Pleasure as Medicine ~ you deserve it!

My teacher Ana is in town, and that means early mornings.  In the Forrest Yoga community, early gets a whole different meaning.  While I may be moaning as I set my alarm for 5am, I know it’s nothing compared to Ana and her assistants who will rise and practice at 3am every day for the next month.  The ethics of Forrest Yoga are such that teachers are encouraged to practice the sequence before teaching it so that the language and cues themselves can arise from the intelligence of the body and not just the cognitive brain.  Crazy cool, huh?  Talk about integrity!

lesson 1: pleasure as medicine

Today Ana taught what I would endearingly refer to as a trigger heavy practice, meaning we went through pose after pose where I wanted to scream and jump out of my body.  {Sound familiar?} We’re talking deep lunges, abdominals, lying over a roll... all these poses that get deep into the core, psoas and thigh muscles -the parts of the body that hold onto trauma and store difficult emotions.  Needless to say I was crying within the first 20 mins of class.  Luckily, in Forrest Yoga, we celebrate tears as the “gift of the practice",  so I let them flow.

The intent for the class today was Playing on the Ecstatic Spectrum.  An interesting premise for such a triggering sequence.  Ana cued us to tap into our pleasure and notice what about each moment was delightful.  Now, if you are anything like me, you might be deep in a lunge, wishing that you could be anywhere but inside your body, thinking, “what the hell is ecstatic about this?” My inner judge goes into colorful variations on the “you’re not good enough” theme.  When this voice is firing, my access to the ecstatic spectrum is basically blocked off.  

> Step 1: Catch and clear out mean thoughts that are keeping you from feeling pleasure

My inner critic did a great job of making me miserable at first.  Then, at some point near the end, I became so fatigued that my brain gave up.  The firm grip I had around all my precious judgments about myself began to melt.  This brain-melting is another gift of the practice. I was feeling so deliriously tired that my defenses were no longer strong and I was beginning to breathe and feel pleasure in the poses. It guided me into feeling mode, into the present moment, the place where healing happens.  I melted into the pleasure zone.

The pleasure zone is a place where external circumstances don't matter as much.  Contrary to popular belief, it is not a place we get to as a reward once we can touch our toes or fit into the perfect pair of yoga pants.  The pleasure zone is where each sensation becomes ALIVE with wonder and magic.  Even the burning of my thigh muscles in warrior two can become a deeply pleasurable experience when I am in the "zone".  I am no longer judging the pose by its external form, or my body by what it can and can't do.  I am celebrating the stretching, tingling and heat swirling around in my body as signs of my own aliveness!  Tracking this can be immensely pleasurable.  And much more fun than trying to be perfect.  

 > Step 2: Fill up your body with pleasurable sensations & make the internal shift on purpose!

Pleasure is a physical shift that you can turn on in your body on purpose.  Once you are in the pleasure"zone" you can run this feeling of pleasure through your body and invite it to heal up all of the pain.  Its like a big bowl of chocolate ice cream for your body and spirit.  No spoonful of sugar needed to help it go down.  There's no medicine like it.

Are you excited to turn on the fountain of pleasure in your own body?  It can be as simple as taking a deep breath.  Try this 3 minute exercise, Sivananda Breath, and let the pleasure party begin! 

  • Sit or stand comfortably tall

  • Feel your feet on the floor

  • Draw in a deep, smooth breath that rises through your core

  • Hold the breath at the top of the inhale for as long as is interesting

  • Slowly exhale until you are empty of breath

  • Repeat 3 times

  • Notice if you perceive any shift in your energy.  Do you feel more calm, more energized, more centered?  

  • Repeat this cycle getting curious about how much pleasure you can cultivate with each breath.  Invite the pleasurable sensations to grow bigger and spread throughout your core

What are your practices for cultivating more pleasure and putting your critic in check?  I’d love to hear from you!