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I Am Free

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Mantra: I Am Free
Exercise: Warrior III

I worked at Sea World when I was in my twenties as a performer on Cast Away Island. My character's name was China Dawn - a fitness infomercial star who was stranded on an island, desperate for a way back home to her fans. Every hour I worked a twenty-minute segment delivering my monologue of distress to Sea World attendees. I was off for the remaining forty-minute segment of each hour. During those times in which I wasn't working, I liked to sit with "Shamu" and the dolphins. I often spoke with the trainers, always expressing concern for the mammals being kept in such small quarters. They reassured me that Sea World takes great care of them, and that they are better off in captivity than in the wild. I wanted to believe them, but watching the whales and dolphins repeatedly hitting their nozzles against their underwater doors, I couldn't help but disagree.

When considering crate training while I was training my dog, the majority of people advised me "they actually like it...they feel secure in the crate..." How did they know, I wondered? Or were they simply trying to convince themselves of this so as not to feel guilty for confining their pet? In psychology, the Stockholm syndrome is a term used to describe a paradoxical psychological phenomenon wherein hostages express adulation and have positive feelings towards their captors. These behaviors seem irrational in light of the danger or threat to the victims. The syndrome is named after the Norrmalmstorg robbery of Kreditbanken at Norrmalmstorg in Stockholm, in which the bank robbers held bank employees hostage for five days. In this case, the victims became emotionally attached to their captors, and even defended them after they were freed from their six-day ordeal.

This pattern develops from our natural survival instincts. If a person is dependent on someone else for food and/or freedom, they surely would not want to upset them and risk not being fed or released. They may even believe that if they are "good" enough that they will be set free. Our psyches register these emotions as positive, even love-based feelings, and we can wind up fooling ourselves, and even possibly getting caught in the web of a toxic relationship or even a cult.

Now, to calm the Millan Posse's disappointment in my choice not to crate train, I did designate an area in my house for my dog's "Time Out" zone. I did not feel comfortable enclosing my dog in a small crate, as I felt my dog's breed creates more anxiety and resistance in such conditions. Every dog is different, and crate training can be highly effective with certain breeds. Some of the greatest joys I have with my dog is walking through the park with him off-leash. He chooses to be with me, and I am mindful to protect him and those around us. Would Shamu stay at Sea World if he was given an opportunity to swim free again? I think that it is much more important to efficiently train our four-legged beasts who walk the earth with us than it is to worry if our gold fish will jump on command.

We will all have our own opinions about whether it is right or wrong to keep Shamu and his friends in captivity so that a theme park can profit. What we can do is fuel more consciousness and liberties into our current relationships - starting with ourselves. The definition of freedom according to the Merriam-Webster dictionary reads: the quality or state of being free as a : the absence of necessity, coercion, or constraint in choice or action b : liberation from slavery or restraint or from the power of another.

Although we probably do not have overt, physical shackles, we may very well be slaves to the delusions of our minds. Start today by flying free in Warrior III pose. As with all practices, it will carry over into the rest of your life - effortlessly. Remember, there is no fight in one's liberation; it is a peaceful choice.

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1. Begin standing in Tadasana, or Mountain Pose, with your feet hip-width apart. Interlace your fingers behind your lower back. Roll your chest and shoulders open as you squeeze your triceps towards each other. Press your chin towards your rising chest. Begin to feel the expansion of energy through your chest, lungs and heart center. Breathe deeply and fully into these areas. Begin to feel the strength and support of the posture shifting to your upper back region. Imagine your shoulder blades as wings.

2. After 8-10 breaths, release your hands, extending your arms out to your sides.

3. Lean forward as if taking flight. Lift your left leg behind you equal to the degree that you lower your upper body forward until they are both parallel to the ground. Use your shoulder blades and arms to keep your pose "in flight". Your head, arms, torso, tailbone, and back leg should be parallel with the floor.

Be Free. Repeat in your mind, "I Am Free. I Am Free to be myself within my relationships. I am a conscious partner. I Am Free." Hold for 30 seconds or more before returning to Mountain pose and repeating on the other side.

"Freedom is the last, best hope of earth."- Abraham Lincoln

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