Tools for Empaths: Understanding How We Give & Receive

empaths

“A philosophy of life is a bundle of wisdom you have gathered from your reading and experience. It is not a rigid ideology that allows no development and complexity. It’s a living thing, a developing idea about life that belongs to you alone.”

 – Thomas Moore, Dark Nights of the Soul


A good yoga teacher is one who’s capable of reading the energy within the room and adapting the lesson to accommodate the current environment and shift its energy. Teachers, nurses, therapists, RMT’s, hair stylists, parents; these roles are alike in creating experiences that make people feel good about themselves. Whenever we come into contact with another person, we enter a tacit agreement of giving and receiving. Empaths are people who feel what others feel on a visceral level. Without the knowledge of how to set boundaries, an empath may take on someone else’s emotions.

Whenever we come into a relationship, it’s important to understand what’s ours and what isn’t, be it with a student, friend, sibling, parent, or significant other. It is important for us to learn how to clear negative energy, set healthy boundaries, and process intense emotions. Without an awareness of how we are affected by others and how we take up space, we may not recognize when we are holding onto a story or emotion that doesn’t serve or if we’re taking on energy or emotion that isn’t ours. 

This week in our discussion, Clara Roberts-Oss shared tools for empaths with methods on how to set boundaries as we learn all the ways we give and receive.

Interview with Clara on Tools for Empaths

Clara: An empath or an empathic person is someone who can feel the feelings that other people are feeling when they come into a shared space. So you walk into a room where you step into someone’s field and all of a sudden you feel like crying, or you feel a strong emotion that you realize is not yours.

Stephanie: You mentioned the different ways to purge energy if you’re an empath and if you’re picking up stuff that isn’t yours in how washing your hands or touching the ground are powerful ways to clear. Can you elaborate on some of the other methods? 

Clara: I feel like a lot of empaths go into the healing modalities because we have this automatic urge to take away or shift people’s pain. And then that’s why I find a lot of healers burn out because they don’t know how to cleanse the energy that they’re picking up. My martial arts teacher, Constantine Darling, shared a technique where you literally feel your feet on the ground and you allow the emotion to wash down into the earth because the earth, at least in the martial arts, can take every energy and transform it.

I’m very tactile so I like moving my toes and feeling the ground underneath me and then envisioning that I’m literally washing the emotion down my legs and into the earth. I also recommend washing your hands. Water is very, very healing. And the other thing you can do is you can shake. Shaking is something that animals will naturally do after a traumatic experience, they start to shake. Shanking releases the energy and moves the experience out. 

Stephanie: How do you work with energy when you’re teaching yoga?

Clara: As somebody who can walk into a room and feel what everyone is feeling, I need to stay grounded in myself. This is the work for all empaths. Feeling my feet and my physical body, or hearing my own breath, are all ways I ground and stay connected to myself. And widening my awareness to kind of feel the people around me and to recognize what is mine and what isn’t mine. And then also to be able to feel what other people are feeling without letting it shake me on a deeper level.

I got this technique from my martial arts teacher who works a lot with energy, which is why I loved him so much.

The practice is to choose a giver and receiver, and the giver essentially thinks of a shape or a color and sends it off to the receiver and the receiver tries to envision it. In this practice, we play with different ways of sending the image through your mind’s eye or sending the image through your heart or imagining it’s moving through your hands.

I did a lot of that kind of work for a couple of years with him. I feel like that really helped me understand what is mine and what isn’t mine. I feel like therapy really does that too.

Therapies have been a big one and self-reflective practices like meditation helped me understand how I give and receive, but it was mostly the martial arts work that I did.

We’re constantly giving and receiving, knowingly and unknowingly. Every time you come into interaction with somebody else or you come into interaction with an environment, we give and receive. And so there’s no way around it One thing that was cool about this exercise with my martial arts teacher is to recognize: am I a stronger giver or a stronger receiver? Meaning, when I come into the room, do I take up space? Do people know how I’m feeling? When I walk into the room, can I feel what everybody else is feeling? It’s an important one to understand because it also helps you get clear around your boundaries.

Stephanie: What can you say about setting boundaries? 

Clara: The biggest work is how to come back. The important part is how quickly we’re able to come back to neutral and how quickly we can forgive and let things go. This for me has been a very big lesson in my own boundary work.

People love to hold the hot coal. The coal is the anger or the conflict. And that’s a choice, to hold the coal. The coal is the story that you tell yourself, that you’re unwilling to put down. We have the choice to put the coal down whenever we want, but we keep holding onto it until all of a sudden we’re burning and we are the ones in pain. So the practice is, how quickly can I put the coal down? I feel like, at least for me, that a lot of my boundary work is to let the story go, to put down the coal, and let it go. And now in this moment, forgive myself, forgive the person across from me and ask: how do we move forward?

Stephanie: So non-attachment, to the story, conflict, or emotion. 

Clara: The other part that’s also important, and I’m also working on for myself, is transparency. Just being fully transparent in sharing with others whatever it is that I’m feeling. Giving and receiving is such a fascinating one, it’s this interaction, this play between you and whatever it is outside of you.

“During the dark night, there is no choice but to surrender control, give in to unknowing, and stop and listen to whatever signals of wisdom might come along. It’s a time of enforced retreat and perhaps unwilling withdrawal. The dark night is more than a learning experience; it’s a profound initiation into a realm that nothing in the culture, so preoccupied with external concerns and material success, prepares you for.” – Thomas Moore. Dark Night of the Soul

Clara: The dark night is when we are in something intense and when we are in shadow. When we’re in a place that is uncomfortable and unknown. 

Stephanie: Thomas Moore is celebrating the idea of being in our sadness to learn more about ourselves instead of calling it sadness. And allowing yourself to be in that experience.

Clara: As long as you have the tools. I feel like the problem that happens for a lot of people and why we shy away from those strong emotions is we haven’t ever given them the space to be fully expressed. So anger is a great indicator that there’s something stronger going on. It’s usually covering a deeper emotion, like sadness or grief. Anger shows up because anger allows us to stay in control.

Anger is one of my favorites because I love being in control. And so it’s a wonderful indicator for me. We’re not in control. Anger is in control, We have to be vulnerable in order for all of the emotions to be felt.

And that’s generally a lot harder for somebody who loves control. 

Stephanie: What are some of the things that you do to you move through your anger or acknowledge your sadness?

Clara: The biggest thing that I need I do for myself is to step away. I need to step out of the situation, whatever that situation is. I need space to soften, to let go and breathe, and ideally be quiet. And then I start to kind of chew on what’s really going on or what is it about the other person that really triggered me?

Generally, I find if something triggers me, there’s something there for me to learn. Reflection is key.

I write it out through journaling or the other way I process and reflect is I speak it out, either with my therapist or with a close friend. Another way would be through meditation or through movement itself. But I find these days, I prefer just sitting and kind of observing and asking, why am I affected by this? 

Watch Our Talk On Empaths

Or listen to the podcast on Spotify. 

Anger as an Expression of Vulnerability

Anger as an Expression of Vulnerability

A mind that is lively and inquiring, compassionate, curious, angry, full of music, full of feeling, is a mind full of possible poetry.

– MARY OLIVER  


In 2017 I was rushed to the ER where I was hooked up to a morphine drip for five days. Once the swelling in my abdomen lessened, I had a  laparoscopic cholecystectomy to have my gallbladder removed. Prior to surgery, I’d undergone a significant upheaval in my career, moved twice in 10-months, and broke-up with my significant other. Instead of acknowledging how I felt or asking for help, I put up my defences and suppressed how I felt. My body was telling me to slow down, but I didn’t want to accept or reflect on the obvious turn-of-events in my life. It all came to a head when my lower abdomen literally ruptured with pain so acute I blacked out. Post-surgery, I spent two weeks at home to heal. Cut-off from all the spaces and activities that soothed and distracted, I was forced to sit with my feelings. I was angry at how my life was evolving and my lack of control over events. In my refusal to acknowledge how I felt, I didn’t give myself a chance to let the anger move through me to see what was underneath my vexation. 

Our bodies provide us with all sorts of signals through our emotions to assist in our mental, emotional, and spiritual growth. If we’re willing to observe our sensations, every emotion- be it anger, sadness, shame, envy, or guilt- is valuable. Ancient Eastern Civilizations understand the interrelatedness of the emotional and physical body in expressing our thoughts and mental fluxuations. Western science is beginning to accept the relevance of our emotions as guiding our physical nature and communicating possible symptoms. will be expressed in other areas of our life. This is why it’s integral to accept, express and release emotions as this process keeps the mind and body healthy.

Anger is an expression of our inner vulnerability. It’s a defense mechanism that constructs a wall between you and all the other emotions you may not want to feel, such as sadness, fear, anxiety, loneliness, and/or grief. When our defences go up, it can block the emotion from being expressed. This cuts us off from truly feeling the emotion and generally, it remains stifled and unresolved. 

Anger, Ego, and Akrodha

Sometimes we put up walls that we believe will keep us safe, but those walls only end up blocking us. Seek out those walls, and gently tear them down so that your vulnerability can shine through. – RUMI 

The ego may build walls of defense to protect us from feeling negative emotions and expressing and/or feeling our vulnerability. It may feel easier to bury our emotions and live in a state of denial, or it may feel easier to stay angry- in a state of self-righteousness where we feel we have more control over ourselves and others. Anger is defensive and tends to indicate that there may be a whole lot more to address underneath. Releasing anger may allow the deeper emotions of sadness and fear to well up, which would reveal a state of vulnerability. Releasing anger may look many different ways. If it involves another person, it might require a conversation to express how you feel. Stating why you’re angry or how the person hurt and/or offended you may help shift how you feel . 

Exercise and/or meditation are ways to burn off the excess energy your body may be holding onto when you’re angry and induce a calmer state. Any sort of physical movement is a wonderful way to purge the excess and calm yourself before approaching the person or situation that you have anger towards. Venting anger and releasing anger are very different things. Venting does nothing in resolving how you feel. So with exercise and meditation, in purging the tension from your body, we still have to talk about how we feel to move through the angry emotions. If you can’t talk to the person who’s offended you or resolve the situation on your own, journaling about it or discussing it with someone you trust may help you move through your anger and release it so you can move forwards. 

According to Iyengar, there are two types of anger that a person experiences: self righteous anger, fuelled by the ego that is destructive if it lingers in the body’s system, and righteous anger. Righteous anger is constructive and used skillfully to help rather than hurt others. Iyengar demonstrated righteous anger in his classes to ‘break the inertia’ in students to teach them proper methods of yoga and put an end to any delusion or fantasy. 

All cruel words should be endured. None should be treated with disrespect. No anger should be directed in turn towards one who is angry. Only soft words should be spoken, even when violently pulled by another. — Narada Parivrajaka Upanishad

In Indian philosophy, the concept of Arkodha is impressed throughout many texts, including The Mahabharata, The Upanishads, and The Bhagavad Gita. Akrodha literally translates to ‘one who is free from anger’. Living with Akrodha is one of the highest virtues of humankind and among the twenty six virtues described in The Mahabharata. Akrodha is demonstrated through a calm and even demeanor especially when provoked. In the Upanishads, one who remains free from turmoil and temper and seeks knowledge through kaivalya yoga, is one who possesses Akrodha and is on the path to liberation. 

Anger as Medicine to Refine Our Attitude

Don’t use your anger to conceal
A radiance that should not be hidden – RUMI

Anger, the heat and intensity felt in the body, is an indication that something must be done. Anger is a force presented to us that we must act in some way. When we accept our anger, we may use it constructively to develop skills in communicating how we feel. When we repress one emotion, we repress them all. We cannot hide from our emotions, they represent energies in motion and are meant to flow through us to transcend suffering

Anger as an Expression of Vulnerability
@isabellemduarte

Conflict is a necessary step in growth and personal development. It takes practice and patience to identify our anger and then take the necessary steps to reconcile this emotion so we may move on. We may not be taught how to identify or acknowledge our anger, which is where one may discover suppression or denial. Anger is a natural and necessary emotion. It may provide tension and cause an energetic rupture that makes space for you to grow and move forward in your relationships. Anger may give the impetus to act where one was wronged or a situation was unjust. 

We may use our anger as a medicine to refine our attitude and discover an inner luminosity through a capacity to evolve in relationships. 

The body is sending a very clear and bold signal through anger. We may listen to it, sit with it, and decide the best course of action, or give in to our more base and possibly immature emotions. To move through anger, we may have to alter our perception, broach a difficult conversation, let go when we are not ready, or accept that we may be wrong. 

 

The Roots of Resolution with the Yamas of Yoga

Bring anger and pride under your feet,
turn them into a ladder and climb higher. – RUMI

Patanjali’s Eight Limbs of Yoga provide an ethical guide for the yogi to attain peace and harmony. The Yamas are one of the Eight Limbs, and comprised of five moral principles to assist one in living ethically in the world. Yama translates to ‘restraint’ and is the root of the foundation for moral discipline in yoga. When taken into practice, the Yamas may help to absolve unnecessary anger and help one let go of that which doesn’t serve to create a more harmonious state of being. 

The Yamas of Yoga:
Ahimsa – nonviolence in thought, word, or deed
Satya – truthfulness
Asteya – freedom from avarice
Brahmacharya – control of sensual pleasure
Aparigraha – freedom from covetousness and possession beyond one’s needs 

 

If we observe the Yamas in our daily life, we act with more integrity in all aspects of our life. If we approach the Yamas with an open mind and willingness to work on ourselves, we create more awareness in ourselves.

Our thoughts and emotions are interrelated. If we think negative thoughts, this will feed our emotions and therefore affect our physical state. If you’d like to change the way you handle your emotions, it’s vital to become more aware of your thought patterns. You’ll become more conscious of how you think, speak, and act. When we are ignorant of what our emotions are trying to tell us, we may act out-hurting ourselves or others. When we make friends with our strong emotions (anger, jealousy, rage) and they arise–we know we must pay attention and listen to their messages. 

Applying the Yamas and dedicating oneself to yoga, through asana (postures) and pranayama (breathwork) may assist the yogi in gaining awareness of how one perceives reality. The yoga practice can help one feel how all things change overtime, nothing lasts forever. When work through challenging postures, such as arm balancing, and stay with it and breathe, we may feel the heat and the prickly sensations that arise. Building tolerance and training the body through physical postures may introduce one to an understanding of how physical sensations don’t last forever. In this way, we might come to an understanding of how our emotions, like the physical sensations in yoga, move through us and dissipate. Negative feelings will pass and we may become stronger and more resilient in the process. 

Build strength in body and mind with this Durga Flow Vinyasa Yoga.

Anger as an Expression of Vulnerability

Living With an Open Mind and Curious Heart

The garden of the world has no limits, except in your mind. – RUMI 

Allowing the full spectrum of sensation to move through us is an essential step in honouring our emotions. Our sadness, joy, and anger are all indicators of how we feel in any given situation, adding context to our experience and providing a rich foundation to learn. Receiving each experience and exchange, without holding onto our ego, ideas, and impressions, may create space for connection with others. We may become more compassionate individuals as we work within the framework of the Yamas. 

When we dedicate ourselves to yoga, we act in accordance with a higher discipline through body, mind, senses, and consciousness. All sensations of the body and impressions of the mind are little pokes to turn inwards and acknowledge each experience with an open mind and curious heart. Yoga provides us with an entry point to observe, and a way to release tension and rinse strong emotions from the body so we can sit with ourselves and get a little bit more clarity in how we feel. 

A practice to flow with an open heart:
Heart Wide Open.
Stephanie
stephaniedawntrembath

NEW CLASSES ONLINE:
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*A note on learning to work with strong emotions: Mindful practices such as yoga and meditation may unearth emotions or past traumas. If you are new to working with these emotions or experiences, we highly recommend seeking professional help such as a therapist, counselor or social worker to help you gain tools for working with these emotions or past traumas.*

Modern Yogis

Clara Roberts Oss yoga teacher

This is an article By Krys Hansen

Modern Yogis – Clara Roberts-Oss

 

I may be a yoga teacher but there are days when I just want to follow someone’s else’s lead for my yoga practice… Which is why I love online yoga studios such as Clara’s practice yoga online site.

It was using My Yoga Online that I discovered Clara’s classes and I just fell in love with the strong and playful sequencing. Her classes are challenging, and the transitions are often creative. It wasn’t too long before her classes were the only ones I had saved to my watch list. I am so excited to be featuring her as a Modern Yogi as I believe her playful and yet spiritual approach to the practice is the perfect approach in our society.

How long have you practiced yoga, and how did you start?

I studied dance in school but didn’t appreciate the competitive nature of the dance community. I’ve always felt that dance was my way of communing with the Divine. A good friend found the Jivamukti Yoga studio in NYC and thought I would love it, which I did. It was all the aspects of dance that I loved minus the competition. That was 13 years ago.

Share three lessons yoga has taught you.

Just three? The practice has taught me so much!

Be kind to yourself. Let go of judgements because it doesn’t serve or make it any easier.

Less is more. This has been a big one for me. On a physical level, learning to move from my energetic body versus my physical body has been transformational. Exert less energy and all of a sudden you’re more grounded, feel less fatigued and the practice is much more meditative. Off the mat, when you exert less you are able to observe more. You’re able to step back and see the bigger picture easier–so that means being less reactive and more responsive. It’s been a game changer! Mind you, it’s always a work in progress.

Stay inspired. Do things on/off the mat that truly uplift you because guess what? It’s all yoga. All things can give you a deeper connection to the yourself and Self, if your intention is clear. I used to think it was just what happened when I was on my mat but not anymore.

How often do you practise?

Asana? Four times a week depending upon how much I’m teaching. If I have a full schedule (16-20 classes a week) then I practice asana less, to conserve energy. I do more pranayama and meditation to even it out. I try to do something daily to connect to myself and Self.

Do you meditate?

Yup! One of my favorite things to do. Gets me grounded and clear.
What do you find most challenging about yoga or meditation?

Making the time when I’m traveling. It’s harder to maintain the routine when you’re in transit.
Your favourite yoga pose and why.

Ooooh, this changes every 3-6 months. Right now, it would be halasana/ plough. It’s been great for taking my awareness inside. My back body has also been asking for a lot more opening lately.

Name one book that changed your perspective.

Hmmm… again a tough one. There have been so many. What I’m rereading right now and LOVING is Paths to God by Ram Das. It’s his lectures on the Gita at the Naropa Centre. A ton of gems in there.
The other book that comes to mind is, Tantric Quest by Daniel Odier. I found this to be the most comprehensive book on Tantra. After reading it, I was able to go back to the other books on Tantra and have a better grasp of them.

Best piece of advice?

Stay open, let go of preconceived notions of yourself, what the practice is suppose to be about and life, in general. The surprises and the ‘ah has’ come when you let go of expectations. The hard part, it’s easier said then done.

 

 

A few things, as a new teacher, to chew on…

Yoga Teacher Training

Advice for New Yoga Teachers

During my vinyasa trainings, people have asked me for advice. I thought I would share it with you too 🙂

A few things to chew on as a new vinyasa yoga teacher….

1) Keep it simple.
Keep everything you do while you teach as simple as possible, your sequence, your language, your music. You are learning a new language, learn the nouns, verbs and such before you jump into conversational yoga. You will appear more confident with your students and they are more likely to trust you.

1a) Speak Slowly.
Speak even slower than you think you should. New teachers are excited about sharing what they’ve learned and that excitement tends to make them nervous and that nervousness tends to speed up the cuing, the breathing and soon enough people are moving so quickly there’s no way they can be breathing with integration. Breathe with your students, speak painfully slow—usually that makes you speak normally, versus very quickly. Schylar Grant offered using a metronome at home to practice speaking slowly. Carolyn Budgell recommends recording your voice and listening to it. I recommend taping your foot quietly or using the beats in the song to give you a sense of timing. The important thing is, be conscious of your speaking speed, it is a large part of what creates the Bhavana (mood) of the class.

2) Have patience and compassion towards yourself.
The first few years are hard. You are going to make mistakes and people are going to give you attitude. Try not to be hard on yourself or your students. Learn from your mistakes and trust in the process and know that it gets easier.

3) Get off your mat as soon as possible.
As a new teacher, it’s fine to practice the sequence with your students but ween yourself off the mat as soon as possible. You are more useful to your students if you’re watching them. This is why I encourage new teachers to have simple sequences, so that they don’t need to be doing it with the class in order to remember it. Elaborate sequences may seem cool but does it ultimately serve the students if their teachers are paying more attention to remembering the sequence than watching them?

4) Own the space.
Be loving yet hold your ground. This is your classroom, be confident in the choices you make with lighting, temperature, music. This one was especially hard for me to learn. I started teaching very young. Older women liked to give me hard time by complaining about the music, the temperature and talking in class. They were some of my greatest teachers. They taught me how to stand my ground, believe in my choices as a teacher or change them if need be. Which leads me to…

5) Your students can be your greatest teachers.
Observe who triggers you in class. They are usually either echoing something about yourself that you don’t like or are not proud of. For me, those women where echoing my own feelings of self worth. Who was I to teach people? What did I have to offer? Observe what arises with those students and silently thank them for the lesson. Try and stay compassionate towards them and yourself while in the room. Then work with the triggers by meditating or talking to a therapist/friend about it.

6) Develop a consistent home practice.
This is going to feed you, especially during times of stagnation in your teaching. Your home practice is not a time when you’re developing your class sequences, I like to think of it as my upkeep. I do the poses and pranayama that my body really needs for the day. It doesn’t look like a vinyasa practice, it’s more therapeutic. It changes daily depending upon what I need and how I’m doing.

7) If you do nothing else in your own time, MEDITATE.
This was a game changer for me. I was initiated into a few years back into Neelakantha Meditation practice and had to  pledge to sit 20 min every day for a year and it hooked me. This will feed you as a human and a teacher on many levels. You will be able to access compassion, strength and remain grounded in most situations. Please start today! Start by sitting for just 10 min daily and begin to increase it when you feel ready.

8) Practice the sequence in your own body prior to teaching it.
You should know how the sequence feels before you share it. If you make it up on the spot, you are more likely to forget it. I tell new teachers to teach the same sequence for a week or two so that they can focus on watching their students instead of remembering the sequence.

9) Practice different styles of Yoga
There is so much to be learned from different lineages of Yoga. It’s important to experience other ways of moving and to remember what it’s like being new at something. I find it helps me understand my students more. Two of my most influential teachers, Shiva Rea and Constantine Darling, incorporate different lineages into their teaching, giving me as the practitioner, a richer experience.

10) Create a Teacher’s Practice.
This was another game changer for me. When I moved to Vancouver eight years ago, I was invited to a teacher’s practice. I had never seen that before. We sat around in a circle and co-taught (round robin style). We picked a peak pose and created the flow together. It was an informal space where we asked each other questions, gave each other feedback on our asanas and execution. I grew as a teacher like I never had prior. It also builds a stronger kula/community amongst teachers which fed our student kula exponentially. Invite any and all teachers, no matter what style or what studio they’re from, there is always something to learn.

11) Don’t stop being a student.
Take other people’s classes. Attend teacher trainings. Continue to learn. We are students first and foremost. I look at teaching as a way of sharing things that excite me. Continue to feed yourself so you can continue to share.

and my last one for today….

12) Don’t take yourself too seriously.
As my father says so beautifully, We are all bozos on this bus. I try to think of myself as a facilitator. I am here to facilitate my students journey into themselves. I try and create a space that is safe for them to explore their inner landscapes. Teaching is not about me, it’s about them. It’s an important one to remember. At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter how cool your sequence is, whether a ton of people told you how great you are or if your playlist worked. Instead ask yourself, did people leave feeling more connected to themselves, more quiet, more introspective? To me that’s the sign of a good class. And if it didn’t happen, so be it. I’ll try again next time.

 

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PS.

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