Allie Middleton, JD LCSW E-RYT C-IAYT on Moving From Me to We

In an old and favorite verse from thousands of years ago, the author of the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad IV.4.5, considers this:

You are what your deep, driving desire is.
As your desire is, so is your will.
As your will is, so is your deed.
As your deed is, so is your destiny.

And yet, as we all wonder about the future now, shall we ask each other this next question, “What is OUR collective desire and what shall OUR collective deeds create now?

In my experience over decades as a systems change catalyst and leadership coach, I’ve had the privilege of helping many individuals and teams develop new strategies for high level impact. Whether in business, healthcare or communities, one of my initial questions is, “Who are we really, and what is our work?

Today, this creative inquiry is alive in many contexts as we need to spark healthy ways to co-initiate collective sustainable changes for the sake of global health and wellbeing. How do we compassionately harmonize our minds, hearts and wills for the sake of the planet and others? Or “What is this moving from ME to WE dance all about, and how does sharing our stories help us now?

As the lives of the global yoga innovators reveal in my new book, Yoga Radicals: A Curated Set of Inspiring Stories from Pioneers in the Field, this awareness for the need for change is happening for people around the world on many levels simultaneously: physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. Their perspectives reflect an opening toward something new, a creative offer that has social impact and provides community healing.

How might we inspire others with creative heart-felt ways to experience and understand this epochal move from ME consciousness, (focus on myself), to WE consciousness, (focus on my community, country and planet)?

Telling our stories is the starting place, as we learn to listen more deeply into the universal (and eternal) creative life force that emerges and encourages well-being for all. Accessing our collective awareness and moving together consciously to create sustainable changes at all levels of organization is essential now.

Like other practitioners in these changing times, I am learning to adapt to the complex personal and planetary issues with curiosity, compassion and courage. At the 2018 International Association of Yoga Therapists Conference I was privileged to co-initiate the inaugural community interest session on Social Activism & Community Healing. At the invitation of Matthew J. Taylor, we convened our session using a Presencing Approach, an interview process combining Joseph Campbell’s hero(ines) journey and an awareness-based prototyping model from the Presencing Institute at MIT. This birthed the interest for a deeper and more expansive exploration.

And now, as I type this, I remember myself in the winter of 2020, commissioned by Singing Dragon Press, to write a book to bring this idea forth! The intention of the book, Yoga Radicals, is to offer a portal of potential for the emerging embodiment community by highlighting some stories and projects that emerged from yoga innovators who have traveled the path of moving from ME to WE. Alas, there are so many more stories to hear we have yet to hear. So little time……

What I learned from each of their stories is that after deep commitment to years of personal practice, something else demanded a listening into the emerging future, a finding of new ways to invoke shifts in their (and now our) deepest hearts’ desires.

We were all in full lockdown mode as I conducted the 36 interviews with these special yoga innovators. The stories of these amazing individuals vibrate at the heart of the Yoga Radicals book. I am so grateful to have had such a deep engagement with each person at such an important time; each working in unique ways to establish the yoga therapy professional space, each offering more embodiment in their personal lives and professional communities. I hope you and many others will enjoy and be inspired by their stories too.

Ancient wisdom traditions from all over the planet remind us that we are all connected, that these practices and an Embodied Presence, or being grounded and at home in our bodies, might enlighten us. Embodiment practices are particularly urgent now as our mother planet earth demands that we learn the dance steps of Reciprocity and Love. The stories from the Yoga Radicals in the book do just that, sharing how each yoga innovator moved from a ‘me’ consciousness to a ‘we’ consciousness. These amazing brave souls share how they created a community healing or social impact project as a result of their long-term yoga and other embodied practices as leaders. I hope the interview process and journey we took together will support others to access to their deepest heart’s intelligence, a true connection between awareness, creativity and action.

An example of this Presencing Approach is to ask now, “It seems we have been initiated into a new future and a new life in these last 18 months, I wonder how you feel a deeper sense of being related to others across time and space? Without physical travel, we’ve had to rely on our other human capacities to stay tuned to our hearts’ desires; even as we navigate this new time together. We have landed in communities of kindreds, in places and spaces where our best dreams of a shared future can emerge. We’re being called forward into a new story. How can we make it a creative one, supporting as many others as we are able in our endeavors to stay healthy and well and safe? How do we embody emergence?

I sometimes simply call this making peace time”, especially when I’m embodying a practice while working with a client, teaching or facilitating a group. I’m finding myself immersed in love now for decades, blessed with a serious leadership coaching practice and capacity to heal in relationship with others. My next book will tell the tale of how my listening at deeper levels has always been the main inspiration for these practices.  For now, I invite you to enjoy these diverse and creative tales that emerged in the hour-long interviews and are now condensed into essential narratives that express how each Yoga Radical followed their own path from ME to WE. May it inspire you to do the same.

In Yoga Radicals, the questions that I’ve asked these amazing pioneers are questions that I live throughout my life, constantly speaking into the future and asking for guidance. When did you learn to trust your creativity and imagination enough to help you through a tough spot? When did you find a special friend who gave you solace in the middle of a storm, as you were on your path of life?

The stories in the book surprise me still and more importantly, now the memory of the deep embodied connections felt in each interview make my heart sing. I hope that readers find their amazing songs inspiring and a way to listen and play with the unending force of creativity and love, which we desperately need on the planet now. Embodying creativity and initiating positive emergence is what we all need now.

Allie Middletons latest book Yoga Radicals: A Curated Set of Inspirational Stories of Transformational Yoga by Pioneers in the Field, was published by Singing Dragon on August 19th featuring inspirational pioneers of yoga, from those with ancient lineage in traditional yoga to innovators in western yoga practice. Click here to purchase a copy.

Andrew McGonigle: 5 Reasons Why Lotus Might Not be for Your Hip

Andrew McGonigle has been studying anatomy for over twenty years, originally training to become a doctor and then moving away from Western medicine to become a yoga teacher, massage therapist and anatomy teacher. He combines all of his skills and experience to teach anatomy and physiology on Yoga Teacher Training courses internationally and runs his own online Anatomy and Physiology Applied to Yoga courses. His new book, Supporting Yoga Students with Common Injuries and Conditions, is out now. In this article, using our hip joints as an example, Andrew explains why yoga practice and what feels comfortable varies for each of us.

Have you ever wondered why certain yoga postures can feel so easeful in your body while others can feel like such a challenge?

Or why one person can sit cross-legged for hours having never practiced yoga and you still need to sit on four cushions after practicing yoga for years?

The short answer to this is that every body is entirely unique and will express a certain yoga pose in a completely unique way. There are also emotional, psychological and nervous system components that affect how much movement our joints make and the quality of that movement.

Let’s explore some of these factors using our hip joints as an example. Continue reading

Thank you for attending our Virtual Yoga Summit!

The team at Singing Dragon would like to thank everyone who signed up, read, watched, listened or interacted with our first ever Virtual Yoga Summit. We believe that yoga really is for every body and we hope we managed to embrace that in this summit, putting a strong focus on accessibility, body positivity, empowerment and on yoga’s ‘whole person’ approach. Continue reading

Georgia Keal: Guided Meditation for Reducing Anxiety – Day Two

This guided meditation helps with reducing anxiety by releasing deep held tension that is created when we get anxious and our body tenses. It does this by shifting the energy from a anxious state to a relaxed one, using guided imagery of the chakras with a compassionate attention, using a focus of loving kindness towards the self. This meditation creates a deep sense of relaxation and reduces held tension to bring about a sense of inner peace and calm.


The Guided Meditation Handbook
Advice, Meditation Scripts and Hasta Mudra for Yoga Teachers
Georgia Keal

Help yoga students to access a deep state of relaxation with this guided meditation handbook. Offering yoga teachers scripts for guided meditations, students can learn how to cultivate positive emotions and let go of negative ones. Including practical information on how to set the scene for meditation in a yoga class, using music, lighting and props, the book also advises on how to introduce a meditation practice to yoga students. It explores the benefits of meditation for people from all walks of life, including sleep-deprived parents and those suffering from post-traumatic stress. Read more

 

Marlysa Sullivan: A meditation practice of inner well-being

Marlysa Sullivan is an assistant professor of Yoga Therapy and Integrative Health Sciences at Maryland University of Integrative Health. She is also adjunct faculty at Emory University in the doctor of physical therapy where she teaches an elective on integrating yoga into physical therapy care. Her research interests have focused on developing an explanatory model of yoga therapy based on philosophical and neurophysiological principles. She is the co-editor of the book Yoga and Science in Pain Care: Treating the Person in Pain (Singing Dragon, 2019).

In this video, Marlysa guides viewers through a meditation practice for inner well-being.

 


 Yoga and Science in Pain Care
Treating the Person in Pain
Edited by Neil Pearson, Shelly Prosko and Marlysa Sullivan. Foreword by Timothy McCall.

This is an integrated approach to pain rehabilitation that combines pain science, rehabilitation and yoga with evidence-based approaches from respected contributors. The book shows how to integrate the practices of yoga and pain science, and promotes the movement to a patient-valued, partnership-based biopsychosocial-spiritual model of healthcare. Read more

Neil Pearson: Informing the Language of Yoga Teachers with Pain Science

Language is powerful, as is pain. Both can be forceful motivators of behavioural change. Spoken language can be interpreted in many ways. Sometimes we even question whether words mean what we think they mean. Pain can be the same. We wonder whether pain really is intended to “get us to stop or change our behaviour”. We might also wonder “exactly what is it that I am supposed to change? Maybe the change I need to make is to stop responding this way to my pain!”

As a yoga teacher, leading groups in asana requires instructions that will keep your students safe. As such, cognitive contemplations such as the above are not well-suited as part of an asana practice dialogue. We use language that guides our students to be aware of what is happening in the present moment. We guide them to find the right challenge so they can explore preconceived notions, all the while staying present with, and not ignoring what’s happening now. We use language that provides options for change. “What would happen if you changed the way you are breathing right now?” “Or what you are thinking?” “Or if you let go of some of the aversion to the emotions or tension that you are feeling in your body right now?” In other words, we use language that encourages awareness and language that encourages self-regulation – often of body, breath, thoughts and emotions. Note that this language of awareness is not the same as asking a student to be aware “as the first step to change”. This is language that focuses on awareness as important in and of itself. Continue reading

Aggie Stewart: The Essence of Self

We are very sorry that our last live contributor, Aggie Stewart, won’t be able to share her live session with you today. We wish her the very best and hope she feels better soon! To ensure that she is still part of the Summit, we share a short extract from Aggie’s new book, ‘Yoga as Self-Care for Healthcare Practitioners‘. We do hope you enjoy it.

 

Self-care is never a selfish act—it is simply good stewardship of the only gift I have, the gift I was put on earth to offer others. Anytime we can listen to true self and give the care it requires, we do it not only for ourselves, but for the many others whose lives we touch.

Parker J. Palmer

 

This is a challenging time to be a healthcare professional. Whether in education and clinical training or in professional practice, major aspects of the healthcare education and delivery landscape present inherent and well‑documented risks to the health and well-being of students and practitioners.

Currently, the effects of the epidemic of burnout and self-harm, blunted empathy, compassion fatigue, absenteeism, and attrition are being felt across the health professions. Research into the factors underlying the current state of practitioner wellness indicates that, for many, signs of burnout and its related consequences emerge during the education and training period and go unattended as graduates step into professional life.

As the healthcare professions grapple with the range of environmental and cultural issues that contribute to the current state of practitioner wellness, self-care has emerged as a pressing need for both students and practitioners. Broadly defined, self-care encompasses the ability to recognize and respond in an appropriate and positive manner to one’s needs on all levels: physical, energetic, mental, emotional, and spiritual. Increasingly, health professional schools, healthcare settings, and health professional associations are providing education on the importance of self‑care on all these levels along with training on specific aspects of selfcare, such as diet, exercise, finances, and activities that support self-care, such as yoga and other mind–body–spirit practices. Continue reading

Lana Skrypnyk: Creating a Safe Space for the LGBTQ+Community

As I write this, hate crimes against the LGBTQ+ community are at their highest. A poll indicates that two-thirds of people identifying as LGBTQ+ are afraid for their safety when holding hands or displaying affection for their partners in public. 59% of all of those identifying as LGBTQ+ and 81% of those who are transgender report being called a slur in reference to their sexual and/or gender identity in the past year.

As I write this, I myself stand at a cross-roads of intersectionality. As a naturalized citizen immigrant, queer-identifying individual with several invisible disabilities, I have been afraid and anxious since 2016. I am also someone who suffers from mental health issues, including complex PTSD, and someone occupying a larger body than society deems “acceptable”. I have not always had the means to access healing spaces – such as the one that yoga can provide – for a variety of reasons, with cost and lack of representation by people looking like me at the top of the list. Unfortunately, with the Westernization of yoga and its cooptation by the fitness industry, high-end studio fees, expensive athletic clothing and equipment, and traditionally attractive, young, flexible white women on Instagram have become the norm associated with yoga. By sheer luck, I was able to get a Groupon deal to a local yoga studio that provided both diversity and a space where I felt safe enough to explore. I fell in love with yoga and decided I wanted to become a teacher in that very first class. For the first time in weeks, if not in my entire life, I was able to get out of my head for an hour, drop the persona so many of us who identify as LGBTQ+ or are “other” in some way have to keep up during the day, and just be. I wanted to provide the same experience to others like me. Continue reading

Sian O’Neill: An Inclusive Live Class – Head to our Facebook Page Now!

Believing in its transformational power, Sian has been practising yoga for over 15 years. She completed the British Wheel of Yoga (BWY) accredited teacher training diploma with Yogacampus and also the BWY Ayurvedic Yoga Therapy module with Tarik Dervish, the Scaravelli Immersion course with Catherine Annis and the Qigong for Yoga Teachers Immersion with Mimi Kuo-Deemer.

Sian teaches a flowing hatha yoga class incorporating alignment, a mindful flow and breath awareness, aiming to help students on their own path of yoga. She is a regular contributor of yoga-related articles, including to Spectrum magazine, the official magazine of the BWY. She is the editor of the Yoga Teaching Handbook (Singing Dragon, 2017) and the new Yoga Student Handbook (Singing Dragon, 2019).

CLICK HERE TO JOIN A LIVE CLASS WITH SIAN NOW

Please note that while our summit is open to absolutely everyone from all corners of the world, despite our best efforts we won’t be able to ensure safe, comfortable practice for every attendee nor take responsibility for your own practice. If you have any injuries or are dealing with any conditions that you would normally flag to your yoga teacher or therapist, please seek advice before taking part or following along with any of our classes or sequences.


 Yoga Student Handbook
Develop Your Knowledge of Yoga Principles and Practice
Edited by Sian O’Neill. Foreword by Lizzie Lasater

This practical companion for yoga students and teacher trainees shows how to deepen your knowledge of yoga and where to go next in your training, whether you are thinking of developing your own practice or considering becoming a yoga teacher. It covers the history, philosophy, different styles of yoga, and more. Read more

Matthew J. Taylor: Be An Inclusive Genius

 

Matthew J. Taylor, PT, PhD, C-IAYT is a yoga safety expert, advisor to and past president of the International Association of Yoga Therapists, Accessible Yoga board member, and a yoga policy consultant. He directs SmartSafeYoga.com and authored the book Yoga Therapy as a Creative Response to Pain (Singing Dragon, 2018), as well as over 40 other publications.

In this video, Matt provides some practical information and tips on keeping yoga teaching simple and efficient, while remaining inclusive towards all students.

 


Yoga Therapy as a Creative Response to Pain
Matthew J. Taylor. Foreword by John Kepner

A guide that supports yoga therapists in creating a programme of care for those living with chronic pain, through bringing pain science, creativity and yoga together for the first time. It provides the skills and knowledge to create an environment that restores hope and meaning as well as practical guidance. Read more