Turn uncertainty into focus by trying something new or taking a risk at something you haven’t had an opportunity to do in the past, but have always wanted to do. Listen, it’s a crazy world out there right now. It’s a time in all of our lives that we will remember forever and history is being written before our eyes. You have a choice — you can either go through this focused on anxiety, burden, and trauma or you can focus on coming out on the other side better than where you started.
As a part of my series about the things we can do to develop serenity and support each other during anxious times, I had the pleasure of interviewing Tracy Hayes.
Tracy is the founder of Amplified Movement offering concierge-style yoga catering to the needs of professional athletes and C-level executives. Focused on mobility, Tracy’s experience with athletes spans nearly 15 years teaching yoga to pro-baseball teams and hundreds of MLB and MiLB clients as well as the Yale Men’s hockey team. Tracy has an extensive background in Yoga, Pilates, Tapping, Breathwork, Functional Training, Mindfulness/Meditation, is a Neuro-Linguistic Programming Practitioner and the Yoga and Pilates expert contributor to Our Baseball Life’s Family Room for MLB players and wives.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share with us the backstory about what brought you to your specific career path?
I was pretty athletic as a kid, but I did not see “yoga instructor” as an eventual career path for myself at all. I graduated from Northwestern University and worked in Research & Information at McKinsey & Company in Chicago alongside an impressive crew of colleagues. I intended to work my way up the corporate ladder like any 20-something might want to. I remained active in sports and volunteered my time to coordinate the company soccer and volleyball teams as well as eventually getting certified to teach fitness classes for fun. When a company-wide restructuring called for closing my department, we were offered an opportunity to relocate or to accept a generous separation package. I’ll let you guess which one I chose. With my newfound freedom from the corporate world, instead of using that money to invest or purchase a home like a responsible person might, I instead took a 6-month adventure traveling around the world, solo.
While on this once-in-a-lifetime experience exploring the globe I found myself being led to various training in yoga, Reiki, and meditation. I practiced and taught impromptu yoga classes in Ireland, completed a yoga training in The Algarve, Portugal, and spent several weeks studying Shamballa Reiki in Pai, Thailand. I also took part in a private meditation intensive course, studied more yoga in Hua Hin, Thailand, and continued to hop in yoga classes and even teach “pop-up” ones in many of the other countries I visited.
I distinctly remember the moment I decided to leave the corporate world to focus solely on fitness and helping others — It was in Sucre, Bolivia while sitting at a little open-air cafe with a new friend, people watching locals walking through the beautiful town green. We were approached by many pretty seasoned “beggars”, each with their own shtick; but one particular older gentleman stood out to me and changed my life forever. As he was walking by, our eyes met and I could tell he was desperate for food and water. I took what was left on my plate (a half-eaten dinner roll) and brought it over to him. As I offered it to him, I cannot even begin to describe the most beautiful expression of gratitude in his eyes. He slowly put his hands together in front of his lips, nodded his head gently and thanked me in a frail, raspy voice and I just started bawling. The immense gratitude he had for my very small gesture overwhelmed me with such emotion; I am forever thankful for that experience. It showed me that acts of kindness towards others were far more rewarding than anything else I could ever do… and it was at that precise moment I knew focusing on wellness, fitness, and helping others was the right path for me.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?
After I left the corporate world, I built a fitness business in Chicago focusing on corporate wellness, yoga, personal training, and Pilates. One aspect of the biz that I loved was the energy in group fitness classes, so I took on a few classes at one of the large gyms. I’d see similar faces in classes throughout the day and could generally pick out someone’s career by what time of day they attended classes; early mornings were corporate folks, mid-morning was usually moms, mid-day realtors, doctors, nurses and around 4p were generally teachers. For a couple of months, I happened to notice the same guy was coming to most of my classes all times of the day and I couldn’t figure out what type of job he had since he’d show up morning, noon or night. I’m a curious person, so I asked! He was a professional baseball player in his first off-season. Long story short, as I started assisting him with balance, core training, yoga, and Pilates, one thing led to another and next thing you know, we were married. That’s the short story.
Back then (2006) not many teams were implementing yoga into their strength and conditioning regimen, so little by little the private yoga sessions I’d do with my husband turned into a few friends joining, then more and eventually I had quite a few of his teammates looking forward to regular sessions. Soon I was teaching regular classes to the Kansas City Royals during Spring Training. I’ll admit they were apprehensive at first, but to this day, nearly fourteen years later, my husband and I continue to hear from former teammates who felt they greatly benefit from incorporating yoga into their training program. Since then I taught yoga to every team he played for and mainly focused on private sessions with professional baseball players and their families. It was incredibly serendipitous to have had years of yoga training and functional training experience that parlayed beautifully into understanding the needs and lifestyle of a baseball player. I am grateful for the opportunities that continue to come my way because of it.
What advice would you suggest to your colleagues in your industry to thrive and avoid burnout?
Diversify! Branch out to other areas such as hosting events, speaking engagements, and the online world. I’m brand-new to social media for my business — disclaimer: social media really didn’t roll out until I was in my thirties and I’ve enjoyed not having to be plugged-in all the time. I am not an expert in this area, but what I’ve discovered over the years is recording classes and private sessions for clients is much more beneficial than I originally anticipated, especially in the time we are currently living in. One privately-recorded class can be shared with many more people and you’re not killing yourself teaching class after class after class as I did in my twenties. Looking back, I now see while I was teaching countless daily classes per week, I was too exhausted to take care of myself. It took me a while to gain this awareness and perspective. Scheduling out time for your own practice is so important, whether that’s meditating, going to the gym or heading to a class with your favorite instructor. The best thing you can do for yourself and your business is to take even 15 minutes to recharge and renew daily. Easier said than done, right?
What advice would you give to other leaders about how to create a fantastic work culture?
While I was at McKinsey I was fortunate to have an incredible manager who genuinely cared for his team, listened to our needs and did everything in his power to motivate and support us in our goals. He respected and appreciated each person as an individual. While my work environment today looks much different than it did in the corporate world, the lessons I learned from that manager have resonated with me over twenty years later: respect, support, motivate and appreciate each and every person you have an opportunity to work with. I will also add uplifting one another as another way to create a fantastic work culture — we’re all in this together, we’re all working towards the same goal and we’re all human beings. Above all, have compassion; be kind.
Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?
Is it terrible that I am going to admit publicly that I am not much of a reader? I know, I know, one sign of a great, influential leader is someone who devours books, right? What I am is a very experiential person. I learn by how something makes me feel and I remember big-picture concepts. I am not the kind of person who remembers every nitty-gritty detail to recite later. Not at all; never have been. When I am interested in a new topic, I will read everything I can about that subject to gain as much knowledge as I can about it. I am kinesthetic; I thrive on experiences. Yoga has been so beneficial to me and through my own personal practice and training, I can help transform someone else’s practice into their own meaningful experience.
That being said, when the book, “The Power of Intention”, by Wayne Dyer was published, it was one of the first books to fully resonate with who I was at my core because of the way Wayne wrote about how simple changes can make such a big impact. As a trainer and fitness instructor, I’ve always encouraged my clients who are working towards a goal to start with the absolute smallest first step possible. Whether that means waking up one minute earlier, drinking one extra glass of water, parking in the second-closest parking spot, saying one nice thing to yourself before getting out of bed, setting a timer for two minutes to breathe deeply, etc — by starting small, those changes snowball into bigger changes and more easily accomplished goals. I feel very fortunate to have the opportunity to work with amazing clients, many of whom have become lifelong friends, and The Power of Intention is a book I’ve given or loaned to most of them when starting out because it is so impactful.
I’d like to share a quote from this book, one of many that have stood out to me, “In order to reconnect to intention, you must be on the same kindness wavelength as intention itself. Make an effort to live in cheerful kindness. It’s a much higher energy than sadness or malevolence, and it makes the manifestation of your desires possible. It’s through giving that we receive; it’s through acts of kindness directed toward others that our immune systems are strengthened and even our serotonin levels increased.” Isn’t that quote alone so powerful?? This quote directly ties into the feeble, grateful man I met in Bolivia — I experienced this exactly and that one moment alone changed my life and I do my hardest to share this and live this daily.
Ok, thank you for all that. Now let’s move to the main focus of our interview. The past 5 years have been filled with upheaval and political uncertainty. Many people have become anxious just from the dramatic jolts of the news cycle. The fears related to the coronavirus pandemic have only heightened a sense of uncertainty, fear, and loneliness. From your experience or research what are five steps that each of us can take to develop serenity during such uncertain times? Can you please share a story or example for each.
1) Exercise and get moving! The benefits of exercise have been studied extensively to show how physical activity releases endorphins and stimulates the release of serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine to boost your mood and overall sense of well-being.
Take three minutes to breathe through some type of movement, even if you make it up as you go! One very easy way to start the day is right when you get out of bed, try standing tall with both feet on the floor, arms relaxed by your sides. Eyes open or closed — doesn’t matter. Inhale through your nose as you reach your arms up over your head and allow your gaze to follow your hands upward. Exhale through your mouth as you bend your knees slightly and hinge at the hips into a forward fold as if you were going to touch your toes. Hang out here and just sway side to side, wiggle out your hips and shoulders. Alternate bending and straightening your knees and when you feel ready, inhale one last time in the fold and while you exhale begin to roll up one vertebra at a time back to standing. And then repeat!! Even if you do this one time, I repeat, one time, it’s better than not doing it at all and it’s just the beginning of taking a baby step forward into welcoming more calm and peace in your life.
For a handful of yoga poses known for calming stress and anxiety, relieving tension and insomnia, I recommend the following poses: Reclined Bound Angle, Cat/Cow, Camel, Child’s Pose, Bow, Bridge, Fish, Staff, Legs Up the Wall, Wide Legs Up the Wall, Bound Angle Up the Wall. Each pose has many benefits, and collectively this sequence of poses provides an opportunity to open, let go, unwind and restore.
2) Choose what you expose yourself to. Research has shown that repeated exposure to negative media coverage can fuel anxiety, so turn off the news and disconnect from social media for a bit. Perhaps also distancing yourself from anyone or anything that doesn’t promote peace or a joyful state of mind. Surround yourself with and practice welcoming experiences that bring you joy. Maybe that means to reconnect with old friends through FaceTime or Zoom. Sing at the top of your lungs or dance to your favorite song (with the windows open). Start a gratitude journal and write down all things you’re grateful for whether big or small. Most importantly know that it’s okay to avoid things that aren’t aligned with joy and know you will get through this.
3) Turn uncertainty into focus by trying something new or taking a risk at something you haven’t had an opportunity to do in the past, but have always wanted to do. Listen, it’s a crazy world out there right now. It’s a time in all of our lives that we will remember forever and history is being written before our eyes. You have a choice — you can either go through this focused on anxiety, burden, and trauma or you can focus on coming out on the other side better than where you started. There are so many amazing businesses offering tutorials and lessons right now for free. Take advantage of those!!
Learn. Do you want to learn a new language? How about a new instrument? Fender is offering free guitar lessons for 3 months without having to enter any payment information! What about deepening your yoga practice by signing up for a yoga training? Recently, the Yoga Alliance has made a temporary provision to allow its schools to offer contact hours in a virtual format through the end of June. This means if you’ve always wanted to learn a little bit more about yoga, but time and logistics have prevented you, now’s the time! There are many amazing yoga schools offering online training. One place to start is YogaFit, as they’ve been adding new training daily and you’ll save on travel and accommodation. They’re virtual classes so you’re still “live” and need to be present, but companies like YogaFit are doing a great job adjusting and creating a learning environment aligned with the current times. Roll with the punches!
Pivot. If you’ve lost your job and don’t know where to turn, see if you can pivot your talents into something the world needs right now. For example, if you’re a restaurant owner only open for takeout I’m sure your bottom line has been greatly impacted. I’ve seen a few restaurants shift to offering prepared family-style takeout meals, which have been very well received. They’re offering an affordably-priced full meal customers can pre-order. It’s a win-win for the restaurant and the families who take advantage of this temporary shift.
One step. Have you always wanted to start a new business, but aren’t sure where to start? Start anywhere. Start reading about the industry, create a business plan, take a relevant course online, set up informational interviews with experts, just learn, learn, learn and prepare so when life does start to get back to “normal”, you’ve already done most of the leg work. Maybe you won’t make money right out of the gate, but just starting something, anything (!) new and sticking with it while we all navigate these uncertain waters is going to be more beneficial than wallowing in negativity. Just doing one thing different is one step forward in a new direction that may open new doors for you. Whether that’s tangible in terms of a job or connection, or simply on a spiritual level you took a chance on yourself and that alone is amazing. My father always said a step forward in anything is a step forward in everything. Think about that. If you’re trying to decide between two options, just take one of them and you’ll still be a step ahead of where you were before. That accomplishment alone will release endorphins and a bunch of ‘feel good’ neurotransmitters to help you through this experience.
Hey, Food Trucks — are you listening? How about you start driving through neighborhoods like the ice cream truck does? All you taco trucks, do you hear me? You’d likely attract many new customers for drive-by Taco Tuesdays… and Wednesdays, Thursdays, Fridays… you get the point. Maybe I’m just hungry, but I had to make sure to get this muy importante PSA in. You’re welcome, everyone.
4) Tapping, aka, “Emotional Freedom Technique” or EFT is a simple practice shown to reduce stress, improve focus, and assist in overcoming anxiety and mental blocks. Easy to learn, it is done by tapping gently on specific areas of the body, meridians, similar to acupuncture and without sounding hokey. It’s quite magical and mysterious in the way it works so well.
5) Get outside!! We have this opportunity right now where we are forced to slow down — take this time to connect with nature. Social distancing requirements doesn’t limit outdoor time, it’s actually encouraged. Look online for “easy hikes near me” to discover a bunch of great new outdoor adventures nearby to explore (shout out to the app, All Trails, too). If you live in a city and you’re able to hop in a car, take a drive to a new park or nature trail to soak in some fresh air. Wander on the trail. Take your time. Be mindful of your steps. Listen to the sounds. Feel what that feels like. Go to the shore, a lake, or even a small stream to listen to the water. Nature has a knack for healing, breathe it in.
From your experience or research what are five steps that each of us can take to effectively offer support to those around us who are feeling anxious? Can you explain?
Random acts of kindness. Since most of us in the US are practicing social distancing or shelter in place, we may be feeling the need to connect with others. By practicing simple random acts of kindness, we not only uplift those around us, but giving produces joy on both ends of the act. Ideas for kindness that are socially safe right now might require a little creativity. You could mail a handwritten note to a friend. Put a couple of bucks towards a coffee or tea to the guy behind you in the drive-through line. Grab a few flowers from the store and without touching the flower directly with your hands, leave one on your neighbor’s doorstep with a note. A friend of mine recently painted a bunch of rocks with positive messages and placed them along a popular walking trail. Let the creative juices flow. Any small act of kindness will help to bring a smile to someone’s face right now. “Like most medical antidepressants, kindness stimulates the production of serotonin. This feel-good chemical heals your wounds, calms you down, and makes you happy!” says, Talya Steinberg, Psy.D for Psychology Today.
Listen without judgment and without agenda to fix anything. Often when we hear a friend is feeling down or anxious, we tend to feel inclined to come up with solutions to ‘fix’ the issue, and while that is very well-intentioned, sometimes just listening and giving our friend permission to feel the way he/she is feeling is more powerful, beneficial, and healing. Allowing our friends or loved ones to observe the complexity of their emotions and supporting them by listening and letting them know they’re not alone can be very cathartic. We are all in this together. We all are experiencing tremendous changes and uncertainty; that alone can be very triggering. Being present by listening is a wonderful tool to support others.
Be Kind. Right now everyone is under a significant amount of stress from all angles. Let’s be a beacon of light during this time. Mr. Rogers once said, “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’” Help doesn’t have to mean hand-making 50,000 N95 masks overnight or donating large amounts of money to those in need. Intentionally speaking from a genuine place of compassion with kindness towards others is one of the easiest, free ways to support others. I will once again repeat, we are all in this together. The best part? Being kind is just as much for you as it is for the other person.
A small gesture can make a giant impact. If you’ve got a friend with young kids, don’t ask, just bring them a meal and drop it off at their doorstep. I can promise you your friend with kids will greatly, greatly appreciate the time and energy you spent preparing a meal for her family because right now in her house it is crazy, crazy, crazy. Another fun way to show love to your friends with kids is by ordering age-appropriate craft supplies for a particular craft and have them mailed to their house. Just don’t send glitter, okay? Speaking from experience here, trust me, do not send anything with glitter.
Brighten someone’s day with a care package. Hardy Coffee Co in Omaha, Nebraska came up with a brilliant idea to deliver six cinnamon rolls and a 4oz. bag of ground coffee to someone’s doorstep, along with a personalized message from you. If you’re not in Nebraska, make a special box of goodies and drop them in the mail or by your friend’s doorstep. Guaranteed to lift your friend’s spirits and yours, too.
Before heading to the grocery store, see if any of your nearby friends need anything. Lines outside grocery stores have become commonplace as they allow one person in, one person out to keep safe distances. The immunocompromised, friends with kids, and the elderly do not want to be in stores right now. They will be incredibly grateful to have someone grab a few items to help keep their fridges stocked.
If you’re lucky enough to have your parents or grandparents around — check on them. Make them a meal, handwrite a note, have your children draw a picture and mail it. If you’re local, drive to their house — don’t go in, but perhaps talk from the porch, safely distanced or have the kids use chalk to decorate their driveway or sidewalk. Turn on some of their favorite music and have a socially-distant dance party in their backyard while they watch from inside. You will be making memories and helping them focus on brighter times.
What are the best resources you would suggest to a person who is feeling anxious?
I highly suggest checking out Tapping, aka, EFT. I have a very quick, live-recorded video on my Instagram to walk you through the basics. In my opinion, it’s one of the fastest ways to lessen anxiety with each cycle of tapping. It’s a bit odd at first, but becomes second-nature quickly and it’s a resource you can use for the rest of your life. Also on Instagram, I walk through the anxiety release sequence of poses I mentioned above to help alleviate stress and anxiety.
There are also several apps with guided meditations and exercises to calm the mind and on a physiological level, create more balance from within. Meditation and mindfulness help to induce relaxation, which has been shown to improve the immune system, lessen feelings of anxiety and depression, lower blood pressure, and significantly lower stress hormone release, including cortisol (among many other benefits when practiced regularly).
In addition to meditation and yoga, I recommend introducing a diaphragmatic breathing approach to stimulate the vagus nerve and lower stress responses. Any type of slow, deep breathing bringing awareness to filling up the lungs on the inhalation and fully releasing all air on the exhalation is going to activate your parasympathetic nervous system and begin to welcome feelings of safety and calm.
Here’s a simple breathing exercise you can do anywhere: Begin to become aware of your breath and observe, without judgment, where you feel your breath go. Is it in your throat? Does it continue into your upper chest, can you follow it further down into your lower chest? Just observe as you breathe. Now observe your exhale, do you feel as though you’ve completely released all air in your lungs? Do you think it’s possible to exhale any further? See what it might feel like on your next inhale to begin to deepen your breath as you follow it down into your lower lungs, allowing your front ribs to expand. Now on this next exhale, slowly release all the air in your lungs by contracting your abdominals and engaging your ribs inward to allow all air to release. On the next inhale, continue filling your lungs, allowing your front ribs to expand, now see what it feels like to inhale enough to allow your back ribs to expand. Does that feel different to you? Now continue this slow, deep breathing while aware of the expansion of your lungs and chest while you inhale and perhaps add a short pause at the top. Then release as you slowly and fully exhale all air from your lungs and see what a pause at the bottom of this breath feels like. How does that feel to you? I invite you to continue this type of breathing for a couple more cycles until you begin to find a rhythm that works for you. Now just observe and see how much better you’re already feeling.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life?
“The things most regretted in life are the risks not taken” is a quote I’ve lived by since I was a teenager. Often people don’t take action on new ideas due to some version of fear. Have you ever looked into what that fear is? Have you ever stopped for a moment to self-reflect and truly ask yourself why you haven’t yet taken that leap of faith into whatever it is you’re desiring to try. Fear of failure is one obstacle that holds a lot of people back.
Fear of embarrassment is one that has at times held me back from taking action on larger goals, especially when it comes to work. What if I make a mistake? What if someone who is a far greater expert on a subject observes something I do as incorrect or I just don’t do it as well as them/as I should? Listen, there will always be someone better, faster, smarter if you don’t take action. It’s that simple, what’s the worst that can happen? You fail and are embarrassed? Yes, that could seem fairly rough, but you know what — you’re going to get through it and you will be stronger and better for taking that risk than had you not.
I’ll share a personal example of this from the past few weeks. With the implementation of social distancing and shelter in place, I’ve had to cancel all in-person yoga sessions. As much as I love teaching, and as much benefit as my clients get from private classes, I knew I needed to get creative. The first thing that came to mind was doing live classes online. So here’s the thing: I like a controlled environment where I can create in my own time. Going live was far out of my comfort zone; I don’t know why. Maybe because I didn’t grow up with it. Private sessions are so personal and it’s important to assess the needs of my clients (especially professional athletes) to ensure they’re practicing safely. In the past, I’ve been comfortable recording my sessions and teaching over FaceTime, but what I haven’t done is share those sessions publicly. Given the timing of the shutdowns, though, I knew it was important to break through those fears. It’s the middle of baseball spring training and I had plans to be in Arizona and Florida doing movement, mobility, and mindfulness work with players and teams.
So I thought about what my fears were based in. I was afraid of embarrassment and afraid of someone critiquing my knowledge and skills. But once I got centered by taking deep breaths, I knew offering virtual sessions is what I needed to do. I trusted that putting out quality content for players in need of mobility work was going to benefit everyone involved. So I took the plunge. I stumbled over my words and encountered recording issues, but I’ve gained newfound comfort and am now excited to record new classes daily. I’m getting a great workout while lessening my stress levels. Plus, I can give back to the amazing community of professional baseball players and wives I am lucky enough to be a part of.
Since that decision to offer daily 30-minute yoga classes online, the engagement, feedback, and client results have been uplifting. Every morning we focus on athlete-safe dynamic movements to support the spine in rotational actions such as pitching, hitting, throwing, and fielding. We also perform dynamic movements for lumbar stability and do poses to support hips and low back to complement the players’ regular strength & conditioning training from their teams. Right now guys are tuning in daily from the Kansas City Royals, Washington Nationals, Chicago White Sox, Arizona Diamondbacks, Miami Marlins, Toronto Blue Jays, Seattle Mariners, Pittsburgh Pirates, and St. Louis Cardinals. Each day that list grows. Had I not taken a chance, I wouldn’t have had these newfound connections. I’ve learned so much in such a short period of time. And taking it one step further, the players taking my classes wouldn’t have gotten the benefits they are seeing if I didn’t take these risks. As I said above, helping others is the ultimate experience for me. This challenge provided me with an opportunity. And all I had to do was take that risk and step outside my comfort zone. I’m so glad I did it, and am confident you can do it too.
You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)
Require everyone to go on a silent meditation retreat!
Have you heard of Vipassana meditation? If you have, know we’ve just watered a seed of curiosity. If you haven’t, let me quickly explain. Vipassana is a form of “insight” meditation; a way of self-transformation through self-observation. It focuses on the deep interconnection between mind and body. The technique is taught during 10-day courses with a Strict Code of Discipline, which includes complete silence from beginning to end. No communication of any kind with others, whether by talking, eye contact or hand gestures; there is no reading, no writing, no listening to music. You don’t eat after midday, you wake up at 4:30a every morning and you pretty much meditate all day, every day for ten full days. Sounds awesome, right? Before you skip this entire section let me give you a little background on my experience and why I’m hoping you’ll start to become open to it, now.
I am an extrovert. I like to be around people. I like to laugh and joke and I’ve always been a talker. Everyone who knows me knows I’m the person who laughs when you are definitely not supposed to be laughing (and that makes it worse). I laugh when I’m nervous. I over-share and then think about what I said for the next 53 days wondering why I said what I said. I am also an empath. I feel what others feel. I can’t deal with surface-level chit-chat; I need to connect with others deeply, to openly communicate, to speak from the heart and with honesty. I also like to be active (a little less so now as a tired parent!), so sitting still for hours on end in silence sounded like torture to me… and it was… sort of.
I have “endured” three full Vipassana retreats and if I could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people it would be for everyone in this world to be required to experience just one of these retreats in their lifetime. It would have such a profound impact on each person as individuals, but most importantly, collectively as a human race. The ripple effect of just one person taking the time to do a single retreat is immeasurable. Sitting with yourself, by yourself, alone with your thoughts, literally with zero distractions for that many days in a row is transformative.
One major takeaway was the value of learning how to truly observe without judgment and I don’t mean person-to-person judgment. A lot of times I take this lesson and apply it to my life, yoga practice, and teachings — what are we holding on to? Why are we holding on to it? Why are we responding the way we are? What if we removed a judgment such as, “because I’m afraid” or “because it might hurt”. What if we removed the judgment and anticipation of what is and just sat back and observed what is going on?
I’ll elaborate a little more on a particular experience I had in my first meditation retreat (again remember everyone’s experience will be very different, but always impactful). Each day of this retreat, the group of students, join together in a large meditation hall (still no contact with anyone) to sit in a comfortable position on a meditation cushion on the floor (if able to) for one hour at a time a few times each day. For the first three days of the retreat, students can adjust their position, make gentle shifts, scratch an itch, etc. On the fourth day, however, the fun begins with “sittings of strong determination” where you are encouraged to sit completely still, without moving what.so.ever for the full hour. I am chuckling as I write this because you may either be thinking that’s a piece of cake or there’s no flippin’ chance you’d be able to do that. I’m here to tell you, I survived and you will, too! The first few times my legs fell asleep and I literally thought they would never work again. Without exaggeration it took a solid five minutes to endure the pins and needles before I could get up and walk. This isn’t sounding very good for selling this retreat, is it? The amazing thing was learning to “observe without judgment,” to sit back and observe what was going on in my body without associating it to pain being something negative. Instead, my body was sending me information and over time I was able to accept that information without associating it with pain. This experience alone has been able to translate into my daily life and teachings in ways I wouldn’t do justice to even if I went on more than I already am!
Once I let go of the judgment that it “hurt”, it was unbelievable to see that the pain 100% subsided and I was able to very easily and comfortably sit for hours on end without moving. Have you ever not scratched an itch and observed what it feels like from start to finish? It’s incredible.
Your experience will be yours and yours alone and I can promise you, without a doubt, you will find tremendous benefit in areas you didn’t even know you needed work on. I know countless people who have had vastly different experiences, all with equally astounding impact.. The issues you think you need to work on aren’t always the ones that arise in these retreats, but what does arise is what is meant for you. If you don’t yet have 10-days to jump in head first, the app headspace’s foundation is rooted in Vipassana and is an amazing intro to “just observing”.
So yeah, what’s my movement? Make people sit still. For ten days. And be perfectly quiet while you’re at it. It might not be the movement people want, but it’s the movement this world needs!
What is the best way our readers can follow you online?
http://instagram.com/yoga_tracy is a good place to start — I post short time-lapse videos to give you an idea of what each class looks like. Soon I’ll be sharing mini-video tutorials breaking down various yoga poses to show how it relates to sport-specific movements and all are great for non-athletes to de-stress, breathe, get in a good workout, and gain more mobility! It’s also an easy way to get in touch with me!
My website is: http://amplifiedmovement.com
I go live on Facebook daily here: http://facebook.com/amplifiedmove