A Yoga Pill?

This morning, while playing with blocks, drinking coffee and enjoying cuddles from my feeling better little girl(hurray), I came across this article which discusses studies that show yoga has little to no impact on peoples’ health, in particular those who might be very unwell, such as cancer and diabetes patients. I’m a bit irate, because I think Brian Palmer misses a pretty big point. Any yoga practitioner with a foundation of common sense would never presume to tell you that yoga is going to cure cancer, or permanently alleviate asthma.

Yoga is more than a class you attend once or twice a week, it is a lifestyle. Deciding to start yoga once your back is up against the wall health-wise is still better than nothing, but I’d prefer we took a long term view and pondered the preventative approach. Besides, what quality of life do you want right now, in this moment? Whether you’re unwell or fit as a fiddle yoga adds a certain joie de vivre.

When I’m with a group of dedicated practicing yogis it’s obvious. They have a glow, a presence, that regular asana, relaxation, breath work and meditation supports. Further to these tangible practices that you learn in the studio and take to your home practice, there are Patangali’s other limbs of yoga, which are all different topics in themselves, that you bring to your life.

We, as a society, are becoming increasingly fat and stressed. We are not active enough and our children are currently slated to have lower life expectancies than us. How about if less of us were obese and better able to not only cope with stress, but more tuned into when something just wasn’t right for us to begin with? What if we approached each day, each other and our planet from a space of compassion and thoughtfulness not only for ourselves but for future generations? This unending quest for the magic potion to save us from our toxic lifestyles wouldn’t be necessary.

Encompassing yogic principles into life’s trajectory supports health. We are all going to have illness and struggles at some stage in our lives, and we’re all going to die. Mr. Palmer’s article is a symptom of the typical disempowered, and at the risk of sounding trite, consumeristic viewpoint. We don’t want to take responsibility for what got us in our health conundrum in the first place. We want something outside of us to fix it. Immediately and easily. But that’s not how life, or anything for that matter, works. It’s about time, effort and commitment, and saying yes to a yoga class, a run, or healthy meal, when it would be easier to say no. Deciding that you enjoy feeling and being healthy and that you’re willing to put in the work to get and stay there.

Yoga is an interesting paradox of taking control, through focus, right now, in this moment while at the same time accepting it for whatever it is. I believe we would all get a lot more serious about our health if someone were to sit down with us and tell us what we would die from at some mystery date in the future. Complications from diabetes because we refused to give up junk food, cancer from pollutants in our environment or smoking, a heart attack from lack of exercise and too much stress at work.

So get on the mat, at the very least, get off your tushie, breathe, live, move and do something right now! Before the doctor has to have the “talk” with you. Our bodies were beautifully designed to be in motion, and through movement, the positive mindset and healthy body flourishes. That to me, is the magic elixir that no doctor on earth can prescribe.

Sh!t people say about yoga – part 1

Ok, so over the years I’ve heard some gooders. Little things that people say and assume about yoga and and the yoga community that are off track, false or limiting.

One that I hear most frequently when I tell someone I meet for the first time that I teach yoga, that I was reminded of when walking behind a couple at the outdoor market the other day as they contemplated a flyer for beach yoga.

“I can’t do yoga anyways, I’m not flexible enough.”

How do the following sound to you:

“I can’t go the gym, I’m not fit.”
“I can’t be a CEO, I’ve never run an organisation before.”
“I can’t write a novel, I’ve never been published.”

Illogical right? You have to start somewhere. And that is: where you are, right now.
Too often, we view a situation from an end result or condition that we believe has to happen or magically be there before we even begin. We close the doors on the possibility of a new life experience based on prejudices and expectations drawn oftentimes from a murky perspective.

I get it, maybe you think yoga ain’t your thing. But don’t knock it until you try it, and please don’t make the final decision until you’ve explored a few different styles, instructors and spaces. I believe there’s the “just right” for everyone out there as far as yoga is concerned.

Besides, the point of yoga isn’t to get “flexible,” it’s to feel good. To move through life with a bit more buoyancy, freedom and connection. 15 years into my relationship with yoga and I continue to work on hanumanasana (aka, the splits). Do I let the fact that I’ve yet to master this pose hold me back in pursuing my yoga teaching? Hells no! Would I like to do the splits one day – hmmm sure, that would be cool and provide a real sense of accomplishment. But that’s not why I get on the mat, day in and day out.

For me, yoga has awoken a feeling of aliveness and contentedness that I use to inform my life. It does not exist in a vacuum – it pervades everything. Yoga opens my body, alleviates the aches and pains that come with chasing around after a fearless, curious toddler half the time, and seated at a desk for my fundraising job the other half.

It certainly helps to deal with injury as well as prevent it. I’m convinced it’s why I had a pain-free marathon finish ten years ago. It’s opened up a more frank dialogue between my heart and mind, transforming my life in ways I could not have imagined.

Yoga is a modality that almost anyone can benefit from. I don’t teach to make you flexible, I teach to help you love your life. If this sounds like something that appeals to you, please join me at my upcoming classes.

On a closing note, what are some ways right now that you could become more “flexible” right now, get out of your own way before deciding that something isn’t right for you, or take an initially uncomfortable risk in he name of living life more fully?

The Bottom Line

So the low back is still a bit sore; I’ve had to take it very slow to get back to recovery but it has been a blessing. I was making my way from sofa to floor with darling on board when I lost my footing and smacked my sacrum hard. A few vertebrae were compacted and the pain ensued though it was bearable, considering we had a back yard that was going to quickly fill up with guests.

The day after my legs tingled and I could barely grab sweetness from her cot; I was desperate for any bit of relief that thankfully my chiropractor helped with. She advised I would be at least four weeks before the back was completely resettled. It’s been longer and I still wake with low back pain and I have become acutely aware of tightness in my groin and psoas. All chain reactions to the initial trauma of the impact.

New opportunities arise when we are hit with a setback. My return to intense, short gym sessions have been put on hold to make sure my back is fully recovered. In its place I’ve become acquainted with a yoga practice that is responding precisely to my needs. I’ve had to take it slow, feel it out day by day, and pull back more often than not. Giving me more time for meditation, quiet, and of course an appreciation for a healthy pain-free body.

It’s nice to witness true discomfort. It has allowed me to create some sequences that I believe will work in this region of the body that so many people are affected by. And it has given me a strong reminder of what it is when a student approaches me in the future and mentions low back pain, or any pain for that matter. It can be easy to forget what that really means if we don’t experience discomfort regularly, so I’m thankful for the reminder.

Lastly, I’ve been introduced to a new style of yoga: Yin. I’ve been a couple times to a class put on by the lovely Fiona Galloway of YogaBlu. I was so inspired by how incredible I felt, in both mind and body, after the class that I purchased Bernie Clark’s book, Complete Guide to Yin Yoga. I’m thoroughly enjoying it.

So yeah, I’m grateful for this. Though I’m a little off my original plan it’s an interesting detour. I’m still growing and learning, which is for me the bottom line.

What’s your bottom line? When things have gone astray from what you may have envisaged what remains important to you? And if at first you tell yourself it’s not there, do you see it if you look a bit deeper?

Baby Steps

Baby Steps

ImageI love the New Year. Although I can get very Grinch-y about Christmas (I refrained from posting my anti-Christmas piece) there’s something about marking the year out fresh that fills me with renewed motivation.

2013 was a big one. A great, tough year with a lot of new experiences plus challenged and surpassed expectations. Despite being laid up with a nasty back injury – who knew reading Where is the Green Sheep to her sweetness was so hazardous? – I am feeling very positive about 2014.

I love resolutions. I like to think I’m realistic about it but it’s always good to re-evaluate, re-assess and move ahead. There are some big long-term goals that I’ve had for awhile, and realistically I wonder if they can all co-exist.

My little life coach, aka Turd Bird, has done a fine job of forcing me to focus. The juggle of motherhood has shown time’s limits, and with the squeeze I quickly notice where my heart pulls. Things that seemed important have drifted into the background while others, which I used to call hobbies, have become my lifeblood. For example, my super duper magnificent yoga studio can wait; but I can rarely go a day without some form of writing or creativity.

So I’m going to loosen my grip on the big goals, knowing they’re still there, still attainable, as I don’t want them to create pressure. I wonder if thinking about them too much makes them feel further away, preventing me from enjoying the present. Which is actually a pretty lovely place.

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brave new world

Chickadee is taking steps in small bursts. It is buoying to see her bravery grow each day. One day three steps, the next day six, then ten, and yesterday I lost count in the back yard as she trotted around on the grass! Trying to witness without expectation or overly ebullient praise, despite the swelling pride and awe. Eliza Parker of Conscious Baby Blog explains why so well.

She’s never upset with the pace of her progress; she just does what she can when she can. I have yet to see her crumple into a ball of despair if she can’t get to her destination. She knows she’s going to get there, picks herself up again or opts for a crawl. Such a wise little gem.

So in honour of the cheeky girl, I declare 2014 the year of baby steps. I’ve picked five little things I’m going to focus on:

  1. Just one – Teach one yoga class a week. I’ve noticed my mind has drifted towards what’s not possible – that studio’s schedule is full, this studio only hires teachers who have specific training etc. etc. So I have to start thinking about what is possible. First, finding a space, sorting out my credentials as my admin has waned this past year, taking steps with the intention of having my own class to teach once a week.
  2. Writing – There’s my blog, and a couple other things I’m working on, a short story, but mainly a novel. I have over 9000 disjointed words, yet the characters and trajectory are very much alive. I realise I’m slowing myself down by insisting I am in the “perfect” space and writing for one or two hours, meaning sporadic bouts of productive writing. But 15 minutes a day is going to have to do sometimes, and on a more daily basis.
  3. Fitness – The hour-long sessions don’t fit, and not working out because they don’t is self-defeating. After my back recovers(which may be awhile), I’ll continue to focus on the two per week half hour Les Mills’ GRIT classes at the gym, along with the online classes I squeeze in on fitnessglo, or self-guided asana practice, while darling naps. Life: always better after a good movement session.
  4. Thanks a lot – There are some beautiful baby tunes, that when combined with my hormones can get messy. They are such sweet, simple reminders. This song by Raffi says it all. For me: more gratitude, less discontent. Our family has been so blessed; I’ll focus on acknowledging this more, in smooth and rough times.
  5. Last but not least – She’s tall for her age but still pretty small. And she’s a real hoot. So it all comes back to her; what sort of example am I setting? Did we have some fun and meaningful interaction today? Was I in her moment with her? Where do we want our lives to go as a family? What will I tell her about the scary but brave steps I took so she’s inspired to keep on doing what she’s all ready taught me?

So what are your resolutions this year if any? Big, small or none at all?

Happy New Year!

Mothering on Empty

I woke from a restless sleep, worse this morning. Hand, foot and mouth disease seems to have evaded girlie and taken my immune system for yet another wild ride. Surely this is the virus’s swan song? I will rebound from this last assault cleansed, strong and healthy.

Hubby was on night shift so I had baby to myself this morning. She was a giggling, bubbling ball of energy. I on the other hand was fighting the chills and aches along with other fun things I would rather not talk about. Desperate to get through the morning I popped one of the pills I used after she was born for pain.

In about 20 minutes a pleasant fog descends and I can at least tolerate the hour it takes to spoon feed her cereal while I contemplate foie gras. When will she learn to feed herself? My patience is at an all time low as I think about how boring the day will be, stuck in the house again. I laugh. She’s being a clown, showing off with one of her cheeky toothy grins, her curls bouncing around her little cheeks as she sways her head side to side, happily playing with the paper bag from the chemist. Can she tell how low my spirits are? I am trying to be there for her as a mother, but today, there is not much to give.

And my relief as I lift her from the high chair – her eyes, yes, they look red and puffy.  It’s time for a nap. She coos to herself, hugging her stuffed toy while I shuffle back to the lounge. I have a new housecleaning protocol: “just pick up two things.” Never mind the chaos that is blossoming around the house like a fungus. Ever time I wonder from one room to the next, I pick up two things that are misplaced and put them away. There, the sideboard looks much better with my tax return and doctor’s note filed.

I am calling a housecleaning service on Monday. Something has to give. Maybe if the house is a bit cleaner I can focus my energies, I can get better.

I read. I nap very pleasantly. Hubby wakes and makes breakfast. Baby has arisen from her nap and she stands at the end of the couch where I lay, little chubby hands resting on the seat, open face smiling at me, eyes sparkling.