Monday, May 31, 2010

Path of healing

A gorgeous weekend of yoga, new friends, lots of fresh fruit (thank you, ED!) & food, and restorative relaxation. Of course the first thing I do when I get home... journal, download photos and then make a mix of music. : ) I had a bit of a realization on my drive home this weekend after the retreat. It's almost as if I'm trying to script my life. We all have this internal movie in our minds of our life. We remember, rewind what we did yesterday or years ago or even project and visualize what might happen next. Am I writing, journaling, taking notes, for fear of forgetting or for the need to remember and reflect?
Photos... I've always taken photos. I have about 15 albums from birth to high school and countless more from college onward. I used to "scrap book" in college as a way to avoid studying- cutting words and photos from magazines to make collages. After the birth of my second child, all I can seem to do is take the photos and somewhat organize them on my computer. I don't print anything out anymore unless it's to give to family. Even then, I just post it on the blog. Blogging is the new virtual photo album, I suppose.
And, music. There's a mix for every significant event -- my latest one "almost summer" has Noah and the Whales, Terror Pigeon Dance Revolt, David Newman, Speech Debelle, the National, XX, Florance and the Machine... and some new songs (thanks Mandy!) Duet by Rachel Yamagota, My foolish heart by Krishna Das, Ego Tripping by the Flaming Lips, and Peace of mind by Nina Simone.
Maybe I'm avoiding what I think might be the hard work of moving forward. At times I feel like I'm standing in a whirl pool, with life swirling around me and if I stand very still, all will be OK. If I move, I might cause waves of uncertanity which is just fear taking hold of my ankles.
Something Lauran's sweet mom said this weekend had a big impact on me. I asked her what techniques she uses when she works with her Alzheimer's patients (she's an Occupational Therapist and massage therapist). She said, you just stay in the present moment. (of course) Ask them about something in the room or something happening right now, and they can answer. Ask about the past or future and they stumble and feel confused. The present moment is the key.
I focus on the memories for fear of forgetting and as an avoidance technique for the harder work of moving on. To move on you have to live now. "The most common terminal situation is everyday life". And, the road to healing is to realize that you can go beyond the veils around the heart, peeling them back layer by layer and find joy. Not happiness but real joy. Looking beyond what you think you are and realizing you're something more.

"The beginning of the path of healing is the ending of a life unlived."-- Stephen Levine


Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Yoga Fitness Fusion

"Don't create artificial barriers to yoga, so that you don't want to come back to the mat." JL

Fitness Fusion... yoga sculpt (yoga with hand weights), PiYo (pilates and yoga), Yogalates (yoga and pilates), Chi yoga ( Tai Chi and yoga), yoga on the reformer (pilates reformer and yoga), acroyoga (yoga acrobatics) and yoga strength (with resistance bands), and now... drum roll, please: Yoga + Rollerblading = mobile yoga and Yoga + Wine + Chocolate= yoga for foodies. Really? I'm sure if you googled it, it would be no less than a 100 different combinations of yoga + ...

What happened to just doing yoga asanas? Isn't it enough? Do we have to add so much fluff to popularize it? Students have a hard enough time when they're new to yoga just trying to figure out differences between Yin, Restorative, Vinyasa, Ashtanga and Hatha Yoga.

It's yoga after-all and why not be willing, with an open heart to whatever may come. It's best not to take it too seriously. Be willing to laugh, try and experiment. Not so sure I'm willing to give rolleryoga a try, but yoga and chocolate... that sounds pretty good.

Loss of control


"The real hope that we have of positively affecting our lives and our relationships is the process of working with the blocks that prevent us from being in the flow of this very moment." J. Lasater

I've been trying to create white space in my life--again. That empty spot on the calendar where I can finally tackle the ever growing stack of delayed to-do's. I just barely manage to create some (a friend took Andrew for a playdate for a few lightening fast hours) and then suddenly something else comes rushing in to fill it (a meeting at an inconvenient time that wasn't mandatory but going was the right thing to do). I could give you half a dozen more examples just from this week, as I have been really committed lately to releasing things that are unnecessary and take me out of where I am sensing that I'm meant to be. But just as sure as I release one thing, another grabs a hold of me.

I read again yesterday about letting go, giving up control because the only thing that I can control is myself and my own response. Then, in my in-box, this message: "Control, I've come to understand, is an illusion. And even if it could be had, it would not be the best thing for me."

A friend and fellow teacher shared with me a few situations in her classes where she felt a student was demanding something that was not in the best interest of her class. And, in another instance, someone was interrupting the class by walking in mid-class, not to take it but to just get something from the room. (Not once, but several weeks in a row.) This happens frequently in my classes, too. I wonder how, if I looked at the same situation with a different lens, I could show compassion instead of resistance? Or perhaps I could look at it not as a loss of control but as vehicle to better communication. What if, instead of responding in a way that commanded respect, that I showed my students that even the smallest or biggest distractions don't have to rock our boats. A willow tree doesn't break in the wind. It's able to bend and move as the wind blows. In the case of the students, I find that most just need a refresher in yoga etiquette. The "do unto other's speech" usually does the trick.

I think it all boils down to less of me-- more grace. When I am so consumed with trying to orchestrate things the way I think they should be, my view needs a rebalance. Yep, me time, white space, peaceful classroom environment, all good- but not a constant. I'm learning to be open, flexible and joyful when things pop up whether they are controllable (like re-connecting with a friend via i-chat half way around the world, when I'd planned on preparing for my class) or uncontrollable (my son needs help to decorate his "wounds", some real, some not, with all the sponge bob band-aids we have in the cabinet). What else can I let go of right now?


Monday, May 24, 2010

Indian Cooking Class

Friday, I had the honor of attending an Indian Auyrvedic cooking class with hosted by my lovely student, Shashi. Shashi started preparing Indian meals and teaching cooking classes for an organic food store when she lived in Colorado years ago. Shashi reviewed with us our Dosha's (Vita, Pita, Kapha) and how our body types and personalities should help determine what we ingest in order to bring balance to our Dosha. It also takes into account your age, season (hot or cold), etc. (Link to Dosha quiz.)

We prepared and devoured:
Kadhai Paneeer with Bell Pepper (homemade cheese, cilantro, bell peppers, red onions & tomatoes pureed and made into a gravy with ginger, chili powder, turmeric, cardamom, masala, almonds)
Muthia (steamed spinach kabob)
Moong Dal Khichari (brown rice, lentils, cumin, chili pepper, bay leaves, cloves, cardamom, black peppercorns, asafetida powder)
Roti (similar to whole wheat tortillas)

It's confirmed that I am so not a true foodie when the only photos that I took were of the participants- I completely forgot to capture what we ate! If you're interested in taking one of her classes here in Katy, TX, send her an email: shashiji@gmail.com.


Friday, May 21, 2010

Yoga Sutra 2.42

Ah, a week of intermittent Internet access has been actually wonderful. More time with the kids, teaching a few extra yoga classes, catching up on my one of a very few TV shows, American Idol. (Don't tell me who's in the finals, I haven't watched the results show yet!), and digging in to a pile of magazines (I have one from last August, still unread.)

An avid reader- mostly non-fiction these days, I enjoy magazines... always have. I think it's partly due to the fact that I love snail mail and the thought that there will always be something in the mail once a month, guaranteed? A marketing major in college, I enjoy seeing the way things are laid out, the photos, ads and creativity involved.

I subscribed to Tiger Beat as a little girl, Seventeen as a teenager, Vogue and Shape in college, and now as a mom, Real Simple and yogi, Yoga Journal, and wanna be cyclist, Bicycle magazine. I also went through a phase where I read Martha Stewart Living (never mind that I don't cook or never once tried one of her complicated craft projects). I won't even mention the sheer number of catalogs I used to get!

I was featured in Malaysian version of Shape for yoga. Sold ads, published, and Jason and son #1 were once on the cover of another Malaysian magazine, Bonda (for ibu, a non-profit organization in KL).

I'm in the process of letting all the subscriptions run out. I suppose if I were really serious, about the environment and tree saving, I would cancel them now. But, a part of me wants that feeling of something in the mail. Even my kids love it, thanks to their grandparents, they get Ranger Rick and National Geographic. We also take the newspaper, which son #1 reads daily. (He informs me of happenings in Houston -- art car parade, anyone?-- and what the funniest cartoon is for the day. I think it's encouraged Nathan's reading, and caused it flourish. It also helps that I don't allow the TV on during the week.)

I could launch into non-hoarding, aparigraha. (I don't want to end up like my grandma Walker, with piles and piles of magazines and newspapers for someone else to dispose of when I'm gone. We took car loads of her right-wing newspaper (she voted for Ross Perot) and Prevention magazines. (Ironically, she never once went to the doctor, she even gave birth to her children in the same one room house where she grew up.) What I really think of when I look at the root of my magazine habit... is contentment. When I read articles that tell me that I need to lose weight (size 0 is what most models are), that I should be cooking, cleaning and organizing in a particular way, owning the best brand of bike, shoe or even yoga mat, it's discouraging! Basically, I hope that I'm discerning enough not to fall prey to marketing, but what I think it does is plant those little seeds of doubt (in myself) and desire (for stuff).

Samtosad Anuttamah Sukha Labhah.

"Contentment means to be as we are without going to outside things for our happiness. If something comes, we let it come. If not, it doesn't matter. We are unaffected either way. We are content when we are totally present and not wishing for the future."-- Anand

Yoga Sutra 2.42

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Asteya

Asteya Pratisthayam sarva ratnopasthanam.

Yoga Sutra 2.37

When established in non-stealing, wealth comes.

I usually teach this Yama (1 of 5 restraints in Patanjali's Yoga Sutras) in terms of trying not to progress your physical practice too quickly. When you try to do a head stand or hand stand before you can hold down dog or do a chaturanga with ease and proper form, you're missing out on the beauty of the process of the asanas. Essentially, stealing from yourself what only time and consistent practice can cultivate.

However, this week, I have experienced a whole new dimension of this Sutra, the yama (restraint), Asteya (non-stealing). I took away from the experience of another instructor's class by allowing myself to be the center of attention and stealing their focus and attention.

Do you ever do something that at the time seemed like an OK thing to do, with what you thought were good intentions but... later with the gentle reprimand of a friend who graciously explained in so many words that what you did was not only uncool but unprofessional? In wanting to "help" with servility, I offered an adjustment (ok, I didn't offer, I just did it... without asking) to a student in someone else's class. Not only that, but I did it in a way that was loud and disruptive. (I know, hard to believe. What was I thinking?!)

More humble pie. I thought I'd had my fair share of humility lessons a month or so back but obviously my ego was hungry for some more, and I didn't realize it until... it was too late. Our motives while we think they are pure are usually deep down more about us than anything else. What was my motive in wanting to adjust in class? To show I was more knowledgeable than the other teacher? To show the students that they need my help and aren't "doing it right"... no, of course not. But with my over-zealous behavior, I'm pretty sure that's how I came across.

Adjustments in yoga and pilates group classes are "touchy" area with strong opinions one way or the other. Physical adjustments are making body alignment corrections by touching the student. Some feel adjustments should be only verbal (I generally do this first). Some feel that you can only touch if you have individually asked each person permission (I usually announce in the beginning of class giving students an opportunity to tell me back off but often forget since it's second nature in my teaching at this point). I've even heard of an instructor who uses cards on the edges of the mat. Green: yes. Red: no. (Really?!) In Peak Pilates, they teach all sorts of techniques or ways to "spot" to enable the student to feel the exercise and perform it safely. (I find it almost necessary to beginning pilates students who often lack basic body awareness.)

But, corrections in someone else's class- this should only happen with agreement. Sigh. Here's where instead of wallowing in my behavior (prideful and only made me feel worse), I have to just chalk it up to: a lesson in needing to be more mindful in every way. I am grateful for the lesson and feel oddly enriched because of it.


Friday, May 14, 2010

Emotions


My #1 son came home yesterday, slammed the door, then immediately assumed his little brother destroyed his Lego creations (a correct assumption!) and broke into a crazed fit of tears. (Personally, I think it was a combination of things that was building to this point, rather than just the Lego incident. Early rising (5.30am most days), it's the end of a long week of school & afternoon practices, his disappointment that their class lost in field day games (5th place out of 6 classes), and instead of kicking or hitting (as some boys do), Nathan tends to just- cry.)
I am the same way at times. My life is often like this big pressuer cooker... I fill it with one thing then another, hoping to come out with a delicious result, and then oops, I add one thing too many and the dreaded explosion occurs.
Tears. Crying is a normal emotional release. Releasing emotion (joy, anger, frustration, tears... everything in various stages) in a yoga class is completely normal. Witnessing the "ah-ha" (i.e. getting this "yoga-thing"~) moments of my students who consistently practice and are beginning to connect their mind-body-spirit and grasp the principal of awareness is beautiful. One student wrote me recently that she hoped I didn't notice her bawling in class. (She's struggling with an injury and as she wrestled with what that means, she allowed herself to cry and then she said was strangely refreshed after class.)
"Thoughts have energy; emotions have energy. They make you do and say things, and act certain ways. They make you jump up and down or lie prone in bed. They determine what you eat and who you love. The energy behind what you think and feel does not just disappear if it is held back or repressed. When you cannot, or do not express what is happening on an emotional or psychological level, that feeling becomes embodied (you take it deeper within yourself ) until it manifests through the physical body." Deb Shapiro, Your Body Speaks Your Mind
When we can become more aware of our feelings, acknowledge them without judgement, we can begin to choose. Choose to act or react. Deb uses a description of a tube of toothpaste when squeezed with the lid on... the toothpaste has to come out somewhere. If we can release the cap instead, we're better off than allowing it to manifest (or erupt) in our bodies in other ways.
Now if I could only figure out how to keep son #2 from creatively re-arranging son #1's Legos... better yet, I hope I can continue teach son #1 how to deal with those little inconveniences of life. We're both learning together.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Aging, Part 2

If you haven't yet heard of Harriet Anderson, the 74 year old who won the World Iron Man last October for her age group, with a broken collar bone from a crash during the race, you will be hearing more and more about women just like her. (She trains with spin classes, takes Pilates, runs, swims and has learned to listen to her body by giving it rest when needed... pretty wise.) As the baby boomer's age, have discretionary income, and are in search of the elixir of youth, they will begin to make headlines for amateur competitive sports. I've been thinking a lot lately about aging and how to raise awareness about the benefits of integrating yoga into daily life. (I'm approaching 40 (young, I know!) and have a baby boomer parents who tend to boarder on the obsessive over various health issues. Which I'm actually thankful for. Early detection on illness and disease is critical to healing.) Just yesterday, an informative article on yoga and aging by Nancy O'Brien in Yoga Journal highlighted the need for yoga in our health care system as a part of total wellness.
This week has taken me from one end of the spectrum to the other: teaching a youth yoga class and my first presentation for the Alzheimer's Association at a nursing home. I feel like I'm in the valley in-between, like in the book, the Middle Place. I'm enjoying where I am today-- I've never been stronger, felt more aware of my body and alive with passion for what I do daily than I am today. However, I feel such a responsibility to go deeper and practice ahimsa and restraint now in my life, so that I can continue to do the physical practice of yoga as I age. I'm sure it will evolve as I do. I hear seasoned yogis say they no longer enjoy the hot, sweaty, pace of a rigorous flow practice, but more of a restorative and meditative one. Never mind that as we age, we'll need to consume only half of what we ate earlier in our lives just to maintain the same healthy weight. And, we will require less sleep. (Right now with small kids, all I can think about is how can I fit in more rest, sleep, and quiet, alone time while eating coffee ice cream! I'm currently
reading, Just Let Me Lie Down. Seriously true sentiments & her own definitions of life's adventures. If you don't have kiddo's, not so funny. If you do, well then, you'll feel like you're in good company. See below for my favorite definitions.*)
After completing the training to educate groups on Alzheimer's disease, I wanted the first time out to witness how the presenter responded to the caregiver's & families questions. For someone who has a loved one with Alzheimer's it was very moving. There were only a handf
ul in attendance, so the speaker weaved her way around asking names (and remembering them) and giving examples of how the brain works and when it doesn't work in a functional way (Alzheimer's). The brain's neuropathways are all connected, and, when those routes are broken (by these plaques and tangles in Alzheimer's patients), the brain can no longer comprehend what it's seeing. A startling fact: 1 in 8 over the age of 55, will develop Alzheimer's.
There's a lot of studies right now on how to prevent it. One of the biggest discoveries is the effects of meditation on developing your concentration. (One of the key risk factors to many diseases, not just Alzheimer's is the inability to concentrate.) I'm very excited to begin studying how all of this impacts us as we age. It gives me hope that we are going in the right direction and that there are possibilities to preserving our dignity as we age. Besides, I want to BE a yogi version of Harriet when I grow up! Inspiring.

*"Coup de moi"- when you can suddenly beg out of an obligation and find unexpected me time. A rare thing indeed but accomplished yesterday as I got to stay home & breathe while the boys went to the park.
*"Conflict of interest"- everything is scheduled a the same time, for all family members, taking a magic trick or two to get everyone where they are supposed to be on time, fed, in one piece (how do we always end up in the car on the way and someone forgot to put on shoes?) and sane. (my interpretation, as sanity is optimal, but not always possible.)

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Mother's Day


I'm a little tardy on my mother's day tribute. I didn't get to talk to my mom on Mother's Day- seems we just talk voice mail to voice mail these days (anyone else have this issue?!). Reflecting on the numerous life lessons I've learned from my mom and hoping that I've gleamed the best parts of my parent’s personalities, I pray that my kids take my most desirable aspects.


A sincere compliment can impact someone's day

Mom can find something on anyone to compliment in a genuine way. Eye color, a smile, their children, their accent.... you name it. What day isn't better when someone notices something about you and actually tells you unexpectedly that you are lovely?

Dreams are possible

Growing up, mom always said I could be Ms. America, if wanted to. I've never aspired for anything like that as a grown up. (I will confess to being 'Ms. Owl' in the 9th grade beauty pageant! big hair, green gown, and a ballet routine to a Gloria Estefan song...) Rolling my eyes whenever I heard her say this as a kid (who likes to be embarrassed in front of their teenage friends?), I was secretly thrilled that my mom would beam with joy and confidence over me. Bottom line: ‘if you can believe it, you can achieve it’. Straight from Zig Zigglar himself.

Life is magnificent

Mom does not take things for granted. Always looking to the bright side, she makes the worst situations seem like a visit to Disneyland. Even a simple meal, prepared by someone else is magnificent! If you really look, really look, there is something wonderful- however small about each & every circumstance.

Always wear sunscreen

Mom, always the Mary Kay Saleswoman (all of my 38 years), has worn sunscreen religiously for all those years and nary a wrinkle can be found on her skin. Make it a routine: sunscreen goes on just like deodorant, brushing your teeth, or eating breakfast.

When you need help, just ask

Mom can delegate tasks to complete strangers! It's unreal! I think this is in the genes. One Christmas, my grandma Walker (mom's mom) gave my husband (fiance at the time) a pair of work gloves for Christmas. Then, sent him out to repair something. Welcome to the family; now get to work! The secret to delegating? Tell them why (people don't want to help when they feel taken advantage of but do want to help when they realize they are needed in some way) and then thank them generously (with praise or reward). (And skip the work gloves as a gift.)

Give generously and without expectation

Mom would give her home (she did this), her car (she did this many times), her last dime (she's done this, too-- only I wish I had been old & wise enough at the time to caution her not to in many cases), or whatever is needed to family, friends, or even complete strangers. We've had a parade of characters live with us growing up, people who were just down and out in their luck which shaped my view on giving. You can talk a good game, but can you really live a generous life? A gift bestowed without motive is the sweetest thing you can give yourself.

When you can't do anything else, pray

Mom readily admits she cannot make choices for her grown children, but she can pray for them and trust that we will eventually make those wise choices.

Thanks mom for trusting me, believing in me, and praying for me.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Parenting


I met a lovely new friend, DM for coffee yesterday. What I didn't bank on was #2 son's behavior. Sometimes you just never know what will get them going, spiraling into attention seeking poor conduct (i.e. whining, fussing and in general, just plain acting like a 4 year old!). It was refreshing, in between my son's episodes, to observe my friend's reactions to things like squeeze yogurt in tube and rubber bands shaped like dinosaurs worn as bracelets (the latest craze for kids to trade and collect... don't get me started here on how parents enable their children on these fads! Remember Pokeman or Beanie Babies? This could be just as big, if only less expensive.)

"Not that I don't get angry. I'm just very aware of my anger. It's not about NOT having these feelings. It's just not being at the mercy of them."-- Judith Lasater

It's so much easier to just get angry and react. But, for me to stop and breathe, and then act or not at all, will usually illicit a better response from my kids than anger does. Like anything else, responding in a loving way requires practice, softness of heart and surrender.

My usual response when my kids mis-behave? "Do you want blessings or consequences?" When you mind your manners, you get blessed (positive encouragement, rewards, whatever motivates...) or consequences (time outs, push ups, whatever reinforces....) Boy, do I want to bless! And, don't we all want the blessings that come with obedience and surrender? DM said she might try that tactic with her kids but explaining it in terms of Karma. To do good because it's good to do good and what you does come back to you in unexpected ways.


Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Mindfulness

6a00d8341c103953ef0120a6a39804970c-pi.jpg"The more attention, the better attention, the purer the attention I can pay to whatever I happen to be doing or working on at the time, the fuller my life experience." -- gwen bell

Mindfulness... it's easy to say but harder to actually do. I find that it's like dieting and exercise... always good intentions to start but difficult follow through. (That's why I love mornings! Nothing like sleeping the previous's trials away waking up with new perspective.) Came across an inspiring article about Gwen Bell, who's evidently a rockstar in the social media land.

Twitter, anyone? I don't actually know anyone personally who does twitter except a few well known yoga instructors, Judith Lasater, Ricky Tran. I can't imagine that I would have anything to say throughout the day in an abbreviation less than a sentence that anyone could understand or be interested in. You need a decoder to get some of this stuff! After all, I'm probably the last one to catch on to TTYL ('talk to you later' for those in a certain age bracket : ). Or, TK. Why can't we just spell out Thank You? After all, saying thank you is about being grateful for what someone else has done for us. So, taking the time to express that in more than an abbreviation is just, well, mindful and thoughtful. Right? I'm sounding very much like my Mamo (grandmother) who did not care for nick-names or anything shortened because it took away some of the meaning of the words. And, words can have implied significance and beauty when used with intention.

I haven't yet read Gwen's twitters. She's attempting to give up email altogether and go full on tweeting (let me know if it works, Gwen!). Even though the Web is how Gwen makes a living, she checks email just once a day. (I admit I check it a whole lot more than that thanks to my iphone.) She also runs a yoga studio in Japan while living in the US (of course she does!), teaches university classes, does multi-media consulting and offers workshops like lap top yoga... (Why didn't I think of that!?) The definition of cool these days: Yogi and techie seeking to not find balance but "balance in process". More about Gwen and how to balance in process. (Try to relax your toes of the standing leg while on one foot. Balance in process is releasing the grip while experiencing something challenging.)

"The quality of our attention directly influences our quality of life."-- GB