Saturday, November 19, 2016

MINDFULNESS

My husband and I hosted a Meditation Mini-Retreat at our house this morning for a group of 10 friends, led by our friend who runs Meditate Seattle.  She did a great presentation of why meditation is so good for us:  mind, body, and soul.  She gave us lots of scientific evidence for the power of meditation to keep us healthy physically and mentally. The data is compelling.  We did several meditation practices -- using a mantra, focusing on taste, doing a body scan, focusing on listening.  With mindfulness meditation there is never a moment too short to "meditate" or be mindful of the moment you are inhabiting; it is, after all, the only real moment that exists.  The past and future are just products of the mind: memories and projections; regrets and worries; if only's and what if's.  Right now is ... well, whatever it is.  And actually right now, this split second!, is usually pretty fine.

Yesterday in class I was still trying to find my strength and balance after a long hiatus due to illness and found myself struggling a bit.  As we stood to do a pose where we raised first one arm then the other in the air to do a side stretch, it turned into a bit of a flow motion.  Suddenly I got out of my own critical way, and opened my eyes to what was around me.  I saw the class of 15 women, moving in perfect symmetry.  All ages and body sizes, all ability levels, fitness levels, baggy pants and t-shirts, lycra and sports bras, friends and strangers meeting together in the tranquil, beautiful studio.  Hues of green, blue, purple, red, yellow -- clothing and yoga mats and curtains -- flowing into a river of beauty surrounding and accentuating our movements.

It no longer mattered that I felt weak and uncoordinated, frustrated, or exhausted.  The only thing that mattered was being there in the company of others committed to breathing through whatever challenges they'd brought through the door with them, finding a space of welcome, of community, of breath and life.

Can you open your eyes to the beauty around you even in the midst of struggle?  Can you accept whatever is happening, knowing our minds tell us stories that may not be true?  "If only" can't be changed; "what if" may never happen.  Be. Here. Now.©

Namaste,
   donnajurene

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

FINDING BALANCE ON UNEVEN GROUND

How's everyone's balance these days?  Strong and steady?  Or, like me, are you feeling like the world tilted a bit off its axis in the past week and the ground beneath us is more like quicksand?

This blog is about yoga, not politics, but I will reveal I'm not at all happy about the outcome of the presidential election.   I am reminded that life often throws us a curveball (yes, the sports analogies will still be de rigueur with a guy still at the helm) and what we do with it is what counts.  We can keep swinging wildly until we strike out, maybe we'll get a base hit and rely on our teammates to see us home, or gloriously, we might hit one out of the park and make everything right in the world again.  My response so far is to swing wildly.  But I haven't struck out yet.

Coupled with the election result and the shockwaves it has sent through my nervous system, I'm STILL battling a cold/bronchitis that struck on October 23rd and has only subsided enough to plague me with a lingering hacking/gagging cough -- exacerbated by breathing deeply or lying down.  I don't sleep well at night and I have not yet been able to return full speed ahead to my yoga practice and strength/aerobic classes.  I'm just a mess!

But last Thursday I did venture back to the studio and it felt so amazing to be held in the graceful beauty of a safe place for body and soul.  The class teacher,  Carly, led us in a deep and gentle practice that was perfect for tender emotional state and my tentative re-entry into physical practice.

Here's the part I loved the most!   Carly had us stand in Goddess Pose for an extended period of time. While we held the pose, she told us that this and other "big power poses" have been found to decrease cortisol (the stress hormone) by 25-40% and to increase testosterone by 20-25% (based on the work of Harvard's Social Psychologist, Amy Cuddy.)  How about that?!?   I think we will need all the calm and strength we can muster in the days ahead, so I may be hitting my Goddess Pose (or Warrior Pose) at unexpected times -- in line at the grocery store and Starbucks; waiting at the post office or doctor's office;  cooking dinner and chatting with friends.  Wouldn't that be fun?  (Choosing to find my power in Goddess pose feels appropriately subversive to me right now.)

Being back in class last week reminded me of how quickly I lose strength and balance when away from my practice for awhile.  Rising up from a low lunge into Crescent Pose I lost my balance and tumbled to the floor.  I lay there a little embarrassed and sort of chuckling.  I forgave myself immediately for not being "good enough" and picked myself up and was successful the next time through the sequence.  I found I couldn't do any of the lying down on my back poses due to my cough, so I found other ways to move my body.  I sat upright in meditation instead of lying down for savanna.  I coughed a little bit.  I cried a little bit.  I relaxed a little bit.  Sometimes baby steps are the only steps we can take when the ground beneath us feels uneven. ©

Namaste,
    donnajurene




Thursday, October 27, 2016

CURE FOR THE COMMON COLD

I'm trying to remember if I've ever been away from the studio for a whole week unless I was out of town.  But here I am on Thursday and have not made it in.

I'm sick.  Nothing horrid.  Certainly nothing life-threatening.  Not even enough to make me have to stay in bed all day.  But enough to feel the creepy crawly skin, the chills, the cough, the sore throat, the fatigue of the "common cold".

I know I could make myself get dressed in "public" clothes to go and do a slo-mo practice at the studio, but my consideration of others is keeping me home too.  Who wants the woman on the next mat snotting and coughing through class?  Nope.  Not me.  This time of year it's easy enough to catch a "bug"; no need to purposely show up and spread those yucky viruses around amongst good-hearted yoga folk (or anyone else for that matter.)

So, I've been hunkered down with tea and honey, a thick soft blanket, and my Kindle.  It's actually kind of nice to call a halt to the goings and doings of life.   I looked up Yoga for a Cold and found this resource:  http://www.yogajournal.com/article/health/feel-better/  So, every once in a while I'll tip into a forward fold or do a twist just to be sure my body will still move.  But I'm too tired to do more than a few easy poses.  I'm sure I'll have to work on regaining flexibility and strength when I return -- atrophy sets in quickly!  But for now, a different kind of self-care is called for.  Yoga has taught me to work my edge and honor my body -- even when that means laying off yoga for a few days.

I miss you all.  Carry on.  Stay healthy.©

Namaste,
    donnajurene

Sunday, October 23, 2016

PEACEFUL WARRIORS

Whoo-Boy!  This election season has been a doozy!  So many times I've shown up at Yoga Circle angry and agitated about what I just saw on social media, read in the newspaper, or heard on the morning news.  There has been plenty to react to and reactions have been swift and at times dramatic as people supporting either of the Presidential candidates have become more and more polarized.  I've been grateful for the respite yoga allows my spirit.

I guess the public perception of Yoga is that it is some hippie-dippie woo-woo thing, all peace and love and chanting Om while sitting on the floor cross-legged.  It is pretzel-y shapes and patchouli, yoga butts and buff biceps.  It is assumed to be divorced from the "real world" of rough and tumble politics, policy-making, the art of compromise, and fighting for change where change is needed.

To quote one the of candidates for President, leaning into the microphone, "Wrong".

Yoga is so much more.  It serves the deepest desires of humanity -- the union of mind and body, the the desire for connection.  There are varying schools of yoga, led by various teachers, emphasizing one or another aspect of the ancient tradition, just as there are various parties, politicians, and ideas about how best to address a collective desire for safety, security, and human potential in a world that seems at times to challenge more than nurture.

Our response to these challenges comes from our own desires, our own experiences, our own vision.  To take a step back from habitually responding in the same way to the same stimuli requires focus and attention, the desire to break old habits and to see things anew.  This process applies to asana as well as our pattern of mind.  Yoga teaches us we can try a new way; it serves us in all aspects of our lives, on the mat and off, and especially in the political realm where common ground seems impossible to find.

I attended the first ever "Spark" event last week, hosted by the Snohomish County Arts Commission.  Twelve local artists from various artistic genre spoke about what stimulates their creativity.  Karen Guzak, owner and teacher at Yoga Circle, spoke of her life as an artist, yoga teacher, and politician.  She drew parallels between each endeavor, pointing to a desire to unite disparate people and ideas in a union of common experience and shared humanity.

Can we find this union in the next two weeks and beyond as this presidential campaign finally comes to an end and the work of governing anew begins?  Can we find compassion?  Understanding?  Forgiveness?  Can we come together, rather than scream each other apart, to find a way forward?

Can we, all of us, set aside stereotypes, break molds, ditch old habits,?  Can we strike a Warrior Pose -- strong, solid, and steady --  standing up for fairness, equality, and justice for all living beings?  Can we be Warriors for Peace?

Yes, because we are stronger together, in union, in compassion, in peaceful community.  Yoga leads the way.©

Namaste,
    donnajurene