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

Thursday, August 4, 2016

SOAPY YOGA


When I heard Karen in class today advise that we practice yoga all the Days of Our Lives,  I immediately flashed back to my uncle.  My Uncle Ryan's Hope was based in his firm conviction that we only have One Life to Live, and that too quickly that life passes like sands through an hour glass, As the World Turns.  First we are The Young and the Restless.  Later we mature in the The Bold and the Beautiful.  But as time marches on we soon find ourselves fighting a Secret Storm, and eventually following that Guiding Light toward The Edge of Night.  There is no time to waste wishing for Another World.  I remember him saying, "I hope that All My Children will know that this present moment is more important than a futile Search for Tomorrow and that choosing health and vitality, especially through practicing Yoga, is all that stands between an active life and a trip to General Hospital."

My uncle was a wise man.  He also watched a lot of daytime TV.

Namaste,
   donnajurene

Friday, July 29, 2016

BE THE CHANGE

I had a little epiphany at Steve's yoga class Wednesday.  Well, first, let me say he did this really cool thing where he wove a poem into our practice.  Every so often, while we held a pose, he'd recite (from memory!) a stanza from The King's Ring, a poem about impermanence.  I'll copy and paste it below for you.

So anyway, he also quoted Gandhi at one point -- the famous "You must be the change you want to see in the world".  I always find that admonishment a bit jarring.  My brain immediately conjures up a greatness I can't quite imagine myself being.

Like Gandhi's many hunger strikes that led to the eventual overthrow of English rule.  I'm sorry.  I can pledge to go on a cleansing fast in the morning and by 3:00 p.m. I'm lightheaded, sort of nauseated, and binging on Triscuits dipped in butter.

Or Martin Luther King and his March on Washington that moved the Civil Rights Movement into the public consciousness so profoundly.  The only dream I could speechify is the one where I forgot to study for the final exam and I show up unprepared -- and naked.

Last night at the Democratic National Convention Hillary Clinton accepted the nomination of the first woman ever to be the nominee of a major political party in the U.S.  She said in her speech that when she was four years old her mom made her go back outside and face the bullies who were taunting her because no cowards lived in their house.  Whoa.  I was about the same age when a strange man came to our door (strange to me, but maybe someone known to my mother, but unwelcome), and I remember hiding with her in the bedroom until he went away.  I handle conflict about that well today.  So you see, I've never thought of myself as any kind of example for "being the change".

Yet, here's the power of meditation and yoga and paying attention (and, OK, therapy) -- I really AM an agent for change!  The idea behind the quote, of course, is that in a million small ways we each can be the change we want to see.  I want everyone to grow veggies and flowers -- tasty and beautiful.  So  I finally planted a garden.  I want everyone to do the inner work it takes to understand themselves and their motivations, so I've immersed myself in a couple of decades of personal growth work and helped others on the path.  I want aging to be a natural, beautiful, joyful process with older people feeling good about themselves, healthy, vital, and giving.  So I facilitated a group for women over 60 and I practice yoga and love my family and cherish my friends and practice mindfulness.  I want a world where optimism, ingenuity, kindness, humility, and generosity are how human life is lived.  So ... well ... I try for all those things; it's a practice.

Does any of this matter?  Well, The King's Ring might lead us to believe that in the big picture, in the Cosmic, Giant Universe way, everything "passes away" and our life's pursuits are ultimately of little consequence, so don't get too attached.  Still, we live.  We contribute one way or the other. We are spiritual beings on a human journey.  I say, let's live like the beautiful beings we are while we're walking this earth....and be the change today. ©

Namaste,
    donnajurene

The King's Ring

by Theodore Tilton

I.

Once in Persia reigned a King,
Who upon his signet ring
Graved a maxim true and wise,
Which, if held before his eyes,
Gave him counsel, at a glance,
Fit for every change or chance:
Solemn words, and these are they:
'Even this shall pass away!'

II.

Trains of camels through the sand
Brought him gems from Samarcand;
Fleets of galleys through the seas
Brought him pearls to rival these.
But he counted little gain
Treasures of the mine or main.
What is wealth? the King would say;
'Even this shall pass away.'

III.

In the revels of his court,
At the zenith of the sport,
When the palms of all his guests
Burned with clapping at his jests,
He, amid his figs and wine,
Cried, O loving friends of mine!
Pleasure comes, but not to stay:
'Even this shall pass away.'

IV.

Lady fairest ever seen
Was the bride he crowned his queen.
Pillowed on the marriage-bed,
Whispering to his soul, he said,
Though a bridegroom never pressed
Dearer bosom to his breast,
Mortal flesh must come to clay:
'Even this shall pass away.'

V.

Fighting on a furious field,
Once a javelin pierced his shield.
Soldiers with a loud lament
Bore him bleeding to his tent.
Groaning from his tortured side,
Pain is hard to bear, he cried,
But with patience day by day,
'Even this shall pass away.'

VI.

Towering in the public square
Twenty cubits in the air,
Rose his statue carved in stone.
Then the King, disguised, unknown,
Gazing at his sculptured name,
Asked himself,And what is fame?
Fame is but a slow decay:
'Even this shall pass away.'

VII.

Struck with palsy, sere and old,
Waiting at the Gates of Gold,
Spake he with his dying breath,
Life is done, but what is Death?
Then, in answer to the King,
Fell a sunbeam on his ring,
Showing by a heavenly ray --
Even this shall pass away.

Source:

The Sexton's Tale, And Other Poems.
Copyright 1867
Sheldon And Company, New York.

Monday, July 25, 2016

DONKEY AND ELEPHANT POSE

I confess.  I'm a bit of a political junkie -- and certainly more so during presidential election years.  I get obsessed and a bit overwrought.  I get super excited and super dismayed.  I get angry and confused.  I get optimistic and hopeful.

All good opportunities to practice equanimity.  A good opportunity to practice deep diaphragmatic breathing.  A good opportunity to practice lovingkindness meditation.  But really, really difficult.

Last week was a tough time for me.  Yes, I'm a Liberal.  A Democrat.  So watching the Republican National Convention, which I did because it interests me what Republicans stand for and believe in for the future of our country, gave me ample opportunity to practice mindfulness and acceptance of what "is".  I also occasionally dropped to the floor and did a few Downward Dogs just to stay in touch with my body, cuz my mind and spirit were busy trying to comprehend and not freak out.

I bet some readers of this post will find they have the same challenges this week as the Democrats gather at their convention.  To people who support the Republican candidate and see things from a different perspective than I, their frustration and confusion this week must be just as acute.  I say to you:  breathe, move, be with what "is" this week too.

Listening to our respective party nominees we have the ability to sort out what is a campaign promise and what is actually doable.  Just like I can say I'll do a Lord of the Dance pose tomorrow while warming up for class and look like a Yoga Journal cover girl while doing it.  The reality is I'd be pretty off-balance at best, and fall on my butt at worst (and most likely).  And my track record isn't that great.  I tend toward simpler, more doable poses.  You'd be forgiven for betting against me.  But if I really, really mean to achieve the pose, I'll call upon the very best teachers, put my mind and body to the task over and over, and eventually I may get there, but it won't be easy or pretty.

Patience, compassion, unity, passion, optimism, hope, kindness, and love.  Isn't that what our practice is about?  Can that also be what what we model in the world?  The true test may be in politics.  Keep breathing.  It's where Spirit lives.

Namaste,
    donnajurene