Monday, February 12, 2018

POSSESSED

I have no idea who or what took over my mind and body last week.  I had a couple of weird dreams, but I thought I'd set those aside when I awoke.  Besides, the psychedelic ruminations of the subconscious mind aren't really real, are they?  Hmmmm....

On Wednesday I showed up to class feeling a bit tired (see weird, sleep-depriving dreams above), but ready for a good class.  Only a few minutes into it, however, I started to worry that I'd contracted an exotic affliction which prevented my joints from bending and interfered with my muscles' ability to hold me up.  I was like the Tin Man clutching the empty oil can.  I could scarcely move!  Every pose felt like the first time I tried yoga 20 years ago and hated it.  At least this time I knew something was "off" and could make adjustments.  I started grabbing props, modifying poses, and resting a lot.  I made it through the class and felt the better for it -- more flexible at the end.  But I still don't know what had made me so stiff and weak out of the blue.  Mysteries of the body.

Then came Thursday.  I went to class wondering how it would go.  By 15 minutes in I started to question my body again.  Every pose felt effortless!  I felt strong and flexible in a class that was more challenging that the previous day's class had been!  I felt like Wonder Woman -- Yogi Extraordinaire! I was floating through the class when suddenly emotion overwhelmed me and in my favorite resting pose, Child's Pose, I felt tears spring to my eyes.  I was caught by the gratitude for my practice, for Yoga Circle surrounding me in beauty, by my sister and fellow Yogis, and maybe most especially by Karen's encouraging, calming, familiar cadences from the front of the room, guiding us through familiar poses and reminding us to breathe and be in this moment.  I don't know where that emotion came from out of the blue.  Mysteries of the mind/spirit.

It seems some people move through life on an even keel, one day much like the other, mind/body/spirit all driving in unison down the highway of life in a straight line from here to there.  Not so for me.  I seem to weave all over the  road, making pit stops for body tune-ups, meandering into sadness/depression, broken down with anxiety, flying fast with joy my hair blowing in the wind, all the while trying but often failing to reach the destination I set out to reach.  I try, with every fork in the road, to stay awake and aware that there is a lesson to learn either way I go.

That has been the lesson of yoga for me; to be present to every changing moment; to accept the "is-ness" of what is happening; and to use the tools of yoga like a roadmap to get back on course.  Letting go of expectations, I embraced my body's needs on Wednesday and letting go again, I embraced my body's victory on Thursday.   All the while I noticed my mind judging and questioning, celebrating and appreciating.  I let my emotions spill over as tears.

Not that it's always easy to be in a state of acceptance.  Sometimes I just feel "possessed" and wonder:  "Now what's happening?!?"  Some days the best I can do is just stay on the road, no matter where it leads or how I feel about going there. ©

Namaste,  donnajurene

Photo Credit: Copyright: <a href='https://www.123rf.com/profile_captblack76'>captblack76 / 123RF Stock Photo</a>


Friday, January 26, 2018

WHEN NO MEANS YES AND YES MEANS NO

Most of us who practice yoga, especially those brand new to the practice, want to do it "right".  We've seen the pretzel-y shapes bodies assume in full-out advanced yoga poses and assume that's the way we all should look on the mat.  Not so.  Or at least not right away.  And maybe never.  Or maybe for awhile, but not forever.

We all come to the practice of yoga with the bodies we have at any given time, on any given day.  Some are supple, flexible, and strong.  Some carry extra weight, have stiff joints, or weak muscles.  Some are strong on one side, weak on the other.  Some are recovering from injuries.  Some have limitations that have been, or will be, lifelong.  If yoga was only for the fit, the whole point of it would be lost.  We come to yoga for peace, calm, and acceptance of what is -- while also seeing the possibilities for what might be a way to move toward greater emotional, spiritual, and physical health.

In class last week, Karen assisted new students with finding the shape of the pose she was demonstrating.   I overheard the words, "yes" and "no" in equal number.  I thought this was a great exchange between teacher and student.  I even silently said a few "yeses" and "nos" during the practice myself.  I have been an irregular practitioner for a few weeks and am suffering through a painful bout of plantar fasciitis.  I'm not feeling my strongest, most flexible self right now in spite of my 10 years of practice.  (I didn't even start yoga until I was 57.  See?  Hope for everyone!)

I notice the tendency in myself and others, again especially new students, to hesitate to say "no" to a pose.  We want to push, to please the teacher, to feel competent.  But saying "no" when a pose is too challenging or causes discomfort is really a "yes" to your body and to taking care of yourself.  That "no" is really a "yes" to committing to getting stronger and more flexible over time...and to not rushing and likely hurting yourself by pushing too far, too soon.

In the process of learning what is a "no" we also learn what is a "yes" and may find delight in a body that teaches us to pay attention to what pleases us as well as what hurts us.  Backing off a "no" pose and finding the "yes" sweet spot is cause for celebration.  Saying "yes" to an easier form of the pose is a strong "no" to denying your own limitations.

We all want to feel competent, to be flexible, strong, and balanced.  Sometimes finding the "yeses" and "nos" that guide us there is the best and most important lesson we can learn... on the mat and off.

Noticing when and where we deny our true selves and when and where we embrace our true selves; when and where we choose to grow and when and where we choose to remain stuck --  those are the lessons of yoga we take into our homes, families, workplaces, and community.
 
Let your practice on your mat be your guide.  Your body will say "yes" when it feels good, "no" when it doesn't, and maybe even "not yet" when you see the possibility of moving to "yes".  Like I always say...Yoga is life.

Namaste,  donnajurene

Picture Credit:  Copyright: <a href='https://www.123rf.com/profile_sorad'>sorad / 123RF Stock Photo</a>


Friday, January 12, 2018

OH THE NOISE, NOISE, NOISE, NOISE!

The holidays and travels wrecked havoc with my yoga practice schedule.  When I showed up in class this week after a long hiatus, I was sore, stiff, and ready to dive back in.  Plus, I'd somehow developed some foot pain reminiscent of plantar fasciitis.  (Blaming the new boots I wore to walk many miles in downtown Seattle during a recent stay.) I asked our teacher, Elizabeth, if she could devote some time to foot pain issues.

Class was wonderful -- slow, gentle, therapeutic -- and my feet got lots of loving attention.  When it was time for savasana, I was eager to sink into a time of quiet meditation and gratitude.

Then the racket began.  There is construction going on across the already busy and sometimes noisy street in front of the studio.  But just as we settled onto our mats, a roaring sound emanated and continued for the whole time we lay on our mats.  It sounded like a gigantic lawnmower, or hedge trimmer, or hole borer -- an engine whining loudly.  It also sounded like it was aimed directly at the glass wall where I was cozied up on the street side of the studio.  I wondered if some behemoth machinery was going to breach the wall at some point and run me over.  (This is the mind of an anxiety-prone person; worst case scenarios prevail.)

When Elizabeth brought us out of the savasana she immediately acknowledged the "elephant" in the room.  (Yes!  Maybe it was a bellowing elephant!) and reminded us that conditions are not always perfect, but life in the moment is.  She suggested that when we are unexpectedly distracted by a sound like that, the idea is to lean into the sound, not try to mentally run from it or resent it.   It was then I realized that I'd had a tandem mind game going on in savasana.  Part of me just wanted to identify what it was; it was all I could do not to jump up and try to see through the frosted glass.  The other part of me heard the variations of the sound, paying attending to the waxing and waning of the droning engine, noting that the sound was quite varied and almost musical as the intonations went on.

It's easy to practice and meditate in what we might think of as "perfect" conditions -- all those photos of solitary yogis on mountaintops or beaches or forests.  But real life is not like that.  Our practice happens in living rooms, bedrooms, and noisy yoga studios.  Yoga is life and life is far from perfect.  Each moment is ours to inhabit, whether it be taking deep, calming breaths on a crowded elevator, standing to stretch after long hours in front of the computer, or meditating to the sounds of traffic.  The more we practice, the better we become at being free from attachments to expectations -- and the happier we will be, come what may.

Namaste,  donnajurene

Photo Credit:  www.pixabay.com


Friday, December 22, 2017

YES...AND....

Are you familiar with the rules of Impov Comedy?  Improv (improvisation) often happens with a troupe of comedians being given some disparate props, or "prompts" from which they are expected to create a comedy routine.  One plays off the other as they throw the next line to the next comedian.  None is able to "pass"; all must use the "Yes, And..." rule, meaning no prompt is off limits. Mentally they say, "yes...and..." then add their own idea to the chain of events.  They think on their feet and by the end they've all joined to co-create a hopefully funny, often silly, sometimes groan-worthy, but always amazing skit.

Elizabeth's yoga classes are like that at Yoga Circle.  She always asks practitioners if they have specific things they'd like to work on in class.  Almost always there are requests for "hips", "shoulders", "hamstrings", and the like.  Then she uses her expertise to create a class that includes all those areas of focus.  I'm always amazed, but I also understand that the frequency of these request might clue her in to figuring she will be asked for them, so she's ready.

Last week, however, it went like this:  "Hips, holiday season feelings, shoulders/neck, sinuses."  WHAT?!?  I was stunned.  How was she going to create a yoga practice around all that?  But she smiled, rubbed her hands together with gleeful readiness to meet the challenge, thought for a moment, then said, as she often does.."Let's start lying on our backs..." and off she went.

We did hip openers and stabilizers, neck and shoulder stretches, range of motion movements, and throughout it all she interwove a pranayama (breathing) practice where we focused on the stresses and challenges of the holiday season, for some that means chaotic preparations and for some a time of loss or sadness, encouraging us to use our breath to calm our emotions and to always come back to the present moment -- the only moment that truly exists.  Toward the end or practice, she introduced self-lymphatic massage, an Auyurvedic practice of moving lymph out of the tissues and muscle fascia, draining back into the circulatory system.  She spent extra time massaging the sinus area of the face.

More than the actual practice that day, I was impressed with the knowledge that no matter what we throw at her, Elizabeth takes it all in enthusiastically.  Her skill with therapeutic yoga is evident in what she creates for us in asana and pranayama practice, but what I love most is the broad smile and happy countenance she has when her skill and creativity unite.

"Yes...And..." Indeed.

Namaste,  donnajurene