A couple of changes on the horizon

Beginning in December, Chair Yoga at 11 am on Thursdays has been moved to 10:45 on Thursdays at the Blossom Hill location of Almaden Yoga. So, there is a 15 minute difference in time, and the location has changed to 7 minutes down the road.

Also, I am finishing my first year of Yoga Therapy! I can’t believe that I’m only a couple weeks shy of halfway through. I will have my 500 hour certification for this year. As previously mentioned, my very inexpensive first year intern rates for a Yoga Therapy session will be going up next year. So, if you would like to see me before the end of the year, I have a couple of time slots open still. Currently, I am seeing clients on a sliding need-based scale of $25-$50. Next year, the price will increase to $50-$75 as a second year intern, commensurate with more education and experience in the field. Meeting remotely is also an option, given a good camera on both ends.

If you will be meeting with friends and family next week from near and far, may you have a heartfelt connection with one another. There will be no class with me next week at Willow Glen Yoga or Almaden Yoga. Private sessions may be possible.

In search of people with Diabetes

As I complete my first year of Yoga Therapy training (halfway through!), I am compiling research for my end of year presentation. The focus for this year is on Diabetes, and the effects of yoga and stress reduction on blood sugar. If you know anyone with Diabetes, and this person is in the San Jose area, please put them in touch with me. I would love to do some hands-on work in this area to further my research.

Fitting in

There’s a poem that was read to us at my Lifeways graduation that is one of those gifts that keeps on giving. From time to time, a new line stands up and takes notice, helping me to guide my actions. The part that is humming for me now is this:

You are a child of the universe,
no less than the trees and the stars;
you have a right to be here.
Desiderata 
Go placidly amid the noise and haste,
and remember what peace there may be in silence.
As far as possible without surrender
be on good terms with all persons.
Speak your truth quietly and clearly;
and listen to others,
even the dull and the ignorant;
they too have their story.

Avoid loud and aggressive persons,
they are vexations to the spirit.
If you compare yourself with others,
you may become vain and bitter;
for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.
Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans.

Keep interested in your own career, however humble;
it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.
Exercise caution in your business affairs;
for the world is full of trickery.
But let this not blind you to what virtue there is;
many persons strive for high ideals;
and everywhere life is full of heroism.

Be yourself.
Especially, do not feign affection.
Neither be cynical about love;
for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment
it is as perennial as the grass.

Take kindly the counsel of the years,
gracefully surrendering the things of youth.
Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune.
But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings.
Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.
Beyond a wholesome discipline,
be gentle with yourself.

You are a child of the universe,
no less than the trees and the stars;
you have a right to be here.
And whether or not it is clear to you,
no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.

Therefore be at peace with God,
whatever you conceive Him to be,
and whatever your labors and aspirations,
in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul.

With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams,
it is still a beautiful world.
Be cheerful.
Strive to be happy.

Max Ehrmann, Desiderata, Copyright 1952.

Lessons on grace, from Anne Lamott and Frank Zappa

Today, I remembered the great quote from Anne Lamott that says, “You can safely assume you’ve created God in your own image when it turns out that God hates all the same people you do.” We all do this from time to time, and perhaps now even more than ever. Imagine if we didn’t back our opinions with the self-righteousness of God?

Then, there’s this: my brother in law’s friend told me this story that his mom told him. One time, a crazed fan broke into Frank Zappa’s house, wielding a gun. Zappa had company over, but took it in stride. He offered the gun holder a beer, and a seat, and everyone sat down to talk. Then he said, my friends and I were just getting ready to do this ceremony in which we say goodbye to something. Can we do that?

They went to this pond in the backyard, and everyone started saying goodbye to their attachments, by throwing something into the water. Frank Zappa threw something in (a sandal? a book? The details have been lost). Then he looked expectantly at the guy. He looked at his gun, said *@!& it!, and threw the gun into the water, and left.

Imagine meeting your attacker with such smooth grace. There have been many stories like this circulated, although perhaps not with such a personage as Frank Zappa at the center. I don’t even know if it’s true, but I like to think it is.

What could be possible if we didn’t assume things about people? What if instead of reacting, we offered the proverbial olive branch (or beer) to someone that we perceive as an attacker? If you have a story about this, please leave it in the comments.

 

Yoga for Depression

I’m finishing up an excellent book, Healing Depression the Mind-Body Way by Nancy Liebler and Sandra Moss. I am not currently depressed, but I certainly have been in the past. Actually, I was first introduced to yoga about 20 years ago when I went through a severe clinical depression, which included a hefty dose of anxiety as well (as depression often does). Yoga is, and has been a touchstone, and a first line of defense when depression and/or anxiety looms.

A little more on that, because this is a topic near and dear to my heart. For many people who get out of control depression, anxiety may be the first sign. If you find yourself acting and thinking more intensely than normal, take care. The body and mind get so wound up, that eventually, the system shuts down and depression may result. Think of it as a car engine overheating. If you’ve ever driven a really crummy car, or series of (as I did for an entire decade of my life), you may have experienced this. First the gauge starts to show that you are getting too warm. If you are a reasonable driver, you may decide that you really need to get somewhere, and maybe you will see if driving slower will still get you there, or to a service station. You turn off the air, pray you hit no stoplights. Eventually, you either manage to fix the problem, or you break down. This process is very like the reality of unchecked anxiety. If you don’t slow down, and regroup, you may not make it to your service station. You may just break down, which is when anxiety turns to depression. Having a daily yoga practice is an excellent way to keep on top of how and what you are feeling.

In this book, the authors offered a great overview of the different types of depression, some Ayurveda informed practices to support the different types, lifestyle changes, and some sample case studies to use as examples. If you find that depression, sadness, or anxiety loom heavy on your heart, I encourage you to find human help. If depression is something you revisit periodically, try reading the book before you are in crisis. You may discover what your early signs are, and be able to minimize your next event. More people have experienced depression than you know. And when you make it through, I urge you to be a light for others who are caught out in the dark. Having made it through, I feel like it is my duty (and a welcome one) to look out for others who may be stumbling, or have succumbed.

If you have never experienced depression, don’t try to cheer your depressed friend up. Just sit with them. Honestly, the best thing you can do is to acknowledge their pain, in a spirit of empathy. There is a wonderful Brene Brown video on the difference between sympathy and empathy. Watch it. Being there means everything.

 

 

Like attracts like

Today, I gave a presentation at my church about some of the spiritual observances of yoga (primarily the Yamas and Niyamas) and led the group in a chair based yoga practice, incorporating breath awareness, and a little bit of breath control. Afterwards, I took questions, which is always fun. In that Q&A period, someone asked what kind of practice they should pursue. This is where discipline comes in.

If you are a fiery overachiever, you will be most attracted to a fiery, accomplishment-driven practice. If you are a couch potato, restorative may be the only yoga you really want to sign on for. However, since like attracts like, if you are fiery, and only do fiery, you are only making yourself more intense. One of the many wonderful purposes of yoga is to help to bring us into balance. If you are fiery, asking you to do a restorative may be too much of a leap, but could you find joy in a more contemplative practice that still offers some challenge? If you are sedentary, a fast-paced flow class may be excessive, but could you find some challenge in an Iyengar class? Over time, we can use this balancing of opposites to bring us to the practice that we need.

Seasons of our lives also impact what might be best for us. If you are a busy householder, finding an hour to carve out each day for a languorous practice may not be practical, but you could develop a shorter practice that offers the maximum benefit. If we are in ill health, perhaps our practice may focus on breath control and meditation, and less on the poses.

Whatever we choose, examine whether it is moving you toward a noble goal, or a superficial one. If yoga is bringing you more stability, insightfulness, and introspection, you are on the right track. How does yoga help you? Let me know in the comments.

We don’t just have fuzzy hearts

This weekend in school, I learned something kind of gnarly. Every night, when we go to sleep, in between our muscles we grow the equivalent of toe jam. It’s really connective tissue and fascia, but the comparison to toe jam popped into my head right away. If you have small children, you know what this is. If you don’t know, well, bless you. I think you will live with the disappointment. The video that illustrated this is called The Fuzz Speech, where a doctor is using cadavers (yes, dead bodies) to show it in detail. Watch it if you aren’t squeamish, otherwise, just read about it here.

In short, we develop this “fuzz” every night when we sleep. When we wake up, we are a little stiff, and the development of this tissue is why. The only way we can clear this tissue is from moving around, stretching, and working our bodies. If you are sedentary, that tissue builds up over time, eventually becoming very thick and more stiff, requiring deep massage and body work to clear it out over time.

Massages are wonderful (I personally recommend my friend Lisa, who is the best massage therapist I know and a warm-hearted, funny individual), but let’s also commit to joyful movement every day. Let’s keep our hearts warm and fuzzy, and clear out the rest.

We are the world

Listening to all the crazy rhetoric going around these days reminded me of an experience that I had nearly a decade ago. As a full time librarian, one of the best projects I ever got to do was a big outreach program to adult learners. These people were amazing. All of them worked hard, and jumped in with both feet. I remember meeting one Mexican immigrant to our country who worked cleaning offices from 10 pm until 4 in the morning, then went to his landscaping job from 5 am until noon. Then he went to school to get his GED and improve his English literacy skills, then got some sleep before returning to work. In this project, I met with people who were getting their GEDs, becoming medical assistants, were just learning adult literacy skills, English, dental assisting, all kinds of stuff. I got to present to about 500 adult learners over the course of this project.

It was the end of the term, and the Director of the organization invited me to the ELL (English Language Learners) and Citizenship end of year party and presentation. For their big finale, about 70 students crowded up on stage together to sing “We are the World” complete with waving arms that were meant to be synchronized, but really weren’t. Some arms waved overhead to the left, some right, some bumped into other arms. What was universal was that everyone on that stage, from Iran to China to Russia had the most glowing faces that were beaming with pride. All of a sudden, it was as if my vision shifted and I saw everyone with the love of perfect Creation, as if I was looking through the eyes of God, or the Maker, or Supreme Consciousness. My heart and my eyes sprang forth, one welling with love, the other with tears for the beauty of it all.

After the ceremony, everyone tromped off the stage, beaming with their shared experience, receiving their American flags. And they were proud. And I was overcome. That day, I felt like I saw into their hearts, and saw with God’s heart.

 

Two chances to practice on Thursdays!

I am pleased to announce that I have a new class that is good for beginners, or those who want to find more time to settle into their postures. I am doing a Hatha Yoga class, which means minimal flow work, lots of holds, incorporating props to find different ways to explore the pose. This class is on Thursday mornings, 9:15 at Willow Glen Yoga.

If Hatha isn’t your bag, directly afterwards, I am teaching a Chair Yoga class at 11 am at Almaden Yoga, Via Valiente location.

As ever, if you have any questions, please email me. I would love to hear from you.

 

My possible pasts

Recently, I caught up with a very old friend who I haven’t spoke to in well over a decade. Thank you, Facebook! Our boyfriends of the time were best friends, and we would all hang out once in a while. What was interesting was talking with her (aside from her being cool) but also realizing how much we had in parallel at that juncture of our lives, and neither of us had any idea about our similarities. Remember, our main connection was who we were dating.

The other interesting thing was to find out that she has stayed in touch, sort of, with my old boyfriend…and to find out after all these years what has happened to him. He has big health issues, and has been getting multiple surgeries to manage them, and he’s only in his early 40s, just like me.

Years and years went by of talking with people, and everything was just the “same old” thing, but now, in my 40s, people I hung out with in high school are dying and getting surgeries. People I dated, and otherwise. For some reason, Pink Floyd’s song Your Possible Pasts got stuck in my head, chiefly for the title. It just got me to thinking though, I’ve been so lucky. Pretty much every possible past I had was a pretty awful one.

When I was a teenager, I hitchhiked across America, which is a story for a different blog post altogether. The salient point here is that for a time, I traveled around with two other girls who were my same age. Both girls returned home a few months before I did, but headed back out on the road a short time later. One girl was eventually abducted and abused horribly, resulting in long term rehab therapy (she had to relearn to walk) and had sustained substantial brain damage. My other friend never could settle down again. She had a child, but abandoned him repeatedly to head back out on the road. How is it that I was in the lucky 33%?

My possible pasts. As a librarian, I loathe to give you any spoilers, so I won’t tell you what book it is (unless you email me, then I will), but once I read a book that had a parent and child one of the worst scenarios I can possibly imagine. At the end of the book, as the parent is breathing their [ha ha! Being tricky by not naming the gender here, so as to not set a spoiler trail] last, they say “we’ve always been lucky, haven’t we?” That line was so haunting to me, and it’s kind of a touchstone line I have for myself. I’ve always been lucky too. Not in the obvious ways, but in the grand scheme of things, what luck.

I hope you are all lucky too, in all the right ways.