Fibroids Aren’t My Friends – Gynecological Yoga

 

 

the red sea
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.

 

photo-22

 

 

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.

 

 

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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.

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

New Year Yoga

yoga-by-candlelight

So many studios now offer a peaceful way to bring in the New Year. With a practice and an ‘aum’ we can start the new year fresh.

Happy New Year friends.

Lokah Samastah Sukhino Bhavantu

“May all beings everywhere be happy and free.”

Namaste y’all.

Open Letter to a Yoga Teacher

Yoga to the People Standing Bow

Dear Katherine-

When I realized that you were teaching class today I got nervous first and choked up, second. Your standing bow pose looks at me every time I walk into the locker room. But taking class with the person on the poster wasn’t the reason for the lump.

It’s funny, the day before another amazing teacher asked if we adjust our expectations based on who is teaching, when instead we should look internally when it comes to our practice.

Several months have passed since I took a class with you. Since then, life has changed exponentially.

I’ve started teaching yoga.

Your classes played a big part in that decision.

A year and a half ago I walked into your 6:30 pm class. I had never been so far away from myself- emotionally or physically. That class ripped me apart. 90 minutes in the heat.

Your voice was firm, focused and freeing.

Work hard but rest when you need to.

Find limits and grow but be intelligent about choices you make.

You can be comfortable or change, but you can’t have both. 

I know it’s yoga but it is also life. I didn’t know back then that I’d end up teaching- but that night was the flicker.  It was a spark that had to light from a puddle of sweat and tears.

Class was so f*cking hard. But I’d never been more grateful.

That night, I picked up my towel and soul off the mat.

I’d wash the towel. My soul was another story. It was shaky. And tired. You are never more lost until you are found.

At home, I crumbled. Cried until my eyes were puffy. No more hiding. No more running. It was time to start my life over, again.

I’m sure you’ve heard this a thousand times. Trying to articulate this after class would have resulted in me crying- not because I was embarrassed but until being confronted with seeing you- I didn’t actually realize how much I have changed. Or changed back to who I was before the fall.

In this day and age of the over share- the whys, whats and wheres aren’t important, but thanking people is a lost art.

So thank you, Katherine.

Your class makes me tap into something deeper and lighter. I have become my own best teacher.

Namaste.

Kayak Yoga – Fall Seven Times, Stand Up Eight

free kayak

Maybe it’s the yoga, maybe it’s because I’m getting older, maybe it’s because I have a newfound sense of freedom since I got my bike- but I’ve been up for trying new things.

This was not always so.

I wasn’t a fan of change and in fact- I didn’t like it. Not one bit. Round peg, round hole is how things should fit.

At least that’s the way the Dr. Seuss version of me thought of things.

But I caught up with a friend last Sunday and took a dive into the unknown.

Don’t get too excited. I didn’t climb a mountain.

I went out on a kayak.

Hey- baby steps, people. Baby steps.

We rode our bikes to Hoboken from Jersey City and parked at the Hoboken Cove Boathouse. We signed a sheet of paper and got to kayak for free. Right? Free. No strings. Just free. How did I not know about this? They had free kayaking all summer long? This is what happens when you don’t explore, you miss out on good shit.

So- I hopped in my kayak and had a blast. It’s also quite an arm workout.

And because once I dip my toe,  I tend to go whole hog I decided to try a stand-up paddle board.

‘Just keep paddling,’ I was told after a brief lesson.

Off I went.

Look Ma! I’m doing it! Yoga was great prep for this- using the core and feeling the movement of the water to stay steady was a lot less difficult than I thought.

And then, a wave.

Things slow down before the body takes a tumble. I could feel the entire thing. The space-time continuum halted like in an episode of Fringe. I half expected to see bizarro Oneika rise from the water (She better not have a better ass than me, and I do not want her hair longer). But she never showed up and I was snapped my to my merely average  ass swaying to and fro on a paddle board.

The wave came and I could feel the balance shift. I didn’t even fight it, because there was nothing to fight. I was going in the water and that was that. I should say that I love the water and love to swim etc..etc… so this wasn’t a huge thing, but it wasn’t exactly warm and I was hoping to keep my clothes dry.

Ah well. In I went. All the way under. Completely soaked. My head popped the surface and I  exclaimed, ‘THIS IS AWESOME!’ Maybe I was bizarro Oneika? An interesting twist. I glanced at my butt- still the same. No matter. I felt freaking awesome.

I got on the board and fell off again. And again I giggled. I kept thinking I wish I had known about this during the  heat wave because I would have ‘slipped’ over and over.

Eventually I got back in the groove and headed back in. Once back on shore the guy asked if I was okay and I said I was great, it’s about getting back up.

I had to give a mental fistbump to  Dandayamana Dhanurasana- aka Standing Bow Pulling Pose in the Bikram series.

The pose is about falling, in the sense that once you fall can you pick yourself back up and try again- without judgement, maybe even with joy.

There’s one last weekend of free kayaking next Saturday. You can bet I’m going to be back on that stand up paddle board.

Fall seven times, stand up eight.

Paddle board yoga. Namaste y’all.

Ding Dong Goes the Inversion Practice

door-bell

I zipped downstairs to an early hot power vinyasa practice with friend Jessica Ashen. She’s a yogi and founder of Spiritual Pretzels Yoga. Jessica brings donation based yoga all over Jersey City. It’s awesome and so is she. Her classes are a mix of being playful and learning how to challenge your body in new ways. Jessica teaches from a place of love that is tangible. As a result, I leave her classes lighter in the heart. I love this because that’s something I used to only get from my hot practice.

Anyway, back to this morning.

It’s great taking classes with a teacher who knows that you teach. They tend to be gently relentless about form and adjustments. I’ve been getting a bit lazy when it comes to stacking my hips over ankles in Uttasana.

No slackin’ with the stackin’ in Jessica’s class. It was what I needed.

Roll  the weight forward onto the toes, roll the weight forward onto the toes, roll the weight forward onto the toes. 

Jessica made an interesting observation about me being in between my vinyasa practice and my hot practice. In hot classes the weight is back in the heels a lot.

Shifting the weight forward into my toes and engaging the low belly and feeling my heels lift,  my body yearned to go higher.

It was my brain that was talking me out of it.

Jessica mentioned Christina Sell and how I need to check out her approach to handstands. I found this video, which is fantastic. She points out that many seemingly unrelated poses connect to turning the body upside down. It’s worth the seven minutes. Check it out.

We did handstand practice again the wall and it felt great. Jessica showed me an exercise that Christina Sell uses called Ding Dong.  As you kick up you alternate tapping feet on the wall. I sort of powered through that and felt good.  Inside my active mind, I thought back to my earlier fold and rolling the weight forward so one day can lift into handstand.

One day I can do it, I thought.

And then…we moved onto practicing Pincha Mayurasana against the wall. It was horrible.   hard.

Oh hello Ego, I didn’t see you sneak into class behind me. Seriously? It’s early, I thought you’d be upstairs asleep with Dakota, or getting coffee down the block waiting to pounce on me later riding my bike to class.

Form matters. It was tough activating my triceps, pushing down and engaging my abs. Sure she could have had me just kick up and play, but there is something to be said for doing it right.

Ugh. Hard work.

“Perfect we have something to work on next time!”, she said.

Groan is what I did.

“Be excited! It’s a new adventure!”

Damn if she wasn’t right. It is a new adventure. Something else I get to explore.

I left with a lighter heart, ready to open the door to the unexpected.

Better still, I reconnected with the foundation of yoga, uniting body and breath.

Yoga keeps reminding me that I can go home again (and again) and that more importantly, I must.

Yoga sweet yoga.

Namaste y’all.

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Chalkboard Yoga, Fresh Starts and All That.

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You don’t have to wait for the New Year for a fresh start.

Amanda McDonald, yoga teacher wrote a status update that made high five my Mac.

Why are we so resistant to just solving problems, instead of procrastinating and worrying? You have the skills to fix it. Get out there!

And I thought of the clip from Vanilla Sky when Penelope Cruz says that ‘Every passing minute is another chance to turn it all around.’

What are you doing this minute? Are you at peace? Do you want to be?

Don’t worry if you missed the last minute because another one is right here. And here. And here. And here.

Namaste y’all.

Here’s to the week.