experienced teachers. This will make the learning experience much more valuable than if you were to read the materials alone.

5) Is your yoga studio a place that feels like home?

This is the most important question. Is your yoga studio a place where you feel safe, accepted, and cared for? You will be spending a large amount of time there and will at moments feel very vulnerable. It is important that you vibe with the teachers, the atmosphere, and even the front desk staff. These people will become like family, and the relationships you have with them will either detract or enhance your teacher training experience.

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Namaste’s Every Day Sacred 200 Hour Teacher Training is right around the corner. If you are interested in expanding your practice, feel free to email us at tt@ilovenamaste.com or call us to find out more. Applications and more information may be found here. 

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Meet Your Teacher: Sean Feit Oakes

Namaste Yoga + Wellness is a container for the Bay Area’s best yoga teachers to offer their incredible talent and wisdom to students of all backgrounds. These highly experienced teachers have dedicated their lives to sharing the gift of yoga with others and we couldn’t be more grateful. It is an honor to support them and to connect them with yoga practitioners like you.

We are excited to share this special new blog series focused on celebrating your yoga teachers and hopefully giving you a glimpse into the brilliant team that is the Namaste Yoga + Wellness family. We have over 55 teachers in our community and every single person offers something unique!

Meet Sean Feit Oakes:

How long have you been at Namaste?
4 months

What inspired you to become a yoga instructor?
I was on Buddhist retreat in India and they wanted a yoga practice on the retreat but there were no yoga teachers around. I volunteered, and it turned out to be easy and pleasurable. Coming from both Insight Meditation and vinyasa Yoga lineages, it became a core part of my work to emphasize embodiment for the meditators and mindfulness and concentration for the yogis. I started teaching in both forms around the same time, and they have always woven together for me.

Do you have any go-to yoga and wellness books or podcasts?
I still love Vanda Scaravelli’s classic, “Awakening the Spine” as a book about yoga that weaves together reflections on postural practice and some of the more meditative or philosophical concepts about yoga. I have been deeply inspired and challenged in my ideas about yoga by Matthew Remski’s research and writing, and for beginners in contemplative practice, I recommend my teacher Jack Kornfield’s overview of spiritual life, “A Path With Heart”.

Which teachers influence your practice?
My first formal teacher was Joshu Sasaki Roshi in the Rinzai Zen tradition (1993-99). In 1997 I started Ashtanga with Larry Schultz and Alice Joanou, Authentic Movement with Bill McCully, and postmodern dance with Keith Hennessy and Kathleen Hermesdorf. I did yoga teacher training with David Moreno in the Bihar tradition in 2007, and the Spirit Rock Mindfulness Yoga and Meditation program with Anne Cushman and Jill Satterfield. My Buddhist teachers have been Jack Kornfield, Eugene Cash and Sylvia Boorstein (Theravāda & Insight Meditation), Anam Thubten (Tibetan Mahāyāna), and Sayadaw U Janaka (vipassanā). In 2008 I started studying trauma resolution and systems theory with Steven Hoskinson (Somatic Experiencing, Organic Intelligence®), and have been strongly influenced in my recent work on the integration of trauma, mindfulness, and yoga by Dr. Stephen Porges.

What does your yoga practice look like and how has it changed your life?
Recently my practice looks mostly like parenting and providing for my family, which means that the “practice” part of it consists of mindfulness of emotions, speech, and actions, as well as the maintenance of my energy through attempting to balance work, sleep, physical exercise, and family connection time. The best formal practice support I have right now is prānāyāma, which changes my energetic state quicker than meditation can. When I get a chance to sneak away for some actual āsana, it’s fantastic, and brings me back to myself. It’s always done that, and it’s why I kept with it. Yoga, Buddhism, and inner inquiry saved me, slowly, from being an existentially depressed loner. Now I’m an existentially curious philosopher with better relationships and coping strategies. And I look forward to years of unfolding further along this path.

Sean Feit Oakes Namaste Yoga + Wellness Mindfulness

What is something you wish your students knew?
I wish students knew more deeply that they’re not alone in their struggles, and that way more is possible in life than mainstream culture, including yoga culture, suggests. I wish teachings of renunciation and liberation were more common in the Yoga and Buddhist communities, so that these gorgeous practices wouldn’t be reduced to surface interventions that help people survive our current inhumane social systems but don’t uproot the systems themselves, either from global power or from our own hearts.

What is your morning or evening routine?
Morning: up before dawn awoken by a toddler saying “Mama, Papa!!”, sitting and Refuge Puja while our boy nurses, then playing with him and making breakfast while his mama sleeps some more. Evening: after everyone goes to sleep, if I’m not exhausted, I get some quiet time to drop into my body. I do whatever feels good.

What is your favorite thing about being a teacher?
The relationships that form as a class or practice space becomes consistent, and how those consistent communities and practices start to affect people’s lives in real and meaningful ways. I love deep discussion about the implications of practice and the teachings on people’s lives.

What are you involved with outside the studio?
I teach Buddhism, Yoga, and Organic Intelligence® in various places, including Spirit Rock. My main work is individual sessions for yoga and meditation practitioners where we work in various ways to deepen practice, including counseling, trauma resolution, subtle bodywork, and inquiry. Other than work, I try to write as often as I can, and the rest of my time is for family.

What is your go-to movement (asana, dance, hiking, etc.) that allows you to feel the most connected to yourself?
A slow, intuitive vinyasa is still my most grounding movement practice, but I also love running as a meditative energy practice, and my long-time deep movement home is the postmodern dance form Contact Improvisation.

What is your favorite thing about the Bay Area?
It’s my home! I grew up here, and I don’t have a favorite thing specifically, though the main thing that makes it hard to move away is the depth of connections I have made over the decades. I’m grumpy about the Bay Area nowadays and can barely afford to live here anymore, but nowhere else feels like home, and that’s still a precious, subtle feeling.

Anything else you want to share?
I want to offer my blessings to everyone who calls Namaste home, and say that I’m thrilled to be bringing my teaching work here. I’m excited to meet many of you over time, and to contribute whatever I can to deepening the practice and study being offered at the studio.

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Why I Teach Prep for Birth

When I was pregnant with my first child I remember facing the unknown of giving birth. It felt like it didn’t matter how much I read, I still couldn’t get a handle on what the first, second and third stages of labor might look and feel like. This created a background feeling of tension and unease that I was only barely aware was there.

Second time around, I not only had the benefit of having been through the experience, but I also took HypnoBirthing® classes. These classes offered several fantastic tools that, in part, inform my upcoming Prep for Birth workshop. Having immersed myself in the world of prenatal yoga after having two children I feel passionate about bringing these tools to new mothers.

Combining experiential exercises, including some gentle partner yoga, as well as informational pieces, the main focus is on practices supporting relaxation.
In our busy modern lives, being able to relax is a skill that can take some training, especially in the face of a brand new, unknown experience.

Another important piece is to make sure you’re not sweeping concerns under the rug like I was that first time. When we have the time, space and support to explore those background worries and bring them to light, we get to either find action steps or see that we’re holding on to something unnecessarily and can let it go.

My favorite part of the class is a couple of simple exercises to bring you and your partner into a deeper connection. I love hearing from the couples that I work with that, in the course of their preparations, these exercises have them come back to the very reason they are bringing this amazing new life into the world together. It’s not uncommon in committed relationships (and even more so for those already parents), to have that deeper connection fall by the wayside.

So this class will not only give you tools to take into a relaxed and easeful birth, but can support you going forward in your relationship too!

In three hours, you’ll connect sweetly and deeply, you’ll learn, move and relax. I look forward to meeting you and supporting you on this very special journey.

Rosy Moon Schlussel

 

With love,
Rosy Schlussel

This class is an opportunity to come together with your partner and learn some foundational tools to support the mother-to-be in the lead up to delivering her baby.

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Be Epic: 5 Workshops to Fuel Your Power

 This month our studio focus is:

Honoring Your Epic-ness.

We are choosing 2017 as the Year of Empowerment. There is an unprecedented amount of trauma and change happening in our communities here and throughout the world. We believe our practice is our power. It holds the key to understanding, strength, and the grace to use our own powers to serve the best good. We’ve chosen the word empowered because it is time for us all to tap into our wells of wisdom. We need balance and perspective more than ever. Workshops are a great way to deepen your practice. They can provide juice to fuel you through your weekly routines.

We’ve hand picked the workshops we believe will help you activate your practice and feel your most epic:

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Awaken Your Creativity with Jerry Givens

Start your year off right by using your yoga practice to dive into your creative side! Train your mind to be more creative, learn the true source of creative blocks and how to overcome them, and discover the inherent connection between creativity and your yoga practice.

Jerry walks you through creative theory through the lens of classical yoga and meditation, drawing real-world examples and practices as you awaken your hidden creative potential.

Date: Jan 14, 2017 From: 1:00 PM – 4:00 PM Location: Rockridge

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Goal Setting and Prosperity 2017with Cherie Carson

We will look at the roles of self-worth, empowerment and releasing negativity play in prosperity.

Studies by Russian molecular biologists have proven that when you speak the right words, in the right way, your DNA rearranges itself for the better. The traits that make you successful – like perseverance and self-confidence – become dramatically amplified. Wealth-destroying habits like fear, procrastination and greed, disappear. Learn the yogic approach to asanas, to meditations, to chanting that open you to your ‘Prosperity DNA’.

Sat Date: Jan 14, 2017 From: 1:00 PM – 3:30 PM Location: Berkeley

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30 Days to Thrive with Naushon Kabat-Zinn and Elika Aird

“My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humor, and some style.”
~ Maya Angelou

Challenge yourself to THRIVE with 30 days of dedicated practice. We will use the tools of yoga, meditation, nutrition, self-care, self-reflection and mindfulness to deepen our awareness and create space for healthy personal growth. We will also have fun in the process as we support one another on this journey of not just surviving but THRIVING!

Wed Date: Jan 18, 2017 – Feb 15, 2017 From: 7:30 PM – 9:15 PM Location: Rockridge

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Softness and Strength: Ashtanga Extended Practice

New monthly extended practice with Ava, designed for a dedicated group to ‘go deeper’. We will begin this two hour session with seated meditation and gentle preparation poses, followed by the ashtanga primary series. After completing the finishing inversions, we will shift into deep hip, heart and shoulder openers and longer held yin postures.

In this extended session, we will practice softening into intensity, seeking ease and deep release as well as building strength, stamina, and focus.

Three Sundays: January 22, February 26, April 30
Price: $25 single session, $65 for all 3

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Press Resetwith Sadie Chanlett-Avery

Weaving together therapeutic movement, asana, and fitness training, this class dissolves the everyday toll on the body. We will flush out shoulder stress and unravel the hips, as we release the breath and reboot the core.With over 12 years of yoga and fitness experience, Sadie challenges and invigorates students of all levels. Leave this 2-hour class feeling worked out, relaxed, and energized.

Sat Date: Jan 28, 2017 From: 1:00 PM – 3:00 PM Location: Rockridge

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On Sound Healing

I recently attended Sound Healing with Missy Felsenstein, which I can describe as being on an auditory journey into space. I thought it would be a restful, relaxing experience – but have to admit there were moments of unrest mixed in there for me. Still, i think it is an experience not to be missed! We all need to practice being more restful, and that is the whole point of the exercise.

It did make me wonder — how does it work?

According to current research, the vibrations of sound in various frequencies cause the brain waves to slow down and you start to move into Alpha brainwaves. This state of being is a state of relaxation, a restful place. If you have old injuries, you might feel some tingling in those areas. Once you become more practiced, it is possible that the sound might move you into the Theta brainwave state – this is one which is meditative, and which lives between awake and asleep.

Since no one processes sound in the same way, how this state feels to you and the experience you have will be different than the person next to you.

I found that I moved in and out of the Alpha state of relaxation. But when I would waken to reality, I couldn’t tell you where I had been. It didn’t feel like I had been asleep – it felt like my mind had been doing something – thinking thoughts or travelling down some path, or following the sounds as thought they were a path of footprints — but it was all lost to me when I would become aware of where I was.

Concentrating on sound helps to retrain your nervous system and your brain to learn how to relax. Here’s a tiny snippet of the experience. It’s big and booming, because the planetary gong Uranus was there, so go easy on the volume while you lay in a restful pose and take this auditory experience in.

Join Missy for her next Sound Healing with Restorative Yoga on Sunday, November 13. Sign up here!

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What does it mean to Embrace Your Shadow?

by Sariah Jiwan Shakti 

Kundalini Yoga is an ancient yogic technology that helps us heal, strengthen, and cleanse our body as well as balance our mind and our Ego. It brings together all of the different branches of yoga into one practice that will quickly and powerfully transform your life. The thing about high speed transformation is that it can often feel uncomfortable and messy. As we heal our nervous system from past trauma, the residual emotions come up so they can be cleared. Sounds fun, right? Navigating this kind of mass clearing might feel daunting and even a little scary. Fun isn’t quite the thing that comes to mind! However, on the other side of that is freedom, clarity, more creativity and joy and those things may seem a bit more attractive, and yes, can lead to fun!

I’m excited to speak about these things because I’ve been there and personally experienced the messiness, freedom, and joy in transformation. But it definitely wasn’t always easy. When I was going through my Kundalini Yoga teacher training I experienced a lot of irrational anger. All of my suppressed childhood anger was coming to the surface with a vengeance my target became my teacher. I wrapped up all of that angst and frustration, stuffed it into a ball and lobbed it right at his Ego. It was perfect. One day I flat out told him that I didn’t like him. As I waited with my foot in my mouth for him to ultimately dislike me back, he said, “Sariah, where there is a bright light, there is a dark shadow.” This comment has always stuck with me and I’ve often shared it with friends and students when they are grappling with their shadow self. It helped me realize that in him was darkness and light as well as myself. I also realized that my suppressed shadow was projecting judgements onto my teacher as away to find some relief. Classic stuff.

As humans we have strong polarities or opposite forces within us with the most obvious being left and right hemispheres of the brain, masculine and feminine, and positive and negative charges. We have acidic and alkaline qualities within us, we experience hot and cold, high energy and low energy, we are awake and then we are asleep, and I could go on. Often times we equate our dark side or shadow self to the negative and the light side to the positive. Our brains often go to this place of negative = bad and positive = good. However, I want to invite you to take on a different perspective as you read through this. Because all of the polarities within us make up our whole self and allow us to function and on this earth plane, let’s allow both dark and light, positive and negative to be a perfect part of who we are, not good or bad, just part of our Is-ness. That being said, why does our shadow self often seem so intense, negative, and something that we want to push away, or has consumed such a large part of who we are, there is no room for the light?

Let’s explore what the shadow really is according to Carl Jung. Jungian psychology teaches us that the shadow aspect of who we are refers to an unconscious aspect of the personality that the conscious ego does not identify in itself. It’s the least desirable parts of ourself and so our conscious mind tends to push those away and make them largely negative storing them away in the subconscious. Jung says, “Everyone carries a shadow, and the less it is embodied in the individual’s conscious life, the blacker and denser it is.”Sariah Jiwan Shakti

So the more we push away this often labeled negative part of ourselves and do not give space for it to express in our conscious life in healthy constructive ways, the more destructive it can become taking up so much space there is not much room for the light to get in. This may manifest as chronic depression, addiction, angry rages, or deep internalized anger that contorts the personality. Ultimately, in it’s most extreme form, if this shadow is not expressed, someone may cause harm themselves or others.

When the shadow aspect of ourselves is causing us to self destruct, we become cut off from our connection to spirit, GOD, soul, and our pure creative playful nature – The Light. The good news is that humans are inherently heliotropic which means we are constantly reorienting towards the light. Even in our darkest times with enough digging we can find an ember within us that if stoked will turn into a bright fire. Why? Because one cannot exist without the other. Dark cannot exist without the light and vice versa. So where there is darkness there will always be light.

How can we embrace our shadow, love it, and transmute it into light? What does a healthy relationship with our shadow self even look like? How can we start to cultivate a loving relationship the perceived negative parts of ourselves so we can become more balanced, have more room for our light, and ultimately shine bright, be big, and connected to our soul’s creativity?

1. Practice Allowing All to BE

When you notice that you are experiencing some uncomfortable emotions, thoughts, images, or sensations in the body, give yourself some space experience this energy. Breathe deep into your body, allow it all to be with you instead of labeling your experience as wrong or bad. Recognize that these darker emotions are here to give you information about what you need to improve your experience. As you allow all to be with you, remain open and notice if new, more constructive thoughts, impulses, and ideas come to you. Notice if your body begins to relax and release. Remain open without attachment to the outcome.

2. Play with Your Shadow

Are there some safe, fun, and inspiring ways for you to express and play with your shadow? Perhaps there is a loud, aggressive rock band you want to go and dance to. Maybe a costume or outfit you want to rock at a party that expresses your shadow self. Maybe you go out to a secluded place in the woods and throw rocks and scream obscenities and all of your dark thoughts to release them and ground them in the earth? Creating art and music is a great way to express your shadow self, channel this aspect of your subconscious self into something dark, beautiful, and inspiring for others. Find a friend, teacher, or coach to help you work more constructively with this energy.

3. Practice Yoga, Meditation and Prayer

Yoga and meditation are the fast train to getting into your subconscious mind, clearing out the old, and changing old pattern behavior that does not serve your highest good and your light-being self. Prayer is a way to connect with the God consciousness within you that trumps all darkness and will instantly bring the light. Surrender the destruction of the shadow to God and your Higher Self. Prayer also provides the energetic support you need to pull yourself out of a funk. Yoga will strengthen your nervous system and when you have a strong nervous system, it is easier to take a pause, a breath and be with the shadow so you can metabolize the bad feeling emotions.

4. Celebrate and Shine Your Light

When you notice that your dark energy has shifted to more lightness, celebrate this! A great way to recognize this is if you notice your system has gone from feeling tight to feeling big and expansive. Make it a point to smile at others and say nice things. Share your experience, your grace, and the brightness that is within you. Know that all good things, dreams, goals, and visions come from within you. External circumstances do not get to dictate how you feel. Allow your inner light to shine outward and create all of the good things in the world your unique self is here to create!

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