This week we are so lucky to have the wonderful Krystal Young. I met Krystal years ago living in Arcata, and even had the pleasure of attending her super fun wedding in the redwoods and on the beach to her beloved, Alex! It has been a pleasure to know her and watch her grow into partnership, into motherhood, into herself. I feel lucky to have her as a friend, and blessed that she wanted to write a post for me/you on how movement has changed and continues to shape her life. She shares so openly about her experience and how it lead to where she is. I’m grateful for her vulnerability and choice to share these things with us. She’s an inspiration to me, as I’m sure she will be to you as well!
At the end of the post is an amazing video to gently get your energy flowing! It’s totally accessible for all folks, and you need nothing more than a device to watch it on and some sitting space.
Grab a cup of tea and enjoy…
Here is a bit about my experience and then on to the juice inside Yoga and Dance.
HI! I’m Krystal ,
I live yoga and dance. Or yoga and dance lives through me. What I mean to say is, when I’m not spending time with my sweet toddler, cleaning, or resting, I’m moving psychically or contemplating the movement inside of me. Hear me again, I REST. Oh, Goddess, I’m like reeeeally good at resting. But I’m also good at being consumed by movement, and the moments are really bright when I’m playing Dancer and Mother in unison. My life is dedicated to this passion. It’s an obsession. Fortunately, and contrary to the opinion of some (including my inner critic), it’s more than a compulsion for being the best, and it’s is not actually an attempt to leave the “real” world. On the contrary, movement has given my life attention-demanding flavor. Truly, at its root, my fixation on movement is an ever expanding love-affair with ecstatic joy.
I wanted to tell you a little about my experience because I think it can help you see something remarkable. Push through, the sad part is temporary. I grew up quickly through abuse, and I lived aggressively my entire adolescence. I attached my anger to my identity, and I fought through both separation and love. I was abusive both physically and emotionally to myself and to those that I truly cared about. I was institutionalized and drugged. I blamed myself, I believed I was a monster. I identified with my depression and victimization, I was addicted to misery. I did not know how to evoke joy.
And it was no different after I gave birth to my daughter. I was overweight (“as usual” said my defeated brain), depressed, angry, scared, regretful. I felt moments of magic, of course, but I could not easily touch joy. I was much more well-rehearsed in negativity and suffering. I mean, I had been unhappy for most of my life mostly due to circumstances completely out of my control. But I now had serious responsibilities as a Mother. I began to really struggle to regain some sense of control for my daughter’s sake; I was kind of a mess. Fortunately one of the tactics I used to catch my breath was putting her in child care for an hour at a time at the local gym. I really just wanted some space to think. I did not recognize myself in the mirror. I really didn’t know who I was anymore. I let my daughter find her courage in the gym’s childcare while I began attending dance and stretching-based group classes. This is where I eventually found a way to consistently contact my joy. I dropped my daughter off and went to the same class, same room, same spot, same days of the week. I couldn’t dwell on my regrets, I was too busy focusing on demanding poses, often questioning the teacher and my survival. Eventually, once I acclimated, I began focusing less on the difficulty of the exercise, and, with closed eyes, I instead began to bathe in the joyful energy pulsing inside of me. I realized that I had never spent time with myself in this way, and all of the free time I had before having my daughter (so much) was spent trying to be with and impress other people. I was living mainly externally. Suddenly my mind was blissfully unaware of anything other than the life inside of me. Let me be clear, I really valued that free time as a new mother, so I showed up to the gym because it meant more me time. The more I showed up, the more I wanted to take it further. And when I decided to push myself into a more difficult class, my muscles would hurt and I would get pissed and curse the teacher under my breath, and I thought about walking out in spite of her, but never once did I regret her challenge by the end of class. I just showed up to practice, and through practice it became easy. Eventually, it became difficult to stop. And the joy that keeps coming up randomly throughout my movement, the kind of joy that brings a lightness and a swelling of something inside so sparkly and full... that joy, like anything could, became a habit. And the habit of joy is not limited to my mat, it permeates my entire being wherever I go.
This joy that comes from my heart space has become my life’s dedication, and so within that same year I took a 200 hour Yoga Teacher Training, changed my college major to Dance (no background in this field whatsoever), and as soon as I completed my 200 hours I began teaching the medicine that is movement. I no longer identify with my anger, depression, or unskillful coping mechanisms. I choose to be better. And my relationship with joy is ever reaching new peaks and depths into which I passionately project myself.
- YOGA -
Because I started from a place of disadvantage (not an athletic kid, you guys), I’m a huge advocate for “practice,” which can look an infinite number of ways. We practice every single moment of every single day, just the focus of our practice changes, and maybe the intention varies. Maybe you’ve also heard that realistically skills are well-rehearsed through a long road of failures, and not innate. Life skills are no different. Right now, in this moment, you are practicing being human (hopefully we get better at this with age, but not always). Yoga is where we practice handling the challenges that come with being human. Yoga is where we get real specific and practice living life with intention.
Yoga is a practice of disciplining the body, but not just your physical body, additionally your mental, emotional, and spiritual body. Hello, self love! Our bodies need and crave stability! We practice this discipline with intense focus for a short time so that we grow the habit and carry our virtues around the clock. It looks like this: in a typical Yoga session, whether that’s twenty minutes or two hours, we bring our awareness to the inner workings of the body. We “simply” try to take a breath with each movement, usually a stretch, while focusing the subtleties of the body, as opposed to random musings of the mind. Inhaling on the expansion, exhaling on the contraction. This can be like going on a trip, because our inner body is a vast and expansive world full of life and essence. A place so many of us ignore, including myself. And on each trip one can discover new sights, sounds, feelings, emotions (including joy!).
Movement is a part of the practice of yoga for good reason, as movement stirs prana, or your life force. This prana is the essence of joy! By moving the body, you are moving the prana, chi or energy around inside of yourself, creating a sensation that demands your focus! This prana naturally moves to your own personal rhythm, but it also syncs up with the energy around you, connecting you to the great oneness, or universal heartbeat, that we all share. The feeling of this universal rhythm is pure, consequence-free bliss! The joy and lightness you seek, that we all share but easily forget or grow stranger to, is always present, and can be found my moving into the body. What lives inside of me, and each of us, is infinite joy and boundless compassion. It is said that our suffering arises out of the illusion of separation. If Yoga promises the remembrance of oneness, you can see how suffering is diminished and joy is enhanced. Connecting breath to movement allows the yogi to connect to the universal life force that is ecstatic joy!
Your Yoga practice need not be hot and rigorous to be effective. Truly you will receive many of the same benefits for the subtle bodies if you just stretch with breath. I have included a video below as an example of twenty minute morning practice for beginners. If you are new to movement, and feel ready for more than light stretching, though I think stretching is a morning ritual that should last a lifetime, I highly recommend dance!
- DANCE -
Quick, what comes to mind when you think of “dancing?” It’s likely to be something completely different than what comes to my mind, which is typically myself alone, half-naked, dimmed lights, weird music, crawling around on the floor. And this is completely different from the communal celebration many indigenous cultures would imagine. Western world has such an interesting take on Dance, from ballet to jazz to breakdancing to mosh pits or stripping! And while it is a damn beautiful thing that we are able to freely express our bodies through this artform without legal repercussions. I believe that Western culture has taken more subtle approaches to limiting expression of the body, of limiting joy. In America, we see the aggressively rigid dance instructor trope teaching painful choreography around the clock to exhausted dancers. The dance is formulated and controlled. As a 10 year old I was told by one that I was “too old” to dance. The narrative is that the title “dancer” is only given to those that have trained competitively their entire lives (and their bodies are clearly paying the price for such rigorous discipline). This is a fallacy. Anyone can evoke the dancer inside, and he or she need not be controlled by external forces. In other words, you need not be trained in dance from birth in order to be a Dancer. In fact, you need not be trained at ALL to be a dancer. Additionally, your body need not be punished by dance, because when used properly, dance is medicine!
I believe, within each of our hearts, lives a dancer. Do you not feel emotions? Do you not have a body? Can you move the energy in your body? You have it all, you may have simply forgotten the connection. Start with a finger, maybe a wiggle. Move up the arm and add the body! Limited mobility? If you can move a single limb (even a finger), you can move into your own modified dance! Moving with your own heart, I advocate improvised ecstatic or creative dance, which looks like turning on some music and letting your body move in whatever form comes to the surface. If you are completely in the dark when it comes to actual dance moves, all the better! You will find the sillies a lot faster that someone who takes themselves very seriously, and the sillies are the road to joy. Can’t afford community classes for motivation? Dim the lights and play whatever moves your spirit. Close your eyes, feel, and move towards those feelings. It can take just the tiniest amount of courage to begin. Dance is such an effective physical exercise because it does not always feel like exercise. You enjoy the music, the body responds, the mind discovers the movement, maybe you have a laugh or maybe you are impressed. Either way, you’re having fun. You’re connecting to your joy.
If you do have the means and opportunity to take a class, and have no experience whatsoever with moving your body, I highly encourage you to join a creative, ecstatic, or improv dance class. These types of classes are very loose, totally non-judgemental, and all about free movement! Dance is often a practice that is best enjoyed in groups, and it’s a beautiful thing to be inspired by the energy of others. Solo practice is incredibly important, but I believe social practice to be equally as valuable, it’s just different. Either way, I’m making my bliss a habit. By practicing joy through dance and yoga, we establish a connection with joy. Joy then becomes oh so much easier to access any time of the day!
Having a hard time moving regularly?
The biggest issue when it comes to being an active person is getting over that initial hurdle. In other words, trying to MOVE from a place of stagnation or depression! I went from low-activity pre-pregnancy, to totally inactive and on bedrest by 9 months, to postpartum which was still totally inactive save my arms that were exhausted from holding that baby! Anyways, I went from all of that to an incredibly healthy and active-all-day with energy to spare type of person. How did I do it? One class at a time, and from a place of loving acceptance. Growth only happens in a safe space. If a body is constantly told that it is “ugly, fat, not enough, etc,” it will not open up to positive change. The body opens up to growth when it feels safe. Not to say that we should become complacent in our unhealthy state, but rather we just approach our bodies from a place of compassion. By sending signals like “you are safe, beautiful, worthy, not to blame, etc,” then the body responds by becoming comfortable and receptive. That last one is really important, you are not to blame. No one is. A series of events got you to where you are now, most of which were totally out of your control (the family you were born into, your childhood education, your learned behaviors). Placing blame is unproductive.
This is the part you can take control of: your attitude. So often we look externally for solutions (this can include blaming our bodies or the world,) but effective, long-lasting change always begins internally. By accepting and loving yourself as you are right now, a perfectly “flawed” human-being that makes mistakes and is learning as they go, you open yourself up not only to the joy of the universe, but the love of those around you. Open up the beauty of your own mistakes, accept yourself as you are walking in the door, and know that physical practice is an act of self-love, which is something you have always deserved. Remember this wisdom: by building compassion for yourself, you will instinctually begin to lovingly nurture your own being. This eventually includes habitually maintaining a routine of self-care that includes movement!