Have you ever wished you could have a “do over” or wondered what your life would be like “if only...”? Or maybe you’ve discovered yourself living an endless cycle of self-defeating behaviors, but you think that because [fill in the blank] happened to you years ago, there’s nothing you can do to change. Or have you been chronically depressed or unhappy, and you just can’t pinpoint why? Well, what if I told you that you can have a do over...that you can rewrite the story of your life--literally? I know, I know--I reacted the same way at first, too. And my feelings totally aren’t hurt that you guffawed and spit out your coffee or chai latte while calling me a “crazy lady” under your breath and smirking. It’s all good...I know we’ll still be friends, especially after what I’m about to tell you.
Our Experiences Leave Physical Impressions Deep In Our Tissues
I recently spent an entire weekend learning from Jeff Masters, internationally acclaimed yoga teacher, author, and founder and director of the Masters Institute in Sedona, Arizona, that our experiences--our life stories--leave physical impressions deep in our tissues and that these impressions directly affect and guide our thoughts and patterns of behavior.
If you’ve practiced yoga for even just a little while, you’ve probably had the experience of being settled (rather uncomfortably) in Pigeon Pose during class when, out of the blue, you started crying and had no idea why. It’s ok--me too. Or maybe there’s been a time when you were completely minding your own business, and someone’s unexpected touch, a certain smell, or a particular sound sent your mind reeling, propelled shock waves through your body, or suddenly catapulted memories you never recalled having before to the front-and-center of your brain. Yep, me too. This is exactly the kind of of thing Jeff talked about in our workshop. Our experiences are literally written into our bodies, buried deep into our tissues. Sometimes the impressions from these experiences come to the surface suddenly, as in the above examples, but more often, they live a life of their own, silently manipulating our everyday thoughts, feelings, actions, and reactions.
A pretty big “ah-ha” moment came for me during the third and final day of the workshop, when, before our asana practice, we were guided by Jeff in a form of Nadi Sodana, or Alternate Nostril Breathing, except we were asked to focus on breathing only through our right nostril. Following our practice, we repeated the pranayama exercise on just the left nostril. The breathing exercise through my left nostril was uneventful and calming; however, the exercise through the right nostril was anything but. Stated plainly and honestly, I felt panicky, scared, and wanted to crawl out of my own skin! I managed to complete the exercise without succumbing to the urge to bolt from the room, though, and went on to have a lovely asana practice.
Afterwards, I shared with Jeff what had happened and was amazed to find out that I had actually experienced--during the workshop--an example of the very things we had been exploring. Our left nostril, or lunar channel, is connected to our parasympathetic nervous system, also known as “R&D,” or our “Rest and Digest” mode. Our right nostril, on the other hand (or rather, on the other side of our nose!) is our solar channel and is connected to our sympathetic nervous system, or our “fight or flight” response. Because I’ve been going through some significant stressors in my life recently and those stressors have been imbedded in my tissues, when I was asked to focus on and stimulate the channel responsible for my already-sensitive “fight or flight” response (oh who am I kidding, I didn’t just stimulate it--I poked a sleeping tiger in the eye), my body went into panic mode and signaled my brain to “get out of this and get out of it now!” Mind...blown. Truly. This is amazing stuff, people.
A Journey Through Our Experiences
I’m going to assume that you’ve all seen the Disney movie, “Inside Out”...you know, the one with all the little people living inside us that we never see or are aware of, but they represent all of the emotions that guide us? Their names in the movie are Joy, Fear, Anger, Disgust, and Sadness. Really, if you haven’t seen it, then stop what you’re doing and go watch it--like right now--and then come back to me, because you’ve seriously been missing out.
Ok, ready now? So, I’m reminded of that movie whenever I think of all my life experiences living in my body and driving...well...me. One of the things I love about that movie (and there are lots) is that the characters all start working together to actually change the person they are living inside of in order to help her--not only on the surface, but at a truly fundamental level...a rewiring of her brain, if you will.
During Jeff’s workshop, he showed us through effective examples, hands-on practice, and captivating storytelling that we can do this same thing with our own bodies and life stories. Through yoga and meditation, it becomes possible to change our life stories at the cellular level, and that, my friends, is mind boggling.
Before this workshop, I was already aware that I love and am a little addicted to yoga (ok, a lot addicted)...but the knowledge that I’m actually rewriting my self-defeating behaviors and negative experiences and thoughts into something more positive with every asana practice, every meditation session, and every pranayama exercise is like an injection of pure light and hope straight into my soul. Negative thoughts and judgments deplete our prana, or life force, and so whenever we can redirect our minds toward more positive thoughts and activities, we feed our prana and become generally happier people who are capable of feeling and sharing more love. And, really, who doesn’t want that?
It’s Never Too Late
This immersive workshop into the connection between our physical bodies and energy bodies and about the energetic pathways of transformation was deeply thought-provoking and honestly life-changing. I know that my personal practice and also my approach to teaching and sharing yoga with others will never be the same. You, too, can affect positive change in your life. Take charge of your own personal journey and growth and know that it’s never too late to rewrite the story of your life.
If you ever get the opportunity to learn from Jeff Masters, I really hope that you will. His extensive training and background includes, but is not limited to, active duty military service, yoga and yoga therapy certifications, somatic therapy, sports medicine, trauma-specific training, and Ayurvedic therapy. Jeff is also the senior advisor, primary faculty member, and curriculum developer for “Yoga for First Responders,” and was on the advisory board for Warriors for Healing, an organization serving the needs of veterans and active duty service members suffering from PTSD, as well as their family members and caregivers. In addition to direct mentoring, Jeff leads retreats, workshops, and trainings both nationally and internationally. When he isn’t traveling, you can find Jeff leading classes and workshops at the Masters Institute in his hometown of Sedona.