Archive for July, 2014

How Yoga Will Keep Your Heart Open

by Lori Mancini in Uncategorized with No Comments

Dave Ursillo (RYT-200) teaches Mondays at 6:30 PM and Tuesdays at 12:15 PM at Laughing Elephant Yoga.

First, life breaks you.

That’s just what happens.

We meet suffering through loss, trauma and shit that we never really deserved. We get our hearts broken.

We put the pieces back together. We fight on.

That’s how I learned about heartbreak. I never had a really rough life, but as I often say, suffering is not a competition. Each of us experiences our own suffering in our own ways. Even if we compare one heartbreak or loss to another, not one ounce of suffering can ever be compared to another’s. My heartbreak might be your stubbed toe. It’s always a matter of perspective.

Before I found yoga, my “ounces of suffering” included deep-seeded questions on the meaning of life, youthful heartbreaks and a quarter-life crisis of identity that spun me into a depression. That depression inspired me to quit my job and abandon my career altogether. I had been working at the Rhode Island State House and ought to have been enjoying a promising young career. But I was suffering. And my body told me the rest of the story.

Spun into mild depression and occasional anxiety attacks, I came to realize that my head, heart and soul were speaking to me in union, saying, “This is not your way. Not your path. Not your purpose.”

In yoga we might say that I was not living my dharma.

I left my career in 2009 to become an author. Five years later, I have four books under my belt and have been published in five others. I travel to teach writing and creativity workshops and have worked with more than 80 artists and entrepreneurs to help them cultivate confidence and creative energy around their goals and dreams. But I’m not sure I’d be where I am today if I hadn’t taken up yoga nearly three years ago.

I came to yoga to find strength within my own body. I wanted to experience community. I wanted to deepen my connection to spirituality and have a personal practice that, much like my writing, empowered me to cultivate the sense of self-awareness that is so crucial to living well.

In the last year, I’ve discovered a new purpose for yoga.

I believe that we each are meant to live, breathe, speak, work and create from a state of being so openly loving, compassionate, understanding and forgiving that we might as well imagine it like we’re living with our hearts torn wide open. I call it “heart-opening.” Not heart-break, but heart-open.

Sometimes the two feel one in the same. But pain is not just pain, and suffering is not just suffering. Every person who I’ve ever known has had critical moments of heart-break, loss, pain and suffering that have completely transformed them from who they once were to who they now are. They were reborn by the flame and emerged tattered and torn, but suddenly carrying incredible and unapologetic senses of presence, self and truth with them.

I’m not sure how and when it happens, but I believe that for all of the “breaking” and suffering we might endure in our lives, it all serves a purpose: to break our hearts open, and so we begin to live from a place of love that is vulnerable, raw and remarkably liberated.

When you live heart-open, you live true to yourself, your desires and your life’s purpose.

But wouldn’t that mean that we’d have to have for horrible things to happen to us to live from such a place of loving kindness?

No.

Instead, we can turn to daily practices like yoga that help us break ourselves open to a state of self, truth, presence and community.

Yoga is an experience of self, and it is one way to pursue the feeling of total unity or universal “yoking” through asana (physical poses), pranayama (breath retention), and other yoga-based practices. We take the time to do yoga and to “live” our yoga to reconnect with the universality that we’re all connected to, but often forget.

We feel heart-open upon the mat when our favorite teacher comes by and gives us a helping hand to deepen our physical expressions. We feel it in hugs at the door, running jokes with yoga-mat neighbors and in that beautiful song that vibrates through us during savasana.

When we go to yoga, we go to break ourselves open. Heart-open.

There, immersed equally in sweat and our true selves, we peel worries, fears and hesitations away from our chests to bear a scary but resolute determination to love, to be our best selves, and to better the lives of those around us in some way, shape or form.

Life starts by breaking you. That’s how we meet suffering for the first time. At some point, we may be lucky enough to experience what it’s like to emerge from the flames with our hearts not broken, but open.

On any given day, yoga is one way that we can “break ourselves open” to a state of love that we can experience again and again. It takes sweat, being “seen” or feeling a bit  vulnerable, and looking hard at yourself in the mirror. Those can be pretty tough. But when we’re on the mat, we can tap a source of love that’s within, without having to endure pain or sorrow.

When you choose to live heart-open, you may well choose to leave “heart-broken” behind, altogether.

Dave Ursillo (RYT-200) teaches Mondays at 6:30 PM and Tuesdays at 12:15 PM at Laughing Elephant Yoga.

The Power of the Porch

The front porch.

It’s the welcoming threshold into our home. The porch is a magical gathering place where we learn, socialize, celebrate, mourn, reflect, observe, confide, and just hang out.

Front porches stir memories from childhood. I grew up in Knightsville, an Italian neighborhood in Cranston, and it seemed like everyone had a porch. And not only did they have a porch, they practically lived on it during the summer and early Fall.  I asked my Dad about it and he said years ago, before tv, everybody sat out on their porch. It was their entertainment and a voyeuristic glance around their particular corner of the world.  “You would see your neighbors as they walked by to go get ice cream or some treat, wave a warm hello and sometimes stop and chat.”

I fondly remember my childhood porch; it was the gathering place for family and friends on summer nights. We raced home to make curfew and then plopped down, telling outlandish tales of the day to make ourselves laugh. You’d never know who’d show up to visit, and better yet, bring something sweet.

Laughing Elephant has a porch too. A big and breezy one with adirondacks haphazardly arranged, remnants of the last conversations that took place here. It was the selling point for us; we knew it would be an ideal gathering spot for our community and we were right. Students come early and stay late to sprawl on the steps and watch others mastering  handstands in the front yard.  The porch just draws you in, the perfect spot to savor a moment, to just be in the moment.

The front porch is like a yoga class. It’s home. It’s where we come to learn, socialize, celebrate, mourn, reflect, observe, confide  and sometimes just hang out.

Need a reminder of the magic of the front porch? Or a reminder of how wonderful yoga is? Please come and experience both at Laughing Elephant.