Wednesday, September 14, 2016

SICK BED YOGA

It's no fun to be sick.  Over Labor Day we took a trip to Idaho where we planned to meet up with friends for a few days of outdoor adventuring and lots of food and laughter.  My husband and I got there a couple of days ahead of our friends and prepared the space to welcome them.  But the night before they arrived, out of the blue, I was struck by a wicked intestinal virus.  The details are not pleasant so I won't recount them.  I trust you've likely had some similar experience with this scrounge in your lifetime.

Unable to sleep a wink, up all night, I sat in the living room bundled in a blanket noticing in my best "mindfulness" manner my sore back, headache, chills, and cramps.  I talked to my body and reassured it all was well; I breathed deeply; I closed my eyes; I opened my eyes; I took some medicine; I drank lots of water to stay hydrated.  Nothing seemed to help.  I was miserable and it seemed the whole ordeal would go on forever.

Desperate times call for desperate measures.  I decided to do some yoga.  Seriously.  I Googled "Yoga for Diarrhea" and stunningly there are actually several sites that address this situation.    Here's one:  Yoga to Cure Diarrhea

I've never done a full headstand in my life, so the beginning of this video was of little use to me.  I was able to do the shoulder stand for a bit and I'd already tried the pranayama breathing thing; it's my go-to for anxiety.  None of this helped.

I decided to focus on my headache.  But what I found were poses purported to work great for headache, (Yoga Poses for Headache) but were to be avoided if one had diarrhea. AND the site for what NOT to do if you have the tummy yuk  (Yoga Poses to Avoid for Diarrhea) said NOT to do Shoulder Stand, which the other guy in the video recommend you DO do.   This type of conflicting advice might be commonplace in western medicine, but in yoga?  Oh no!

I felt Yoga was starting to fail me in my hour of need.   But it did distract me and by dawn I was feeling a smidge better.  I went to bed and slept most of the day, missing a lot of the socializing with our friends, but I was in no mood for that anyway.  Not my best weekend, all in all, and it took several days for me to regain my usual vim and vigor.

I have not, however, completely lost faith in yoga as a curative because I also discovered this guy and have found laughter to be the very best medicine: Ultra Spiritual Yoga Tips  ("advocate yoga as a cure for everything"... LOL!  That's me!) ©

Namaste,
     donnajurene

Saturday, September 10, 2016

I'M A STAR

I don't think I've become insufferable now that I'm famous.  But I guess you'd have to be the judge of that.  I find myself to be, you know, charming and very welcoming of my public.  If anyone ever asked for my autograph, say, or a selfie with me, well, I'd be most accommodating.  I think neither has happened yet because people can be so intimidated by famous people.  Hey, we're just like you!  Don't be scared!  Come on over and say hello!  Introduce your grandchildren to me.  I'm happy to pat them on their little heads and give them a moment to remember.

OK.  You may be wondering if I've totally gone bonkers.  Maybe somehow you were so absorbed in your own pedestrian life that you missed my big videographic debut.  Well, lookie here:  http://www.yogacirclestudio.com  (Who Does Yoga?)

Yes.  That little ditty has been up on the Yoga Circle website for over a week now and I'm sure the post office is storing the fan mail until they can find a truck large enough to deliver it.   I will, of course, answer each letter personally and include an autographed photo (framable).

When Karen asked if I'd be willing to be interviewed, I said yes, because promoting this blog and the studio are two things I love to do.  Besides, it had been years and years since my glory days of being hounded by the press when I headed up a local activist group and found myself being interviewed on the TV news dozens of times.  The issues were important; the TV stuff was fun!  I am one of those introverts who can perform.  Put a mic in my face and some "other" me jumps  into action.  You always hear about performers who say they are introverts and you want not to believe it, but it can be true.  I've emceed, done performance poetry, led services at a church I used to attend, made speeches.  Very little stage fright.  It's weird.

The experience with this interview was fun too.   The studio was empty.  The director tested for where to set up, what the background would look like, got the shot framed, the sound checked and then "action!"  He asked me a series of questions (none known to me previously) and I answered with animation and articulateness.  I was in the flow!  I could tell I was hitting it out of the park!  When we finished I was sort of euphoric.  Then he said, "I'd like to do it again while other students are coming in."

"WHAT?  I nailed my first take!  I can't duplicate that brilliant performance!", I thought.  I might have mumbled a less startled protest that I thought maybe perhaps we had the footage we needed.  But nope.  A director has his vision.  So I went all Meryl Streep inside and told myself, "You can do this.  Multiple takes?  Sure.  Be a professional and do it again."

So we did.  Some of the questions were the same.  Some different.  Editing cut the whole interview down to just over 3 minutes (the time span of the average viewer, I guess) and I'm sure some of my best work ended up on the cutting room floor (or wherever digital editing goes), which is the lament of every performer.  But I'm pleased with the end result, with one exception:

When I was asked what posts I like best, I went on and on about the ones where I am klutzy.  I do like those, for the reasons stated, but I wish I'd also mentioned the ones where I get a big "a-ha" on the mat.  Some learning happens that moves me emotionally.  I've actually written about those moments far more often than the klutzy moves I do.  And for me, they are the reason I want everyone to practice yoga.  Yes, for all the physical benefits, but also (and perhaps more) for the benefit to our spirits.

Maybe I can work this teaching into my NEXT interview, because, "Mr. DeMille...I'm ready for my close-up."

Namaste,
    donnajurene

P.S.  "I'd like to thank my producer, Karen Guzak, and my director, Warner Blake, without whom I never would have won this award.  I'd also like to thank everyone who has ever read this blog.  You are the wings beneath my Pigeon Pose."  (Just practicing my speech.) ©

Sunday, August 28, 2016

YOGA: A TRANSFORMATIVE PRACTICE

"Yoga is a transformative practice," Elizabeth told us at the beginning of Saturday's class.

How often do you come in to class with your mind racing with thoughts, your muscles tight, your emotions run amok?  By the end of class do you feel the same?

I would venture, generally not.  Generally spending 90 minutes in the studio moving with the breath, focusing on the form of asana, letting thoughts come and go like clouds passing in the sky allows a transformation to occur that is of benefit to mind, spirit, and body.

But maybe not at first....my first many, many yoga classes were exercises in transforming me from one who was overweight, stiff, and uncoordinated into someone who was sad, frustrated, and self-critical because I "couldn't do it."  Couldn't do yoga.  Those pretzel-y shapes were impossible, balancing a disaster, bending and stretching an exercise in futility.  My racing mind went from the to-do list at home to the "I'm such a klutz; I can't do this; this is dumb" list of ways in which I was putting myself down in comparison to others.

But for some reason completely beyond my understanding, I stuck with it.  Eight years into a regular practice I can do most of the poses offered in class, touch my toes in Forward Bend, and calm the racing mind fairly easily.  When I am clumsy or can't find the pose, I mostly laugh and accept that on THAT DAY the pose is not mine to do.  Maybe another time.  Maybe not.  I've learned the transformative power of self-acceptance on the mat.

And, since Yoga is Life, that transformative power of self-acceptance is available to us off the mat as well.  I may have written here of my battle with depression at times and a teeny tiny affinity toward anxiety.  Neither of these states are conducive to self-acceptance. I hate them both, and that means I also hate a part of me.  I had quite the struggle with these Twin Demons last winter and ended up in talk therapy for several sessions.  My most basic learning there was to practice "radical self-acceptance"; even accepting those parts of myself I want to change and improve, but recognizing that in that moment they were a part of me and had lessons to teach;  lessons in compassion, humility, vulnerability, and connection.

I started to see the parallels to my "real life" and life on the mat.  Transformation takes time and patience; we are not star yogis at our first class.  Learning a new pose often puts us in touch with humility and vulnerability.  We reach out to teachers for support and expertise.  We slowly put together a few simple poses; we move into deeper stretches one inch at a time; we breathe deeply and fully learning that the breath is the root of life and a naturally calming balm to anxiety and fear so that our backbend becomes a place of joy rather than terror.  Just like life.

Do you have stories of transformation?  Do you show up at class with all the human concerns of life and it's craziness and leave feeling looser and lighter?  Yoga is a transformative practice.  Let it be your guide into a new way of living your life off the mat as well. ©

Namaste,
    donnajurene

Sunday, August 21, 2016

DUMBBELL YOGA

I've decided to take up weight lifting.  Maybe seeing all those ripped bodies in Rio at the Olympics has motivated me; maybe it's the increasingly flabby, baggy bits on my body; maybe I could lose a pound or two of belly fat.  Whatever.   A few weeks ago I registered for a "Lift to Lose: Senior Strength and Balance" class at a local rec. center.

May I just say, the whole "senior" thing is starting to grate on me.  When you hear that word, what images pop into your mind?  Yep.  Why can't we just say "older adults"?  It might sound like semantics, but you have a whole different picture story in your head when you use those words, don't you?   But I digress....

The class allows everyone to lift at their own pace, choosing free weight dumbbells that are appropriate to them.  Most choose between 2 pounds and 6 pounds, I've noticed.  I'm starting out with 4 pound weights.  The instructor does easy movement warm ups before we even pick up the weights.  When we do, she moves us through a wide range of motion in the upper body, targeting all the arm, chest, and back muscle groups.  We do squats, bends, and folds holding the weights.  Sometimes we use exercise bands or balls.  Sometimes there is more emphasis on aerobics.  There is always a balance component to the class.

What does any of this have to do with yoga?  Well, here's the braggy part.  My yoga practice has made me the most flexible and balanced girl in class.  At least it seems that way to me.  I rarely have to hang on to the back of my chair for balance; my squats, folds, and bends are far deeper than those of others; my breathing is deep, slow, and measured....

Wait.  Am I comparing myself to my classmates?  Is my Ego running amok with "yay me!" self congratulation?  Hmmm...I guess the true meaning of yoga abandoned me there for a moment.

My point is...I am so grateful for yoga being one component of a well-rounded fitness program for me at this older adult stage of my life.  I am a yoga proselytizer and see it as a spiritual practice with the happy side benefit of encouraging fitness.  Combining the asana limb of yoga with a ramped up aerobic and resistance weights program, worked out after a consultation with the Lift to Lose instructor, and I will soon be setting up a Go Fund Me site to raise money to send me to Tokyo in 2020.  I'm sure my Olympic career is just about to take off. ©

Namaste,
    donnajurene