Posts Tagged ‘yoga’

Blessed Are The Flexible For They Shall Never Be Bent Out of Shape.

My whole life is based on movement.

I crisscross the country as a sports producer for ESPN,  joining my merry band of tv misfits along the road to creative brilliance.

I also co-own a yoga studio in East Greenwich, RI, a way station for souls who come for the physical  and stay for the spiritual and community acceptance.

So what happens when that movement comes to a grinding halt? When you have to find other ways to be flexible?

In March 2014 I was slowly coming off the road and got sick. Like strep throat and mono sick. Like I’m so sick and tired I can’t move sick. And then I couldn’t raise my left arm.  Countless tests, doctors appointments, PT appointments later and no one could figure out what was wrong with me. Until I went to the neurologist, who diagnosed a brachioplexus injury brought on by the mono. Apparently mono, an autoimmune illness, can attack nerves. Recovery time?  Two years. Two. Years. Try lugging a bag of heavy tapes cross country with the use of one arm. Or try to chattarunga when you have no feeling in your left arm and you collapse on the way down. My best friend is an amazing yogi and my favorite teacher, and she listened and lovingly argued with me as I struggled with not being…enough.

What. The. Freak.

I was mortified when I was asked to be a Lululemon ambassador; crap, I couldn’t do anything; how could I represent!  I hid when I went to the NYC Yoga Journal Conference and took Seane Corn’s class.  I love this woman and was embarrassed by my clumsiness.  I would fall off my bike…ALOT…  because I couldn’t hold onto the handle bars tightly and it would throw off my balance.  I refused to give in to any of it.  I would lie on my mat every Tuesday night in my friend Sharon’s class. I would do some sun salutations and then, exhausted, lay down and silently cry. Rivers of tears. God love my friend who was so encouraging and let me just soak it all in from corpse pose, appropriate because I felt like death most of the time. I did this for months. And over time, I slowly gave in. I put my beloved bike away, rolled out my mat, and leaned into the stiffness, stillness, numbness, the quiet, and the not knowing.

And that’s where the magic began.  The tiredness started to ease, and while my arm remained numb and wouldn’t move, my lower body could. When I realized I didn’t have to be perfect, I could be good. Enough. And it was enough. So I modified. And modified. And modified. My legs got strong and by focusing on the things I could do as opposed to the things I couldn’t, I became more flexible. Also, within the movement, I prayed. Really hard. I dove into my reliable Catholic standards of Hail Mary’s, Our Father’s and Acts of Contritions. And I threw in my favorite Hindu chant for good measure: Om Gum Ganapatayei Namaha. Ganesha, my hOMe boy, is the remover of obstacles and the bringer of new beginnings. I used it all. It became a body prayer. I started to peel away the layers and removed those things that no longer served me. And I became me again. I realized it was okay to be vulnerable and to rely on others. And I didn’t always have to live up to the ESPN producer/yoga studio owner/yoga teacher persona.  I became strong again, in different ways.  I didn’t have to be perfect. I could be good. And it was enough.

Almost two years later, I have regained 85% of the movement in my arm, but it’s still numb.  It’s also a reminder of how far I’ve come.

When there is no struggle, there is no strength. Amen.


BreaktheRules is a month-long, community driven Instagram/Facebook campaign, open to the Laughing Elephant Community and beyond. Participants will showcase their uniqueness and beauty by breaking rules, conventions and social mores through photos.

Why has this happened? Because at Laughing Elephant Yoga we believe in more than the asana. We believe in the creativity of the individual.

Laughing Elephant is first and foremost a community, who cherishes its members, and strictly upholds values. With that in mind, we’re going out on a limb, and saying that the yoga is secondary.  While we truly value the meaning of yoga (‘to yoke’, to bring together), it’s always been more about the people, and what we can do to become stronger. While we love yoga, we love our peeps more.

We want to help you bring your true self to the forefront.

That’s why we are starting a campaign on May 1st.


By being you.  We are going to give you key word every day in the month of May, and we want you to show us what they represent to you. Post your photos on Instagram or Facebook. Use the hashtags #laughingelephantusa and #BreaktherUles . Or send them to lori@laughingelephantyoga and we will make sure they get seen.

Get creative.

Get involved.

B U.








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?


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.