The words of the teacher who led the morning yoga practice at the Wanderlust Mindfulness Marathon in Denver, Colorado still ring in my awareness:“What do you need to put down that was not yours to pick up in the first place?
Chelsey Korus is quickly becoming one of yoga's foremost teachers and philosophers. She's been featured in PopSugar, Prevention Magazine, Yoga Journal, Women's Fitness, Mantra Magazine, Fitness Magazine, Shape, and is one of the top teachers on Yogaglo, an online venue for the top yoga teachers in the world to offer video-based asana and philosophy classes.
It’s no surprise that the California-based yoga teacher has been traveling the country as part of the Wanderlust staff. She's been teaching yoga since the age of 15 and has been a lifelong student of various yoga practices, including Anusara, Power Vinyasa, Ashtanga, Acro, as well as martial arts, free form dance, and ballet. The surprise was the way she cued and invited deep inquiry in the middle of the mile-high park setting.
The vivacious blonde yogi opened the outdoor practice with three deep, harmonious OM sounds that vibrated across the city park. With authentic enthusiasm, she cued High Crescent Lunge:
“Bend your left knee until your left thigh bone is parallel to the earth. Place your foot onto the earth with a sense of knowing that you belong in the exact spot today. Keep your back heel slightly lifted in readiness. Keep your back leg straight and strong, conscious not to hyperextend it. Plant yourself confidently and breathe!”
The next set of anatomical alignment cues brought us into Mountain Pose, or Tadasana– a pose well-known as a starting position for standing yoga poses. Yet, the way Chelsey cued it, it was a pose in and of itself:
“Balance the crown of your head directly over the center of your pelvis with the underside of your chin parallel to the earth. Allow your throat to go soft and the tongue to lay wide and flat on the floor of your mouth. Soften your eyes and sharpen your awareness to the messages of your body!”
With assurance she said, “You know where we’re going… Step forward with our right foot, taking note of how your step into the world.” The inquiry offered was: “Do you step cautiously or confidently? Do you step forward as if you deserve to take up space in the world? Or do you struggle to find your footing?”
An empowering series of affirmative cues followed: “It is your birthright to breathe and be in the world! Breathe in your birthright! Exercise your right to claim your space in the world. Breathe in fully! Lunge forward from a place of empowerment, planting your right foot firmly on the earth in front of you. Inhale a deep knowing that you are destined to be in the exact place you are today.”
Can you feel the intensity of the yoga practice and the deep wisdom of this young yet highly credentialed yoga teacher? We were practicing at high noon in the Rocky Mountain sun, and so her next invitation was met with a few groans.
“Lower your extended knees to the mat—or if you are slightly more adventuresome, keep your back leg extended—and humble yourself to the right side of the mat with your forearms resting on the earth in Surrendered Warrior. Listen to this question and allow your breath to provide the answers: What or who have you been carrying that was not yours to pick up in the first place?”
Upon hearing this question, my eyes immediately welled up with tears—as did the eyes of many of the other fellow yogis around me. Chelsey offered this for us to reflect upon: “The practice of yoga is that of getting clarity as to where we have lost pieces of our serenity, our identity and our destiny!”
In the moment, I may have had some fleeting clarity, although I don’t actually remember doing the other side of the insightful sequence, I was so deeply affected by her inquiry. What I do remember, and continue to meditate upon, is the question: “What do you need to put down that was not yours to pick up in the first place?”
This question has haunted me, as well as the question of how exactly we can release what wasn't ours in the first place from a place of ease and grace?
Let’s consider the acronym E.A.S.E.
Evaluate what's yours and what isn't.
Byron Katie, an amazing author who teaches a method of self-inquiry known as "The Work of Byron Katie" or known simply as "The Work" counsels, “Stay in your own business! I can find only three kinds of business in the universe: mine, yours, and God’s. (For me, the word God means “reality.” Reality is God, because it rules. Anything that’s out of my control, your control, and everyone else’s control—I call that God’s business.) Much of our stress comes from mentally living out of our own business [and being into someone else’s business].”
Here's the thing -- when you are in someone else's business, your mind gets “busy” and clouded, your physical body gets heavy and sometimes unable to fully breathe, and your spirit becomes compromised. When the Chelsey asked, “Who or what are you carrying that was not yours to pick up in the first place,” she was asking really asking, “Whose business are you butting into?”
A very simple question to ask is this: “Is this (whatever it is you are tempted to make your burden) mine?” Ask the question! Breathe into it for the answer.
Ask what motivated you to pick up what isn't yours!
Why do we butt into other people’s business? Maybe because we are caretakers and healers! Maybe because it’s how we find our worth! Or maybe, it’s a way for us to control things! Ouch! Yeah, I know… All these things describe me! Do they describe you?
As someone with extensive life coaching experience and yoga teacher training, I have come to understand that I must ask myself potent questions of inquiry so as to be clear—and qualified—to ask those I am destined to work with the same powerful questions.
We draw to us that which is left unhealed. Unless we recognize our patterns—like caretaking, trying to control situations relationships or working hard to have things our way — we will continue to act out those patterns. Once we recognize them, we are capable of finally healing them.
What that means is we must ask of ourselves—with the deep intention of self-discovery—revealing questions to prepare ourselves to assist and serve others without recusing or enabling them. #EasierSaidThanDone
Seek to understand body-felt messages!
Wasn’t it Socrates who claimed that the unexamined life is not worth living? By that, he was imploring us to seek understanding of ourselves, which he believed gives meaning and value to our lives. He was primarily encouraging the examination of our mind— our thoughts and beliefs about life.
Yet, there is another way to examine our life by examining the messages of the body. When researching the term “body-felt message,” I recently came across a blog written by Daniel Leven, founder and director of the Leven Institute for Expressive Movement, offering this wisdom:
“Connect emotions to a felt-body sense. Take a moment and sense into your body where that feeling lives and how it feels at this point. To tune into your body more closely, you may find it helpful to close your eyes. Take as much time as you need. You can even ask into your body, ‘Where does my fear (or whatever emotion you may be sensing) live, and how does it feel within me?’ You don’t even need to find words to describe what you’re feeling: just feel what you’re feeling; sense into your body, starting at your head and then moving down through your torso, including your muscles and even your heart, lungs, and guts. When you’re ready, share what you’ve discovered, whatever sensations you feel.”
Every yoga experience, every life coaching session, and every time we are willing to answer an essential question, we have the opportunity to evolve to an extraordinary life.
One of my teachers and personal friends was the late Debbie Ford, author of The Right Questions: Ten Essential Questions To Guide You To An Extraordinary Life. She said this: “Questions supply you with the wisdom you need to make what was previously unconscious, conscious, so that you can choose with all the power that comes from being fully aware.”
Debbie Ford often repeated this message:
“We are where we are because of repeated unconscious or unhealthy choices that we’ve made day after day that add up to the reality we find ourselves in. If we want to understand why and how we created our present reality, all we need to do is look at the choices we made in the past… Our futures are determined by the choices we are making at this moment… If we want our lives to be different, all we have to do is make different choices. Ask yourself what you want to be different?”
So how do we let go with ease and grace?
Chelsey bowed deeply at the Wanderlust Mindfulness Marathon with this closing benediction:
“Yoga is the thing that makes my heart return back to its original state: LOVE.”
When we let go of what was not meant for us, we are returning to our core state of non-attachment—the foundation of healthy love. Through self-examination of our attachments, the reasons they have shown up in our lives, and the ways in which we’ve connected our physical and emotional experience of human “beingness” to them, we can finally begin to set ourselves free.
Editorial note: Yoga is not just the practice of physical poses, rather includes the practice of self-inquiry, known as atma-vichara in Sanskrit. Self-inquiry is the primary method through which self-realization-- the realization of our true nature beyond mind and body--is achieved.
We also invite you to learn more about yoga teacher training at SWIHA and what a life of practicing and teaching self-inquiry could offer you: