Posts In: healing


March 12, 2019

My experience from Baptiste Level 1: Journey Into Power | a special guest post by Justin Cook

“There is no off the mat. The mat IS your life. It’s everywhere.”  ~ Baron Baptiste

These words may be the ones that stick with me the most from my Level 1 experience in Sedona, Arizona – An experience that was one of the most impactful weeks of my life. Over the years, events had created the person I was, and when I truly got a chance to sit down and examine that, I realized that I was living a story through a filter created by someone who existed long ago. It was costing me my happiness, blunting my impact, and causing real medical issues.

I entered into the week completely exhausted, worrying about my health, and not knowing how I was going to make it through an entire week of physical power yoga practices; worryingas I always did, that something would go wrong, that I would do the wrong thing, or say the wrong thing, and that everything would implode. However, another phrase started to creep in the moment I heard it, on the evening of the first night:

“Do the thing, and you will have the power.”

The more I thought about it, the more I realized that it was exactly what I needed to hear at that exact moment. That night, I came to the realization that the more I tried to plan, and compensate, and adjust, and engineer this thing, it just wasn’t going to work.

I needed to stop thinking about doing the thing, and just do the thing! Nothing else would get me there but doing the thing!

What that looked like for me was showing up authentically and enthusiastically every day. I was early to every event, soaked it all up like it was my only shot, and tried to give every single ounce of energy I had to those around me. What I got from that completely surprised me. I left every single ounce of effort on my mat every practice – literally leaving no drop of energy left within me. I listened deeply and intently to everyone I partnered with. I worked to hold the space for anyone that wanted it, and through all of the numerous physical practices and days of meditation and self-inquiry, I found myself on Day 4 so full of life and energy that I was literally skipping at times. That’s not to say that it was easy – it wasn’t – but every day I got the choice:

“Am I going to talk about doing the thing? Or am I going to DO the thing? Am I going to be a YES and make the most of this opportunity?”

It was hard. It was uncomfortable. It meant I had to make myself extremely vulnerable. And it was worth it! Being a yes to that – showing up, doing the work, and sharing – gave me my power back as a person.

That power is the ability to really by authentically me again. It isn’t the ability to be a “perfect yogi”, which doesn’t exist. It isn’t the ability to never feel bad. It’s definitely not the ability to never feel hurt, or sore, or tired, or anxious. The power to be authentically me is the power to show up in my relationships unafraid again. To restore connection without the fear of loss.

I long feared loss of connection with those that are close to me, and it began to drive me to the point that I had started to feel like I couldn’t even be myself around them anymore. In life, people have often told me how to think, the “right” way to act, the “right” thing to do, the “right” things to say… Hell, I even told myself those same stories as well, and all it had left me was hurting. This story of fear had gotten such a death grip on me that I couldn’t even see it anymore. All it was doing was telling me that I wasn’t good enough, that I was a bad person, and that I wasn’t lovable; and that inner monologue was manifesting itself into existence in my life, my health, and in my relationships.

Now, I can see “it” happening, and remember: “The moment you’re present to it, you’re not it.” That doesn’t mean it won’t pop back up, but I now know how to see it, so I can recognize that it’s a part of me, and treat it with care. That doesn’t mean I have to accept it as reality. It doesn’t mean I have to like that it’s coming up. But it does mean that it is still a part of me, and I can embrace it, realize that it’s a part of my past, and then let it go as many times as is necessary…

As for now, I just need to keep showing up, being me, and just DO THE THING!

“My name is Justin Cook.

My new way of being is of trust, connection, and love.

I give up that that I am “bad” and unlovable.

Because that is who I AM!”

Colure is a mostly-vegan yoga teacher, mom, wife, graphic designer, self-proclaimed nerd, and proud Co-Founder of Five Peaks Power Yoga. When she’s not at the studio teaching or practicing yoga, she can be found relaxing in her favorite local coffee shop, or adventuring around the greater DC region with her family.

Ahimsa: Non-Violence

April 13, 2018

“Lokah Samastah Sukhino Bhavantu.”

It’s only fitting that after coming off a month of studying and embodying the practice of Brahmacharya (right use of energy), we now look to create more mindfulness around who we are being – with respect to others, ourselves, and the world around us.

Ahimsa, defined as “causing no injury; non-harming”, is the first of the five Yamas along Patanjali’s Eight-Limbed Path, and is essentially the embodiment of non-violence in all aspects of life. Everything we do – from the words we speak, to the thoughts we think, to the actions we take – gives us the power to either cause healing or harm. Ahimsa asks us to conduct ourselves with compassion, generosity, and kindness – always. In it’s purest form, Ahimsa is the highest expression of unconditional love toward every living thing, including ourselves.

Violence isn’t always outright and obvious, as in physical altercations (though this is certainly part of it); Sometimes, violence is subtle and abstract. Self-defeating negative thoughts, holding grudges against those who’ve wronged us, spreading gossip, jealousy, and shame – all have the capacity to cause harm and suffering.

Consider how it feels – physically and emotionally – when you get riled up in the face of confrontation and begin preparing yourself for a fight. Your breathing and heart rate speeds up, your skin feels hot, your jaw tightens and your muscles tense, and your body goes into “fight or flight” mode. And whether or not any fisticuffs were exchanged, you continue feeling the effects of this stress response long after any raised hackles have subsided – sometimes for hours or even days later.

Now consider how whenever you feel jealousy or shame, or when you speak damaging and self-defeating words to yourself or to others, your body enters into the same stress response. Heart racing, hot skin, that sinking feeling in your stomach – all tell-tale signs of fight or flight – even though you aren’t actually in any physical danger. Your body still feels the violence your thoughts and words are inflicting. Over time, the cumulative effects of this stress response wreak havoc on your nervous system, causing damage and harm. Similarly, those on the other end of your damaging thoughts and words often experience the same reaction, and the cycle of violence continues.

Ahimsa gives us the opportunity to stop that cycle in it’s tracks. To choose love, kindness, generosity, and compassion at every turn.

In every moment, we have the power to choose who we are being.

When you’re running late to work, and the person in the next lane wants over in front of you, you have the power to choose whether to practice ahimsa and let them in, or to selfishly cut them off. When your coworker says something that raises your hackles, you have the choice to react by saying something unkind, or to practice ahimsa by pausing, taking a deep breath, and letting it go. Conversely, when you see someone on the train acting violently toward another passenger, you have the choice of sitting by and doing nothing, or to practice ahimsa by standing up to protect the person being victimized. When you default into “I can’t do this” or “I’m not that” thoughts in your head, you have the power to believe the lies of your story, or to practice ahimsa and flip the script into something powerful and positive.

At the end of the day, our choices and our actions do not exist in a bubble; As we engage in the practice of Ahimsa, everything – from our interactions with the people we meet, to the products we choose to purchase, and the companies we choose to support – all comes together to create either a chain reaction of loving kindness, compassion, and generosity, or one of continued pain and suffering.

Many people talk about wanting the world to be a different place, without ever taking any actual action to change it otherwise. The practice of Ahimsa – day in, day out, with each passing moment – empowers us to walk through our lives with an eye toward creating that very world we desire.

Raise your voice. Raise your vibration. Rise up and live from love.

Gandhi said, “If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change. As a man changes his own nature, so does the attitude of the world change towards him. We need not wait to see what others do.”

It starts with us. It starts with YOU.

What becomes possible when you live a life of love? Patanjali (and all of us here at Five Peaks!) invites you to discover it for yourself, by walking – gently and steadily – along the Eight-Limbed Path. And at the very beginning of that road? The very first directive along that path? Ahimsa.

Colure is a mostly-vegan yoga teacher, mom, wife, graphic designer, self-proclaimed nerd, and proud Co-Founder of Five Peaks Power Yoga. When she’s not at the studio teaching or practicing yoga, she can be found relaxing in her favorite local coffee shop, or adventuring around the greater DC region with her family.

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