Risk Zone

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Discomfort is a part of our human condition, and it expresses itself uniquely to each of us. Looking from the inside out, it can often seem that others are successfully avoiding the pain of life based on our personal standards, when in truth, all of us, every single one of us, is swimming in the current of difficulty.  Perhaps we don’t always recognize it for what it is, and instead swim hard against the current, trying to avoid the inevitable displeasure that living in human form offers us. When we can land in and with our discomforts though, something quite amazing can happen.  Life can unfold for us possibility, choice, and awareness. When this happens, we begin to see our discomforts as gateways into our growth and refinement.  Then, in a new way, we welcome them. This doesn’t mean that we relish the muck, but we no longer waste our energy swimming upstream.

We are sensitizing ourselves out of the opportunity to experience discomfort.  We are so worried about causing pain and experiencing pain, that we are stunting our ability to grow and learn.  The nature of pain is not inherently bad, it’s communicative. And the suffering that comes from pain and discomfort can serve to propel us to a new understanding or level of awareness.  Especially in Yoga, we are becoming so attached to the avoidance of discomfort that we are taking the Yoga out of our Yoga. The way that our culture approaches Yoga right now is not as a transformational practice, but as a salve to our pain and discomfort, and friends, that is NOT what yoga is designed to do. Side stepping discomfort is a sure fire way to get stuck at your current level of evolution and create a cage of safety that demands a lot of you and subsequently of your environment.

Look at almost anything Yoga on Social Media, and you will see how desperately we cling to ideals of peace and balance. But is Yoga growing us into a better culture or better individual humans?  The philosophy of Tantra helps us understand that existence is a constantly shifting experience of expansion and contraction, called Spanda in Sanskrit.  There is a trustworthy pattern of energetic movement ensuring that we will never be stuck or stagnate in a single place.  However, our current culture has created an adhesive attachment to the ideals of safety and security, creating a powerful resistance to the natural flow of things.  Our society is so deeply attached to these ideals that we avoid the absence of them at all costs, and more often than not, at the cost of others. Attachment to balance and control reign supreme in modern Yoga.  Yet, balance without allowance keeps us firmly protected from the risk of letting go into the mystery. The problem with this is simple.  Life is an ever evolving, fluid, growing creation with increasing levels of sophistication.  When we refuse fluidity and growth, we limit our capacity to evolve. We find ourselves in outdated, outmoded models that don’t fit, and we feel a great deal of discomfort. For some this discomfort may not look like much, a quiet yearning, a feeling of displacement, a fear of the unknown, but still it’s there. A gnawing inside behind the job, the marriage, the friendships, the home, the balance and harmony.

The missing piece of our understanding is that growth and evolution happen outside of comfort.  That the risk that it takes to turn away from safety and comfort IS the gateway to our liberation.  But, our opposition to crossing the chasm is deemed too risky, so we stay put, and the silent longing goes on while we work desperately to make it disappear.  Don’t worry though, the intelligence of this mysterious universe is unparalleled, so it creates the ideal situations to propel us out of our comfort zones. Though we may not recognize them as such, we are given opportunities of varying levels of discomfort to launch us into our next phase of growth. The RISK ZONE, or learning zone as Buddhist teacher Pema Chodron calls it, is the place that seems most dangerous, most unsafe, most insecure.  Yet it’s the place that holds the most possibility. In our lives, we have invested most of our energy and time developing fortresses of safety, so it seems absurd to abandon them. Why would you ever take a risk, when the castle of safety has been so fully fortified? Even if the gnawing continues. Our desires to avoid the discomforts of growth, and maintain a certain level of safety, to “protect” ourselves at all costs, are called Vikalpa.  A vikalpa is a contrary intention, something that tries to steer us away from pain and discomfort at the expense of what is possible.  Psychology would call these self defeating thoughts. Things like, you aren’t good enough, you will just fail, you will never get what you want. Though they are painful and self defeating, they keep us protected and anchored into place.  They keep us in the stagnant, but familiar, places that we know, and we always feel safer in what we know that in the unknown. The unknown is the RISK ZONE, the place of uncertainty which cannot be controlled. The place where we might not be who we’ve worked so hard to become, the place where we might lose it all, or….

The place where we might find ourselves more fully.  The place where we might truly come alive, the place where we will achieve more than we ever expected. That place feels at once terrifying and liberating.  And everything in us says to avoid it at all costs. But that gnawing continues, and maybe we start to listen. When we move toward that longing that bubbles up from inside, we are moving in the direction of Sankalpa, our true intention, and the biggest risk. It is from this place that we begin to consider what is possible.  It is in Sankalpa that we emerge into the full scope of our human capacity. The space beyond safety and security, beyond achievement and success, the space of aliveness. When we feel the pull towards the risk, our minds question our logic, our friends and family question our sanity, and we find ourselves overwhelmed with doubt about our actions. There is a part of us that knows and a part of us that doubts.  Every Sankalpa comes fully equipped with a Vikalpa dance partner.

So it takes a large dose of Sraddha, trust in those who have walked the path before you in Sanskrit, a.k.a. faith, to make the leap. In making the choice to act, despite contrary opinions, we encounter a particular kind of tension that manifests as fear, worry, doubt, and discomfort.  Tantra teaches us that THIS IS SHAKTI herself.  This energy can be harnessed and deposited into your Sankalpa.  All of the resistance has been working for you all along! It is only through the resistance and discomfort that we can generate the energy of change.  All evolution and creation requires a catalyst, a friction, a spark. This tension is the power needed to move forward, to get unstuck, to grow!

But of course, it’s always a choice.  You can choose to avoid the tension by turning away from the possibilities of change and evolution.  You can choose to stay right where you are, and numb the longing, distract yourself from the gnawing, deny desire.  You can choose to stay right where you are. Just remember, your Vikalpa IS the primary dialogue of self protection, the thing that is trying stop you from taking risk.  And your future, is the risk itself. It is always waiting for you on the other side of your discomfort, but never in the absence of it. So the next time your discomfort calls you to doubt the risk, pause and ask yourself… what is waiting for you on the other side?  What opportunity is calling out for you to take a chance? This moment of turning towards rather than away… that is the essence of a warrior.


If you feel called to deepen your study, take the risk and join us. Online or in Person.






Honor the Discomfort

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There is little that can be done to change uncomfortable situations, especially the ones outside of ourselves. Though we try with all of our might to control or avoid them, still they come. To deal with it, some of us fight while others flight. We spend a lot of energy looking externally for something or someone to relieve  the discomfort.

The wisdom of Yoga says something about this… When Discomfort shows up, it is delivering an important message from our intuitive, wise, and true Self. If avoided, ignored, or neglected Discomfort will grow, the suffering will increase, and a medley of other equally uncomfortable or unfortunate events can come together to amplify it. All of this is Discomfort saying,  “Turn towards me, I need you. I have direction for you”

This message is subtle and may seem insignificant compared to the loud repetitive messages of the Ego oriented consumeristic world. Be thin, wear this, youth is God, flexibility is the point, have the right car, be the perfect family, smile, be happy, etc.

I learned how to really endure and listen when I was asked to sit in chair pose, Utkatasana for 5 minutes. Try it yourself real quick. Unclench your jaw, keep your breath flowing and easeful (no power Ujjiyi breathing here), tailbone tucked, chin draw in and spine extended…. Fingertips and crown of your head to the ceiling, tailbone down.. Your breath keeping you erect and supported.  Just relax and witness.

Witnessing the discomfort that I felt in those 5 minutes enraged me. My mind went into a frenzy. I felt victimized because I didn’t deserve that, and I felt angry at the teacher for making me feel  that way how dare her.

Once it was over and I fell  into Savasana. I cried, I felt a huge release of tension and the surrendering of discomfort. I had never gone through discomfort before, all the way to the other side. I had never held my mind accountable to that degree. And when I did, what flowed through me after all the rigid thoughts and judgements about the discomfort, was the support of Prana (energy) that was waiting on the other side.

It felt like relief;  like everything was going to be okay. I had built a bridge. Beyond the guardian we call discomfort is sweet relief. That is what is on the other side of the bridge. Our aversion to move through discomfort, victimization, anger, etc. is what keeps flow, safety, trust, relief out beyond our recall.

Discomfort often creeps in, hits hard (if we oppress it) then demands, “Sit down with me,  breath, and support me. Do not neglect me, don’t turn away or numb yourself into forgetting… Sit with me.”  We often do not hear the message that way. Often that moment looks like all hell has broken loose in our lives, our health, our families and friendships. Like a beautiful disaster has been orchestrated so we can have a minute for ourselves.

Why is it that we can only find these moments from hardship? I hate to say this but that is the design.  Yoga is a practice designed for us to observe the patterns of “imperfection” and “distress” in our lives. The objective or dedication is to continue turning towards discomfort when it crops up rather than away from it.

The more we show up, the more willingness we will find, the easier it will be to hear the message. If you practice this Yoga earnestly and with dedication, you will discover that support will show up naturally.

I am not saying it’s easy or enjoyable or that it happens over night. It’s a lifetime practice. First, decide that you will turn towards discomfort because the  more we turn towards our discomfort, the more we turn towards ourselves. Then resolve yourself to sit with it. You will find that this practice can be your homecoming rather than the source of your suffering.

As we learn to be steady and easeful in our asana the gift we are offered is a trust that relief follows. As we practice enduring discomfort and listening to its message, we will experience relief. We might even learn to Honor the Discomfort and thank it for being our Guide.


Transitions, New Chapters, Epic Journeys

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Dear Yogis,

This year, although still brand new, has already brought so many changes, and I want to take a few moments to share and reflect on them with you.  I began this year in a new home, with a radically new life in many ways, and a yearning to live more to the root of my being. My family and I have moved from California, where we have lived for the past 7 years, back to the soft, ancient mountains of WNC, only an hour from where I was born and where my family still lives.

I won’t lie, the transition has been intense, especially for my children, and I had extreme moments of doubt.  Doubt in myself, in my decision, even doubt about my life path. Through it all, I have continued to lean in to the trust that I have spent 20 years of practice developing, and return day after day to the techniques that keep me connected to my soul.  

We have embarked upon a new chapter of our epic journey.  One that has us stepping into the future, and simultaneously re-establishing our connection to our history, our legacy, and our roots.  It’s a homecoming, in the truest sense. I’ve been contemplating how to bring this journey into my work life, and into my practice. What I’ve discovered is simple.  A return to relationship and connection.

You see, I’ve spent the past ten years building my dream.  Creating programing that expresses a human approach to YogaStudying and practicing the philosophies of Tantra and Yoga, and interpreting them through the truth of the life that I was living, and that I believe we all live.  One where we recognize and accept challenge, not as failure to thrive, but as the fertilizer for our continued evolution. And I have strived to bring these teachings to YOU.  For the last three years, I’ve traversed tens of thousands of miles, spent countless hours in airplanes, and days upon days away from my children and my family. I’ve focused on bringing our approach to you where you live, in your neighborhood studios, your communities.  I’ve spent time supporting our amazing team of Vira Bhava Yogis in bringing the heart of our approach to you, and traveled to their communities to meet you. Through all of this movement and sharing, I haven’t had the time and ability to connect with you one-on-one. To spend time getting to know you, and understanding your path of practice, and the unique challenges and triumphs you have experienced.

So, we are changing things.  Creating a new platform through which to deliver our unique and very human approach to Yoga and Life in a way that will be mindful of our time and energy, and open up new opportunities to connect and grow.  We have refined our 230 Hour program, and are offering it to any RYT graduate of our 230 Hour program who would like to offer Teacher Trainings in their communities.If you feel ready to teach the teachers and share these practices in a bigger way, then contact us directly for more information about the 230 Hour License Program.

We are also taking our 300 Hour Advanced Studies Training online. This program will consist of 4 modules of live recorded lecture, supplemental materials, mentor support, live online classes, and a community of practitioners all over the country. With this approach, you will have the choice of diving deeper into study without any of the requirements of teacher certification and all of the juice. OR you can pursue your RYT-500 by completing the online modules and joining us for 2 Live and In Person weekends (offered both on the West Coast and the East Coast), and enhanced mentorship and support from our team and from yours truly.  To support you in joining us for this inaugural program, we have reduced the cost of the certification program. You can now join our 300 Hour Advanced Studies program for over $1000 off the regular price. This will only be offered once, and next year the program will return to it’s original cost. If you have been wanting to join us, to deepen your study, to explore the connection to soul, Self and practice through the tools of Vira Bhava Yoga, but your time or budget has kept you from it, we hope that our new approach will allow you to meet that desire, and help you to come back to what the practices of Yoga and Tantra have to offer.
CLICK HERE FOR MORE INFORMATION & TO REGISTER.

We are very excited about this evolution, and though it might seem like a paradox, we are taking our programs online so that we may have more time to connect directly with you!  We will be adding much more content to our website (classes, meditations, talks, etc.), as well as offer more specialized LIVE content, AND we will be returning to the adventure of leading retreats!!
Click here for more information on Upcoming Retreats.

Our goal is to gain more time to develop meaningful relationships with YOU.  We are striving to bring the human connection back to Yoga, and we know that living it is the best opportunity to teach it.  

Lastly, you don’t have to register for a training to dive deeper into relationship and study with me.  I am offering a private client program designed in collaboration with YOU to meet the needs of support and guidance you desire for your practice and life.  If you are interested in working directly with me in this way, check out the Apprenticeship Program link here. Space is limited, but spots open up every month, so apply if you are interested.

I hope that 2019 finds you coming home to yourself as well, uncovering your values, and investing in the soulful work of depth, humanness, and connection. If you’ve been longing to return to your roots of practice and support, Vira Bhava Yoga would love to have you join us. We hope to be connecting with you soon.


Many blessings,

Kelly