Wind down 2019 with a refreshing deep dive: Omen Days Retreat

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Registration is now open! Only 10 spots available. Early bird pricing through November 4th 🙂

Anybody looking for a refreshing and deep-diving alternative to the holiday madness?  Come and join our Omen Days Retreat!  We will tap into silence and listen to our bodies and souls through a variety of powerful methods:  TIAVY (Trauma Informed Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga), meditation, shamanic journeying, expressive/creative arts and movement, chanting, group process and divination…  Prepare to enter 2020 rejuvenated, with a sense of clarity, purpose and readiness.

This retreat will take place at our home studio in Denver at the end of the year during the Omen Days from the Winter Solstice through the beginning of the New Year (December 20, 2019-January 1, 2020), a time considered by many cultures to be especially potent for doing inner work and setting the tone for the year to come. If you find you cannot join us for the entire time, a daily option will be opened after the Early Bird registration period is over. 

There will be free time each afternoon for nature walks led by Jiyu, drawing and journaling, doing restoratives using our extensive prop collection, and optional add-ons like IR sauna sessions. You may also choose to add on a juicing and/or V-GF organic kitchari cleanse package for turbo detox and renewal. 

The bulk of the retreat will be held in noble silence. For our purposes this means allowing ourselves to get away from talking about our usual concerns and identities and speaking only when necessary or when encouraged during group practices. (To whatever degree possible, you are invited to take a break from electronic communications as well, such a relief!) Through guided group and partner activities we will create space to feel seen, heard, held and thoroughly appreciated for the star beings we truly are.

New Year’s Eve will be an even bigger celebration than every other night  and additional members of the community may join in. We will have a healthy & delicious V-GF potluck, dancing, kirtan/sing-along, puja to bring our intentions for the new year into consciousness, and finally we will sit or move in silence for the last hour of 2019. At midnight, we will salute the new year with 108 repetitions of the mantra LOKAH SAMASTAH SUKHINO BHAVANTU (may all beings be happy) and have a brief toast with tea, snacks etc. before retiring so as to be fresh for 7am ceremony on New Year’s Day!!!

Jen-Mitsuke will be leading all of the activities and also practicing and retreating along with you. She will teach TIAVY self-practice on Sundays as well as Christmas Day and New Year’s Day during this period (4x), practicing yoga right beside you on other days. You must therefore be familiar with “Mysore-style” classes and be confident in your own practice, as group yoga instruction will not be offered. (Seasoned practitioners in other lineages are also welcomed. Just let me know where you’re coming from and we can decide whether it’s a good match.) Shamanic journeying, expressive practices and group processes will be thoroughly explained, so no prior experience with those is needed. Please contact Jen with any questions or concerns.

Locals may commute daily, and for those from out of town, we may be able to offer you a couple of competitively-priced options for staying here with us. These accommodations afford varying degrees of privacy and comfort, and all involve a shared bathroom. Please inquire if interested.

Additional Details Here! 🙂

Daily Morning Sadhana in October

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Got Yoga? Sauna? Ceremony? Creativity? We do! Start each day the Jen-Mitsuke & Jiyu way!

We invite you to join us 7 days per week during the month of October for morning sadhana at our extremely well-appointed and pleasant home studio in Denver. We encourage you to undertake a diverse and individually-appropriate practice that helps to ground you and serve that which is most meaningful to you in life.

Feel free to include kriya, pranayama, meditation, strengthening exercises and restoratives in your yoga routines! We have a plethora of specialized equipment for your enjoyment. You are also welcome to do creative work during that time if your schedule does not permit staying the full morning. Need help tailoring your personal practice or incorporating additional creative or healing elements? Set up a private session with Jen.

Creative Hour will consist of puja, chanting and drumming/rattling followed by 40 minutes to spend as you choose for personal journaling, dream analysis, artwork, movement exploration, etc., and ending with a neuroplasticity-stimulating meditation for happiness and resilience.

You may attend whatever times work for you, but please refrain from arriving or departing during group savasana, ceremony or meditation times (8:30-8:45, 9:00-9:15, 9:55-10:00). 45-minute IR sauna sessions can be booked (at least 24 hours in advance) as early as 5:30am and finishing as late as 10:45am.

We are looking to foster a sense of regularity and support in community, so we only offer monthly subscriptions. Our friends from out of town or locals looking for a retreat may purchase 7-day memberships on a space-available basis. We will be a group of 10 or less.

Please note, there will be no practice on October 25, 26 and 27th (Friday-Sunday) as Jen will be traveling for her PhD studies. Otherwise, Jen leads the daily chanting, puja, drumming/rattling & meditation. Additionally, she will teach TIAVY self-practice from 6:30-8:45am on Wednesdays and Sundays. At other times Jiyu is there to supervise as Jen practices alongside you. 🙂

Schedule:

  • 6:00am–Doors Open
  • 6:30am–Ashtanga Vinyasa Invocations
  • 8:30am–Group Savasana & Closing Chant
  • 8:45am–Tea & Satsang
  • 9:00am–Puja & Ceremony
  • 9:15am–Creative Free-Time
  • 9:55am–Closing Meditation
  • 10:00am–Bring Your Best Self Out Into the World!

Investment:

  • October Unlimited (includes 2 IR sauna sessions) — $180
  • 15-day Punch Card (expires end of October 2019) — $150
  • 10-day Punch Card (expires end of October 2019) — $120
  • 7-consecutive-day Punch Card (sign up for October dates) — $80
  • 5-pack IR sauna 45-min Session — $75
  • Single IR sauna 45-min Session — $20

Click here for additional details and registration!

Jen-Mitsuke is headed Back-to-School!

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Congratulate me!  😉  Jiyu is toasting to my future as a PhD student (yet again!) at Pacifica Graduate Institute in California.  I will be studying Depth Psychology with a concentration in Integrative Therapies and Healing Practices.  

In working on the curriculum for my TIAVY (trauma informed ashtanga vinyasa yoga) teacher training this past summer, I realized just how committed I am to spreading the word about trauma and how we all need to whittle away at our own ever-replenishing load!  It became clear to me that I wanted to integrate some shamanic and expressive modalities into the yoga and psychotherapeutic-neuroplasticity framework I have been developing over the past 6 years, so this program seems to be right up my very interdisciplinary alley!  

I’m hoping to meet a lot of inspiring colleagues from various healing professions and learn a lot.  The first time around (2000-2004 at Princeton University studying neuroscience), I wasn’t far enough along on my own path to feel confident of making my own contribution to the field.  It was fascinating, but it seemed like I was just doing more of what my predecessors did and not likely to make a lasting difference in peoples’ lives.  I was still meandering towards my deeper purpose. 

My own illness, subsequent contemplative trainings and counseling degree have added to my way of understanding the healing process, with all of its universals and particulars.

I hope to stand with myself and others on their healing journeys and expand my ability to tap in to Spirit, the unconscious, conscious relationship, and eastern and western techniques for nervous system regulation in my sessions and workshops.  I increasingly hope to attract students and clients looking to make a profound investment in their intrinsic intuitive, relational and creative abilities.  

I will be traveling to CA monthly but remaining in Denver at other times so stay tuned for upcoming offerings!  And please sign up for my blog and email list if you have not done so already 😉 

Getting Practical About Ending Suffering

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“Trauma is the most avoided, ignored, belittled, denied, misunderstood and untreated cause of human suffering.  When I use the word “trauma,” I’m talking here about the often debilitating symptoms many people suffer in the aftermath of overwhelming experiences…  The field of psychiatric medicine has chosen to view most of the long-term effects of trauma as an incurable disease…  I believe that trauma is not only curable, but that the healing process can be a catalyst for profound awakening, a portal, a door, an opening to emotional and real spiritual transformation. 

Though it is a fact of life, and it is, trauma does not have to be a life sentence.  I have little doubt that as individuals, friends, partners, families, communities and even nations, that we have the capacity to learn how to heal and prevent much of the damage done by trauma, and in doing so we will be able to significantly increase our ability to achieve both our individual and collective dreams.” — Peter Levine in Healing Trauma: Restoring the Wisdom of Your Body 

If what Peter Levine says is true (and most trauma experts agree whole-heartedly), then perhaps all of us interested in the cessation of suffering might perk up our ears. As we will review below, ending suffering is the whole point of the 8-fold Buddhist path as well as the path of Ashtanga Yoga laid out by Patanjali. Sometimes, however, I get the feeling that we are so enthralled by tantra and transcendence, promises of love, light & levitation, or at least getting the leg behind the head, that we fail to understand that most of us have not constructed the most minimal foundations for eliminating the grossest forms of suffering in our lives.

How then, would we expect our efforts on the cushion or mat to be effective? As Peter notes, we greatly underestimate the impact of trauma and its insidious effects on our nervous systems. If we continue to leave these effects untreated, the value of our more subtle work will be lessened, or in fact, we may exacerbate certain kinds of imbalances and form unhealthy relationships that cause us to suffer more rather than less.

If we are honest, we see that many efforts are in fact not working that well, as some of the most “practiced” and “accomplished” teachers and students continue to propagate extreme suffering amongst themselves and others. Granted, these paths are generally thought to work little by little over countless lifetimes, and numerous stories glorify the brutality of certain gurus as catalyzing an enlightenment we aren’t even able to imagine, but nonetheless, what qualities do we really want to manifest in our own lives, and are our practices actually helping us become who we want to be in the world? Are we interacting with people whose qualities we would want to emulate or gawking over people who inspire a sense of other-worldly awe that bears little relevance to our embodied situation?

For those of you who fancy yourselves to be advanced tantric practitioners for whom this world no longer matters in all of its illusoriness and impermanence, you can continue to do your visualizations and just ignore this post. The work I’m talking about is for the rest of us, granted yes, those of us who are able to do the hardest-ever practice of admitting honestly that we are perhaps at an earlier stage on the path, or at least temporarily having to deal with circumstances that require attention outside of our traditional sadhana.

When I hear teachers I consider truly great, they seem to hold all life in high regard and have a keenly developed sense of wisdom and compassion, so I wonder whether some others are missing a certain necessary foundation. There is no use doing advanced practices when you are fundamentally unprepared. Would you put a spire into thin air without the rest of the building? Well you could, but results would be predictably disappointing…

I would like to briefly summarize my own personal story about healing from trauma, but first, let’s just start by reminding ourselves that our starting point is suffering! That is what these practices we are doing purport to alleviate. Almost sounds like a buzz kill… It’s less glamorous than a tight yoga butt or superpower. But actually, there’s a lot of magic in it, and starting where we are doesn’t mean we can’t touch into the mystical. In fact, we have a greater chance to do that when we can be real about our true biological needs and get them met.

In the Four Truths of the Nobles (commentary by Khenchen Thrangu Rinpoche, the Buddha suggests that:

1) Suffering comes along with taking birth: “The obvious aspect of suffering is immediate pain or difficulty in the moment. Subtle suffering is more difficult to recognize because it begins with happiness. But by its very nature this happiness must change because it can’t go on forever.” (I often feel relieved to work with my psychotherapy clients rather than yoga students, because at least they understand the first Noble Truth and are actually looking for ways out.)

2) Suffering has a cause: “The truth of interdependent origination is that if we do unvirtuous actions, we are creating suffering.” (Even if we were to genuinely believe that a certain master’s apparently abusive behavior is intentional and meant for our spiritual development and even if we took something exceedingly valuable from our own experience with such a teacher, there is still no excuse for other students and teachers to perpetuate abuse as happens every single day whether subtle or gross. If that “guru” is truly beyond generating karma, that is exceedingly rare and the rest of us had better be very careful about the seeds we sew at every moment, because there is no way they will fail to come back at us sooner or later.)

3) The cause can be uprooted: “If we abandon unvirtuous actions, we remove the possibility of experiencing suffering in the future… Therefore the Buddha has said that we should give up the causes of karma and the disturbing emotions.” (If you are practicing with a teacher who greatly disturbs your emotions due to gaslighting or other means, it is time to consider whether you are developing “equanimity” and “taming your ego” by trying to ignore your feelings and suppress your gut reactions, or causing yourself a slow trauma train wreck that will surface at some point of stress down the road.)

4) We have methods (the 8-fold path) at our disposal to end future suffering: “correct meditation, correct mindfulness, correct intention, right view, correct speech, correct action, correct livelihood and correct effort.” (I would simply like to add that the Buddha grew up pampered in a palace. If your upbringing was a little different, you might need to do some preparatory work to get to the point where you are able to jump in to these limbs in a meaningful way.)

The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali (Chip Hartranft edition) echo these 4 truths as follows:

II-15) Everything is suffering: “The wise see suffering in all experience, whether from the anguish of impermanence or from latent impressions laden with suffering or from incessant conflict as the fundamental qualities of nature vie for ascendancy.”

II-17) Suffering has a cause: “The preventable cause of all this suffering is the apparent indivisibility of pure awareness and what it regards.”

II-16) Suffering can be ended: “But suffering that has not yet arisen can be prevented.”

II-29) The 8-limbed (Ashtanga) Path is our method for ending suffering through the development of discriminative awareness (quite different than blind faith): “The eight components of yoga are external discipline, internal discipline, posture, breath regulation, concentration, meditative absorption, and integration.”

Having seen the 4 truths spelled out by Buddha and Patanjali, we can see that Peter has laid out something similar with specific reference to trauma. 1) He calls trauma a fact of life. 2) He implies that the cause (which lies in the nervous system rather than in an external event) is becoming increasingly well-understood. 3) He and others have seen thousands of people heal and blossom from the 4) methods that are currently being developed and refined. So there is hope, even if you have felt like a hopeless case for any number of reasons or started to wonder whether all of your efforts may be futile.

Thrangu Rinpoche in the same exposition I quoted from talks about the necessity of eliminating the grosser obstacles on the path before focusing on the finer details. Patanjali also notes the obstacles to yoga and some suggestions for getting them out of the way, but I believe many of us need more help, help that often gets poo-pooed in spiritual circles.

It’s time for a brief personal anecdote. After twice moving across the world for my yoga teachers and making every effort to practice diligently and well-roundedly over a period of the past 16 years, one of them asked me why my practice wasn’t working (since the “happiness” that he claimed comes as a natural result of the practice wasn’t manifesting in me. In fact, I was severely chronically ill, angry, pathologically depressed, and generally incapable of doing much of anything other than my practice and some minimal teaching). I really wondered why myself, since I believed what I was being fed, something not quite as simplistic but nonetheless along the lines of “Practice and all is coming!”

Well, long story short, having now trained in counseling and specializing in trauma for the past few years and having done quite a bit of shamanic and psychotherapeutic work in addition to my yoga practice in a healing vein, I am now feeling better. The yoga in the form I was engaging would not have sufficed. I would have continued to suffer tremendously (like mega-high-amplitude) and become all the more ill. I would have inadvertently continued to be isolated from the rest of humanity, which would have made all of my afflictions worse.

Know what? I had no idea that I had trauma. I considered myself very fortunate in the grand scheme of things, but lo and behold it turns out my nervous system had perceived a high level of threat for a long time and felt very, very traumatized. (Many people cannot point to a single event or set of aversive circumstances and therefore ignore the possibility that there is trauma stuck in their bodies and attribute their pains to other causes. In fact, as I myself found out AFTER graduating from counseling school and writing my capstone on trauma, my own memory and perception of certain events had been skewed and obscured in a way that makes trauma very slippery to pinpoint for many and very easy to deny in those of us who actually want to take control of our own lives and not sit around feeling fragile and sorry for ourselves).

The idea that our salvation is in our own hands and that we need to walk our own path and the teacher cannot walk it for us is quite unfortunate, as it feeds into our modern pathological individualism, incessant self-blame and pressure towards self-improvement, and desperate need to heal in order to even survive in a hostile economy. While ultimately true and liberating, a greater recognition that the teacher or our community or others around us could walk the path WITH us is direly needed. Indeed, these paths were developed with the expectation that seekers would have intact nervous systems and deep trusting relationships with truly accomplished teachers, conditions that are rarely met in the yoga world today, though I do not exclude the possibility that it could happen, or even deny that there have been times (for which I am inexpressibly grateful) when I have experienced it myself.

While we can dissolve many kinds of samskara/conditioning with pure awareness (if we are in a state where we are able to cultivate that), traumatic conditioning seems to be a special case. When we have been traumatized in relationship to others, we often need others to help us to repair ourselves. This is not a pathetic failure to practice correctly. This is the truth of interdependence, something a lot of spiritual teachers like to give lip service to but seem not to comprehend when they leave us hanging with a bunch of practices to do as if that is all we should need.

That is not all we need. Interpersonal neuroscience demonstrates that our nervous systems need others to co-regulate with in order to develop properly and that even under optimal developmental conditions, various forms of trauma can disrupt these systems to a point beyond what we can fix by a little bit (or a lot) of breathing or posing by ourselves or even with our million Instagram followers. 😉 We are all being bombarded through media with the suffering of an entire world teetering on the brink of disaster. Even when we feel we are on a conscious level cool as a cucumber, there may be parts of us that desperately need reassurance through mindful contact with others.

Hence, all the hype these days about self-regulation, be it in the yoga or therapy realm is really a lot of hooey if you are speaking to somebody with any degree of trauma load, which turns out to be quite a majority given that oppression can cause trauma, not just shell shock, and that trauma is now believed to underly a great majority of mental and physical symptoms and disorders, not to mention how we all have various forms of ancestral trauma that we can see in our genes as well as behaviors… In other words, if you have any kind of problem, consider trauma as a possible underlying factor and investigate whether you are suffering needlessly from it.

There is nothing heroic about suffering, whether it’s torturing yourself with an inadequate or inappropriate yoga practice, mild insomnia or something that seems far more grave. If you can just get rid of it, go ahead. If I had only known sooner, I would have had a very different life. (No regrets per se, like Peter says, it has opened my eyes to worlds I am so grateful to know, but then again, maybe the cost would not have had to have been quite so high… I also do not mean to say that it will be a quick fix. It has taken an extreme investment in my case and is still a work in progress, but some additional relief has come at every stage of intervention.)

So maybe you’re young and fit, love your yoga teacher and are enjoying your life. That is wonderful and please don’t think there is anything wrong with that either. However, if there comes a point where any of this shifts, and you find that what has worked in the past no longer serves you, that is when I hope you will remember that other kinds of help are available.

I do not mean to knock the methods and profound philosophical roots of yoga, which I do trust from my own experience as being extremely powerful under the right circumstances. I still practice and teach them with conviction, but not with the naivety I once did. I have started to see that so many of us need some supplemental work at some point or another.

I felt sooo much shame on my own path, wondering why I needed extra help when I pretty much collapsed after working so hard for so long and gaining so much training and apparent competence. In the end the mantras did less for me than a hug from a person who truly cared for me as a person.

There should be no shame in getting the help you need, and my hope in writing and teaching about trauma is to get the word out so that more people will understand how it is affecting us all, and how we can more skillfully and compassionately work through it and move on to the more subtle suffering that at least at first masquerades as happiness LOL! 😉

To stay up to date with my writings, TIAVY (trauma-informed Ashtanga Vinyasa yoga teacher trainings, private consultations and more, please subscribe to my blog.

Morning Mini-Retreat Update

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Hi Friends, Jiyu and I are so enjoying our morning mini-retreats and hope you can make it to experience a very complete practice, which will then inform any one of the practices you do in the future! We have added options for 2 days/week, a 5-pack, and a single drop-in, depending upon your schedule. Please see full details here.

Jiyu also wants me to let you know that in the cases pictured, the students asked him to do these particular assists. He does not want you to feel that he will be giving paws-on assists without your explicit consent and guidance 😉 After all, we teach TIAVY (trauma informed ashtanga vinyasa yoga)! Looking forward to practicing with you.

15-hour Intro to Trauma-Informed Ashtanga Yoga Training in Denver

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Early Bird Pricing until April 15th!

Awaken the healing potential of your practice by combining
ancient wisdom with modern neuroscience & psychotherapy.

I’m thrilled to be offering this training again this spring as a synthesis of my counseling MA project, my extensive background in neuroscience, 15 years of yoga teaching experience, and my own journey getting the most out of spiritual practices despite trauma and chronic illness.  This is an all-level workshop meant for Ashtangis looking to practice smart.    

Leading psychologists and neuroscientists agree that nearly all of us (whether we recognize it or not) are living with at least some degree of trauma, a condition stemming from overwhelm that has been linked to both distress and disease.  Fortunately, yoga interventions based on cutting-edge clinical treatments have been shown to significantly reduce symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (Price et al., 2017), and as trauma resolves, people often find a redoubled sense of vitality and purpose.  As Ashtanga yoga practitioners, we have a potent set of techniques at our fingertips, but unless we inquire deeply into the theories, attitudes and interpersonal interactions surrounding these practices, we are not likely to reap maximal benefit from our daily efforts, especially when trauma is present.

In this workshop, we will explore key concepts in trauma healing and examine how we can immediately apply them to our practice.  We will consider how the practice environment and student-teacher relationships exert a tremendous impact on the nervous system.  We will study the fundamental features of trauma physiology and gain awareness of how our intentions and actions may be perpetuating or alleviating trauma in ourselves and others.  Most exciting of all, we will investigate where Ashtanga technologies (such as bandha, mudra and chanting) fit in alongside some of the most ground-breaking trauma theories available.

This workshop is best suited for curious vinyasa yoga practitioners and teachers with any level of experience and proficiency.  Clinicians who are looking to bring yoga into their practices in a deeper way are also welcome, though some familiarity with the Ashtanga Vinyasa method is recommended.  All asana work will be gentle and adaptable to individual circumstance.  Although sharing will never be forced, there will be opportunities to engage in partner exercises and group discussion.  Please note that this training is not intended to treat trauma, nor are participants encouraged to work outside of their professional Scope of Practice.  Resolution of severe trauma may require a multifaceted approach, a pivotal part of which may be a careful yoga practice.

Jen-Mitsuke Peters holds a BA from Columbia University in Neuroscience & Behavior, an MA in Psychology/Neuroplasticity from Princeton University and an MA in Mindfulness-Based Transpersonal Counseling from Naropa University.  She has practiced with and assisted her principal Ashtanga Vinyasa yoga teachers Richard Freeman & Mary Taylor for over 2100 hours in addition to training extensively in other yoga styles and therapeutic modalities.  Her own experiences with trauma and chronic illness have awakened both her passion for healing and her deep trust in the transformative power of compassionate and mutually beneficial relationships.  She has been teaching yoga internationally since 2005 and is a registered psychotherapist and coach in private practice in Denver, CO.  Please contact Jen with any questions or concerns.

Schedule for the Weekend (May 17-19, 2019)
Location is near Water World at 84th & Pecos in Denver

Friday– 5:30pm-7:30pm
Saturday– 9am-12:30pm, 2:00pm-5:00pm
Sunday– 9am-12:30pm, 2:00pm-5:00pm

Each session will include a mix of theory, practice/experiential and discussion.  Check out Testimonials for an idea of what students gained during a similar training last summer.

Investment:  $325 (Early Bird Discount of $50 if paid in full by April 15th)

To register, please submit a registration email introducing yourself and your background and pay Jen through PayPal at jendpeters@gmail.com.  Once these steps are completed you will receive an email with further details.  Looking forward to this!

A Brief Introduction to TIAVY (Trauma Informed Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga)

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TIAVY (Trauma Informed Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga) seeks to foster mutually-beneficial & transformative relationships between teachers & students, as well as to connect all members of the international community with inspiring, empowering & ever-evolving sources of wisdom & healing. (PC Liana Romulo)

Trauma affects us all in so many different ways. It might show up as an inability to perform a certain movement in our yoga practice or manifest as sleeplessness, headaches, or autoimmune disease… Trauma is not restricted to survivors of horrific atrocities. In fact, our nervous systems may become overwhelmed and we may begin to accumulate it anytime we feel a lack of support, even in everyday situations. By nature trauma is quite slippery: the body buries it when we lack the resources to digest it fully, and the latest research demonstrates that we also amass it under circumstances of oppression and inherit it from previous generations, so many people are in complete denial even though they may be carrying a significant trauma load. I can’t think of ANYBODY I’ve ever met who would not benefit from possessing a better understanding of trauma. It is a pivotal and missing exploration, equally for people suffering from physical and/or mental afflictions to those looking to optimize their already-brilliant performance to super-human levels.

Further, I have come to believe that practicing yoga without an understanding of trauma is yet another inadvertent form of spiritual bypassing that can be quite dangerous. Although pure awareness dissolves many kinds of samskaras (conditioning), research has demonstrated that traumatic conditioning often requires special treatment, including a safe environment and the compassionate presence of another being in order to allow the nervous system to rest in particular zones of activation. Unfortunately, whether due to lack of informed consent, excessive use of force, well-intentioned ignorance, outright abuse, or techniques that can trigger dissociation, dysregulation or injury, yoga classes are often very unsafe places that actually exacerbate trauma. How many times have we seen practitioners and teachers pass on their unresolved trauma to countless others through acts of gross or subtle violence? Our own trauma also puts us at greater risk of being manipulated and further harmed by such violence. It’s about time we all start taking trauma seriously and create a revolutionary space within which global healing can commence.

The brilliant framework of Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga adapted to the individual as I learned it from my principal teacher Richard Freeman forms a base from which additional modalities can be implemented as appropriate. Having practiced Ashtanga as well as many other forms of yoga and meditation around the world since 2003, and studied with and assisted Richard and his partner Mary Taylor for over 2100 hours, I have experienced how the practice, practice environment and practice philosophy have contributed both to my illness and healing. I aim to elucidate both sides in my blog, as well as to share the rich variety of resources I have accumulated while struggling with trauma and an incapacitating biotoxin illness for over a decade.

TIAVY was the subject of my MA thesis in Clinical Mental Health Counseling with a focus in Transpersonal Psychology at Naropa University. It has been my all-consuming interest over the past 6 years, enriched by 9 years of previous study and research in Neuroscience at Columbia University, Princeton University, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) & Max-Planck Institute. I am now engaging in PhD research in Depth Psychology with a concentration in Integrative Therapies and Healing Practices at Pacifica Graduate Institute.  

My motivation for delving ever-deeper into academia has been to develop a grounded Trauma Informed Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga (TIAVY), a style that can evolve with my own learning and the experience of interdisciplinary practitioners, scientists and healers willing to look again and again at what is truly beneficial. A large part of what I teach is psycho-educational. Yoga texts are often metaphorical in their descriptions of possible results, and generally address renunciate practitioners in a very different context than ours. When we are simply asked to believe that certain methodologies will work for us in our own lives, we are robbed of asking how, and we are likely to fail to optimize the effects by fostering misplaced impressions of where to focus. My personal opinion is that unhealthy fixations quite often dominate traditional Ashtanga Vinyasa circles, where obedience and deference override discernment and relationship.

We are seeing epic levels of devastation, from the tiniest microbes to Planet Earth as a whole. We are being faced with dark and frightening truths about members of our species and even those teachers and sangha members we have most admired, trusted and loved. For those of us who do not want to cause ourselves or others continued pain, it is time to question every single one of the traditions we uphold and habits we enact, to acknowledge what is not acceptable (for example the physical, emotional and sexual abuse perpetrated by the father of Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga, Pattabhi Jois, in addition to so many other well-known and lesser-known teachers), to come forth in support of victims and survivors of all kinds (not forgetting that perpetrators and enablers also fall into these categories), and to develop more effective and inclusive teaching and practice frameworks.

Perhaps most importantly, it is up to us to do the difficult yet not impossible integrative personal work that many “gurus” never did, relying instead on whatever technical prowess, transcendent clarity and/or charisma they may have possessed. Although many of the practices we have inherited from them may be enormously valuable, they do not necessarily stand alone and must be done in the right contexts with conscious intentions and a richer understanding of how our bodies and nervous systems work. Our generation has access to ground-breaking discoveries that can only add to the wisdom and skillful means from lineages of the past. We cannot blindly rely on the methods handed down to us. We must constantly reassess what we hope to gain and whether we feel we are headed in the right direction.

Every serious practitioner I know has suppressed various “uh-oh” feelings in favor of other-worldly promises of a far-off kind of salvation or enlightenment that we do not recognize as our present experience. Whereas we must be patient with ourselves and know that the change we seek does not happen overnight (and probably not even in multiple thousands of lifetimes), we must also be true to our internal alert system that tells us when spiritual jargon is being used within an injurious power structure or keeping us from being motivated by powerful emotions that could propel us to work in the world as a necessary force of evolution. Our best selves are needed. How do we want to show up in this world? Have we fallen into a rut of wishful thinking with our spiritual practices or are we truly doing what most touches our hearts and uplifts others? Is it possible that in following a guru or system we have forgotten our powerful ability to lead and come to our own insightful conclusions? We could perpetuate a privileged patriarchal culture or we could look into the truth about the harm it has caused and act to reverse it.

If our practices do not shed direct light on our interconnectedness and immediately begin to positively impact our interactions with all beings around us, then they contribute to the downward spiral that certainly affects our quality of life and in fact threatens our very survival. For the first time in my own practice, I am getting to the bottom of trauma that has been disabling for me, and for the first time in my career, I am thrilled to teach, because I have finally found a way to share yoga that feels authentic, intelligent and nurturing for me and my students. Let’s investigate together how to prevent future suffering as Patanjali, Buddha and so many others have recommended, and use our talents and intelligence to change the course of history for the better! 

200-hr Trauma-Informed Ashtanga Yoga Teacher Trainings in 2019!

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Early bird pricing until April 15th…

In these intensive trainings, we will explore key concepts in trauma healing and apply them directly to our yoga practice. We will study fundamental features of trauma physiology and gain awareness of how culture, philosophy, the practice environment and student-teacher relationships influence the nervous system and perpetuate or alleviate trauma in ourselves and others. Most exciting of all, we will investigate how elements of Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga (such as bandha, mudra, pranayama, visualization and chanting) can fit in alongside some of the most ground-breaking trauma theories available, potentially enhancing evidence-based yoga interventions for PTSD. While trauma robs us of our capacity for joy, spontaneity, empowerment and connection, rehearsing these in our practice can serve as a potent daily reminder of our nearly unfathomable potential to live and to give. By inquiring deeply into neuroscience, psychology, yoga technology, our own personal circumstances and deepest intentions, we will begin or continue the never-ending journey of constructing a practice that truly serves us and our world.

Information and application here!

Free Talk on the Science of Willpower

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I will be giving an engaging FREE talk on The Science of Willpower:  How to stick with your highest aspirations through the holidays and beyond! at Vitamin Cottage / Natural Grocers (100 W South Boulder Road, Lafayette, CO 80026) on Tuesday, December 5th from 6:00-7:30pm!

If you’ve ever wondered why making New Year’s Resolutions is so easy and keeping them is so difficult, you’re not alone.  In this interactive seminar, we will look at willpower from the perspectives of both modern neuroscience and ancient Vedic wisdom.  The lecture will be interspersed with experiential exercises to help the material to come alive, and questions and comments will be entertained.

Jen Peters holds a BA from Columbia University and an MA from Princeton specializing in Neuroscience, and she is currently completing her 2nd MA in Mindfulness-based Transpersonal Counseling at Naropa University.  Jen is the Affordable Counseling Intern at Community Holistic Health Center in Lafayette, where she works with individuals, couples and groups.  She is also a yoga teacher at Ashtanga Yoga Denver and the founder of Jungle Physician LLC, offering interdisciplinary writings, teachings, coaching and counseling in the Denver-Boulder area as well as internationally. After becoming seriously ill from biotoxin exposure several years ago, Jen began to investigate every holistic healing modality she could, and draws on her experience to empower others on their own individual journeys with skill, knowledge and compassion.  She implements Eastern and Western approaches and blends the creative and analytic to build a safe and effective space in which to explore what is possible.

https://www.naturalgrocers.com/nutrition-and-health/events/events-calendar/the-science-of-willpower/

WOMEN’S SEXUALITY GROUP: registration is now open!

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Women's Process Group

Thank you for your interest in this exciting group to be offered 4 consecutive Wednesday evenings from 5:30-7:00pm at Community Holistic Health Center (409 S Public Rd, Lafayette, CO 80026).  The dates for the group will be: November 29, December 6, 13, 20.  Preference will be given to participants who can commit to attending at least 3 of the 4 classes.  This course is offered on a donation basis, so please consider your current financial situation and the usual cost of such workshops and give what you can.  100% of donations go to the non-profit Community Holistic Health Center, where we will be meeting. 

This group welcomes women looking to explore how sexuality can enrich all aspects of life.  We will bolster ourselves with education that is sorely lacking in our cultural milieu and engage in approachable mindfulness exercises to help us tune in to what we most want and need whatever our age, health status, or living situation may be.  We will hold a safe and confidential space where it is ok to be vulnerable, inquire, experiment, and share when you are ready (but not one second before)!

I (Jen Peters, MA, registered psychotherapist, counseling intern at CHHC, yogini and former neuroscientist) have found tremendous healing and inspiration in releasing the limited identities and baggage I inherited from a long line of ancestors and acquired through culture, religion and various impactful experiences throughout my lifetime. I am constantly reinventing myself into a more congruous and authentic process that reflects my current values, understanding and aspirations.  

As women, our nervous systems (and souls) are exceptionally sensitive to attitudes and behaviors directed at our bodies.  By studying the science behind this and supporting each other, we can learn to move forward boldly, consciously and unapologetically turned on!  When we are in touch with our core essence, we are able to bring our brightest, clearest and most fiercely compassionate selves forward into a world that badly needs us.

Our group will be limited to 10 participants, so if you would like to take part, please register soon by going to my contact page.   In the comments section, jot down a couple of ideas about what you hope to gain from this group, and if you’d like, feel free to briefly share any hopes or fears that come up for you around this.  I will let you know about the status of your registration within 48 hours.  Looking forward to this!  🙂  Please share this opportunity with other women who may be interested.