Hi, I’m Brittney! I believe that the betterment of the whole starts with where we are as individuals. I am a Licensed Massage Therapist, certified Energy Medicine Practitioner and an RYT200 Yoga Instructor.
Inspired by my own obstacles with health and finding safe healing spaces, I’ve set out on a mission to support communities by encouraging personal holistic upkeep and collective mindfulness.
Awareness and compassion are my grounding life principles and the foundation of all my endeavors. Nothing makes me happier than cultivating peace in my life and helping others do the same - mind, body and soul.
Here we are. Already more than half way through 2021 and so much has unfolded thus far. Time flies when your raising your vibration!
WE’RE IN A 5 YEAR
The numerological theme of 2021 is 5. We gather this by adding all the digits of the year together. Five represents change and our ability to transform our thoughts, behaviors and, consequently, our lives. Yogic numerology specifically describes 5 as the representation of the Communicator archetype as well as our sense of authenticity and the well-being of the physical body.
As motifs around choosing our associations wisely and truthfully continue to peak on social media and real life, we may notice a nudge to become more militant about improving the conditions in which we regularly immerse ourselves as it relates to our overall state of joy and health. While this may not be the beginning of that journey for some of us, it is no coincidence as to why the urge to grow in this area may feel amplified.
Still, there are other numbers in the coming days to consider as we live out the current month. See video below:
Since we are in the 7th month, it will benefit us to engage in self-care that strengthens the 7th body. This is the auric body or the electromagnetic field that surrounds the physical body. The health of the aura impacts our ability to be guided by our intuition and significant in the protection from the energetic imprints of others.
The auric body plays an important role in the stability of the immune system as well.
3 WAYS TO STRENGTHEN THE AURA
Drinking a lot of water, in particular, is cleansing to the physical body as well as the aura. Water’s ever-shifting nature can, also, change the energy of that which it comes in contact with. Therefore, water immersion can be healing as well.
The aura usually extends up to about 9 feet. However, the reflective nature of white not only balances the auric body but can increase its reach up to an additional 3 feet!
Kundalini yoga employs kriyas or spiritual exercises for unblocking and balancing our flow of energy, including the Ego Eradicator which supports the well-being of 7th body. Carrying out any inner work that help us tackle our feelings of insecurity and self-doubt is, also, beneficial for this body.
I am a member of a Facebook group dedicated to black women who practice yoga. A community space in which we get to share our collectively unique thoughts, opinions and experiences of our demographic living in a society that primarily markets this South Asian practice to thin white women. And while our cultural experiences are similar, it’s is a mixed bag of personalities.
Obvious from the posts and comments, we do not agree on everything and, naturally, are on different spiritual paths and/or parts of our paths. A woman shared a photo from Yoga Journal that depicted Pasasana which is translated as Noose Pose. Anyone familiar with Black American history knows that the sheer sight of a noose or sound of the term can be quite triggering. Heavily affiliated with the terrorist practice of lynching, nooses tend to be perceived as quite negative by the Black community, even in a neutral context. I am no different.
When I initially came across the pose, I felt triggered. I immediately asked myself, “What the hell is this?!” My feels jumped suddenly into anxiety mode as the images in my brain teleported me to the days of my grandparents’ and great-grandparents’ youth and my mind flooded with the countless images of “picnics” black people strung up on trees amidst a crowd of smiling white folks. But then, my yogi skills kicked it. I stilled myself long enough to breath and gander at the posed question: “Did ya’ll know there is a yoga pose called noose pose? What is your immediate reaction when hearing that? How would you feel if a teacher used that word to describe this pose in a class? I’ve attached a photo of the pose for reference.” And just like the group itself, the answers were mixed.
A few responses were, “Should definitely update the name. It is insensitive.”, “Folks just make up poses and put asana at the end …pass.”, and “I completely agree that using the name is not mindful of trauma informed teaching.”. Others were more like, “…No, it’s never triggered me as I’ve always been taught the Sanskrit names …”, and “I personally wouldn’t care. To me thats like being offended at the word cotton.” This was my response:
“As yoga is a practice that reveals ourselves to us, I think triggers like this (while not [likely] the original intent for the pose) are meant to guide us into diving into those traumas so we can heal and learn to experience things as they actually are in the context they come.
I’d be mindful of the audience and my approach but I wouln’t let my trauma of black history stop me from teaching it ever. I see a way it can be done significantly and purposefully. So long as I could tell the instructor was on a similar page, I could respect it being taught in a class I was taking.”
To elaborate, I would likely implement my personally understanding of these negative feelings into a very specific type of class geared towards this trauma in the Black community. Even in my own practice, I can imagine the nooses that hung our ancestors from trees like strange fruit; swinging and burning in the wind. Then I imagine myself as that noose but hugging them lovingly and holding up their spiritual bodies. Not burning, but the memory of them being carried in my being in strength and courage. Understanding that they are forever with me in my work as a yogi – internally and externally.
I truly believe in the stance that I posed wholeheartedly. I’m sure that my view will not be accepted by everyone but it is my truth and I’d like to hope that anyone attracted to a class of mine will be receptive or at least neutral. It is, also, my hope that all yoga teachers – while practicing mindfulness and sensitivity – will not shy away from challenging their students and themselves to address their pains as much as they support their peace. In fact, I see these focuses as going hand-in-hand.
I am excited to announce that I will be collaborating with a few awesome ladies this winter to present a 6-week virtual program that will assist all participants with achieving their wellness goals as we enter the new year!
2020 has been rather stressful and a more unpredictable year than most. That is why we are excited to support you with the offering of holistic tools and classes such as yoga therapy, cosmic readings, meditation and more as we journey forward into a better state of well-being during these confusing times. The program will run from December 14, 2020 to January 23, 2021.
The leaves are falling from the trees and the weather is cooling. The active summer vibes are transitioning into modes of relaxation and some species of animals are beginning preparation for hibernation. It’s the season of Autumn!
Like the macrocosm of Earth, the body is capable of sustaining itself through the carrying out of various cycles and activities that operate in an interconnected flow, vitalized by what is referred to as “qi” or “chi”. This is the energy that flows through and connects all forms of life as the animating force that ignites us beyond pure mechanical functioning and bodily existence. Within this cyclical system are five elements; metal being the element associated with Autumn.
The Fall is a natural time for slowing down, enjoying the harvest of what we’ve sown the previous year and planning to store the abundance of what we’ve gathered for the coming winter; so does Traditional Chinese Medicine recognize metal as an element of structure and organization. When molded to do so, it can act as strong foundation for connecting pathways as well as a collector of liquid (water). It symbolizes themes of purity and making space for rest before the cultivation time arrives again. This process is best represented in our bodies in the lungs and large intestines.
The lungs are considered the yin of two metal-related organs as it is receptive in nature. The crisp dry air of the season is easier for taking in. It’s important that we use this time to truly catch our breath as we recover from the high activity of the summer months. And, just as the falling leaves nourish the soil for future growth, so does the lungs work to oxygenate and nourish our cells. Beyond the organs themselves, the energy of the lungs travels from the large intestine, diaphragm and lungs, into the armpit, down the inner arm into the radial part of the hand, to the tip of the thumb and through the index finger. Dysfunctions and blockages of this channel may manifest as arm, elbow or thumb pain or discomfort, shortness of breath, coughing, wheezing and other symptoms. Emotions associated with the lungs include grief and sadness which is why taking a deep breath is more challenging when we experience feelings of loss. On the other hand, healthy lung energy allows for clarity in thought and open communication.
The large intestine are considered the yang of the metal-related organs as it operates to eliminate. Just as harvesting clears space for future growth, so must our bowels clear space for the nourishment that is to come. The energy meridian for the colon travels from the tip of the index finger, through the inside of the thumb, up the outer arm to the highest point of the front of the shoulder. It then branches off in the lower gums to opposite side the nose as well as two the lungs and diaphragm. Dysfunctions of this channel include constipation, abdominal pain and cramping, toothaches and even nosebleeds. Sadness is, also, associated with the large intestine as well as worry and trouble letting go of the past. However, an ability to digest experiences well and letting shit go (both, figuratively and literally) when it is no longer serves are signs of a healthy LI.
If you suspect that your metal element may need some balancing or you’d just like to sustain your metal health throughout the fall season, here are some practices that have worked for me:
Spend time in nature and breath deeply often – this is especially important in our current heavy mask-wearing society.
Stay hydrated in response to the dryer climate.
Drink warmer beverages and eat foods with ingredients like apples, cinnamon, cardamom, sweet potatoes, garlic and almonds.
Practice yoga poses that include twists and open the chest like child’s pose, camel pose, reclining twist and wall plank.
Create your own rituals for letting go of things you may be holding to.
Manage your time in a way that allows you to slow down and enjoy a healthy balance of work, play and relaxation.
May your Autumn season be full of peace, balance and abundance.
Quite a few aspiring yogis ask me about how to start a practice usually assuming that yoga is about building physical strength and flexibility in order to achieve dope handstands and pretzel folds – no thanks to social media. Sure, those are pretty decent perks that may come with a consistent practice but not really the point of yogic philosophy. I was first introduced to yoga online through the style of Ashtanga. Like some others, this is a very physically demanding style of yoga; one still close to my heart, that has been very helpful to me in some ways. Yet, for the longest I could not figure out why I kept hitting a peak in my practice. It wasn’t until attending teacher training that I realized, for me, this style of yoga was only addressing part of what I came to understand as hatha yoga.
Basically, our energies are comprised of a combination of both yin and yang qualities. Yang describing the masculine and penetrative forces within us that encourage assertive action. Yin describing the feminine and receptive forces that lean toward more nurturing or restorative action. It is a simple yet complex interconnectedness that lives within and all around us in nature in a delicate balance. When there is too much or not enough of either quality, imbalance occurs which shows up as disorder and dis-ease. Hatha describes a practice that acknowledges both types of energy – in the physical, mental, and spiritual realms – in order to keep or restore balance.
Now, imagine only engaging in a routine that is primarily yang promoting – pulling, lifting, pushing, squeezing, forcing. Testing strength and perspective with inversions. Bending and extending with fluid motion. Connecting and building movement on top of movement. Sounds pretty cool, right? However, when I think about the B.K.S. Iyengar quote, “The pose starts when you want to leave it,” it hit differently when I considered how challenging it is for some us to just be still with ourselves for extended periods of time. Society in Western culture has a history of conditioning it’s citizens to embrace “grind culture” as a means to an easier life somewhere down the road, training us to drive ourselves beyond our pains and emotional woes with attempts to bury them with external gratification. Yet, by the time many of us “arrive” – if we ever do – we’re often too burnt out to even remember how to relax and enjoy life. Being in the body becomes a struggle, one equipped with a variety of psychosomatic and spiritual baggage.
Yin yoga, however, is about sitting with the Self. It requires the practitioner to learn which positions are challenging for the mind-body to relax into. Then, learn to approach that Self with the compassion necessary to keep sitting until it grants permission to release those holding patterns in the muscles and fascia tissues. It is primarily designed to build and balance the “chi” or electric energy that flows through the organs and associated channels mapped throughout our bodies, according to Traditional Chinese Medicine. This is not to take anything away from other styles of yoga as they all have an important place in the yoga world. Yoga is about balance after all. Some are similar and others quite different from one another with what they address and how. However, let’s get in to a few poses one could begin a yin practice with:
(Variation 1 & 2)
The pose stretches the toes and stimulates six of the energy meridians that start or end in the feet. These are the kidney, urinary bladder, liver, spleen, stomach and gallbladder meridians. Do not sit all the way back on the heels if it strains the knees (variation 2). If there the stretch feels very intense due to tightness in the toes or ankles, do not stay in the pose long. After adding this pose to my regular practice, I’ve noticed my feet feel stronger and I am generally more in control of my body while walking or moving around on my feet. And, naturally, the more often I do it, the longer I am able to stay in the pose.
(With and without props)
This pose can help improve hip rotation! It can, also, bring relief for pregnant mothers (until the 3rd trimester) and folks who live with high blood pressure and asthma. Be careful not to strain the knees in this position. Option to bring the foot of the front leg closer to the groin or use props to bolster the knee for support. Whether my day-to-day has me sitting or standing on my feet for long periods, this pose has acted as a great release or activation for the parts of my legs that I sometimes forget.
(Variations 1, 2, & 3)
This is pose is great for opening up the chest, top of the thighs and even the ankles somewhat. The perfect counter-position for a commonly hunched back. Whether the hands are supporting the low back, resting on the back of the ankles or planted on the foundation behind you, the ideal is to send the hips forward and the chest upward. If taking the option that allows the head to fall back, it can stretch the platysma muscle in the front of the neck as well. However, if you experience any neck issues, you may want to keep the chin towards the chest. It, also, serves to be careful if you have any back injuries or mobility limitations. Practicing this pose regularly has drawn my attention to how much I slouch in my posture and has activated me to seek release through backbend postures more often.
(Variations 1 & 2 with props)
Just as it sounds, the yogi is to curve herself in the shape of a banana. This pose opens up the entire side body, including the obliques around the stomach and the intercostals between the ribs. Option to go as deep into the stretch as the yogi desires. Arms can be raised overhead for a high stretch up the side of the body. Additional support may be needed for that variation such as a bolster or blanket under the arms. The legs may be crossed as well for an added lower stretch down the hip. Be mindful of any joint pain or tingling in the body.
(Without props, with blanket, with bolster)
This is one of my favorite poses! Its benefits range from a gentle spine stretch and massaging of the digestive organs to being psychologically therapeutic for those, like myself, who live with anxiety or deal with heavy stress. It’s a simple pose that can be done with or without the extra support of props such as a blanket under the knees or a bolster to straddle. I include this pose in almost every practice as a break within a flow or as a staple restorative posture. I’d, also, like to note that some bodies are built so that the hips may not come down as low as usually seen. So long as the knees are drawn into the chest and the hips are sitting back towards the heels, you are properly in the pose!
Yoga is truly for everybody. Anyone can start a practice as soon as right now. Simply make the time and create the space. Do not worry about the props you may not have. Just work with what you’ve got and all you really need is you! Have fun exploring these postures and which variations feel good or needed for your body. Feel free to comment on any of my platforms your experiences with these poses. For videos on a guided practice, please tune in and subscribe to the Brittney Shawnee’ YouTube channel.
For years I’ve been consciously working to heal myself from a primarily natural and holistic approach. I’d like to think progress was made as I’ve certainly done my best to live in spiritual flow and embrace life as it comes. Still, I couldn’t help but notice significant periods in which I felt I couldn’t maintain it for long. I would backslide into major anxiety and/or depression, put tons of effort into regaining some healing and peace before life would undercut me once more. Intellectually, I understood there were tough experiences to be had in order to learn some important lessons. Energetically, however, I was stuck. Stuck in fear, confusion and resentment that seemed to grow back stronger with each attempt to bring them to their end. I knew I was in need of something immersive and almost drastic but safe. To my heart’s joy, I found exactly what I was looking for in my first psilocybin trip.
On a Saturday evening, I created a safe and pleasant space for myself with the help of my husband. From comfortable clothing and good snacks to a ready playlist and movie choice, I did my best to cover all the basis. The toughest part was preparing my mind. I did all the research I could do to know what to expect. The psychedelic known as psilocybin breaks down in the body into a chemical named psilocin which attaches itself to our serotonin receptors, preventing reuptake. This usually leads to sense-altering effects such visual hallucinations, intensified sensation and spiritual epiphanies. This is exactly what happened for me.
I humbly admit I was a pile of nerves going in. Even after taking the plunge of actually ingesting the ‘shrooms, I couldn’t seem to shake my anxiety. I tried to relax at the beginning, hiding the frustration with my G.A.D.. As the effects gradually took hold, the anxiety grew, or it became harder to ignore rather. My nerves were slightly shaking as I realized my perception was changing but I remained as calm as possible. Recalling what I had read about people having bad trips and panic attacks filled with terrifying paranoia, I decided that wasn’t the experience I wanted. So, I reminded myself of the mantra meditation I did prior that evening; repeating in my mind, “I am joy. I am love. Surrender to the moment and I’ll be fine.” Before I knew it, that’s where I found myself. In glorious surrender.
I felt a sense of gratitude come over me as the high sunk in but the nervousness continued to weigh heavy on my chest and solar plexus. I started to talk about it out loud with my husband. He let me ramble about my thoughts and feelings for a while and before I knew it a wave of truth was pouring out of me along with a pool of tears interluded with bouts of laughter. I felt like a ketchup packet being emptied of its contents with a relieving squeeze. The anxiety was dissolving. My shame was diminishing. Suddenly, I felt an unbelievable love and acceptance in myself like I had never done before. In that moment, I began to feel the joy I had been praying, meditating and working so hard for. I felt liberation.
Inanimate objects seemed to shift. The walls and ceiling seemed to breathe. I saw colorful faces of African art staring at me from the spinning ceiling fan. Movement had an echo and beauty took on new meaning. I wasn’t anxious, afraid or confused anymore. I was whole. I shared a night with my husband that felt like old college days. Dr. Strange made it’s way to my top Marvel movie list. I was patient, considerate, and forthcoming without effort. I knew what I wanted and didn’t want clearly and how to express it. I felt no tension or pain in my body. I didn’t care of anyone’s opinion, including my own. Trivial things no longer mattered. I was in a space of true love.
I happily conclude that it’s an experience I’d be more than willing to have again with hopes of realizing even more of who I am and the truth of all there is. While I’d like to think it could be an experience for everyone at some point in their life, it very well may not be and it is certain that everyone will not be ready right away. Post-trip, I came to figure that those who’ve had a bad experiences with mushrooms went in unprepared, with deep-seated inner turmoil or at least with too much negativity in the forefront of their heart-mind. Although still somewhat controversial, under proper guidance and supervision, I think those cases can mostly be averted and instead be positively enlightening. Ultimately, though, everyone is different and the choice is up to each individual. For those who decide to try it, may your trips pleasantly expand your consciousness as it did mine.