top of page

Blog Posts

Search





I was catching up on social media this morning and saw in my

feed an ad with a tee shirt with the title of this blog on it. It caught

my eye and if I didn’t already have an embarrassingly,

voluminous number of tee shirts that say “super cool things on

them, I would have bought one.


Still it's a good thing to consider as it flies in the face of the more

recognizable catch phrase, “Relax, Everything is Under Control” .

So WHO is it exactly that has “Everything” all under control and

WHAT after all is the “Everything” they’re talking about?


I work in the field of health care, using my skills as it turns out

ultimately for stress management. How? By working through the

body to unleash the tethered soul from its confines. To do this,

what tools are in my bag? Bodywork, yoga, yoga therapy ,

mindfulness, breath work, awareness, and awareness of the present

moment.


The body holds every memory and every experience we’ve ever

had. The good, bad, neutral, indifferent, profound, mundane, fill in

the blank. Some of us hold on with everything we’ve got

just to get through another day, another week, another

relationship, another job interview for a position we’re totally

uninspired to take, but hey, the money is really good right?


I have found over the years that the folks with the most body

trauma are the “Type A” personality, i.e. control freaks and those that

think they’ve got it all together. My standing to my

colleagues in the field of wellness is, is that if I can get them from type

“A” to type “A-“, and my work has been successful! If that small shift

takes years to come to fruition, I still consider it a success; and to

my closest colleagues I will jokingly confide that for the control

freaks who just can’t let go. As a result, doing body work on them often feels

akin to massaging a Michelin steel belted radial tire.

For folks like this, how can I advise them and teach them ways to cope and

thrive in this absolutely crazy world we’ve all found ourselves

in?


As a practitioner in the world of manipulating the human form,

whether with words, touch, alignment, breathing practices, and amp

cadaver dissection ( Yep! You read that last one right). I cut into bodies as a way to

understand our anatomic complexities but also to see what

decades of accumulated stress might do beneath the skin.

I think I’ve seen it all until I see the next form and the next, only to

realize there is yet another thing I’ve never seen, tissue I’ve never

encountered in this particular way, or manipulated quite like this.


I first heard the forthcoming phrase first from Tom Myers, author

of Anatomy Trains, that our “issues are in our tissues”, and

whether he invented this memorable line or heard it from

someone else, the essence and catchiness

rings true.


As a lover of studying the human form, I’ll often find

myself out and about, in a big city, an airport, and much more

rarely, but occasionally, in a shopping mall. By the way, I don’t like

airports, shopping malls, and some big cities. That said, I do like some

airports, shopping malls, and big cities, because I have so much

more opportunity to study the human form. I will look at the

sites, the architecture, the merchandise, but mostly I’ll be looking

at people.


I see it in fascial density mostly, the holding, clinging,

armoring, reluctance, soft voices who’d rather scream, and can’t

remember how to, or never felt safe to, because of the

consequences, especially with women, whom by the way

comprise 95% of the clients, and students I see. If I had to

label the most common place in the body where that armor is

thickest, it’s most often right between the shoulder blades mid-

way between the spine of the scapula, and the winged tips, or to

put it in layperson’s terms, right behind the heart. Why is that? I

have theories.


The space directly behind the heart is a place shared by the

scapulae, ribs, vertebrae, the cord inside those vertebrae, and the

matrix of dense connective tissue, with a few muscle fibers here

and there, all in close proximity bowing to the whims of the

somatic nervous system; one could say the will. The place so

close to the lungs but yet the place where “breath originated-

movement” is least likely to occur; the place perhaps where it needs

occur the most. So what does this all have to do with control, if anything, or loss

thereof?


Nothing shuts down movement of normal tissue function like fear.

Nothing shuts down breath more than fear and should real

danger arise, it’s for good reason as blood is shunted to the

muscles and the adrenals for fight or flight potential, and to help us

escape from predators, whether that be a grizzly bear, collapsing

buildings, automobiles headed onto a pedestrian pathway at high

speeds, or a 40 foot ocean wave out of nowhere.


While the above examples are less common occurences, the “predator”

is now unexpected hospital bills, an unhappy partner or boss, the

anticipated bad news about the stock market and interest rates, etc. All of these things become our fearful reality. Where we can get into trouble is when we think control is

synonymous with conquering, rather than managing, manipulating

to only our own advantage, and damn the consequences for

others rather than having oversight to see the big picture, and

how our awareness could help everyone around us.


The organ of control turns out to be the brain, the CNS. The CNS

makes us often feel that we need at all times to understand everything all at once as a

way to command everything, all at once. So if we were for a moment to imagine that just for awhile we could consider allowing ourselves to lose control, or better yet, abandon any

need to control, does that mean we are giving up,

resigning, being a loser? Or could that be viewed through a different

lens where we can take on a different view into reality by understanding that anything

can happen at any time and there’s nothing anyone can do about

it.


This doesn’t preclude that we have no preferences, intentions,

desires for any thing, any outcome, or goals. It just means we

learn to utilized that Sanskrit concept of “Spanda” which is going with the

flow of the universe, realizing there will be joy, happiness, bliss,

wonder, along with times of pain both physical and emotional,

sorrow, struggle, and the surfacing of animal energies of greed,

lust, fear, guilt, anger, fear, and iterations of all in different

quantities, qualities, and doses. It also means “Tapas”, which can

translate as friction, heat, and intentional agitation as we choose to

challenge ourselves with gravitating in directions other than

aversion or attraction, but hovering, as the Buddha did, in the

middle path.


So can we agree that this might mean working to

reduce reactionary behavior? If we could give it up, let go,

and allow breath, prana, life force to once again flow uninhibited,

healing would be a certain and a welcomed outcome.

0 views0 comments




I spent the last week of April in a cabin in the mountains of North Carolina. This stone cottage sat right upon the banks of Spring Creek, which in my opinion would have been more aptly named Spring River, given it’s width and swift current.

I went here intentionally to write, write some more in my book that is, and to be immersed in nature’s tunes, to spend much of it in silence and reflect on life thus far, having crossed over into a new, and yet another decade earlier this year…

The other thing I did with intention was to carve out much needed time to isolate from distractions, the big ones, that is, which for me are

  1. The News

( I’m historically a news junkie), though I never watch it on TV, and ever so rarely since the pandemic, do I even bother to listen to NPR when I’m driving, mostly because I can’t stand the opinionated, incessant inflection and emphasis news anchors and hosts have adopted on being entertainers instead of journalists, something apparently audiences have come to expect, or maybe conditioned to expect. And let’s face it, the people in charge who decide what’s newsworthy and will make it to airtime all seem to have degrees from Chicken Little University, where every moment is yet another disaster lurking right above our cerebral cortexes.


2. Social Media


3. Staying Off My Phone

To be honest, my JAM over the last several years, has been devouring the NY Times and Washington Post for a good couple of hours a day, and social media for probably that long too in a 24 hr. period.. And just for the record I don’t do TikTok, Twitter, and nearly never Instagram, despite the frustration it causes for the incredibly talented social media marketing person who takes care of my advertising for my business of yoga and bodywork. (This may lend you ideas about my relative age). So Facebook was my “go to”, but shunned it entirely for a week. And we do this as a way to imagine simply informing ourselves and sharing posts would somehow alter the decision making that goes on by the powers that be, whether lawmakers on Capitol Hill or the “friends” we’ve actually never met in person on Social Media.

Hey, I’m a body and movement guy. Besides teaching and practicing yoga and massage, I ride a bike, and walk my dog. But most recently, I am also a writer. As I said, I came to the mountains to write more in my book, and to make any progress with that daunting project, knew that I must leave my habits and significant others behind, including my partner; she freshly back from two weeks in the UK and Spain, and dog Frida, who is used to me doting on her way more than most dogs will ever experience.. We passed like ships in the night, she and I, tag- teaming the pup, with only the briefest stop at port for a couple of days before temporarily parting ways, amicably, again.

I wasn’t really sure how this would go staying away from outside influences of the mind that is,, as the last time I took a news and social media fast was about 10 years ago. But technology has changed a lot since then, especially the social media end of things, sneakily demanding, or rather insisting on much more of our attention. What I did learn quite suddenly upon arrival, after unpacking my car, setting up the kitchen, and finally kicking back in a zero gravity chair with the “creek” a mere few meters ahead of my toes, was the shift of my nervous system into a place that almost immediately had me breathing more deeply, (with way less effort mind you), taking in the visuals of trees, rocks, birds and terrain to further soothe me.

In the midst of all this I had discovered, thanks to my massage therapist Meg, a book by Cal Newport entitled “ Digital Minimalism”. It is because of her, that this became the inspiration for future yoga and breathing classes, and for a supporting theme for my upcoming yoga retreat I’m leading in Sicily this October, which I had already named “ Unpacking Your Busy”. In this retreat, I will offer us each day the recommendation that our tribe spend more and more time away from gadgetry and immersing instead in nature’s eye candy of beaches, orchards, healthy food, deep rest, walks, meditation, yoga, and Sicilian culture.

We don’t really know how much external stimuli has held us hostage until we remove ourselves from it. I learned lots of things, like how anxious scrolling through social media makes me ( and learned it’s actually linked as the source to many people’s supreme unhappiness). It makes me nervous and inattentive in equal measure. Causes a sense of lack, of “ I should be doing more”! Let’s face it. We put our best self forward on Facebook, especially when it’s a selfie, flaunting pictures from your perfect life in Costa Rica, Bali, Thailand, and Morocco. The meal I had with the 200 dollar bottle of wine, and the brimming faces with arms all around me; me with my perfect friends.


But all that comes with a price, of a sense of lack, of one ups-man-ship, and the nagging urge to continue the addictive dopamine surges, So denying myself these floods of virtual pleasures was indeed a blessing, that took so little time to not only appreciate, but to yearn for. So I put myself to the task of writing my book again, after months of not, of taking walks in the mountains, of having my meal prep be a meditation, as much as playing my guitar, and hunting for stones along the water’s edge. The absence of man-made sounds and btw, most of them, especially the most offensive ones are made by men, ( not women, mind you). You realize too how addictive your phone has become, your YouTube channel, your thirst for yet more data to further clog your already overwhelmed brain. I was sincerely amazed at how quickly my nervous system calmed down, how much that softened the tenseness in my shoulders and upper back, and how my jaw suddenly unhinged… And I was quite surprised first by how much I didn’t miss it, and how peaceful I felt without it.

And so, I did a bit of a role reversal, which seemed almost immediate. I became if not addicted, at least enthralled by leaving technology alone for the week. What I discovered was that my brain got to relax, reset, and renew. I was happy thinking random , even at times boring thoughts, as opposed to having my mind feel like a pin ball, with my phone and laptop on the internet like the flippers of that same machine, batting me around aimlessly, without connection, flow, or progress toward much of anything. This would, for the week of April 23-29, be my yoga.


The story has more good news too! I have come home carrying this habit, this rhythm. Now I am not going all day, mind you, without gadgetry; my career and family/friends can’t operate quite that way. But what i have done is make phones and such off limits for at least the first hour of my day, and this morning for instance, it was three hours before I looked at any device, and that was on a work day. I am proud of that! I feel much calmer, less competitive, more focused, and happy. I notice that I “notice” more, am more likely to look up at the sky, or see the detail in a tree or garden plant, to gaze into my dog Frida’s sweet brown eyes, and enjoy the length of time we both linger there. I am also much more proprioceptively and interceptively aware of my body, in space around me, in enhanced space within me. And, I am sleeping better… !

So my advice to you dear readers is this: Try leaving your phone away from you hands for the first hour of your morning, turn in face town and silence it. Turn off many of those needless notifications! Grab a beverage, sit with your family, or just stare out the window at a tree, or sit with your breath and bust a few spontaneous yoga moves your body craves. If that works, take a jaunt to the closest grocery store or gas station without your phone. And despite what Apple, Google, or Samsung might wish you to believe, you won’t die with out it, and you will be fine, and its quite unlikely that you’ll be less safe without it. It’s incredibly liberating! But if that’s just too much for now, just leave the phone in the boot (trunk or glove box) and then you’ll know it’s there just is case.

And please do report back. I think you’ll like the results!


Jeffrey Shoaf,

Certified Yoga Therapist, Yoga Educator, Bodyworker,

& Student of Human Nature

Yoga Therapy Charlotte

7 views0 comments

Updated: Apr 14


Blog for April 2023 MSW
.docx
Download DOCX • 12KB





Dear friends, welcome to my blogpost.


My training as a yoga instructor and in Yoga Therapy began from the Kripalu lineage, where

breath practice or pranayama, was considered as important if not more, than the postures, or

asanas were.


If we use not a top-down, nor a bottom- up approach, as is such popular lingo these days, we then can turn to an inside-out model, or to say another way, from source to form, as a place to start.


Healthy breath practice is not a skill we’re usually taught correctly, but it is one we were born

with, and even though we come into the world with a perfect breath patterning, we are quickly socialized , and “shaped”out of it. ( Fear works quite well too).


Every new and modern day that we live, coaxes us to distrust our body, our senses, and instead intellectualize the whole life experience. To be mistrustful of all the symptoms, senses, to insist upon measuring it scientifically before going down the rabbit hole of endless data verifications to question or disprove the obvious.


Breathing is that wonderful thing that, as Tom Myers said, “lies on the cusp of voluntary and

involuntary; (i.e.) if you pay attention to it, you can change it; if you don’t it will change based

upon your physiological needs…”


So much of the breathing techniques were taught from experience, by the “masters” if you will, of mindfulness and meditation, using breathing techniques to enhance both..It was handed down orally, to the devotee, and practices were often intense and consistent. If you want to change your mind, change your breath patterns. Back then, we didn’t demand scientific data to verify what was going on, either chemically, biomechanically or otherwise. We just felt differently and usually for the better ,and that was proof enough of its efficacy.

But we DO now have data, and breath work practices are EVERYWHERE!


The Importance of Pranayama in Yoga Therapy:


One of the things we get to learn as we move from novice perhaps to seasoned practitioners is that the beauty, the certain transformation comes from the subtlety. The knowledge that

consistent, gently, light, slow, deep practices ( LSD, to quote Patrick McKeown) with breath

retentions may prove to be the most effective, esp for us householders who don’t ( can’t) isolate for months in a cave to renounce society and all obligations to anyone but self to figure this stuff out. But that said, the more vigorous Tummo, or Wim Hot methods have their place too, in a gateway to transformation. Like medicine, breath work should be prescriptive to the individual, not to the masses, as each person’s constitution is different, as are their life experiences.


From a scientific perspective, much of the transformative effect of conscious manipulation of the breath is us getting used to handling a greater load of CO2, which ironically helps pull more oxygen off the hemoglobin, or red blood cells into the rest of our trillions of little body cells. (They need nourishment too). It’s tidbits such as these that distinguish Yoga Therapy from Yoga.


To not breathe well is to deny ourselves health and vitality, and from a microscopic and global level, leads to DIS- EASE… as starving the body becomes first physiological stress, which of course, can’t help but become psychological stress, and eventually illness.

Like your favorite balancing posture in a yoga class, the breath offers us additionally balance for all the systems, not just our musculoskeletal selves. Be it lymphatic, circulatory, nervous, or digestive, when we breathe well, to quote a favorite term of flight controllers affirming to the astronauts, “All Systems Are Go” ! But there is a skill set we must learn to make habit, and cultivate, and that is, surprise ya’ll, you can’t do this work and think! Read the end of that last sentence again..You can’t do this work and think! ( Yep, not a typo….)


And to your credit, when learning something new, yes we do have to understand what we’re

being asked to do, and use talking and listening to get there. But like riding a bike, once you

learn it, you really can’t ( and shouldn’t…, and don’t ) think about it and do it very well…

I hope in the coming weeks ahead I hope you’ll tune in consistently to learn specifically more

about techniques, starting from learning to access permission in your body, to expand, to feel, to relax, to allow more awareness of where in your body your breathing patterns reside, and how they affect your nervous system, be it sympathetic, or parasympathetic tuning that we need on a given day, hour, or moment.


A Breath Practice For You To Try Now:



  • Lie on your back with knees bent and feet flat on the floor.


  • Place your hands on your abdomen, with fingers slightly interlaced, around the area of the navel.


  • Relax your elbows by your sides on the floor. Relax your shoulders and face too!


  • Breathe in, and feel your fingers on the left and right hands separate slightly separate.


  • Breathe out, and notice them come together again.


  • Continue and try to make the movement increase without undue force to make it happen.


  • Repeat this exercise for 5 minutes.


  • Simply notice how it feels (how YOU feel)


See you all again in May~ Reach out to me if you’re ready to start your yoga therapy journey!


Jeffrey Shoaf,

Certified Yoga Therapist, Yoga Educator, Bodyworker,

& Student of Human Nature

Yoga Therapy Charlotte

9 views0 comments
1
2
bottom of page