Seeking courage

I started this blog when I arrived in Stadtschlaining, Austria, a small village south of Vienna with a castle and a peace studies program. In the words of Maria from the Sound of Music, I was “seeking the courage I lack”.

Though I had a lesson plan, I still wondered “What will this day be like?”

I wanted to approach the subject of courage and strength, and how you can learn courage from nature. Where do you find courage?

I continue to be amazed about my own strength and courage to leave an abusive relationship. I let people know all the time, verbally or through written and pictorial representation of my story done by Bravery Project.

You need courage regardless of where you are at in life. In the Peace Field, you need courage to go out into mine fields, or walk knee-deep flooded waters in Haiti. In daily life, you need courage to walk with intention and peace. You need courage to make the right decisions–for you, and for the world.

These women and children are already courageous and brave and strong. They bravely acknowledged their own selves and their lives, and sought support to continue being strong to better their lives. This itself is a big step towards peace: you take the step towards being the best you can be when you make your safest and securest choice in life.

Yet when going through domestic violence, you often lose self-confidence. Yoga can help bring back that confidence and strength so that once again, you can say “I have confidence in me”.

Yesterday, the women wanted something for stress relief, and the youth wanted to burn off energy. So I decided to alter my lesson plans to adjust to their needs, including the needs of a new mom-and-daughter team.

We started with deep breathing and chanting OM, just once. From there, we moved into cat-cow and bear. I reminded the women to think like a bear who has the courage to go everywhere. The yoga pose allows you to be organic, flowing with courage.

We then partnered off for a few poses–Boat, Thunderbolt, and Goddess. These poses allowed us to feel the support of the other person, while also providing support. It takes courage to accept help. Only a strong person would do it! (Goddess also gives a chance to think about your inner goddess, with all the power and strength and courage in the world.)

From there, we did some swan dives, remembering “the wind beneath our wings” that helped hold the integrity of the pose as we came down. We also did tree pose, some down dogs, warriors 1 & 3, wild-thing, crescent, crescent twist, individual thunderbolt, camel. I continued to guide students to be courageous push themselves just past their limits…. or find a way to be strong and accept just where they are!

We also did the Kundalini frog pose, followed by the arm balance crow’s pose.

A few seated poses like deer and stick, and then we came to lying. We challenged our strength to get into snail, bridge and even wheel.

Finally, after happy baby, we were ready for a long, deep savasana. During savasana, I asked students to reflect back on the 1 hour, 30 minute (followed by 10 minute savasana and 5 minute meditation) yoga practice to see how courageous they were that day, to notice all the parts of their body that were strong and breath a bit of love into that area. I then asked them to feel the support of the earth underneath as they relaxed and accepted the group work–something difficult to do when yoga is often very intimate and personal! Yet another sign of courage. The peaceful slumber probably gave the women and girls even more strength and energy to face the world. After all, “strength lies in nights of peaceful slumber.”

Our meditation was Kundalini style “Victory”. We didn’t hold it for 11 minutes; the 1 1/2 minutes itself was brave enough!

What’s your favorite story or quote of courage?

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2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Chelsey
    Dec 09, 2010 @ 13:50:42

    I thought this TED talk was relevant (and beautiful)


    • sowmyaayyar
      Dec 09, 2010 @ 21:33:15

      i love it! it is VERY difficult to completely open up. because sometimes we don’t like what we see inside. but it comes closer to our truth, because it is the REAL honesty– the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.


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Namaste. This section will begin to explore sanskrit terminology associated with yoga. First word: Namaste. This is a salutation, "I salute the light within you that is within me also."
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