By Julia Jonson|2021-09-25T08:18:22-05:00September 25th, 2021|Categories: blog|Comments Off on Human Connection Matters
By Julia Jonson, E-RYT 500
Meaningful human connection is soul-soothing.
Dr. Emma Seppala of Stanford’s Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education writes that our positive bonds with others improve our physical, mental, and emotional health.
Benefits of strong social connections:
Leadto a 50% increased chance of longevity
Strengthen your immune system (research by Steve Cole shows that genes impacted by loneliness also code for immune function and inflammation)
Help you recover from disease faster
May even lengthen your life!
Not only are we hard-wired to connect to each other, and we are also hard-wired to connect deeply with ourselves. In a yoga class, we bond with others while we shift awareness to our inner body rhythms of breath and heartbeat. This combination of connection and internal awareness is needed now more than ever.
Also, I hope you will join me at Black Cat Yoga for a 2-part workshop series, Philosophy & Flow on October 9th & November 6th. I’m also teaching a yoga intensive at Nurture Yoga on The Art of Teaching Restorative & Gentle Yoga on November 13th & 14th.
I look forward to these wonderful opportunities for human connection.
Typically wolves are portrayed as villains in popular culture. Yet there is wisdom to be drawn from these mysterious pack animals. Individual wolves are the epitome of strength, intelligence, and fearlessness. Experts who have studied them say that, collectively, they live in highly organized social structures (packs) that enable them to benefit from maximum cooperation. And while yes, wolves are predators, researchers say they are wired for teamwork and they thrive in the midst of change.
While listening to Abby Wambach’s book Wolfpack, I was inspired by the soccer star’s musings on wolves as a metaphor for women. The short book is based on Wambach’s 2018 commencement speech to Barnard College’s graduates. (Barnard is an all-women’s school.) In crafting her speech she says, “as I focused on what I wanted to share with the women of Barnard–a directive to unleash their individuality, unite the collective, and change the landscape–my thoughts turned to a TED Talk I’d watched recently about the wolves of Yellowstone National Park”. The wolves were eradicated from Yellowstone for seventy years, and after being reintroduced in 1995 the entire plant and animal ecosystems in the park regenerated. In short, Abby shares, “The wolves–who were feared by many to be a threat to the system–became the system’s salvation.”
Wamback reflects on possessing extreme star-status (alpha wolf!), then being benched as an aging player only to find her new power in supporting and uplifting her teammates from the sidelines. The two-time Olympic gold medalist who holds the world record for international goals for both female and male soccer players says “failure means you’re finally in the game,” and “A champion never allows a short-term failure to take her out of the long-term game. A woman who doesn’t give up can never lose.”
Wambach reflects on feeling like a bit of a lone wolf after retiring from soccer and expanding her pack as she redesigned her life. In my case, the change is from co-owning a yoga studio – then not owning a yoga studio, and I’m feeling hopeful about what’s next. As I go back to being a yoga teacher minus the studio owner title, the possibilities seem endless and perhaps a little scary. I definitely had a picture in my head about how things would go with our beloved business, yet life had other plans. The strife and challenge of the past year have brought many silver linings. Deepened relationships with family and close friends, the creation of a 200-hour yoga teacher training program, designing a 30-hour intensive on the art of teaching restorative yoga, and a heavy focus on teaching one-on-one specialty sessions. It’s as if my career got a make-over because of aCovid-19, and I didn’t even know it needed one. This unexpected change and my ability to make the most of it go right in line with Abby Wambach’s rules for success in her Barnard Collegeaddress. She writes, “you were always the wolf,” and the old rule was to “stay on the path.” The new rule is “create your own path.”
After all, aren’t we always stepping into an unknown future, recreating ourselves, and trying to find our way in the world with our pack?
By Julia Jonson|2021-05-17T09:21:01-05:00January 14th, 2021|Categories: blog|Comments Off on Express Your TRUE Self
(Dear Reader, The inspiration for this blog came from co-teaching a New Year’s Day class with Anna Ottolino. Anna and I wished to convey that our yoga practice should aid us in growing and evolving. That we should greet, rather than gloss over negative emotions such as anger and frustration–that such sentiments are excellent teachers when we move through them rather than avoid them. While putting together our class plans, we reflected on the roles people play and how it’s familiar to “stuff” emotions. Suggestion #4 (below) came from the book Anna shared during our January 1st class. I hope you enjoy my very candid blog! If this resonates with you, please share with others.)
As a child, I remember my mom telling me to “act like a lady.” I know she meant well each time she called me “young lady” before correcting my so-called “unladylike” behaviors such as being overly inquisitive, having strong opinions, or using humor to gain attention. As I grew into a young woman, societal norms taught me that my intensity was akin to “acting like a bitch.” When I entered the world of work as a television newscast producer, I experienced the double standard of “direct and assertive” labels my male colleagues received vs. my “she’s not nice” designation as I objected or spoke my mind.
Throughout my adult life, I’ve embodied civility, good manners and quietude about my accomplishments. Yet, there’s far more to me than merely niceness and humility. There’s ambition, courage, passion and fierceness; and there are countless times when I’ve suppressed these qualities to appear friendly or to appease others. All too often, I’ve defaulted to deference and, in the process, downplayed my abilities. Cultural expectations assigned to my gender identity remind me that if I object or voice my opinion, I’m no longer a “lady.” Please don’t mistake this for a feminist rant, rather a call to all of us to openly accept that we are complex beings who cannot be put in a box; it’s better to be authentic than play a role laid out for us by someone else. We must listen to our inner voices beckoning us to be genuine so that we don’t constrain or destroy ourselves.
There is a harmful misconception pervasive in the Western yoga world that negativity is unspiritual. There’s often an air of “good vibes only,” or using statements like “it’s all good,” even when it’s not all good. The term “spiritual bypassing” means pretending that everything is okay when it’s not. Coined by psychotherapist John Welwood, spiritual bypassing is using “spiritual ideas and practices to sidestep personal, emotional ‘unfinished business,’ to shore up a shaky sense of self, or to belittle basic needs, feelings, and developmental tasks.” This flawed, avoidance thinking may cause yoga students to think that they can only come to class if their “energy is good.” The mistaken idea that one would be better off leaving their fervor and egos at the proverbial door often leads to “stuffing” emotions before entering the very place to help in processing them. In other words, your toxicity is welcome in a yoga class and something to be worked on, not buried.
Here are five practices that help me to manage challenging emotions and live authentically in a world filled with expectations and labels.
Acceptance – I don’t like that there is a double-standard for women, and it’s been harmful to my mental health to internalize calls to be ladylike or to think my behavior isn’t “nice” when I’m assertive. However, I can accept that such norms exist, acknowledge my thoughts about them, and consciously choose to act in a way that is authentically me. I can do this without internalizing someone else’s standards. Taking it a step further, experiencing shame or frustration around this societal norm is natural. No one likes negative emotions such as humiliation, sadness, rage or resentment, yet avoiding them makes things far worse. Accepting that we are complex beings with a range of convictions is the first step in addressing issues instead of suppressing them. Research shows that burying negative emotions lead to anxiety attacks, headaches, weight gain, and other health issues.
Action – The hallmark of a yoga practice is taking action. In the Bhagavad Gita, Krishna tells Arjuna, “Yoga is skill in action.” In a yoga asana class, this is the experience of awareness of the physical body’s actions. We can take action in our daily lives by shining light on areas where we need to make changes. Refusing to make waves, continually striving to keep the peace and people-pleasing has left me exhausted, angry and has even spurned migraine headaches and panic attacks. I’ve found two phrases to be good medicine and I am putting them into practice. They are “I can’t do that,” and “no.” I’m even aware that saying these statements might surprise others or make them mad, especially since I’ve been in the habit of saying “yes” for so long. However, in the long run, adopting the understanding that I can’t do it all is better for my mental and physical health.
Practice – It’s much healthier to openly state limitations instead of bottling up emotions and possibly committing to something too much. I practice yogic techniques in the same way; I can practice telling others how I feel, even though it wasn’t a skill I learned growing up. Habits are ingrained and difficult to change, but it’s possible. The more I voice my genuine thoughts and acknowledge my limitations, the better I’ll become at these things. Hitting the mat becomes like a rehearsal. When I feel some discomfort in a posture, I can breathe consciously and train my body and mind to stay a little longer. Dealing with pain during yoga makes it easier when I’m facing ugly situations in life.
Expression – In her book The Gift, 12 Lessons to Save Your Life, Edith Eger writes, “If you’re not actively, consciously, intentionally releasing it (anger), you’re holding onto it. And that’s not going to do you any good. Neither is venting anger. That’s when you blow your top. It might feel cathartic in the moment, but others foot the bill. And it can become addictive. You’re not really releasing anything. You’re just perpetuating a cycle–a harmful one. The best thing to do with anger is to learn to channel it, and then dissolve it.” Clinical psychologist Victoria Tarratt says that “suppressing your emotions, whether it’s anger, sadness, grief or frustration, can lead to physical stress on your body. The effect is the same, even if the core emotion differs. We know that it can affect blood pressure, memory, and self-esteem.” Eger suggests driving into the woods and screaming where no one can hear you as a means of channeling anger. In our home, we go outside together for a brisk when we are angry, and we also allow ourselves to talk it out until it dissipates. After all, you can’t enjoy positive emotions as much without learning how to ride out the negative ones.
Prayer – While the struggle may indeed be real, I’m continually reminding myself that there is nothing noble in the struggle. Asking for help with a contrite heart from my Higher Power has helped me more than words could ever express. Having faith in something that is much more significant than me is comforting when burdens seem too big to bear. I’ve heard atheists and agnostics use kismet, fate and karma to describe their connection to faith. Regardless, saying my prayers multiple times each day helps me stay true to my values and connect to my true self.
Just as I am a product of my upbringing and society, my mom was a product of her mom’s attitudes about ladylike behavior. Life can be complicated, and our actions and beliefs can be hard to make sense of at times. Yet, acting overly idealistic or optimistic in the name of what’s socially acceptable is unhealthy. My hope for the new year is simple – for my authenticity and actions to be in alignment more often.
By Julia Jonson|2021-05-17T09:04:27-05:00December 19th, 2020|Categories: blog|Comments Off on Vlog: Grief & Loss
Dear TBY Community,
“Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a fierce inner battle.”
While I would not wish the experiences of grief or loss on anyone, I’m confident that my traumas have increased my ability to put this familiar saying into practice. According to emotion researchers, empathy is the ability to imagine what another might be feeling or thinking. Author Brene´Brown sums up the difference between sympathy and empathy with excellent insight. She suggests that instead of offering silver linings to those who’ve befallen heartbreak, we might say, “I know what it’s like to experience pain and I’m here with you.”
I acknowledge people’s intent isn’t typically to make others feel worse, and most of the time, people just don’t know what to say or do. But, in my opinion, insensitive comments, unsolicited advice, or one-upping someone’s pain can hurt when people are in an emotionally fragile state. In other words, connecting heart to heart and merely being present is more helpful than any words one could ever say.
To that end, we recorded another TBY Talks video blog on the subject of loss and grief. This time, Kadi Petridis leads the discussion (with participants Willie Underwood Kadi’s fiance, Andrew Gurvey, and me). We started with the timely subject of losing our brick and mortar, where our TBY community formerly practiced yoga together. In our discussion we acknowledge the loss of a structure or business pales compared to the loss of a loved one; in addition, the four of us address some of our other deeply personal losses. We hope you are touched in some way by our video endeavor – which is linked below.
Julia C. Jonson
TBY Creative & Programming Director
Yoga Teacher/TBY Co-Owner
In keeping with our mission of cultivating community, we are proud to present TBY Talks, a video blog that brings important topics to the forefront. TBY Talks will either be pre-recorded discussions or Livestream interviews involving issues that affect individuals and communities. In this time of social distancing, we hope these online community-building endeavors will allow for a sense of connection. Kadi Petridis leads the discussion(with participants Willie Underwood Kadi’s fiance, Andrew Gurvey, and Julia Jonson). We enjoy these collaborations so much and our hope is they resonate with you!
ABOUT THE VLOGGERS:
Kadi Petridiswas born in Bamako, Mali, to a black Malian mother and a white American father who served in the Peace Corps in Liberia for several years. He then moved to Mali to continue his volunteer work, where he met and married Kadi’s mother. When she was two years old, her parents, sisters, and brothers moved to her father’s hometown of Denver, Colorado. Kadi cultivated a strong work ethic from an early age and eventually graduated from the Northwestern University School of Communication. While she was in school, she experienced an unplanned pregnancy yet finished school on time. Kadi is a mom to two daughters. She is also a Senior Director in Pfizer’s Oncology division, where she leads a group of account managers. Kadi says she loves getting to know a person’s history, stating that rich and authentic conversations are incredibly nourishing for more introverted personalities like her own. Kadi is a longtime yoga student who has a lovely, easy demeanor.
Dr. Willie Underwood, III, M.D., MS, MPH, grew up in Gary, Indiana. Willie describes himself as born eager to learn and aspired to be a doctor from an early age. Yet, during his freshman year at William Wirt High School, Willie’s Social Studies teacher told him it was pointless for her to answer his questions since he was destined for jail by the time he was 19. Like many other teachers, this teacher made it clear that he was not worth her time to educate. Despite being immersed in a harmful school system, Willie became a board-certified urologist with 20 years of experience as a surgeon. Willie is a member of the American Medical Association Board of Trustees and an expert in health care disparities and health care policy. Willie is a clinician-scientist, entrepreneur, and positive social change agent. Willie shares his passion for helping people by speaking out about racial inequality. With his work in social activism, Willie believes that meaningful conversations now can lead to more equitable practices and lasting changes in the future.
By Julia Jonson|2020-11-25T21:55:46-06:00November 25th, 2020|Categories: blog|Comments Off on Thoughts on Gratitude
A Letter of Thanks from Andrew Gurvey
Dear TBY Yoga Community,
2020 has certainly been a challenging year for all of us. I’m always careful when I make a blanket statement like that, but with the onset of COVID-19, a heavily divided and vicious political climate, a record number of natural disasters (all of which are record-setting in and of themselves), and the resultant effect that we are essentially isolated from one another and have to adapt to new ways of creating connections. This is a powerful time, indeed, and a scary one. For me, it’s easy to get sucked into the rabbit hole of negativity and sadness and wallow in my own suffering. As we head into Thanksgiving, the paradox of what this holiday represents versus what we may be experiencing daily creates an avenue for sadness, depression, and perhaps even confusion. Of course, I say all of this with the knowledge that we truly are all in this together. As such, it might seem like a strange follow-up to talk about the practice of gratitude. In fact, it is herein that lies the beautiful paradox that the journey through adversity offers the greatest path to gratitude. By allowing myself to feel the pain of loss and that which used to be, I’m also able to feel gratitude and appreciation for what I have and the beautiful blessing of everything good in my life. This will be the last newsletter that we send before we permanently say goodbye to 210 Terrace Drive. As we all let go of the physical structure where we practiced, I’m overwhelmed with gratitude for all of the amazing people I have met, the community that we have forged, and the fact that TBY is far bigger than any other edifice that may contain it. Whether we are online or in person, to be ourselves and to be together is the greatest blessing I have had for the last five years, and I am so excited that we will continue to be together. We will see what form our practice of yoga takes as we step into the future. When I think about gratitude, I think about you. I think about how much each one of you means to me. I think about the swelling of generosity, support and kindness that we have experienced through the years, and I’m overwhelmed with appreciation. As we move into Thanksgiving this weekend, I realize that I have so much to be grateful for. Look at the beautiful community of which we are a part. This very reflection brings tears of joy and appreciation to my eyes. I am grateful that we can continue together as we adjust to the world around us. I am grateful for the greatest business partner, friend, companion, and wife; I am traveling with on this amazing life adventure. I am grateful for my wonderful stepkids, who have truly helped me become a more well-rounded, reflective person and for allowing me to have a role in their lives. I am grateful that technology, when used for good, can bring us all together and that we can practice triangle pose together at the same moment from any location in the entire world. And I’m grateful for you, the reader, the practitioner, the friend, the confidante,… the yogi. Thank you for being a part of our lives, sticking with us through thick and thin, working with us as we adjust, and creating the space for compassion, lovingkindness, goodwill, humor, and love. And if nobody else has told you this today, you are amazing. You are wonderful. You are smart, gifted, and your existence brings joy to those around you and to me. I appreciate you. I thank you. I am grateful for you! Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.