Adeline Yoga teacher Melinda Morey recently moved back to her home state of Hawaii after nearly five and a half years in the Bay Area. We are thrilled that she is returning this month for a special holiday restorative workshop on December 17 2-4 p.m. In anticipation of her visit, Melinda shared a few words about the importance of finding quiet, nourishing spaces in our hectic daily lives.
What do you think is the unique element you bring to your teaching?
If I can offer anything, it’s a different perspective because of where I grew up. Because of what my life experience has been. The reason that I’m a good restorative teacher is that my own practice has become more restorative in the past few years. I really understand the need for it in a person’s life. I think when you’re younger, you just don’t need it as much. But when you get older, your energy starts to shift. Anybody can teach a restorative class, but when you really understand the desperate need for that in your own life, and you recognize how desperately people need it, then it gives you a different perspective and you teach from a different place.
How have you noticed your own personal practice shifting?
When we moved to California about five and a half years ago, it was such a leap for me and it was so stressful, that I just didn’t have the bandwidth to have a rigorous practice. I was also starting to go through menopause, though I didn’t really know it. I just recognized: “I’m really tired, I really don’t feel like doing a lot of standing poses today. What I really need is to do a restorative practice.” So more and more, my practice became a really nourishing place—a quiet space for my mind to go to. I was already moving my body a lot, so more of the percentage of my practice became restorative.
You know, Victoria Austin said to me once—your practice should be your sanctuary. I’m a pretty type-A person, and I think a lot of people who are drawn to yoga—especially Iyengar yoga—are. We are naturally going to work hard, what we need to learn is to work soft internally, even during a challenging practice. Your practice needs to be a place where you feel like you’re taking care. And I know myself, for many years it was not: it was a place where I pushed myself, just like I did everywhere else. That is what I offer to my students: a place where they can be really nourished.
Why do you think we need restorative practices during this time of year? What about the holiday season necessitates a nourishing practice?
Well let me say that I think we need them all the time. When I came back to the Bay Area in October for a workshop with Manouso Manos, it was the longest I had been away from the Bay area since I moved there five years ago. And just getting back on the freeway and dealing with all of those people and all of those cars and being in the city for a week, I realized how taxing it is on your nervous system. People living in an urban environment don’t realize how much of an onslaught of stimulus there is, 24/7. The nervous system needs time to be quiet.
So then going to the question about why we need it more during the holidays —the holidays are rife with stress because it’s a time when there are more family interactions, there are more expectations for people to show up with gifts, attend more holiday parties, host more people—it’s a very social time. Or, it can be a very isolating time for people who don’t have family. That can cause tremendous sadness and depression. I think underneath all of this are the stories we all have from our childhoods where our expectations were not met. Where we felt unloved. There’s always that underlayment of those early disappointments that we bring into our lives now. We’ve got all of this old baggage, and with the reality of stress compounding your ordinarily busy life, people forget that the most important thing they can do is take care of themselves.
There is a lot of suffering right now. As this year ends, there is an increasing sense of urgency to act, to engage, to fight for our rights and for the planet. Is it selfish to take time for ourselves? How can we balance both the need for action and introspection without feeling guilty?
The truth is, that unless you are nourishing yourself, unless you are taking care of yourself, you have nothing to give others. You’re coming from a place of deficit. As an artist, I know that if I’m not taking of myself, if I’m not feeding myself with quiet time or introspection, reflection, inspiration—then I have nothing to give my work. I have nothing to give my son. I have nothing to give my students.
I have created a life where I have the luxury of not being plugged into a 9-5 situation every day. Which has its own stresses. I don’t have a steady paycheck, I don’t have any job security; I just have 30 years of experience in the field and I have an understanding that I’ve never starved, and that somehow, the universe always provides me with what I need. In his translation of Patanjali’s yoga sutras, Guruji talks about the yamas and niyamas, and he talks about non-grasping. Really, that is trusting fully that you will be given exactly what you need. You don’t have to grasp, you don’t have to struggle or fear, and the grasping and the striving come from a fear and a lack of trust that we will be taken care of. And I’ve found very truly that in my own life, that the more I let go, and really trust and pray and ask for help, that what I need just shows up.
How do you find your balance of time shifting now that you’re back in Hawaii?
I was just talking to somebody about this yesterday—whatever I’m doing, I just do that. I got up this morning, I had to return some things to Home Depot, drop off a friend off at the airport, drop my son off at school, now I’m here talking to you, and when I get off the phone I’m going to go paint for a few hours, and then I’m going to go back down to the house and work on it for a few hours. But if I’m painting, I’m just painting. I’m not thinking about what I have to do later. My whole life has been very much influenced by my yoga practice, because when you’re practicing pressing your big toe mound down, that’s what you’re doing. You’re not thinking about what you’re going to have for lunch; you’re just in your body, and you’re in that moment, and you’re attending to the needs of your body in that particular space and time. When I’m practicing, I’m just practicing.
What can you tell us about the workshop you will be leading on December 17?
In terms of the workshop, it will address physical needs for calm, but it will also support people’s emotional and energetic bodies to deal with this time of year. The irony is that this season is really a time of hibernation. It’s a time for introversion, for reflection, for introspection. It’s not a time to be busy running around doing a bunch of stuff. It’s cold, it’s winter; we want to burrow. We are still animals. We just want to stay warm and safe and have all of our food gathered so we don’t have be out there in the elements doing stuff. When you’re running around Christmas shopping, dealing with traffic, or going to parties, it’s just too much. It’s so important to balance what you think that you should be doing with what you really need to do to take care of yourself.
It is especially important during the holidays, to find some tool that you can use, something very simple, that can bring you back to yourself. For instance, you can stop and take a deep breath. We hear that so many times it has lost import, but take one conscious breath, in and out, and it can slow you down. No matter where you are, or what you’re doing, it will bring you into now. Now is all that is real, the rest is memory or speculation.
Ready to take a deep breath and come into now? Sign up for Melinda’s Holiday Restorative Workshop below!