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Moving Past the Constraints of Trauma

Moving Past the Constraints of Trauma

She’s a software sales rep turned yoga teacher, but the jump from corporate to studio pales in comparison to the jump from a self-destructive lifestyle, to a life of self-love and acceptance. Caron Christison turned full-time yoga instructor about a year ago just a few years after initially finding the practice. She decided to teach because yoga had a profound effect on her life.

Until late into her twenties, Caron believed that strength came through putting your head down and persevering no matter what issues arose. She didn’t talk about problems, she internalized them and kept going. She was really good at pretending that she was okay when she really wasn’t.

Caron experienced abuse at an incredibly young age and though she didn’t realize it at the time, has felt the backlash of neglecting and internalizing those traumatic experiences. Her awareness and acceptance are two key factors that helped her move past the constraints of trauma.

After a lot of self-destructive behavior and some painful growing years, Caron now knows that she can’t be strong from something that isn’t real. For a while, she put on a facade that she was fine. Internally she didn’t care what she was doing to her body. Somewhere deep down she felt as if she was damaged goods and never good enough anyway, so what was the point in caring? Her “strength” was based on the ability to ignore the deep seeded issues that had grown into an ugly mess of low self-esteem and poor self-image. After finding yoga and a community of acceptance and love, it became clear that what she thought were strengths were actually some of her biggest weaknesses, and they were tearing her down. 

Strength comes from a solid foundation. When you’re operating from denial your whole world can fall apart in an instant. Pretending things didn’t happen and just pushing through doesn’t work in the long run. You have to accept where you are to grow from there.

Slowly, Caron began to put her issues out on the table. She got honest with herself. In doing so, she learned a lot about her own past and began to piece together her choices and challenges with their triggers. Instead of crumbling at the site of her self-discovery, it became the release that Caron needed to start accepting and loving herself.

For Caron, understanding that what happened to her in her past had nothing to do with her was a profound realization. She began to consciously remove the weight of the abusive issues from her own shoulders and mentally and emotionally placed it where it belonged - with the person who took those actions. Once she allowed herself to be free of this weight, she started to be more forgiving of her own actions and for the way she had treated herself in subsequent years.

The absolute truth is, you are only in control of yourself. You don’t have control of what happens around you. You control the way you respond. You control the way you talk to yourself. And that’s the most empowering truth there is…if you allow that to be your perspective, you have the control.

Caron now focuses on living as her best self. She knows she has room for growth, but she no longer believes she is lacking. There’s a difference in those mindsets.

And once she started sharing with others, she discovered that she wasn’t alone. We all have the same thoughts and fears. Our experiences may be different but the core of our modes of operation are the same. As she began to acknowledge and accept her own challenges, she saw how her journey paralleled those of her colleagues and students. She now loves to find ways to help others with their own journey to self-discovery and acceptance. “Lessons are widespread. If I can help you, then of course I’m happy to share. But when I teach, it’s not about me. It’s about the students and helping them and using the lessons I’ve learned to help them get through whatever they’re dealing with.”


You can catch Caron teaching in Atlanta, GA or any number of workshops and retreats around the world. Follow her on Instagram- @caronyoga.

The Untapped Power of the Mind

The Untapped Power of the Mind

She wasn’t the strongest or the biggest, but she still brought home Olympic gold medals. Rebecca Soni may not be considered your typical Olympic swimmer. She has extreme talent, but it’s not the physical talent you usually associate with an athlete. Rebecca excels in the psychological side of competition.

I might fail…I can’t…I have to stop…I’m not good enough - these are all things we tell ourselves to psych ourselves out of achievement. They are especially prevalent in a sports competition setting. When Rebecca retired from her swimming career, she, like many other semi-professional or professional athletes, felt like she was starting from the beginning again. She began analyzing her career as a swimmer and how that might translate into a career outside of swimming. After a little soul searching she realized a unique strength she possessed that was barely addressed in any sports training program. She had a knack for understanding the mind.

The mind is an interesting thing. It can be our biggest ally or our biggest enemy. While most elite athletes have managed to use their mind in a beneficial way, many might not may not be able to articulate what that looks like and how to teach it to someone else. So Rebecca spent some time understanding what she knew about the mind based on her own experience. She began formulating ways to convey what controlling the mind looked like and how to use it to one’s benefit. Shortly thereafter, she started mentoring young athletes on building and understanding mental muscle and processes.

In 2014 fellow Olympian, Caroline Burckle, had retired from swimming and gone back to school twice to rediscover what she wanted to do as a career. She met with Rebecca that Fall and immediately found an alignment with her own passions and talents with Rebecca’s. She joined Rebecca and they created what is now known as RISE, a mentorship program for the mind.

As I listened to Rebecca and Caroline explain their program I couldn’t help but compare it to the mindfulness development most yoga practices work toward. I always tell people that I got into yoga for the physical workout, and I kept going back for all the side benefits, including mindfulness and self-discovery, that I wasn’t anticipating. No one could’ve convinced me that I would receive these benefits because I didn’t even realize it was an area where I could find growth. I didn’t see myself as having any emotional or mental “problems” to fix. I didn’t fully appreciate the proactive approach yoga takes in working toward a more fulfilling life.

Likewise, Rebecca and Caroline sometimes struggle with convincing people of the positive and proactive approach they take. Usually when we seek out professional help we have a problem we feel we cannot fix on our own. RISE wasn’t created to suggest that anyone has a problem with their minds. The former Olympians teach that learning to use our mind in an optimal way is a process. Instead of waiting for a problem to show up, they suggest becoming aware of what your mind is doing now.

I did some digging into myself after the interview with Rebecca and Caroline. I pinpointed one of my beliefs that I’ve had for a very long time- that I cannot excel in anything. I have a tendency to be good at many things, but not great at anything. And right there it seems I’ve discovered one of my own mental patterns. It’s not real. It’s a pattern that I expect of myself and therefore eventually becomes true. It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy of sorts and now that I have a better understanding of that, I can figure out how to get out of my own way.

We all have unique mental patterns. Some are good and some stunt our growth. Without knowing what these patterns are, we have little control of how they will manifest themselves in a given situation. But if you’re about to push off the blocks at a high-stakes competition, you want to know where your mind’s at and what it is going to do in the time that you’re moving through the water. And of course it doesn’t stop there. Our lives are constantly changing and so are the challenges our minds face.

Whether you’re in a mentorship program or getting on your yoga mat, mindfulness is a process that doesn’t stop. Find the tools you need to optimize your mind. You want it as your ally as often as possible. Rebecca attributes her Olympic gold medals to her mental capabilities, not her physical. If she can win a gold medal utilizing her mind, imagine what you could do if you learned to work with your mind and not against it. Your mind is the limit. Find your path to push it further.

 

Find out more about Rebecca, Caroline, and their company RISE on their website.

7 Steps to Fall in Love with Fitness

7 Steps to Fall in Love with Fitness

Krista Stryker, a.k.a. the @12MinuteAthlete, never considered herself an athlete at all. She was the scrawny kid with spaghetti arms, and unlike her siblings, lacked a knack for sports. When she moved to college she stopped being active. Just like that, she called it quits on sports, working out, and even walking. After gaining the infamous “freshman 15” and with bouts of depression creeping in, she took the advice of a family member and sought out some professional help - a personal trainer.

She credits her first three successful push-ups as the spark that led her to the fitness-filled life she leads today. But it took some creativity to get her to fall in love with her active lifestyle. She didn’t suddenly become athletic or enamored with exercise. Here are the steps that she took:

1. Hit rock bottom (or something like it).

While I don’t encourage anyone to hit rock bottom, this is often the space where we go before we allow ourselves to get motivated. The bottom line is, you have to decide for yourself that it’s time to get to work. Whatever it looks like for you, find a space for self-motivation.

2. Take the low-hanging fruit.

You need to know that you can do this. No matter who you are or what you’re working with, you can live a healthy lifestyle. Take the low-hanging fruit first to build your confidence and enthusiasm. Work toward a small goal that you can quickly achieve. Three push-ups, a fifteen minute walk, it’ll look differently for everyone. Whatever you choose, be confident you can achieve it in the first week or two of your new fitness routine. From there, find the next level you can easily reach.

3. Don’t fall into the traditional exercise trap.

Krista hates running. So guess what? Running isn’t part of her daily workout routine. Find what you actually like to do. There are so many ways to be active. It’s okay to love whatever it is that you do for exercise. In fact, it’s a hell of a lot better if you enjoy what you do. Dancing? Of course! Hiking? You bet! Binging on Netflix while you use the stair master? Why not?! Krista is a pro at taking the elements of exercise that she likes and creating her own custom workout regimen that she actually loves to do. She generally does bodyweight-only workouts on a beach and utilizes exercise bars or playground equipment when they’re available. Basically, she goes to the beach everyday. So yeah, she likes to exercise!

4. Set a fitness goal that excites you.

For me, it’s a handstand. If you have a goal that excites you, it’s easier to trick yourself into doing things you may not usually feel like doing. Though you may love a certain type of exercise, it’s still important to make sure your routine is well-rounded and hitting all major muscle groups. I don’t do a lot of strength training. But my shoulders and arms just aren’t strong enough for a handstand right now, so I’m hitting the weights and body circuits because it’s worth it every time I see even the slightest progression in my handstand practice. Maybe you’ve always wanted to do a pistol squat or there’s a dance move you’ve always wanted to nail. Whatever it may be, let it fuel you.

5. Don’t give in to how you “should be” progressing.

If you follow Krista on Instagram, you can see that she is at an incredibly high level of fitness. She works at it every day. Even so, she struggles with comparison and slow progress. It’s frustrating to work on a goal for months or even years and not have results. It’s even more frustrating when a friend or colleague attempts the same goal and gets it way before you do. It happens. Keep your head down and focus on what you need to do. Patience and persistence will pay off.

6. Know that your gender doesn’t define your fitness ability.

If you’re a woman like Krista, there are stereotypes everywhere about what fitness for a woman means and how it should look. Women can’t do pull-ups. Women need fitness just for a nice, toned butt. Lifting heavy can lead to adverse affects on your desirability from men. The list goes on. While a nice butt is a welcomed side-benefit, fitness is fitness and it looks different for everyone. Define your own goals and find a routine that you love. Your own opinion is the only influence you need.

7. Understand the consequences along with the benefits.

Most people get into fitness because they want to look good. But Krista recently had an experience where fitness literally saved her life. She and her family were in a major car accident. The doctor told her that she got through it without any severe or lasting issues because she was fit. Fitness standards to maintain a safe level of health is often reserved for those getting older in age, but the truth is, it can save any life any day.

It’s incredibly empowering to grow through fitness. It affects your entire life through elevated health and confidence. Krista chose fitness for her health and found so much more along the way. It led to a career path she loves in which she empowers others to find their elevated life through fitness too.

You can follow Krista for fitness inspiration on Instagram or on her blog. Download her app for no-excuse, quick fitness routines you can do anywhere.