Thank You to the Lovings – Love Yoga

Love Is Grand

I need to give HBO some major love. Amazing programming aside- what they do really well, is the documentary.

HBO explore topics with what I call ‘objective passion’. They celebrate Black History Month in PBS fashion. Last year they premiered, The Loving Story.

Many know the story of the Lovings. He was White, she was Black and Native American.

Boy meets girl. They fell in love and got married.

In 1958 this was against the law in most states. Miscegenation was the ‘crime’. The Lovings nuptials were in Washington, DC. When they returned to their home in VA they were awakened at 2am and arrested.

The documentary explores all angles of this historic court case and celebrates two love warriors. Laws against mixed marriages were more about sex than love. These laws were written with fear and hate. The Feb 26th issue of the New Yorker also celebrates the Loving couple. Lovings at Home has some wonderful rarely seen photos of the couple and their family.

After I saw this I thought about a series I read in the Coil Review- Memoirs of A White Man. This is an adorable tale of ‘standing the rain’. I

t’s not because Alex is White. It’s because he helped his woman through a very scary transition. There’s a lesson in here about love and friendship that transcends race. My favorite quote was when Alex gave his Black girlfriend a pep talk about her hair. She’d been frustrated with relaxers (chemical straighteners) and was seriously thinking about doing the Big Chop (cutting off all of the processed hair).

He says:

“This is your birthright. Be bold. Let your hair enjoy its natural curliness that is your heritage as a beautiful woman of African descent.” Pretty good, huh? She was apprehensive. But, then, I could see the notion had some appeal. I could see that she was imagining it. Really doing something bold. Flipping the script.”

Part II explores that notion ‘It’s about the hair, but it’s not about the hair.’

This section’s most memorable stand up and cheer moment

Going natural, it seems, is considered by some to be “unnatural.” So by doing this, she was making a statement with her hair, a really big statement: a statement about parting with a hairstyle taught to her by her mother; a statement that she wasn’t going to just go along with what other women or women’s magazines said was “in” or “looked good,”; a statement that you don’t need a luxurious weave (yes, I learned a little about those too) to be a good-looking woman. She was saying, for all the world to hear, that a woman doesn’t have to have straightened hair to have “good” hair. And, for the moment, making this statement was taking its toll. It was (at least for the moment) leaving her feeling lost, confused, and upset.

 Love Is Grand

Lots of times our boyfriends and husbands don’t connect with the struggles over hair. Lots of times they have very strong opinions about hair. In the case of Alex and his girlfriend, their cultural differences allowed Alex to see something that maybe his girlfriend hadn’t noticed before.

That is what love can do- turn a scary moment into a moment of fearlessness.

To the Lovings and all other couples (friends and otherwise) who stand the rain- Happy Valentine’s Day.

Advertisements

The Vegan Diaries

vegan_heart

I miss cheese. I know…pathetic.

I keep talking about it. It’s the only thing I miss since I started my vegan challenge. And don’t tell me to try vegan ‘cheese’ because it won’t do.

I’m a cheese person.

By choice, I went to a farm in Northwestern NJ to take a tour and meet the cows.

Yes, really. It’s this great farm that lets the cows roam free. They personally milk the cows and don’t use those horrible milking machines.

I’ve also gone to cheese boot camp. In one weekend we tasted and learned about 60 cheeses. Wine was also involved. It seems redundant to mention that this was an outstanding weekend. A final exam was given at the end of the boot camp and yes, I welcomed it.

More than just good eatin’, these experiences opened my eyes to the Slow Food Movement. Slow Food promotes the idea: real food, grown sustainably and cooked– not processed. The Slow Food Movement supports national and local projects like urban gardens and green markets. These folks do good work.

Other than my cheese fantasies, eating vegan has been a wonderful experience. Food and meals should be a time for expression and sharing. Cooking has always been a way for me to relax. I was afraid that my vegan adventure would mean a six-week sentence of rice cakes, hummus, black beans and salad.

Somebody shake sense into the lazy minded yogini! Like anything else, effort and thought is required.

I must take a quick detour to the Black hair care world. It all comes full circle, promise. Previously, I chemically straightened my hair. It’s just what I (and millions of other Black women) did.
There was a period when I cut it short and wore it natural, but for reasons that I can’t remember, I relaxed (straightened) it again. It wasn’t good for my hair. My hair was dry, the ends split and no good can come from slathering chemicals on your scalp every 6-8 weeks. Over a year ago, my sister who was known for her absolutely stunning head of hair, chopped it all off and began to wear her hair natural.

I followed suit about six months later. I loved it. I loved the texture and the freedom. But I also had to learn how to care for my newly chemically free head. It required work, a little effort, research and patience. It’s second nature now- and honestly- my hair is awesome, but I may be a little bias.

chemical free!!
chemical free!!

So I said to myself as I tackled this vegan challenge, ‘Self, you’ve never eaten a vegan diet before. Do research. Do homework. You’re a research geek and book nerd , go crazy.’

It’s been a very interesting time. I’m learning a lot about food. I’m learning that I don’t miss certain things that had been a regular part of my diet.
I’m finding out that I miss other things. But, if I want to make changes, change has to happen and it’s not always comfortable.

Good stuff is on the other side of discomfort. Stuff like health, happy animals and a smaller carbon footprint. The Yamas and Niyamas teach us about Tapas, or that burning but disciplined passion. I think this is what sustains change.

Tapas, fresh ingredients and love. Hmm, sounds like a recipe.

This is yoga. And it tastes fantastic, even without cheese.

Namaste y’all

quinoa stuffed pepper
quinoa stuffed pepper- yep I made this tasty goody- it’s stuffed with quinoa and wild rice- you can click the photo for the recipe
Vegan burger
ultimate vegan burger- made this burger too- and. it. was. bangin. w-o-r-d click if you’re interested in wowing those taste buds, bud.

Yoga Blues – When Your Practice is Just ‘Meh’

rainy

It’s been grey, damp and cold the past few days. Makes me wanna spend time alone. The weather is even depressed, bitter cold is too much effort so instead we get a blasé shrug of dampness that’s not freezing and not warm. Tuesday just wasn’t productive, I spun my wheels all day and then found myself rushing to class (how does that happen?). With teacher training happening right after, I wasn’t really feelin’ it.

Not the right attitude but no one said that this yoga life was going to be peachy every day.

hero-pose-

To add insult to injury we started class in virasana (seated hero’s pose). Bitchy laughter started to rise from deep inside, but I stopped it from coming out.  I hate this pose. I know, it seems silly to say that I hate a pose, but I do. Virasana brings up all sorts of crap whenever I do it. My IT bands are tight but not so tight that I can’t do the pose, it simply makes me uncomfortable.

Very uncomfortable.

In addition, there was a flourescent light on which is usually turned off during practice. I couldn’t stop thinking about it. Thankfully, K picked up on my pyschic vibes that I was having a mild freak out and turned off the lights.

Why was I being such a baby? Why was my monkey mind getting the best of me? The flip side of deepening a yoga practice is that you see everything more clearly, the good and the bad. I need to become more comfortable with being uncomfortable.

And guess what? Sometimes, it’s just a bad day. Like they say, sometimes the only way over is through.

Through I went, grudgingly. My practice was meh. Everything felt creaky and cranky. We had a fantastic lecturer but I had to force myself to stay in the moment.

But I didn’t run from it, I just grabbed myself by the ears and pulled myself back to now. In the past I would have found a way to distract myself from the blech of it all. I reflected on this as I took a shower. With my PJs on and a cup of tea in my hand, I had to admit that all in all, because I stayed in the now- it was a damn good day.

Oneika – 1   Bad day – 0

This is yoga. And I absolutely friggin’ love it- even when I’m grumpy.

Namaste.

Adventures in Yoga Teacher Training – Pain Shouldn’t Be Your Friend

chat

Years ago my right shoulder used to pop out of its socket. It wasn’t pretty and hurt like hell. Like Hell.

Like Hell.

Because I didn’t rehab it properly, dislocation happened more frequently and recovery wasn’t ever complete. Even worse, I got used to both the pain and the instability of a shaky shoulder. But I kept working out, kept pushing myself.  I didn’t want to change my routine or stop my busy life to deal with it.

Not cool. (Oh boy, it also says tons about my mindset at the time. Who in her right mind walks around knowing that at any moment she can be writhing on the floor, and not in a good way?)

On most days my right shoulder would throb. I subconsciously adjusted movements to avoid actions that would result in dislocation. It also had this way of popping out in inopportune moments, the most embarrassing of which took place at the gym as I walked to the shower (just wearing one of those ridiculously small sandpaper towels).

My foot slipped. The slip didn’t cause a fall, but my shoulder popping out and dropped my now naked butt (the handkerchief, I mean towel, fell off as I fell down) to the tile in what can only be described as the most horrible pain I’ve encountered. I could entertain you with the complimentary comments from the big EMS dudes, (which actually made me laugh, resulting in more shooting pain). I won’t, because being carried out wrapped in a sheet, in the middle of December to an ambulance is really, really hilarious and humiliating. Let’s not even talk about having to describe the the ER doc how I managed to show up without clothes- because to try and put anything on would have meant me screaming and injuring myself further. My dad came to pick me up- he had to bring clothes. Ugh.

I got surgery a week later.

Did my rehab like a good girl.

Years of trauma though, had reprogrammed my body and I avoided major shoulder activity during workouts. Another bad idea. Babying myself wasn’t smart. Sharp pain and constant injury shouldn’t be your friend in any workout but especially yoga. But you must challenge the muscle (with supervision if necessary) in order to gain strength.

Reflecting, I see that it was my ego working overtime.

If you’re not careful, Ego will have you living a life in pain.

Thankfully, yoga found me.

Both breath work and my asana practice have opened up my back and shoulders. Being kind to myself has allowed for emotional and physical healing. Weight bearing poses have improved strength. I’ve finally learned the difference between pushing limits and pain.

And still with all of these tools I still managed to push a little too hard when learning the full expression of Chaturanga Dadanasana. I blame excitement and not ego. Chaturanga is a fun thing to do once you get the hang of it. While I may have been strong enough to support myself, I hadn’t consistently been engaging the muscles around my rotator cuff. A few days ago I woke up with a scary familiar throb in my left shoulder.

Uh-oh.

The good news is that I am not the woman I was 15 years ago. I immediately tended to it. I’m looking for a great shoulder doc to check it out. During practice, the plan is to focus on precise alignment. And le sigh, modifications until I’m feeling up to snuff.

I’ve learned to honor where I am at any given moment. Yoga isn’t just the asanas, it’s what happens when I’m home relaxing or surrounded by chaos. By being in the present and acting accordingly, I make the best decisions. As a yoga teacher I owe my students that. We are all worth such reverence.

You can’t guide others through practice if you aren’t taking care of yourself.

This is yoga. And I love it. My shoulders do too.

Namaste y’all!

In the Meantime in Between Time

yoga, reflection, relationships

(Originally published on a&o )
When I was younger a haircut usually meant I just broke up with someone or some other major change was happening (before Britney). This would be great for awhile. Short hair is flattering on every face (people are wrong when the say short hair doesn’t work for everyone- they are silly so there. Topic closed).

I had a roller coaster relationship with one boyfriend and would cut my hair short after a fight because he hated short hair. He also hated tattoos. Yes, you are damn right I got not one, but two. That’s a story for another day. Back to the root of the matter.

Get mad, cut the hair short. It’s sexy! It’s liberating! Inevitably I would decide it was time to grow it. This usually happened after seeing Ashley. What you may not know about my sister is that she has a super power. Every time she blinks her hair grows an inch. That  woman has a great head of hair. Her awkward period between short and long hair seems only to last 5 minutes. This is hyperbole but my point is still valid.

Mine takes longer.

Your mojo is off. This thinking of course is absolutely ridiculous. Please know that on an intellectual level I understand that my brain, insight and ability to contribute to society should outweigh how I feel when I look in the mirror and see that my hair is not short but not long. It doesn’t. It’s…uncomfortable. And then one day you are in the bathroom and glimpse someone who looks like you, only better. (Yes, I know I shouldn’t be so tied to the external. It’s a process baby, chill.)

My in between phase with my hair is finished.  I’m not going to to wax philosophical about my natural hair etc, etc  or that Black hair is a hot button issue etc., etc. I mention the natural state of it because it’s healthier than it’s ever been and I don’t plan on cutting it again.

I can leave my hair alone it and frankly don’t think about it that much except lately how it relates to the disquieting feeling that’s been sleeping next to me. That not quite icky feeling that makes me dream sideways. I mean, I acknowledge on the outside I’m entitled to feel weird, my life in my forties looks different than I planned. I’m starting over and building something from nothing. I’ve committed to making some pretty major changes to see my dream of my own company through. I get that. Heck, I’ve coached people on this stuff. But over the past two days nothing seems to fit. I don’t like the recipes I’m dreaming up, and yoga has been great/crappy at the same time.  Dakota (my dog) seems to be acting wackier than usual. I pause finally.

Life is changing and so am I but not in the ways that I planned. But I plead with myself to go with it. Quite the act of derring-do for the control freak. I whine but I’m pushing forward and should be pleased at how much is done. There’s just more to do. And like Veruca in Willy Wonka, ‘I want it noooow’. But I plan, breathe make progress and do yoga. This is a growth spurt, it takes force to push things to the surface. So while I may not like the way my life looks right now I can pull it back in a ponytail or just let it be, because I know if a few months I’ll catch myself in the moment and say ‘Whose life is that?’. And it will be mine.

Namaste y’all!!