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Help – I'm having a Yogic Identity Crisis!

Posted on Thu, Jun 27, 2013

laura grace ford, yogic identity, ashtanga yoga, So my yogic transformation has stretched so far that it has become more like a split personality! I have changed so much in the last few years that I barely recognise my new self as me! So much so that along the way I had trouble adjusting to whom I have become.

My good friend laughs lovingly at the two versions of me and calls them Laura and Vera. Laura was the highly sociable good time, out all night girl and Vera likes to drink herbal tea and wear warm clothes and sensible shoes and be in bed by 10 o’clock so she can practice Ashtanga Yoga every morning.

Everything that Laura loved, Vera has given up. Everything that Laura was, Vera is the polar opposite. Even everything that Laura would have said, Vera will contradict.

Vera is much happier and content, but Laura will not seem to die without a fight!


Yoga helps you to start looking at yourself more closely. They say it is like cleaning the self-reflective mirror that enables you to really see yourself. The cleaner it becomes the clearer you see everything. You see your own actions, you see the actions of others, you see intentions versus actions, you see old negative habits more clearly and you see the world through new eyes. You see a way to change.

I read an article recently, which reminded me that the more you practice the more sensitive you become. You see more, you feel more, you sense more, you are more. This means that you can feel hyper sensitive to certain stimuli around you.

I now have an aversion to noisy, busy places when I used to love the hustle and bustle of busy bars and nightclubs. Now they almost scare me and like a rabbit caught in the headlights I freeze and panic. And I want to escape. I feel as though I am somehow vibrating on a different frequency. A quieter, calmer frequency that doesn’t allow me to feel at ease in over crowded, noisy, loud and aggressive situations. I’d rather be chilling in a hammock, taking in the natural surroundings, watching the sunset and listening to the birds.

laura grace ford, yogi, yogic transformation, yoga health, yoga pose

(seriously? My old self shouts – ‘just listen to yourself!’)

I started to recognise that all of my bad habits were a form of self-abuse. A way of drowning my sorrows: numbing myself to life. I would drink and smoke to disengage, to somehow become less present. You subconsciously ‘leave the room’ when the alcohol kicks in. It alters your state of mind and your whole being. Smoking too, damages your body making you weak from the inside. The sutra’s state that at first you smoke a cigarette and then slowly, it starts smoking you. Burning you away from the inside, distinguishing your self. You start to notice smokers coughs and splutters, the constant clearing of the throats, the harshness in their voices and the smell that lingers around them. Everyone hates a reformed smoker, so I found myself just pulling away from them rather than preaching to them. I am no angel, and I don’t profess to be. Smoking is a strong addiction and can take hold of you easily. I admit to sometimes smoking the occasional cigarette; and I no longer beat myself up when I do. But I don’t enjoy it anymore. I can taste it in my mouth, I can feel it in my lungs, I can feel it in the morning when I wake up and my liver has been detoxing the chemicals out of my system overnight. I quickly remember why I don’t do it anymore and knowing the damage that it is causing my body helps me to not start the daily habit again.

So why do we act in such a self-abusive way?

It basically comes down to self-love. If we really loved ourselves why would we chose to damage ourselves in that way? As an act of love would you give another a glass that contained a fluid that would nurture them or would you give a glass that would make them lose consciousness, vomit and black out? As an act of love….. really, which one would you chose?

So as an act of love to oneself, how would you treat yourself if you really loved yourself?

(Vera talking)

 yogic transformation, yoga health, yogic identity, laura grace ford, ashtanga

For me it was really hard becoming this new version of myself. I lost friends. I lost lovers. I lost my social life. I lost respect. I lost my identity. I lost touch of who I really was….. But then I started to realise what I had gained. I had gained self-discipline. I had gained self-respect. I had gained much better health and vitality. I had gained self worth. I had gained new friends with the same outlook to life. I had gained new eyes to see the world.

 

Yet, still my old self called.

Laura would want to party. Laura would want to dance. Laura would want to stay up late and be wild. Laura thought that Vera was boring and that nobody liked her. Everybody loved Laura! Laura didn’t want to die!

Laura and Vera were not friends. They didn’t even like each other very much. They fought. They argued. They didn’t speak for weeks. They would give each other disapproving looks and walk in opposite directions (see how a split personality can drive you crazy!).

laura grace ford, ashtanga yoga, yoga love, yoga id, yoga identity, Yet the more I practiced the more comfortable I became with my new self. The more I wanted to live in my new world. The more I wanted to practice. I wanted to continue walking down this path. I realised that the benefits far out weighed the alternatives. The positives outnumbered the negatives a million to one.

I had gone from waking up in the morning in Bristol UK, barely able to walk to the bathroom due to high levels of toxins in my system, to waking up bright and breezy, in Maui Hawaii, about to take on the second series of Ashtanga Yoga with some of the most senior practitoners in the world. People: who in the 60’s were still practicing daily and were fighting fit and strong. These people inspired me. They were full of life and vitality. Yoga was keeping them young. I want to be standing on my head at the age of 69 and balancing on my forearms in Pinchaymarasana. I want to be slipping into Karandasana like I was still in my teens and touching my toes to my head in vrishchikasana. I want to be strong enough to still complete the second series on my 70th birthday!

I started to find myself not missing my old life that much after all. I started finding it hard to socialise with people who were intoxicated. Repeating themselves over and over and shouting at each other. I started finding it hard to watch people treat themselves with such little care. Watching them damage themselves in more ways than one. I started to cringe and shudder as I watched people acting in the very way that Laura behaved for such a long time. I wanted to get them all to start doing Ashtanga and start to feel the benefits of this amazing practice, both mentally and physically. I wanted to give them a new lease of life. A new love of life.

laura grace ford, yoga, yoga pose, yoga blog, love yogaA path to happiness.

But I know deep down that you can lead a horse to water….

A teacher’s job is to show people the door, but it is up to them to walk through it.

 

Laura will always be a part of me. I have learnt that Laura doesn’t have to die. Even though I wasn’t happy being her and didn’t like lots of things about her, she is still a part of my history.  Through Yoga I have learnt how I can take the best bits of her and merge them with the best bits of Vera.

They aren’t really two – they are one. And neither of them are who I really am; they are part of my ego. Part of what I call I. And yoga destroys the “I”.

The Ashtanga process breaks us apart. It smashes our ego to smithereans. It breaks us so that we can take out all the bad bits and then put all the good bits back together again. After talking to other Ashtangi’s I realised that I was not alone. I was not the only person to go through this…. In fact it was all part of the purification process.

The hardest thing about loving yoga so much is not being able to get everyone to do it! At first I was a real yoga pusher, but now I have come to realise that people have to find their own way. People have to find their own path. People have to come to it due to a genuine yearning for something, a knowing that there is more to life and a desire to discover what that really is. 

They have to have a genuine want for new eyes.

 

beautiful yoga

Nancy Gilgoff told me today that Gurji had once said that people that are drawn to yoga have done it before in a past life. People that dedicate their lives to it are firmly on the path to self-improvement and liberation. So if someone just hears the word ‘yoga’ or does one sun salutation in this lifetime, then in their next they will be drawn to it even more. So by sharing this wonderful practice and all its incredible benefits with as many people as I possibly can this lifetime, it will ensure even more dedicated yogi’s in the next round. So for every person that I get to teach even one sun salutation to, I can rest assured that it will make a difference. That was enough.

Pattahbi Jois said “Do your practice, teach, and all is coming”

And so I teach with humble pride and honour, knowing that I am sharing with others this wonderful gift. 

~Laura Grace Ford

Tags: advanced yoga, yoga for being present, ashtanga yoga, Discover your truth, forgiveness, laura grace ford

The Gift of Forgiving you :)

Posted on Fri, Dec 14, 2012



self love meditation, meditationThe holiday season sometimes feels like one long assault on your ability to be good at everything, not stress out and not lose your cool. By New Year’s Eve, you might end up feeling a bit chewed up and spit out. That emotional hangover feeling of wishing you hadn’t argued with your kids, or hadn’t trashed your aunt’s cooking or regretting that you aren’t a world-famous philanthropist can take the joy out of the holidays. Layer in feeling like your success as a person is dependent on the number of  gadgets you’ve gotten your loved ones and the holidays can be a self-esteem wrecker par excellence. That’s why it’s vital this time of year that you be gentle with yourself—you are your own harshest critic and most likely the people around you don’t even care about the things you’re beating yourself up about.

Spend time outside alone (if possible ;) where there is beauty, do yoga, ground, connect, bring your awareness within, away from all the over stimulating messages of the consumer world.   Releasing what is ailing us whether it be guilt, anger, shame, exhaustion, or just overall stress.    Learning from our mistakes, understanding our reactions or just agreeing to let go.. Forgiving yourself so we can truly move forward to be a better you.  


relax outsideGuilt is a great tool to help us understand when we've participated in something that does not resonate with who we truly are.  The real practice seems to be forgiveness of others, but mostly for ourselves.   Most everyone can stand in front of a mirror and have a conversation with themselves about all the things they did wrong or how they wronged/ hurt someone else.  You can even take the conversation further and talk through how you want to change these behaviors about yourself.  

 forgiveness Now, the final and most important step to this exercise is to continue to stand in front of the mirror or imagine looking at yourself in your head, perhaps you as a child.   Look into your eyes and say "I forgive you".  “I forgive you”  “I forgive you”  Say it over and over till you really believe it... till you feel it.  Then end with “I love you, unconditionally.” 

 This exercise can trigger a powerful release.  Just allow it to happen, allow the emotions to rise to the surface and release from your space.  To love ourselves like we love others is a practice, a relationship that needs attention, acceptance, and forgiveness to thrive.

self loveGuilt runs deep in the veins of our society’s psyche.  There is belief that not only do we deserve to suffer but should, and self-forgiveness is not always part of that equation.   Someone else may forgive you, but what about you?  Tending to look outside for the peace we so deeply desire to feel inside.  This year take a moment to indulge in the sanctuary and deliciousness of forgiveness and self-love.   Whether it be in Savasana, on a walk, or standing in front of the bathroom mirror. Forgiveness is the best gift you can yourself this season.

Dig Deeper

Yoga to let go of stress

Yoga to respect yourself

Yoga pose library


Tags: forgiveness, yoga and guilt, self love, yoga and stress relief

Facing challenges, on and off the mat

Posted on Wed, Jul 25, 2012

mat challenge, yoga challenge

"Life's challenges are not supposed to paralyze you, they're supposed to help you discover who you are."

 ~ Bernice Johnson Reagon

 

What does “avoiding difficulty” really mean?

help with yogaAvoiding – to go around. To detour. To take the easier path. To manage
not to do something or stop something from happening.

I watched today as this guy struggled to go into a back bend. His arms
flopped open, elbows taking the strain, shoulders collapsing.
Desperately trying to push up through a weak foundation. He could
spend years like that, slowly making the weakest parts of his
shoulders weaker and wearing out his elbows: until finally something
breaks. OR he can go a step backwards, he can learn to look at the
part which he finds difficult (in this case holding the elbows in and
the shoulders in their sockets) and work their before even lifting the
head off the floor. Identify the work. The real work. The work that
will bring about positive changes’, that will give you strength; that
will give you a different outcome.

comfort zoneIT IS hard. I know it is hard. That’s why we avoid it. We do it the easy way because we think it will get us to the end result faster. But that is just an illusion. It’s simple not true. All it will do is keep us from the right path. Stop us from heading in the right direction. It actually prevents the results that we desperately seek.

So how can this important lesson be reflected into our day-to-day lives?
If we have the same problem occurring over and over again we to have
to take a step back. Re-asses the situation and identify the weakness.
What is it that we do that avoids dealing with the difficulty? What is
it that causes the same results over and over? For me I am trying to
relationshipslearn how to act and not react. I tend to get defensive and when I
respond emotionally it is normally unpleasant and vicious. Like a
scorpion, I have a sting in my tail and when I react with my sting, it
hurts. It also drives people away. Scared of being stung again, the
attacker retreats. This has resulted in me being left alone; not the
outcome that I desired.

challengesSo, working within my difficulty, I have to take s step backwards. To
recognise what I am doing wrong. See how to change it. Learn how to
act, not react. Let the emotions drain out of a situation before I
respond. Come from a calm and nurturing place. Not a defensive and
stubborn place, unwilling to back down. It IS hard! That’s the real
work. The work that can bring about change. The work that will set
about a different cause and bring about a different effect. The work
that will bring me the results that I want.

Sometimes when we feel bad about ourselves we do things that avoid
dealing with the real issue. We drink alcohol, we smoke : we do things
to numb out the pain. This in turn makes us feel bad, we feel worse
about ourselves and so we drink to hide from it. To avoid dealing with
the real difficulty. What we really need to do is be nice to
ourselves. To work within the difficulty. To take rest, do more yoga,
eat good food, laugh and be with people who love us. Do the hard work
to feel good about ourselves. To get the result that we really want.
To be a fitter, healthier and happier person.


And there you have it. Working within the difficulties. Doing the hard  
work. The real work. Seeing the faults and putting in lots of effort to correct them, to rebalance them. In the case of the back bend, if you work on the foundation then you will lift up higher. From strong roots we grow tall. And so it is the same with my own issues off the mat. Work on the foundations. Come from a good place, have strong
roots. Work within the difficulties and do the work. Start to get the results that you want.

By changing the way we do things daily, allows a new person inside of
us to grow.

~Laura Grace Ford

Ashtanga Yoga Devon

Tags: Stress reduction, meditation, how to overcome fear with yoga, yoga for health, forgiveness, relationships

PERFECT DOESN’T MAKE A YOGA PRACTICE

Posted on Thu, May 10, 2012

downward facing dog“What on earth are you doing?” My yoga teacher asked me in class last week as he caught me trying to peer round and look at my own shoulders
in downward dog. “Nothing” I said as I tried to wriggle out of it. He bought me down to my knees and asked me kindly to explain myself. The truth is I was paranoid that I was doing it wrong. During a weekend workshop in Paris with Chuck Miller, we had explored the shoulders in downward dog. We had looked at them in micro detail and worked towards straightening the arms so that you spread the load of the weight. We were learning to lift the forearms up and away from the floor, lifting the inner arm up and firming out, and get the outer arm moving down and firming in. It was pretty complex work, but I tried my darn hardest to grasp the concept and then to apply it to my practice.

yoga artDuring an exercise with a partner, it was pointed out to me that I had
large dimples in my shoulders. I instantly took this that I was doing
it wrong. I then set about trying to correct it, in every downward
dog.

When I learn lots of new information about ashtanga yoga, I take it
away, digest it and then try to apply it to my own practice. The
problem is that I will try to over do it. I have a perfectionist
streak which is amplified by an inner fear of 'doing it wrong'. This
leads to me mentally trying too hard. Putting too much emphasis on
doing it right. Trying to hard to be perfect.
This is what my teacher really caught me doing.

yoga classIn yoga we try to burn away our samskara’s, our bad habits or
behavioural patterns; which no longer serve us. But in order to burn
them away, first we must see them clearly. We can’t change something
that we can’t even see. Yoga can be seen as a mirror, in which we
start to see our own reflection. It enables us to see how we do
things. Why we do them a certain way. Only then can we try to change
them for the better.

So one of my samskara’s is seeking perfection. Born out of a fear of
doing it wrong, desperate for others not to look down on me. I not
only do this in my every day life, but I bring it to the mat with me.
Often the behaviour that we display on the mat is exactly the same as
the behaviour we display elsewhere (we just may not be aware of it
yet).
“Same person, same body, same behaviour” As Chuck Miller puts it.

Wendy 7 LAfter class my teacher had a little word in my ear. He very gently
pointed out to me what it was that I was doing. “Seeking perfection in your practice is only really re enforcing your samskara’s. It is maintaining those patterns that you apply to your life. Yoga is supposed to be diminishing that very process, but you have to recognise that and you have to let it go. It doesn’t matter if your right – in fact there is no right or wrong. Its good to try to apply what you have learnt, but the only thing you will gain by trying to look over your shoulder in downward dog is a crooked neck and a dodgy shoulder. Not what you are trying to achieve!”
He was so right.


Sometimes we need someone else to point out these things to us!
In the post that week I received a printed out article from my
teacher. It was explaining how when you open the shoulders and create
space, these dimples appear. So in fact the very thing that I thought
was a sign of doing it wrong, was actually an effect of doing it
right.
“The man in Paris was obviously paying you a compliment” The note read.
Unnecessary worrying on my part.


So busy worrying about perfection that I missed the point.
So the moral of this story is that you have to learn to look at what
behaviours you have towards yourself. Do you beat yourself up for
being wrong? Do you compare yourself to others? Are you better than
them or worse than them?


yoga prayThis behaviour will indicate to you your own samskara’s and will then
hopefully give you something to work on.

Whatever it is that you notice in your practice you need to increase
the opposite of it.
Do you need to be kinder to yourself? Do you need to relax more? Do
you need to learn humility? Do you need more self confidence? Do you
need to be less uptight? Do you need to not fear being wrong and be
happy where you are?


Yoga is balance. It works at creating balance not only in your body
but also in your mind to get you back to being who you really are.
So for me right now – perfect doesn’t make practice!

Happy practicing.

Laura Grace

Ashtanga Yoga Devon - UK Distributor for Yoga Paws

www.ashtangayogadevon.co.uk

Tags: hatha yoga, ashtanga yoga, forgiveness, laura grace ford, self discovery, yoga for transformation, Chuck Miller

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