Many moons ago while I was in graduate school, I began thinking about how I could bring yoga & mindfulness into the classroom, this idea became my focus for my year long internship in a Chicago public school setting. Although, I didn’t get too far with this idea within that year, the idea stuck with me for years to come. That simple idea began the ongoing evolution of Feelings Fitness (Yoga).
The road to the creation of Feelings Fitness has been bumpy & far from a straight path. Lots of twists & turns took place prior its creation. At one point, way back in my early twenties, I imagined my name in the Hollywood lights. I tried my hand in the acting world. I got a chance to be on a runway, to see my face on the big screen & to create characters behind the microphone. Although all of this was fascinating, it didn’t gel well with my personality. I had a hard time hearing criticisms, I hated rejection & I was such a creature of habit so the schedule of it all gave me anxiety. During this time I really took to writing. I wrote to be creative & I wrote to figure it all out. It then led me to finding yoga & meditation/mindfulness.
With yoga & mindfulness being more mainstream these days there is more of a platform to take this idea and run with it with both kids & adults. In my yoga teaching journey, I walk a bit of a fine line in keeping my professional counseling license separate from my yoga certification, but yoga naturally creates the space for discussion about mental health which makes it a little easier to not blur the lines.
A key phrase in my development as a counselor was, “how does that make you feel?” I have now spun that phrase from the counseling context into the yoga space. In Feelings Fitness Yoga I like to invite students to come “find how yoga can make you feel.” The Feelings Fitness concept was very much about identifying feelings & using them to guide the way, find happiness, and overcome obstacles. Although yoga is seen by many as more of a physical practice, Feelings Fitness Yoga encourages a mental clarity through identifying feelings that arise during the physical (asana) practice. I open each yoga session with the statement “open yourself up to the practice & remember that what is learned on the mat can be taken off the mat with you throughout your day!”
Boom. A purpose has been created for the time spent on the mat. It isn’t just about spending time on the mat, it’s about the bigger picture. Let this practice grow roots. Let it also give you the opportunity to dream a little. Allow yourself to learn about the depths of you. Take this knowledge to guide you throughout the day. Time well spent!
Another piece of the Feelings Fitness approach is something I learned in my counseling training, the use of narrative therapy. I believe that if we write our story, we own our story. We are the author of our own story & therefore we can create our own destiny. Although we can’t always control the situations that we are faced with, writing can help you navigate through difficult times & also help us fully appreciate the good times too. By writing it down, one can better visualize the desired results and on the mat is a great place for that visualization to come to life.
My yoga teacher training made me fully believe in the true mind-body connection. I, like many, was initially attracted to the yoga practice for its physical benefits. After learning about the foundations of yoga, I now can’t imagine separating the foundations from the physical practice. In a Feelings Fitness Yoga class you will always be informed of the multiple benefits of the postures. Mind(feelings) + Body(poses) = Feelings Fitness Yoga
The posture that resonated with me the most throughout my training was tree pose (vrksasana). It is such a strong posture from a strength perspective & also requires a great deal of focus. It requires strength to create the shape & focus to maintain the balance. I like to visualize actually being the tree, strong & sturdy. The pose lends itself to rooting the feet down into the earth & reaching the hands up to the sky. Imagine having written down a dream & while on the mat visualizing reaching up into the sky to grab that dream, rooting the feet down into the earth to ground that dream & then finally pulling that dream down to heart center.
Reaching even farther back into yoga history, I found a picture of a tree with Patanjali’s Eight Limbs of Yoga displayed on it that has become a great reminder of the depth of the yoga practice. The depth of yoga spans well beyond the physical practice. Yoga can open up positive mental health discussions through the poses. The chakra energy channels can be opened up through the poses which in turn sheds light on the many emotions we all experience. The poses are emotionally powerful!
With the symbolism that I have found between yoga & the tree posture, it should be no surprise that I began my teaching career out in the park amongst the trees. I was fortunate enough to have a wonderful group of lovely ladies to help me break through the new teacher jitters. When the weather is not optimal to be out in the park, I have created an indoor space with nature as the guiding influence.
Now with my combined background of school teacher, counselor & yoga teacher, I am finding ways to make good use out of each of those disciplines. Teaching a concept from the ground up, using narrative therapy & highlighting the mind-body connection through yoga.
So, all of this Feelings Fitness (Yoga) isn’t about chasing social media likes, pining for comments, or hoping for a share. It’s not about getting people to accept my theory or fearing criticism if they don’t. It is about learning to lean in to discomfort. It is about allowing myself to be vulnerable & to simply share my story and present my idea. So, even if I help only one person along the way, it will all have been worth while.
Feelings Fitness (Yoga) is simply about…
Finding inspirational people, places and things.
Feeling peaceful in this fast-paced world.
Flexibility (mind, body & spirit)