Dharma, Yoga and You

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People have been asking me lately why I started Sprout Yoga. Why I focus on yoga for people with eating disorders or post traumatic stress (such as rape or domestic abuse survivors). Everything I have done up to now has led me to this place. Everything I have been has led me to this work. I believe this is my dharma, my work, my spiritual purpose. The word dharma has a variety of different meanings based on the religious/philosophical tradition that you view the word through.

In yoga, we define dharma very loosely as your purpose, your job, your work. In doing that work, you align with the higher principles. Broken down it goes like this: There is a “way” or order to the universe and to life on earth. Your conduct here can be in conformity with that way if you figure out what your specific individual duty is here. That specific individual duty is your essential nature, your true self. Yoga is often used in this quest for the true self, in this journey to the part of you that remains constant and beautiful no matter what changes occur around you or what happens to you.

I believe everyone has a dharma. I also believe that everyone should be able to get to practice their dharma. I had a fantastic conversation with Waller of Create Radiance last week. She’s doing amazing work in eating disorder clinics and with women recovering from prostitution, among others. Through this work I’ve met countless people volunteering to work in battered women’s shelters and with many other beautiful souls. Each of these people do this work from the heart. They feel called to bring the ease that yoga brings, the transformational healing that can occur to people who deserve this practice, this discipline.

Sometimes I look back on my time as a corporate attorney and think “What was I thinking?” No wonder I felt so out of sorts, so blocked and confined. But the skills I used as a corporate bankruptcy attorney allowed me to start a nonprofit that grew into Sprout Yoga. So did all my time up late in the library running a law journal. That time also allowed me to learn how to manage people, ideas, and work collaboratively with other journals and organizations. Sure I threw my great GPA out the window when I took on the law journal, but I learned more about working with people than I would have without that journal. I learned maybe the most important thing I’ve come to know in my 34 years: that it feels really really good to give people the space, support and resources they need to allow them to do a good job at the task they’ve been given.

I used to call my twenties my wasted youth. But I know now all the time I spent struggling to figure out what I wanted to be when I grew up, and the place of utter disrespect for myself that led to thinking I had to go to the best law school, and be the best student in order to show the world that I was worthy of respect even if I didn’t believe it, all that time was valuable because it gives me a tiny window into the thinking that my special students have – those yoga students who come to me because I offer free individual yoga lessons for rape survivors. It lets me get it just a little bit, and in getting it, I can create some small space for that person to open up to their dharma. I allow just a little bit of light through the yoga I teach for that person to do their spiritual job. I create ease and spread love, and that is my dharma.

I do all of this because I’ve been led here – through years of working in nonprofits, in law firms, in law school – all of my twisted winding road to this amazing place where I get to inspire others to volunteer to teach yoga, to support those doing this work and to create a body of research on this amazing practice. I’ve been led to this place to create a space for others to heal. And when I sit with this space, sit with this work, I feel inspired and moved and energized because its my dharma, its my job.

I do this work because I know that the struggle, and pain, and feeling of falling down and not being able to get back up again that goes along with an eating disorder, or body hate, or body dysmorphia robs you of your chance to practice your dharma. I know that the obsession with not eating, with growing smaller, with taking up just a little less space, can act like a film covering your eyes from seeing what’s happening around you, from learning from what is going on in your life, and from moving towards your purpose. So I do this work, I started this nonprofit, so that I could help in some way to clear out the film. To create space for healing and to allow a way that the healing and the recovery can effect more than the body, but also allow you to use that information. Use the information in a way that lets you learn from it spiritually, lets you absorb and digest it mentally and move you towards your purpose.

I do this work because I know that the flashbacks, the hyperviligence, the constant surveying of the environment that accompanies Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is a heavy load. I know that when you are raped or beaten or harmed that you had your ability to choose taken away in that moment. And I also know that you were given this fear and anger like a smelly old coat that weighs on you and that you would really rather put down and walk away from. I know that all the time that you spend trying to take that smelly old coat off, you are distracted from your heart, your soul and your purpose.

So I do this work because it is my work. It is the work I’ve been called to do, the work I’ve been led to do. I do this work so that the millions of people with eating disorders and the millions of women and men who’ve survived sexual or domestic abuse can do their work.