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Community Connection: Living from Joy, with Carla Brown

This month for our Community Connection, we talked to Certified Laughter Yoga Teacher, Joy Coach, Certified Grief Yoga Teacher, and Aptos Natural Foods shopper Carla Brown, of Living from Joy, about her personal yogic journey, and local opportunities she provides to ease stress and connect to the physical body, the emotions, and other community members.

What struck us most throughout our conversation with Carla, was the way in which she extends herself to others by drawing on her own experience: of trauma, holding stress, and release, to help her empathize with others' emotional struggles and guide them towards healing.

Carla went to Waldorf schools through the eighth grade, and credits Waldorf with helping her forge a deep connection with the natural world. Waldorf and this connection sustained her through an otherwise difficult childhood. Carla first became a yoga student to heal from serious injuries from a car accident when she was twenty. Starting in her late twenties, a series of stress-induced illnesses, including paralysis from Guillane-Barre sydrome, forced her to begin living mindfully inside her body, and acknowledge how her physical body was affected by her emotions and held trauma.

Carla first heard of laughter yoga in a short online radio program. Her “highly developed judgmental mind” reacted negatively to it, but her body loved it, and experienced an immediate sense of release. Carla was finally able to let her body take over, because it demanded to, and she kept doing laughter yoga. She needed peace, needed not to be on edge, needed to learn how to laugh, and needed to learn how to take herself lightly.

By the time she lost both her mother and her best friend in 2017, Carla was tuned into her body. Six months later, her chest still hurt. She was able to recognize this sensation as the way her body was holding onto grief. When she then heard about grief yoga in 2018, her body vibrated at the thought of it, and she got herself into training as soon as she could.

As Carla expressed it to me, so many people experience shock, trauma, loss, and grief, and it is so little talked about in our society, we need a dedicated space to hold our feelings about these experiences, affirm that they are real, that it is a normal human function, and that we're okay. The bodily system is a deep container that holds all these emotions.

Yoga means “union” in Sanskrit, and Carla believes passionately that yoga should connect people to each other. How much of the mental illness, instability, and stress that run rampant in our culture can be traced to a lack of connection? She described ours as a “high tech, low touch society,” and explained how this lack of touch disconnects us from our bodies. As humans, we need connection. Even when we do connect with others, it is generally cerebral rather than physical.

Laughter yoga and yoga for emotional liberation are ways to connect with other participants while experiencing our feelings bodily. The animal body needs connection -- infants experience oxytocin release when they are touched. Her classes also include some partner work.

Childhood trauma is held by the body and re-experienced as spikes of cortisol and adrenaline when the limbic system is triggered by new experiences, and felt as a fight or flight response. Carla truly believes that all people, especially children, are empathic, and that we feel each other’s emotions, including anxiety, anger, sadness, shame, and guilt. The best way through negative emotions is to acknowledge and release them. She offers tools with which to do this.

Yoga for Emotional Liberation is a 2 ½ hour class offered once every six weeks. It is appropriate for anyone who has gone through any loss, especially through, death, divorce, health or financial issues, and especially helpful for sensitive people who carry a lot of anxiety, sadness, or hopelessness in their bodies. Carla refers to this practice as Emotional Hygiene.

The four components of the class are:

  • Awareness

  • Expression

  • Connection

  • Surrender

Carla believes that when emotions are released, their energy has the potential to become useful. Giving a voice to emotions can help channel them into useful activity. Fall apart, and then return to the center.

The next class is October 5.

Radical Self-Compassion: Navigating Grief During the Holidays/Winter Months is an all day seminar on October 19 that Carla is offering in partnership with Alexandra Kennedy, MA MFT. Kennedy is a local author and grief expert. They two women have co-created a curriculum, using tools from the book and from Carla’s approach to emotional hygiene, to promote interactive and experiential lists of self-care tactics designed to help participants feel safe and treat themselves with radical self-compassion and lovingkindness. This class is most appropriate for people who have experienced a death in their family and struggle with getting through the holidays.

Carla has been a regular customer at Aptos Natural Foods ever since she moved to Corralitos in 2013. She loves the community feel of the store.

Carla has been volunteer teaching Laughter Yoga at WomenCARE since 2014. Her Saturday classes at Ocean View Park are free, and Wednesday classes at the Tannery have a suggested donation. Believing so strongly in what she does, Carla wants everyone to have access to it and will work things out with people interested in her seminars. After talking to her, we have no doubt that what she offers is a radically transformative release, led mindfully by someone who both offers and honors vulnerability.

For class times, visit her website.

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