Back on the Mat

I have been remiss in daily yoga practice.  In fact, I fell off the wagon. I’ve been hiding from my mat. In true fashion I’ve been telling myself I can go back anytime.  I feel the guilt of not keeping my word to myself to be a proper yogini.

It’s time to go back.  Going back is not the same as starting – there is a difficulty rating that was not apparent when I first started.   Now it feels hard to start.  It seems a little kick start has been necessary.

I was clamming at the ocean this weekend – we love us some Razor Clams.  It was a marvelous night for clamming, by the way.  Yes, it was crisp – okay maybe cold.  But I bundle up in my neoprene waders and my new clamming boots.  I have my pilot’s grade coat that is meant to deal with near blizzard conditions while a pilot does his walk around just before the plane is de-iced.  I don’t live in the Bahamas.  They don’t have Razor Clams there.  It was a marvelous night because it wasn’t raining.  I won’t go clamming in the cold and the dark and the rain.  Rain is my line in the sand.

As I was pulling up the clams it became evident to me that I am not taking care of myself.  My lower back was really feeling the suction of the sand in the clam-gun as I pulled up another.  I made it a point to concentrate on using my legs.  On the next hole I made it a point to square my shoulders and to pull with my legs.  On the next hole I made it a point to pull the clam up faster and not prolong the agony.  The limit on Razor clams is fifteen per person.  I got to twelve and decided if I pull another I will be unable to walk back up the beach to my car.  As it was I still needed to walk down to the water to get a bucket of seawater to soak these clams overnight so that I don’t have to clean them until the next morning.

Walking up the beach took a couple of attempts.  It is wonderful how when one is walking one can just stop and readjust, move the bucket of water from one hand to the other, switch up how one carries the clamming gun, push the clam net around to the back of one’s body so that one isn’t kicking it with every step.  I appreciate that my friend walked slow alongside me.  We knuckle bumped a good clam dig…proud to just be out there gathering our own dinner.  Fifteen clams is two meals for two people.  These are large clams.  I made her stop twice before we got to the car.

My lower back was in knots.  While I was in the hot shower after we got home I found myself practicing modified cat/cows using the built-in ledge of my shower stall.  I found myself lifting my arm high over head with a gentle bend and allowing the hot water to massage the side of my back, then changing sides to allow the hot water to massage my back on the other side.  I took meds.  I drank wine.  I went to bed.

I can feel the knot in my back.  It is one.  It is a shadow of what it was last night.  This morning I rolled out my mat and prior to meditations I loosened up my lower back.  It was a morning of light and loose cats and cows, seated twists, prone postures with the 4 pose, windshield wipers and legs wide on the mat to allow my knees to fall to one side then the other. I did a very low bridge pose.  Very low, meaning I think I lifted my butt off the mat, but I have no film footage to prove it.

I am back on the mat.  I can’t believe Razor clams kicked my butt like that.

 

Bubble of Light

I have always liked the bubble affect in meditations.  This is the guided meditation that requests one to surround oneself with light and love and to relax in the safety and love of this bubble.  I love when the bubble is secure around myself how it will lazily drift above and I am not required to do any more than to just be, and to be in this bubble of love and light.

I tried to get that feeling across here.  This meditation is 11 minutes.

I hope you enjoy while you continue to breathe.

The Best That I Can Do

The best that I can do as a teacher is to inspire my band of merry yogis to continue their practice.  I don’t get to own my students.  They are merely passing through.  I see the “passing through” part every time class opens with a different set of regulars.  They rotate in, and out and back in again.  They show up out of the blue and it feels like old friends coming back to say hi.  I like that.  I want to be sure that I give them something they can use.  There is no assurance – everyone gathers what they need – regardless if I had anything to do with it.

My hope, other than the immediate benefit of each practice we have together, is that they will want to move on, that they will want to keep going with yoga.  Of course, it doesn’t matter if their practice is at home, or with another teacher.  My hope is they find what they need out of yoga.

Second best thing that I can do is that I do no harm. Two years ago January I was holding yoga classes for my friends in my living room.  And they kept coming back.  We focused on cats and cows, forward folds, and floor twists mostly.  I did the sequence almost word for word from the instructor I was attending at the time.  This Yoga with Friends class got too crowded for my living room, so we changed houses.  I was leading five of my dear friends through a full hour of yoga practice twice a week.  Eventually, timing was an issue and one or another couldn’t come.  We went down to once a week.  Then old injuries and scheduled surgeries started to keep people from class. All but one fell away from coming over for yoga.

The injuries and the surgeries my friends were going through made me want to get certified.  The last thing I wanted was to make any of these illnesses or injuries worse.  These women were all hurting one way or another.  Between them there were knee surgeries, a hip replacement, reconstructed foot and osteo-arthritis.  Spring chicken does not describe the group.  The youngest of us was 49 at the time.

I don’t know that being certified has made me any more competent at assessing these issues or teaching with and around them.  I am just as aware now as I was when I started that there is a lot of healing that needs to be addressed.  Maybe I am more aware at how much this healing is truly the responsibility of the one hurting.  The best I can do is offer an option toward this healing.  And yes, I am partial to yoga benefits.

I’m also partial to benefits of chocolate, a glass of wine and a great night’s sleep.  That may be a different kind of healing…as we continue to breathe.

 

Subject Matter Expert (photo)

They think I’m an expert.

I still hold a full-time job.  I like being able to pay my bills. I like having the lights on at home and good food in the cupboards.  At work, when people hear I am teaching yoga, I get visitors stopping by to ask about quick fixes and physical or health advice.  It is flattering to be considered the subject matter expert.  Even when I know that I most certainly am not.  I am not supposed to be flattered.  I am supposed to be humbled, and I am actually.  When the questions come up, I am very humbled that my co-workers would ask me health and yoga questions.  It is after they leave that I feel all full of myself.  I feel like maybe I am pretty good at this and of course they would come ask me.  I am as ego driven as the next person.

So far I haven’t steered anyone wrong on the yoga and health questions.  So far, I am two-for-two.  Okay, so this advice thing is not an everyday occurrence.

I had been visiting in the office with one friend – the kind of work buddy that makes work bearable.  She has been feeling miserable lately.  Her legs are swelling, her feet hurt, etc.  Now my buddy has some physical ailments – her back, her hips, extreme weight, I don’t know what all else.  But I hate to see her in such pain.  She shared with me when I said I had finished yoga instructor training that her doctor recommended for her to practice yoga.  For me, I would love to be her yoga instructor.  But I would want to be there every other day like clockwork – or she won’t do it.

In the meantime I told her there is one yoga pose that may do her more good than any other right now and that is Legs Up The Wall.  I told her to go home tonight and for the next week and put her legs up the wall.  I even got on the office floor, real quick before anyone could come by, to show her how easy this is, and to prove it is just what I am saying it is.  This asana is to simply lie down and put your legs up the wall. (Insert Photo

Together we laughed at how crazy we are to be getting onto the floor and how the visit had deteriorated into one of those visits.  I did tell her before I left her area to do it.  Put her legs up the wall every night for the week and then tell me how she feels.  My buddy has not told me how it felt.  We haven’t talked about it.

But she must feel okay, because a week later an old supervisor stopped by my desk to tell me her doctor has recommended yoga for her ailments as well.  She has issues with hips and joint pain.  We were chatting away and I described some hip-openers she can do in bed before she gets up and some floor twists to just gently “wake up” her hips and knees.  I didn’t demonstrate this time.  I know better now.  My old supervisor seemed to understand.  I only shared maybe three things to help.

Is she feeling better?  I think so because I got word that the two of them have been talking about how they do yoga now and Sarah helped them with their yoga moves.  Between the two of them I only shared maybe four different asanas.  There was no assist.  I spoke of alignment, but how much information was retained?  How can this be considered “doing yoga”?

If I jump rope for one revolution is it considered jumping rope?  Well, yes, I suppose I did jump the rope.  But hey, the full effect of rope jumping (and yoga) is lost on these one-hit wonders.  And yet, hey, if each of them are doing these postures, semi-regularly even, they are doing themselves good.  It’s not about me.  It’s not about the yoga.  It’s about feeling better.  It’s about individual healing.  I need to step away now that the advice is given.

I am no expert.  And they are only doing a yoga posture or three as far as I know.  I hate to burst anyone’s bubble regarding the full nature of yoga, it’s not in a posture.  Who knows when they will want to expand or deepen their practice?  I would like to be there for that.  In a dharma talk I was able to attend the speaker said, “These are not your students.  They are here for a little while for you to prepare them for the next teacher.  You are only the bridge to what is next.”  Maybe my advice is all I get to give them.  I need to be okay with that.

The Medicine of Yoga

From where I sit, yoga is being used as a path to healing.  As in ‘medicine’.  This makes me nervous as a yoga instructor.  There is so much within a yoga practice that is not medicine.  The western science of Medicine (yes, capital M) is creeping in on the yoga horizon to claim yoga’s benefits as medicinal.  If I were a shaman, yoga is also medicinal, but I feel the shaman has a better grounding in understanding the patient’s required participation in their own health.  Medicine, the medical industry, wants to take all the credit.  The credit for health through yoga, or any yoga therapy, rests solely on the practitioner of yoga.  As a yoga instructor I can guide my students in proper alignment and balance, but it is up to my students to know what works best and at what level of intensity.  I don’t want yoga to be claimed by the medical industry.

For my own group of students of yoga, we are all hurting.  My group has arthritis, weak under-used or over-used wrists, knees that no longer include meniscus cartilage, vertebrae that are fused.  Each one comes for healing.  They come for yoga therapy.

I do have healthy students too.  Some of us recognize we are in good shape for the shape we are in and we want to continue or strengthen what we have.  We want to stay in shape and if possible be stronger, healthier.  It is a conscious decision.  I wonder that we feel the need to consciously change our decisions to live healthy.  Today in America it is not good enough to just live a naturally healthy life.  Nope, we have to choose this lifestyle.  And it is a choice.  I blame advertising, which is all media is anyway, for requiring us to turn our back on these unhealthy but lucrative choices into something that is healthy.

It’s all so simple to be healthy.  Simple to eat healthy, embrace family and friends, to help each other, to turn to our inner source for strength.  It may be simple but it is not easy.  It is not easy to turn our backs to the pervasive and insidious media diatribe of purchasing our happiness in our food, our recreation, even in purchasing our love.  There is no purchasing happiness.  There is no purchasing a fulfilling life.  There is happiness is doing the work, both inner and outer work, that completes our lives and fills our soul.  There is nothing to purchase there.

“You pay with your time or your money.”  Okay, well, sometimes it’s both.  I am finding paying with my time is far more fulfilling than tossing money at a problem.  Paying with my time is time well spent.  Ah! Time.  Don’t get me started.  Just let me continue to breathe.