Tuesday, September 6, 2016

How I Fell In Love WIth The Moon

by Courtney Brown, CSOY Alum, Aspen 2015

I'm the hyper, spazzy, have-way-more-energy than one person will ever need type of gal. Let’s just say I'm not known for being a calm, grounded person. Yoga obviously helps. My breathing practice keeps me more centered and less reactive. But I always have to try really hard to get chill out.

It will come as no surprise then that I usually gravitate towards high energy, high impact, super sweaty activities. Biking, hiking, running, rollerblading, weightlifting, excessive back flipping on trampolines, DANCING! And do hardly any of it slowly, or with much mindfulness.

I’ve spent my whole life feeding my solar, activity-loving personality to the point that my greatest challenges lie in winding down, not winding up. Yoga has helped me see and understand that while it’s OK for me to be the sun-worshiper that I am, I also need to bring more lunar qualities into my life to restore balance and promote my health and well-being. Recently, I've been seeking ways to bring more yin to my yang and discover what compliments my type A-ish overactive lifestyle and how that balance ultimately serves my relationships.

Balancing my solar personality is about more than just changing my yoga practice. I have to pump the breaks in nearly all areas of my life. I have made little shifts like breathing with more intention when I notice my breath, turning my dog walks into moving meditations, and hiking with the purpose of feeling the journey rather than focusing on the destination. Just sloooooowing down, like when I walk from my car to the grocery store. I’ve been consciously choosing different ways to interact and starting saying yes to mellow activities, even when my patterning was screaming to go hard.

Since I am a yoga teacher and fitness instructor, I’ve also considered how the type of classes I teaches impacts my own personal balance. Instead of the powerful classes full of cardio bursts I got used to teaching, I've been focusing on minimal flows, a bit of core awareness, breathing, stretching and practicing stillness. I ask my students to stay connected to their breath and practice “just letting be”.

In addition to shifting the way I teach my regular classes, I started offering a summer deep stretch class. Being in Aspen, Colorado, I know a lot of my community is out hiking and biking during the summer months. This offering is a place for my students to unwind from their activity-filled days and ease into a more parasympathetic (rest, digest and relax) state. I watch them breathe into their bellies, move gently and by the end of the practice they feel calm and focused. Observing this change in them reinspires and reminds me to practice lunar yoga as part of my own self-care.

If you are like me, and have always been attracted to extreme sports, constant activity and reaching new peaks but you know the benefit of bringing awareness to your softer, calmer and grounded side, instead of trying to make huge shifts, take the first step of making small changes. Once a week, go to that gentle, restorative or yin yoga classes as an experiment. Notice if discomfort or agitation arises at first and recognize that is habituation speaking, nothing more. It’s not you, just habits speaking up. Notice how you feel afterwards. Once in awhile, practice moving more slowly when you are walking through the world, doing your usual things. Drive a little slower or more mindfully. Say yes to being in nature in a relaxed state - like floating down a lazy river or doing a walking meditation. Lay down and look up at the tops of the trees and the sky. I can testify that breathing slowly and deeply is magical and that calm is possible even for the most energetic humans.

Courtney Brown is full of energy and has no problem finding new ways to channel it in her current home, Aspen, CO. She has a B.A. in Fine Arts from the University of Colorado and a Master's in Childhood Education from Bank Street College. Her degrees have helped her as a classroom teacher as well as a yoga teacher. She is certified in Karma Kids Yoga, Vinyasa Flow from the Colorado School of Yoga, Yoga Mom Buddha Baby, and Cardio Pilates.