By Ciel Patenaude –
It has been a lengthy, bizarre, and intense winter, rife with viruses that wouldn’t quit, overwhelming political and sociological events both south of the border and within our own boundaries, extreme and levelling blocks of frigid arctic air, and the snow that just kept coming.
Hopefully by the time you’re reading this – sometime in April, likely – we’ll be out of this late winter cycle. We’re ready for spring.
Classically, spring is considered the time of renewal, growth, activation, and healing, the period when life around us springs back into expression, and our bodies follow. We look forward to more activities done outside, more social interaction, and… less clothes. We aim, perhaps, to lighten up both physically and mentally, welcoming the rejuvenating and illuminating effects of the sun into the dark corners of our psyche and the extra holiday weight we may still carry. It’s a beautiful feeling to step into the light.
In celebration of this time, I have begun teaching a six-week yoga series at Satya Yoga practicing Ecstatic Yoga. Not necessarily a defined ‘type’ of yoga in comparison to other formal classes, the practice has less to do with specific form and more entirely to do with the desired outcome: bringing more happiness into our lives.
Unlike our typical ways of attempting to increase happiness in Western culture – namely the practice of buying something, but also aiming to lose weight, looking to make more money, or finding that perfect partner – the practice of ecstatic yoga looks to empower the access to happiness we have stored within, not to focus on what things or experiences outside of ourselves might elevate our normal state of being.
Your relationship to happiness is defined by the ideology you subscribe to, and what that ideology says about the true nature of humanity. Should you believe there is something basically wrong or sinned in you, you will be more likely to place faith in finding happiness outside of yourself, or only in doing good in the world (definitely not a bad thing, but limited).
In my faith – specifically what that is I’m not entirely sure, but I suppose it would be somewhere at the intersection of Zen and Tibetan Buddhist, Shamanic, Positive Psychology, Integral, and Jungian perspectives – it is of great benefit to place faith in the basic goodness of all of us, trusting that ecstasy is our birthright and something we have access to all the time without having to do or be something in the world.
This is the perspective that anchors the practice of ecstatic yoga: happiness is available within us all the time, and it is not about ‘creating’ more happiness in our lives but instead about removing the blockages we carry within ourselves regarding how much happiness we think we should have.
These ‘blockages’ are the result of experiences and imprinting that we received in early childhood. None of us grew up in a perfectly unconditional household, a place where every part of our nature was accepted and allowed by our caretakers. Certain things we did – perhaps our artistic expressions, our sexuality, or particular ways we had of expressing our needs –were not liked by those around us, and so we learnt to suppress them, favoring approval over authentic expression. This is how we created our ego or ‘calculating’ self: the person we believed the world wanted us to be.
The suppression of our creativity, our organic movement, and sexual nature, and the full spectrum of our emotional experience resulted in blockages forming in both our physical and energetic bodies. We learned, perhaps, to not express anger or sadness, or that we were a poor dancer or inept singer. We learned we weren’t as artistic as someone else and so shouldn’t ever express ourselves that way, even if we wanted that kind of expression so badly.
In Ecstatic Yoga, the aim is to challenge those places where blockages occur by deliberately engaging with the practice we think we shouldn’t or couldn’t do, freeing the stuck energy within.
The prescription is simple: if you don’t think you can sing, then sing.
If you believe yourself to be a terrible dancer, dance anyway.
If you have always told yourself you are not artistic, make art every day.
And if you don’t allow yourself to express your needs and emotional experience, learn to and do it frequently. Yell, scream, cry, or talk it out, but just don’t keep it locked inside.
We tell ourselves that the ways in which we block our true nature prevent us from being hurt or embarrassed. That it is a better thing to not sing at all if it makes sure no one will ever be able to mock us again for sounding so terrible. We live our lives in fear of emotional assault, avoiding any situation that might make us feel unsure.
The core self within each of us, however, does not operate from fear. It chooses to follow the path of ecstasy into experiences that offer it liberation, more expression, and a greater sense of internal confidence that has no dependence upon what the world thinks of who we are and what we do. The core self is free, joyful, playful, and open to life.
If you are looking to bring more happiness into your life this spring, and want to engage in some ‘cleansing’ that will increase your energy and aliveness, challenge your own blockages. Ask yourself what you are afraid of doing, and then go do it, deliberately transcending the limitations you have long abided by without questioning. We all have the potential for ecstasy in every moment, and need only be courageous enough to let it flow through us.
Ciel Patenaude is an Integrative Health & Shamanic Practitioner based in Williams Lake, BC. A highly trained and naturally gifted intuitive healer, Ciel holds a BSc in Biology, an MA in Integrative Healing, and is a certified yoga teacher & wellness coach.