New Year Yoga – Don’t Change

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The end of last year was well, quite glorious. I had two weeks to do nothing but massage clients, teach yoga and take classes. Going to school full-time was the smartest thing I’ve done but still a commitment and shit ton of work. And while I am grateful for all of the good stuff happening, I was feeling a little overwhelmed and tired.

I wanted to spend my time off doing all the yoga. My friend Kathleen and I strolled to Jivamukti to take a class with Julie Kirkpatrick on Christmas Day. Class was like wrestling a cuddly grizzly bear. When you move pose after pose after pose after pose you have choices- try to hang on for dear life or surrender to the moment. In savasana I felt myself let go.

Listen, I know that as yoga teachers we talk about letting go (and sometimes we even mean it), but in that moment if the lights went out, and I mean forever- I would have been okay. That may seem like a heavy statement but it’s true. Savasana prepares us for the biggest unhooking of all.

In a Sunday class with Cassandra Rigney at Jivamukti she talked about watching Time of Death, a miniseries that follows terminally ill patients during their last weeks. Seems grim, I know. But Cassandra said it was a powerful testament to how in the end we forget all the bad shit that people have done and only see the good. Why not live like that now? Why not indeed I wondered as I walked home. Fresh off a Serial and Marking of Murderer binge Cassandra’s mention of ToD seemed like a good move. I was wrong.

I wasn’t just a good move. It was yoga. I was riveted watching these stories of life and death. Some of the families graciously let us watch their loved ones transition on camera. Some didn’t and that’s a beautiful and noble choice as well. It got me thinking.

This is yoga. This is life.

Yoga doesn’t only prepare me for living life in the now, it’s also practice for the ultimate letting go. What stuck me most was my reaction. You can’t help but reflect when you watch people die. But instead of thinking about what I would change I found myself thinking about what I wouldn’t. I wouldn’t change a lot.

I wouldn’t change the way I love the time I spend with my family.  Or seeing my brother’s face at Thanksgiving. Or cracking up with my parents and sister at Christmas dinner. I wouldn’t change the way I laugh at Dakota’s spring in her step when she smells the air during her morning walk. I wouldn’t change what I’m doing with my life. I want to do more of what I’m already doing now.

Forget about what you would change. What are you doing right? What’s working?

Do that.

So when I think about 2016 I’m not challenging myself to rock the shit out of the new year. I’m going to fucking be more present than ever in the now.

That’s working. Namaste y’all.

 

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Thursday Yoga- Taking Chances

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I realized lately that I’ve been playing it little safe out of fear. A few weeks ago during yoga nidra I was overcome by a feeling the need to serve. Service as a way of life. In the next moment I had a sense of panic. How could I possibly do this responsibly, passionately and in a way that wouldn’t mean taking a vow of poverty? After some meditation and conversations with practical and successful friends whose opinions I value, I realized that I needed to look at things from a new perspective.

This meant trusting my instincts more and pushing through doubt.

Life is changing. Fast. Faster than I thought it would, but I’m ready. I’m excited, pumped and a little nervous. By taking conscious steps and chances, I’m creating the life I want.

It is surprising. And in other ways it feels as if this is what was going to happen all along. I just needed to find my way.

If you are looking to a take a risk, I hope you have the courage, wisdom and passion to do so.

It’s worth it.

May all beings everywhere be happy and free.

Namaste y’all.

Adventures in Meditation – “Life Just Isn’t That Obvious”

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‘Live just isn’t that obvious.’

 

This text came from my friend Kathleen. When you’re friends with poets they drop one line bombs with a quickness and on the reg. She’s more subtle than me.

I would have to follow up the text with:

drops mic

 

 

Fortunately, subtlety isn’t lost on this bull in a china shop. You may think astrology is hooey, but I’m a Taurus through and freaking through.

Anyway…subtle…point…

 

She sent this in response my waxing philosophical about my love life.

I’m the worst when it comes to dating.

The. Worst. Say it with me, the worst.

Work life seemed easier. Get ‘er done. Even when the terrain is difficult like say, navigating a whole new career I can manage to strategize, plan and execute. But a date? Relationship? Smooth.

 

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I made bad decisions and compounded those stupid decisions withworse ones. Antics ensued. It was easier to make work my relationship rather working on my relationships. Yeah, I knew what I was doing. I just didn’t fix it.

Until meditation.

Being still allows for thoughts to come and go. Something happens when we look inward. The sense of vastness at times overwhelms me. On some days it’s all I can do not to run away from the infinite potential discoveries. The is so much inside. On others, I find the answers without knowing it. In the abyss is a whisper of hope or encouragement disguised as an inhale or exhale. The is powerhttp://big.assets.huffingtonpost.com/yogaxl.jpg in my mantra as I sit- I realize more and more that I know so little.

It allows me to be present even when I’m not meditating. This is great. And shitty. No more pushing things down and not dealing with them.

Recently, I had a great date with someone who didn’t fit what I’d imagined. I began my usual routine of trying to blow them off and a strange thing occurred.

I made a different choice. In fact, I made a choice wrapped in honesty despite my fear.

I called ___ and said, “I owe you an apology. I was being an idiot. I like you and instead of saying that I’m a little concerned that we’re different but I’d like to see I was just trying to push you away. If it’s not too late, I’d really like to start again and have you see that I’m not totally crazy, though clearly I have some issues.”

I was expecting rejection. Second chances are a gift.

And you know what? I got one.

While it did turn out that our lives were in different places- if I hadn’t been paying attention in the moment, I wouldn’t have decided to take a leap.

This is what meditation has done for me. I’m more awake than I’ve ever been. Like I said earlier, this is both fantastic and crappy. But, it is life.

Playing sliding doors for a moment…If I had played out old stories nothing would have changed.

Things don’t have to work out the way you want, but if you are brave enough to be here, now- it seems that things work out the way they should.

And embracing that is what yoga is all about.

It’s a good day.

Namaste y’all.

 

Maya Angelou Yoga

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I didn’t fully appreciate Maya Angelou until I was in college. Coming into womanhood and dealing with a past of sexual abuse I was both liberated and confused. While I wouldn’t be ready to deal with the latter until I was much older. I wrapped my arms around the former with a love so true deep it isn’t until this very moment that I can fully appreciate how much Maya Angelou’s words are a part of who I am today and who I will be tomorrow. Her words are whispers behind thoughts and opinions I have about women, civil rights movement, the women’s movement, the LGBT movement.

Words that helped a multitude of stories get told for all colored girls, pariahs, daughters of the dust, women of brewster place and brown girls in brownstones. She opened the door for Black girls to be okay being Black girls. I was teenager before technology so my tweets were squeals of delight reading words that shook a finger at white society. It made me sit up and notice.  I remember my roommate reading Phenomenal Woman and Still I Rise out loud in college and how we gave each other high fives. Shit, we were phenomenal too. And while a darker side of me would start to whisper up when I read I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings I squashed it down, temporarily anyway. Those would be dealt with another day and when that day finally came Ms. Angelou’s presence was there too.

Phrases from poems that have become such a part of our culture that once said there isn’t a need to say anything else.

Still I rise

Indeed still I do. Rise above the ideas that a society had about me. Risen above the expectations I had for myself. And after many long inner battles that I had the privilege of being able to have I realize that I am the hope and dream of a slave. Because of the struggles of the civil rights movements I had parents who were strong and successful and have helped me pursue my passions so that I may be able in turn to give back what I have learned to some girl in some neighborhood that may not think that she has a chance to be something more that what society says she can be.

Still I rise

Ms. Angelou’s work was a lesson. A lesson for those that looked like her. A lesson for girls who were me- I am beautiful despite what you, society says. I am smart even when you say that I’m not. And most importantly I am not defined by what you think but ultimately I am who I think I am- a mixture of experiences and memories of ancestors that will help me fly on history’s wings.

 

Thank you. Thank you.

Thank you.

 

I will not waste what you left us.

 

 

Adventures in Meditation – Ch-ch-ch-changes

keep calm and turn off your cell

 

I may not always love you
But long as there are stars above you
You never need to doubt it
I’ll make you so sure about it

God only knows what I’d be without you

If you should ever leave me
Though life would still go on believe me
The world could show nothing to me
So what good would living do me

– The Beach Boys

I’m a bit to attached to my phone. Don’t get me wrong.

It’s a necessary lifeline. It’s my calendar, my lists, heck- I’m writing this post from my phone right now.

At night I use a white noise app that lulls me to sleep. My alarm gets me up and Insight Timer gongs me back to reality from my meditation practice.

Even my apartment building is in on the act- when someone buzzes my apartment it comes to my phone.

However, my addictive self started to rear her tempting head. It was as if I couldn’t do anything without it.

Thankfully, my meditation practice has begin to spill over into my life.

These days I’m walking the dog without my phone. Why shouldn’t there be a time when I am just walking with intention without have to be available to a text, phone call, email, tweet or status update.

It’s not a big deal but it is a change, a change that has happened because I am more mindful.

Progress is measured in inches not feet.

At least that’s what I tell myself.

Namaste y’all.

 

Fibroids Aren’t My Friends – Gynecological Yoga

 

 

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The Red Sea.

 

Ten days ago I got my period. Not such a big deal (and you may wonder the reason for the ‘overshare’) except, that I’d just had it a few weeks prior. Along with excessive bleeding came pain so intense that I could no little more than teach my classes and roll on the floor hoping someone would kill me. The cramping was even too much for this masochist so I went to my Gyn. I have endometrosis and a history of fibroids, so pain isn’t unusual. But dealing with an extra period- um- I don’t think so. I don’t think so. Not happening. No way. 

Turns out my fibroids were to blame.

What are fibroids anyway?

Here’s the skinny according to womenshealth.gov :

Fibroids are muscular tumors that grow in the wall of the uterus (womb). Another medical term for fibroids is “leiomyoma” (leye-oh-meye-OH-muh) or just “myoma”. Fibroids are almost always benign (not cancerous). Fibroids can grow as a single tumor, or there can be many of them in the uterus. They can be as small as an apple seed or as big as a grapefruit. In unusual cases they can become very large.

There are factors that can increase a woman’s risk of developing fibroids.

  • Age. Fibroids become more common as women age, especially during the 30s and 40s through menopause. After menopause, fibroids usually shrink.

  • Family history. Having a family member with fibroids increases your risk. If a woman’s mother had fibroids, her risk of having them is about three times higher than average.

  • Ethnic origin. African-American women are more likely to develop fibroids than white women.

  • Obesity. Women who are overweight are at higher risk for fibroids. For very heavy women, the risk is two to three times greater than average.

  • Eating habits. Eating a lot of red meat (e.g., beef) and ham is linked with a higher risk of fibroids. Eating plenty of green vegetables seems to protect women from developing fibroids.

 

I must admit I’m not so sure about the green veggie thing. My diet is 70% plant-based. I don’t eat meat. I’m not overweight. However, there is a family history of fibroids.

My doctor was great and after an exam I was sent off to get an ultrasound to get the bottom of the problem.

Fibroids themselves are usually benign and don’t cause problems unless they push on something or get embedded in a way that may cause pain.

There’s tons of talk about how to ‘cure’ your fibroids, but I give serious side-eye to anyone who says that they can ‘cure’ anything. There’s no cure for the common cold but eat a can of kidney beans, hop on one leg while drinking turmeric milk and I’m cured of fibroids. Yeah, sure.

However- yoga helped some. A few restorative versions of the following poses helped get me through the rough patches:

Setu Bandha Sarvangasana  (Bridge Pose) – resting with a block under my sacrum was such a relief for my sacrum.

Setu-Bandhasana-Supported

Vaparita Karani (Legs against the wall)-  this pose is said to be an attitude adjuster (of which I was greatly in need), relieves mild back pain and helps with tired legs and cramped feet.

 

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Once the tests come back, I’ll know more. But in the meantime- it’s yoga, yoga and more yoga. With some Motrin when absolutely necessary.

Namaste y’all!

Are there yoga poses that you use to help alleviate physical pain?

 

uterine-fibroids

 

There’s a nifty fact sheet about fibroids here. Check it out.

 

 

No Resolutions- Say it With Me.

Originally published on November 16, 2012

The holidays are here, we can pretend they aren’t. But as I prep a recipe post using sage even I can’t fight it. So now that I’ve said it let’s buzz right past Thanksgiving through December and settle in on January 1. The dreaded New Year. Why?

 

New Year’s resolutions are a set up for failure. I’m going to type that again. New Year’s resolutions are a set up for failure. I hope you all are pickin’ up what I’m puttin’ down.

We need to keep it real.

Think about it for a minute. We (usually drunkenly or with a hangover) make promises of sweeping change. We will stop the recession, lose 20 pounds and train for a marathon while we find a cure for cancer. We fling arms around each other and vow we will be different this time, that this time we will ________.

Then we pass out or fall asleep. Because of pride and ego we move forward for a few days with our promise (a week if we are really lucky) until something happens and we call it quits. The content of the promise doesn’t matter. Our lack of planning does.

I’ve mentioned before that I was a smoker. If I had a nickel for every time I secretly promised myself I was going to stop I’d be writing this post from my place in Tuscany or maybe from the French side of St. Martin because that’s how much freaking cash I would have. Truthfully, I’d be reciting this to someone who would be typing this post.

 

Think my point is made.

 

I mention this because a few weeks ago I was struck by a urge to smoke. Not a passing thought but an incessant screaming that sat next to me for a few days. I blame myself really, when you are addicted to something you need to stay focused and realize that when things feel safe is when a slip is most likely to happen.

 

I didn’t smoke. But it wasn’t wistfully looking back on a tipsy New Year’s memory that got me through.

 

My plan did. I reminded myself of how happy my smoke-free life was. I looked in the mirror and reminded myself that I stopped doing something I didn’t think I ever would. And I made it a point to do some extra yoga that week. And it worked. Here I am living to tell the tale. So this holiday season while you are lighting up or doing something else that you’d like to stop, no need to wait until January 1.

 

Start today. Start right now. Create a plan. Get help if you need it. You’re worth the work and the reward.

 

Let the holiday season begin.

 

Namsate y’all.

 

O

Yoga and Stroke Recovery

 

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Yoga as a Part of Stroke Recovery?

For years yoga has been touted to make you feel more well-rested and centered. In the past few years its come in to the spotlight as more people have discovered some of the physical benefits. But a paper published in the American Heart Association Journey has said that if you suffered a stroke less than six months ago, yoga may be good for you too. The study was conducted with 47 participants at Indiana University-Purdue University in Indianapolis.

“For people with chronic stroke, something like yoga in a group environment is cost effective and appears to improve motor function and balance,” said Arlene Schmid, lead researcher and assistant professor at the University said in a statement.”

The yoga was practiced in a group setting and focused on gentle postures, meditation and relaxation. There was also an improvement in balance. Though it was a small study there is hope. Renee Pande, MD wrote in the Harvard Medical Journal Blog, “Furthermore, survivors in the yoga groups had improved scores for independence and quality of life and were less afraid of falling. This is something that has scope to be a boon to stroke survivors.”

Yoga heals.

Namsate y’all.