An interview with Shawnee Thornton Hardy.
If you had to describe your story in just a couple sentences, what would you say?
My story has been full of many challenges and triumphs. All of which have shaped who I am and have brought me to the path I am on today.
What is your mission, and what drives it?
My mission is to help children and adults connect to their own inner strength and support them in building capacity and resilience to manage the challenges and beauties of life. Being a facilitator of healing with emotional, physical, and mental well-being.
From teaching mindfulness to children with special needs, to helping adults through yoga therapy, is there a common thread you notice through your diverse group of students across all ages? What do they all have in common (that they may not realize) that yoga heals?
I think what we all have in common is that we can experience high levels of stress in our lives regardless of our age or ability. The practices of yoga, mindfulness, breath work, and somatic movement offer tools to manage stress in our lives. It's not so much the stress that causes imbalance in our systems, it's unmanaged stress that continues over a period of time that can greatly impact our physical, emotional, and mental well-being. By learning these tools we are able to self-regulate and build capacity in our nervous systems when stressful experiences happen in our lives. When we have these tools we are able to bounce back more easily and come back to a more regulated state - a state of homeostasis.
In what ways have you had to adapt the most this year? What has been the biggest challenge as a result? And, what has been your silver lining, or unexpected delight, from the changes?
Prior to the coronavirus, I was doing a significant amount of traveling in the US and Internationally to lead my trainings. When the virus hit, I had to cancel all of my trainings. There was a short moment of panic but I fortunately was able to pivot and offer my trainings online. It was a challenge to make that happen, but I believe my practice is what allowed me to mobilize and keep moving forward rather than staying in a panicked or frozen state. The silver lining in all of this is that by moving my courses online they are much more accessible to people around the world and the trainings have been doing very well!
Everyone is facing their own challenge right now, and the current state of the world has our minds racing in countless directions. What advice do you have for readers to help manage stress, wherever it may be coming from? Is there something they could try today, or maybe even in this moment as they're reading?
My advice for managing stress would be to make your practices easy and attainable. Weaving short movement and mindfulness practices in throughout your day help to build capacity. It's more about the consistency than it is about the amount of time you are spending on your practice.
Something you can do to help regulate is by Grounding and Connecting to Your Body throughout the day.
Take a moment right now to feel your feet on the floor. Notice the part of your body that feels most connected to the earth. If it's difficult to feel that grounded connection - add a folded blanket to your lap or a folded blanket on the top of your feet so you can feel that connection. Think of something that gives you a felt sense of being grounded. You might imagine a place, a color, an activity you like to do, etc. For instance, I imagine a strong tree with lush green branches. Picture that resource (whatever came to your mind) and notice the felt sense of being grounded in your body. Come back to that practice throughout the day.
We're spending even more time hunched over our phones and computers these days. What are your favorite exercises to do while sitting at home to help our necks and bodies as whole?
Yes, so much time hunched over! Our society in general needs more front body openers and movement!
My favorite exercises you can do in a chair are front body openers. For instance, you can give this one a try. It's called open Book/Close Book. Sit up tall in your chair with your feet grounded on the floor. Take your palms and elbows together. Breath in through your nose and bring your elbows out to the sides with your palms facing forward (like you're opening a book). Breathe out and bring your palms and elbows back together (like you're closing a book). Repeat 3-5 times.
Do you have a virtual yoga practice readers could try? Perhaps a 30 minute flow we could do from home?
Yes, I have an online video library that is subscription based. I am actually currently in the process of rebranding from ABLE Yoga Therapy to Embodied Wellness Yoga Therapy and re-doing my website, but they can access the link to my videos via www.ableyogatherapy.com. You can follow my Facebook page Embodied Wellness Yoga Therapy for updates and you can connect with me on Instagram @fifteenshadesofgreen.
You have undoubtedly helped so many students through your mission over the years. What is one thing your students, or maybe one student in particular, has taught you?
I have learned so much from my students over the years. They have been my greatest teachers. I would say they have taught me patience, compassion, and to embrace and celebrate one another's differences
When it's time for a digital detox, where do you go or what do you do to stay inspired?
Nature is my greatest resource. When I need to reset you will find me at the beach, in the mountains, in the desert, anywhere I can go to disconnect from technology and the chaos of the world and reconnect to myself.
Any good books, podcasts, recipes, or other things you're loving lately that readers might love, too?
I'm a neuroscience geek and am studying a lot about trauma right now. I have SO MANY BOOKS. Some of my favorites: The Body Keep Score by Bessel Van Der Kolk and Waking the Tiger by Peter Levine. I also love poetry and have several Mary Oliver poetry books. I read a poem a day from her books to stay inspired.
And finally, how might we all become better at putting worry aside and live in the present moment?
I would first offer a suggestion of not watching the news right now and limiting your social media scrolling. So much of the news and social media content is toxic and inflammatory to our nervous systems. Ask yourself, "What am I digesting and how is that impacting my health and wellbeing?". We not only digest and absorb food in our bodies, but we also digest images, words, and toxic media.
We are more able to be in the present moment when we do something that brings us closer to ourselves. Make space in your day to do something you love, where time just goes by and you feel fully present and connected. The grounding and resourcing practice I offered is a great way to stay connected to the present - reminding the nervous system - "I am here, now."
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