Keep Your Eyes on Your Own F*#&ing Mat – Response to Jen Caron

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(There isn’t a big juicy rant ahead, so be warned. I decided to think before I wrote. Please know that the calm state of mind in which I wrote this post does not reflect the normally snarky way I chose to address uncomfortable situations) 

After reading the xo Jane article There Are No Black People in My Yoga Class and I’m Uncomfortable with It I must admit I had a typical Oneika knee-jerk response. I rolled my eyes and didn’t finish the article. I stopped reading after this paragraph:

I thought about how that must feel: to be a heavyset black woman entering for the first time a system that by all accounts seems unable to accommodate her body. What could I do to help her? If I were her, I thought, I would want as little attention to be drawn to my despair as possible—I would not want anyone to look at me or notice me. And so I tried to very deliberately avoid looking in her direction each time I was in downward dog, but I could feel her hostility just the same. Trying to ignore it only made it worse. I thought about what the instructor could or should have done to help her. Would a simple “Are you okay?” whisper have helped, or would it embarrass her? Should I tell her after class how awful I was at yoga for the first few months of my practicing and encourage her to stick with it, or would that come off as massively condescending? If I asked her to articulate her experience to me so I could just listen, would she be at all interested in telling me about it? Perhaps more importantly, what could the system do to make itself more accessible to a broader range of bodies? Is having more racially diverse instructors enough, or would it require a serious restructuring of studio’s ethos?

 

Then I decided, hey- why not finish it? So I did. I’d like to tell you that the article got better.

Nope.

Here’s the quick and dirty…A woman felt suddenly uncomfortable because her vision of what yoga should look like was challenged when an overweight Black woman showed up to her yoga class. I’m not over simplifying here. By the end of the post Caron says that yoga should be more inclusive. Still not sure that I get the whole point of what she was trying to say.

While most of the article could be written off to youth and inexperience (and a good idea gone bad by xo Jane), I had three big problems with Caron’s words.

1. What’s troubling is that a Black woman caused such upheaval for Caron that she went home and cried. When is the last time that Caron talked to a Black person? She lives in Brooklyn. Instead of challenging her own perceptions Caron went home and blamed the practice of yoga. At no point did Caron ask herself (in the piece) if her response was a bit over-the-top, out of touch and worth exploring because it… Is. Utterly. Self-absorbed.  Caron writes:

Because I was directly in front of her, I had no choice but to look straight at her every time my head was upside down (roughly once a minute). I’ve seen people freeze or give up in yoga classes many times, and it’s a sad thing, but as a student there’s nothing you can do about it. At that moment, though, I found it impossible to stop thinking about this woman. Even when I wasn’t positioned to stare directly at her, I knew she was still staring directly at me. Over the course of the next hour, I watched as her despair turned into resentment and then contempt. I felt it all directed toward me and my body.

 

I was completely unable to focus on my practice, instead feeling hyper-aware of my high-waisted bike shorts, my tastefully tacky sports bra, my well-versedness in these poses that I have been in hundreds of times. My skinny white girl body. Surely this woman was noticing all of these things and judging me for them, stereotyping me, resenting me—or so I imagined.

 

2. There’s this idea, this thought both in Caron’s mind and in society that women who aren’t White dream of nothing else but trying to be white. And while I could go off on a tangent here and talk a bit about that (and some notable exceptions)- I’m going to hold steady.

Not all Black women dream of being a size two. And how did she know that this particular woman was in despair? Did she ask? I hoped that the story would end with Caron chatting with the woman after class, but instead Caron went home and cried.

I wonder what would have happened if Caron had decided to give the woman a genuine smile when she put down her mat- or smiled at her when it appeared that the woman (according to Caron) may have needed some non-verbal support. What would have happened if Caron had used this as a chance to open up her own heart and worldview rather than make it an attack on her status as a thin white woman? Of course these are just curious musings from a bystander (yoga teacher, yoga student and Black woman).

I can’t assume what would have happened if she had done these things. I’m going to take a leap though and assume that Caron’s world is not filled with a ton of friends who do not look like her. I think there was a missed opportunity for an experienced student to welcome a newer student to yoga. In the studios where I teach and practice the sense of collective community is strong- it’s what I love about yoga.

We are all in this together.

3. Caron talks about her asana practice and the “well-versedness in these poses that I have been in hundreds of times.” One of my favorite books is The Heart of Yoga by T.V.S. Desikachar. T.V.S. is the son of the man who is considered to be the modern father of yoga, Kirshnamacharya. Yoga means ‘to yoke’; to bring together forming a union. To get to this place we empty our minds of chatter (chitta vritti), unnecessary thoughts that can get in the way of uniting our body and breathing. Caron’s article is a series of seemingly incessant internal thoughts from start of class to finish. Granted, this happens to all of us. But our yoga is to inwardly direct the self-talk so we can minimize it. Yoga is more than a series of poses done in expert fashion. It’s working through a physical practice to begin the real practice of living in the now, without judgement, fear or violence.

I think the article was an attempt to talk about diversity. Was it mired down in a bunch of stuff that was crappy- yup. Caron wrote the article and put it out there- so feedback is going to come. But how do we move forward from here?

It’s my hope that this article doesn’t discourage Black women from trying yoga. While there are a lot of women like this- there are also so many more people who are warm, loving and generous. There are more and more Black yoga teachers (and other teachers of color). This matters- it opens the dialogue and discussion.

I can’t reliably speculate on the Black woman discussed because of the projection of feelings of the author onto a total stranger- so who’s to say she had a bad class at all. But if she did I hope she doesn’t feel discouraged and finds a yoga home where she can feel nurtured and flourish. And if she can’t she can call me and I’ll practice with her.

T.V.S. Desikachar writes:

“The success of Yoga does not lie in the ability to perform postures but in how it positively changes the way we live our life and our relationships.”

There’s some food for thought for all of us. And if that doesn’t work we can listen to Bryan Kest, a teacher who has a no bs approach to yoga and meditation.  He often says ‘Keep you eyes on your own fcuking mat.’

Good plan.

Namaste y’all.

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Stand Here, in This Place – Adventures in Yoga

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I wasn’t able to get out of my own way this week.

Out of sync.

And because I like nothing more than making matters worse, I tried to rush each day along.

Futile and insane. We’ve all done it, tried to rush past the shittiness so we can get back to the good stuff.

The easy stuff.

It didn’t work. I slugged through it both frustrated and sleepy. A brief respite came Friday during a local teacher’s practice. This week’s focus was Yin yoga and it couldn’t have come at a better time. Being with nothing but a pose and pranayama was a great first step back in the direction of balance. After a long hot shower and a glass of pinot I was ever so grateful to climb into my bed at 9:30. I needed my day off.

After a morning visit to Brian the Chiropractor, I raced on my bike to class. Frustrated again because I left the house ten minutes later than I should have so I walked into the studio at 12pm for a 12pm class. Grrr.

And then…a shift. The previous class was running late. I saw bodies under blankets with eye pillows. Yes!

I am not sure if things come up because I need them, if I attract situations that I think about or if I notice things because they are on my mind. Who knows, it could be a combination of all three.

A chance to catch up.

I smiled at my luck. When I went to check in- I was offered a complimentary class because of a mix-up on the snow day.

A do over.

Class started in Virasana, my least favorite pose but I was relaxed and went with the sensation. The warm- up consisted of a wave of movements that slowly churned energy and gently brought quiet heat to my muscles. Kevin, the teacher tenderly urged that we let go of judgment. Instead, we should release the notion of good and bad around actions and feelings. And lastly look at ourselves from a place of observation whether nothing and everything just- is.

My spirit fascia loosened up.

A chance to breathe.

And then, we moved into Tadasana.

His next words put the past week in perspective and were the safe harbor in what turned out to be bear of a f*cking class.

‘Stand here, in this place.”

His words made me rise from my ribs and lift my heart.

‘Stand here, in this place.’

So I did. I stood feeling rooted, shaky and  suddenly without reason, very vulnerable.

But I stood there, in that place.

A mountain. Breathing. Never moving despite storms and clouds and the pounding sun.

‘Stand here, in this place.’

Because if I can stand when it hits the fan I can rise in the sunlight. If I can stand without judgement of myself and others, I am open to infinite possibilities.

So I stood. Without expectation.

I missed opportunities all week to stop and stand in the place that I was, but it was okay because I was doing it now.

I am doing it now. Standing here in this place without judgement but with observation.

Namaste y’all.

Health Yoga- 3 Ways to Optimize Your 40’s

(Guest Post from FoundHealth.com)

3 Ways to Stay Healthy in Your 40s

“I want to feel my life while I’m in it.”
– Meryl Streep
By the time that I turned 40 I was comfortable in my own skin. It wasn’t a parting of the Red Sea moment and angels didn’t sing. No huge party. The birthday itself was okay, but the sense of peace I’ve gained is constantly evolving and endlessly gratifying. I no longer obsess about what people think. I define my life by who I am and not by what I do for a living. And while I think the best years are ahead, I need to pay close attention to my health. My life journey now means incorporating changes to my mind, body and spirit.

 

 

Keep Your Mind Young

I can’t speak for all women (and at 40, I know not to), but I make sure to do the things that truly fulfill me. It’s important that I connect with my inner political animal and stay in touch with the world around me. Things weren’t always this way. In my 30′s I was informed but more centered around my own career. I didn’t have time for much else. While that definitely had its downsides I wouldn’t have changed anything. The life I have now is one that I love and without the path I created with my actions I might not be where I am. And while I’m not religious I have an appreciation and respect for the planet and my part in it. ‘An attitude of gratitude’ is my mind mantra.

 

3 ways to stay healthy in your 40's

 

Age Gracefully but Be Smart

I know that 40 is the new 30. Heck, I believe it! I’m lucky enough to have a mother who looks 20 years younger than she is, so I don’t look or ‘feel‘ 40. However, you can’t ignore some truths about getting older no matter how young you look. I keep a youthful glow by using  an anti-aging moisturizer and drinking lots of water. Eating less is also a fact of life when you get older. The metabolism slows down. If you think the shift that happens in your 30′s is big, wait until 40. It was really big for me. Diet. Diet. Diet. I’ve cut down dramatically on white sugar and white foods. I’ve also embraced working out. My yoga practice and runs sustain me physically. Oh I’m not the size 4 that I was in my twenties, but I do love how I look and feel. When I was younger I lifted quite a bit, and when I hit 40, I realized that I needed to bring weights back into my life. Weight lifting can help women stave off osteoporosis. Speaking of my aging bones, calcium, vitamin D, vitamin B and Omega 3 are a part of my daily regimen. My 40 year old body mantra is ‘you are your own best investment’.

My canvas shopping bags are good for the planet. What’s inside is great for me!

 

 

Keep Your Spirit Young

Yoga is more than something I do, it’s a way to live my life. By learning to move my body in different ways, I’ve also learned how to move my heart. Stress, anger and negativity does more to make me unhealthy than all the fat in the world. When I stay connected to my mat literally and metaphorically, I move through my day with a greater sense of self and responsibility to the world.

Getting older was never something that worried me. Maybe I’m unusual but I’m thrilled at watching how my life unfolds. My twenties were fun but I wouldn’t want to go back there. My thirties were incredible and helped to set me up to be a woman that relishes the skin that she’s in. I’ve made adjustments to my life so I can keep up with what’s in store! I’m excited to see what comes next!

 

I’m haven’t achieved enlightenment like Buddha, but with meditation I’m working on it.
Namaste y’all

Food Yoga- Roasted Curry Potato Salad

This isn’t your grandma’s potato salad. Hey, don’t get me wrong- I love mayo. Alas, my booty doesn’t allow it very often. I’ve talked a lot about cutting carbs our of my life. It’s an affair that is hard to end (and quite frankly one of my most successful relationships, see: why I do yoga). But biking has taken over my life (in the best way possible).

It’s been a great addition to my yoga practice, but without carbs I’m crampy and crabby, a lethal combination to be sure. So I decided that once in a while I can splurge on carbs that are healthy yams, quinoa and beans. This potato salad has curry for a unique flavor and can be served warm or cold with lettuce added. I like it with lettuce because the cold lettuce, warm potatoes and honey mustard balsamic dressing- WOO HOO!!! I’m getting excited just typing it!!!

 

Ingredients 

(serves 4)

  • 3-4 sweet potatoes cubed
  • curry powder- I use a curry powder recipe that I’ve doctored up. I’ll include it, but those who really like curry know that it’s a personal experience. So I’m not here to mess with yours, but if you don’t care- use mine, because it’s awesome. Ok, onto the next thing.
  • your favorite lettuce – 4 cups (I used a spring mix)
  • salt – to taste
  • olive oil spray – (use a mister, you can use real olive oil and cut down on calories if you don’t like the spray!)
  • apples – 2 cups cubed (not to be a redundant but what I said about curry applies to apples so rewind and play that then, use what you like. Gala was on sale, so that’s what came home with me.)
  • golden raisins  1/4 cup
  • pistachios (optional) 1/4 cup crushed
  • onion – thinly sliced
  • broccoflower (or cauliflower, I was feeling daring so…) – 2 cups roughly chopped

Dressing

  • honey 1 T
  • dijon mustard 1T
  • olive oil 1/4 cup
  • balsamic vinegar 1/4 cup
  • salt and pepper to taste
Blend or whisk ingredients in a bowl

Preparation 

  1. Pre-heat oven to 425
  2. Coast the potatoes and broccoflower with the olive oil and toss with the curry powder
  3. Spread the veggies evenly on an oiled cookie sheet
  4. Bake for 25-30 minutes
  5. Toss veggies with apples, lettuce, raisins and dressing

 

 

Stop Breathe & Think

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Tools for Peace™ teaches people of all ages how to develop and apply kindness and compassion in their daily lives.

This app is perfect. Teens are encouraged to use this and check in.

When we can stop and take a better breath we make better decisions and that leads to a better life.

While the app is geared toward the teen set- methinks there’s an adult or two out there who could see their lives transformed by using this.

This is yoga. Take a better breath. Live a better life. 

Namaste y’all.

Breakfast Yoga

I have the attention span of a small child. And everything entertains me. This means each day is an adventure. I shriek with delight at every new discovery and can barely contain myself as I share my treasures with the world.

*gets up distracted by shiny object*

*sits back down*

Yoga has been a saving grace. It’s helped me learn how to focus. I do have a hard time sticking with routine unless, of course it’s entertaining. This can make eating a dangerous vixen. I have every intention to have a healthy breakfast, but if something isn’t prepared I’m in big trouble.

(It’s why I don’t keep a ton of snacks in the house).

Fortunately, I love to cook. I prepare a lot of food and keep portions wrapped in individual containers.

If you are looking for an easy (and cheap- sorry, I mean inexpensive or economical) ‘go to’ breakfast, try this:

  • Grab your muffin tin
  • Get egg whites
  • Chop up a few veggies
  • Mix the egg whites and veggies
  • Spray the muffin tin with non-stick spray (or you could use muffin liners)
  • Use a measuring cup to evenly distribute the egg whites in the tin (don’t fill the tin to the top)
  • Bake in a 350 oven for about 10-15 minutes

That’s it! They store well and are good hot or cold!

Namaste y’all.

 

Adventures in Yoga – The Chiropractor

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My poor friend Patrice, I don’t know how she puts up with me. Daily I text, waxing enthusiastic about the joys of a particular brand of yoga pants that make my butt look amazing. The upside to my backside as it were. Everyone should have a pair.

So I tell her. Often.

This is what friends are for, right? 

Someone needs to remind Patrice. I can later today when I text her that she really, really needs to check out these yoga pants that make my butt…well, you get it.

Lucky for Patrice she’s on the other coast, but her distance doesn’t deter me from sharing lots of discoveries that I think are momentous. Like fabulous yoga pants.

And the chiropractor.

It sounds like the name of a Seinfeld episode. “The Chiropractor”

I text Patrice whenever I’m in the waiting room- waiting to be manipulated. 

It started out simply enough. My lower back had been hurting so badly I wanted to scream all of the time.

Wait. I’m afraid that you read that last sentence and thought- Oneika’s lower back hurt. I actually wanted to scream. All. Of. The. Time. No hyperbole. No foolin’.

Muscle relaxers and pain killers didn’t seem like a solution. A permanent fix (no pun intended) was needed. I’d been to a chiropractor before but didn’t have a lot of success. Actually, I ended up at the doctor a few days later with two scripts in my paw because I felt worse.

Someone told me about Brian the chiropractor. I’ve come to learn that this is what everyone calls him- Brian, the chiropractor and not Dr. Corrigan.

I  thought chiropractors were quacks, big quacks was skeptical. But I was also in pain and slept with Motrin next to my bed- so desperate times and all that.

Have you seen The Answer Man? Arlen Faber, the grumpy main character suffered from back pain.

While I wasn’t this dramatic (outwardly)- I can assure you this is how I arrived (in my head) to Brian the chiropractor’s office.

Some more important details. The office visit would only be $20. Right? That’s what I said to C, who first told me about Brian the chiropractor.

Me: What? 20 bucks?

C: Yes, for the first visit and then it’s only 15. He’s amazing, seriously. My husband goes as well.

Me: 20 bucks?

I had serious side-eye (again in my head) because it sounded too good to be true. Fast forward to me slugging Motrin by the fistful and the large hole in my stomach that was sure to soon follow. I didn’t have much to lose.

On a Friday, Brian gets me on the table and tells me that I have a twisted sacrum. This is before I even mentioned my problem.

I wanted to weep tears of joy.

After receiving an adjustment (which was less pleasant than I imagined it would be) he told me I’d be tender for a few days, and should come back Monday.

I paid and left, cautiously hopeful.

Saturday morning arrived. I was sore but not in pain. Not at all.

I realized that I had been in so much pain that the world looked different once it had been removed.

Cartoon animals followed me around singing songs about possibility! and tomorrow!. Flowers sprung up as I walked down the street. Sold.

I went back on Monday. I felt even better.

So much so that later that week I was practicing headstand while listening to Amel Larrieux’s ‘Afraid’. One should not jam and headstand. Down I went on my neck.

It was scary. And it hurt like a muthaf@ck*r.

I went right to Brian’s office and while he worked out one knot I was already swelling up. He gave me the adjustment and I let out a deranged laugh, because there is no crying at the chiropractor. But after, I sat up and was able to turn my neck back and forth.

I was reborn. Ave Maria blasted from the heavens as I walked home.

He’s my hero. I’m sure there’s a bit of transference going on- but I swear the man can do no wrong. You read Yelp reviews and wonder, oh puhlease, who is that good?

Brian the chiropractor.

I want to throw up my hands and shout, “I am healed!”

I feel a little euphoric after I leave perhaps this explains why I think my chiropractor is the bee’s knees.

Once or twice week I pedal down to his office and get an adjustment.

My practice has changed dramatically. Energy flows through me more evenly. I feel balanced. I have a stronger sense of wellbeing. My hips which have been super tight for-e-ver have begun to release.

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I’m not saying that the chiropractor is for everyone- but it works for me.

So in the waiting room I sit and text Patrice about pops, cracks and yoga pants. She’s a good sport.

Namaste y’all.

Earth Yoga – Daily Tips to be More Green

We hear the expression ‘being green’ tossed about pretty frequently. Everyone wants a better world.  But ending global warming and saving the environment seem like daunting tasks. Sometimes it can feel like one person’s actions can’t make a difference.

They do.

Like the ripple in a pond- little actions can create big waves. Below are five easy things you, your friends and family can do to help the world, right now.

  1. Eat meatless more often. Believe it or not this is one of the biggest things an individual can do to help the planet. The carbon footprint for raising, killing, packing and shipping meat is the largest out of all the food we eat. Really want to help save the planet? Cut back on meat. Even better- buy local fish, fruits and veggies. You’ll be helping the small farmer and eating fresher food.

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  1. Turn off lights– not only are your helping the planet but you are saving money. Do a walkthrough before you leave. The more walkthroughs you do and the longer you stay out, the more cost-effective this small task becomes!

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  1. Leave your shoes at the door– Keeping dust to a minimum helps with air pollution in your home. A study conducted by Rockport (okay, I know Rockport’s aren’t the sexiest shoes- but they know footwear and feet) discovered that after 2 weeks a whole host of things end up on your shoes (e. coli and lots of bacteria). When you take your shoes off you cut the chances of those bacteria coming into your abode by 70%. Wow.

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  1. Is that your refrigerator running? Keeping the temp at 37 degrees instead of freezing maximizes efficiency while keeping food fresh and frozen food freezing!

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  1. Each one, teach one. Spread the love about being green.

Namaste y’all.