May 2010

 Ecoyogi’s comment on the last post made me think more about how challenging Savasana can be.  I remembered a student from last winter, let’s call her Janice.  She seemed to be wound a little tight.  She was someone who called and emailed multiple times to make sure she completely understood what we’d be doing in class and how it fit with a physical issue she had. 

On the first night of class the first thing she said before we started was that she didn’t think she’d be doing the relaxation at the end of class.  I’d never had someone seem anxious about the relaxation part of class before, often people joke about wanting it first!  I said something lighthearted but was thinking, crap is there any way i can help her at least give it a shot?

So we did the class and as usual I focussed on a slow wind down so people can’t help but feel calmer (thanks yoga!).  And when we got to the relaxation part I had a flash of inspiration for Janice.   I walked over and told her that the floor was a little chilly (it was January) and maybe a blanket would help.  She looked doubtful but she said she’d give it a try.  And i said, i have just the thing.  I went and got Bear. 

Bear is my affectionate name for a King Size black faux mink bed cover.  It’s huge, it’s thick, and it’s warm as toast.  Bear gets dragged out in the depths of winter because I’m a cold person and it is simply the best antidote to the chillies. 

So i drag this monstrous furry black warm thing over to her and she has to laugh.  I say, Janice, meet Bear.  So i covered her up, tucked her in and she did her first Savasana.  She didn’t move.  Bear probably had her pinned to the floor.

I brought Bear out every week for Janice until finally in the spring she said she was warm enough and could go without.  I think she became comfortable enough to do Savasana without props.  Whatever the reason i was happy to have another convert to Savasana.

A woman who’s taken a couple sessions of Power Yoga with me said that my classes are so relaxing.  She said she used to avoid meditation and then she started really looking forward to Savasana in my classes.  Now in her home practice she does it regularly and as a result has been sleeping better.

And it was good feedback to get because I do focus on that in my classes.

It seems that we’re all so good at Doing Stuff.  And the way we do yoga in this culture is to Do Yoga.  It seems to tap into the parts of us that are used to pushing ourselves.  It taps into “getting through long intense day at the office”.  It taps into “running up a hill”. But where is the Simply Being part?  When do we practice just hanging out and breathing? 

That’s why I focus on it my classes.  I want to help people be more OK with just breathing.  And it’s great when i see newbies come into class and they fidget all through Savasana the first few times.  Their body seems to produce itches every 30 seconds.  And they peak around to make sure they’re not missing anything.  I’ve been there.  And then sometime during the session they chill out.  It’s like ahhhhh, Savasana.  They hunker down like they’ve been looking forward to it all week and really relax. 

One of the things I like to have people do, something I picked up in my Kripalu training, is to take in the sensations of their body.  Anything – parts that feel alive, parts that feel numb, their heart beat, the sensations that result from the in and out breath, pain, tension, discomfort – take it all in without judgement. 

I ask them to just notice.  I invite them to see if they can take in these sensations without analyzing or judging any of them.  I believe  it’s called Witness Consciousness. 

It seems like such good training for life off the mat.  When life gets crazy and I get my panty in a knot – it’s usually because I’ve judged events as Really Not OK and I’m resisting them like crazy, making myself crazy as well.  I’m trying to do something new.  When I’m in knotted panty mode I ask myself – what do I need to be OK with this? 

What expectations about life, do I need to let go of here?  Because life doesn’t really ask our  permission before it goes off the rails does it?  Or what expectations of people do I need to let go of?  Because I’ve never had people ask my permission before they do crazy things either.  It all just happens and it’s in my best interest to find a way to be OK with it. 

So I ask myself – where am I rigid that I need to soften?  What have I made my mind up about that I might need to unmake?  What will it take for me to stop shaking my fist at the universe and say “oh well!”?  What will it take for me to find humour in this?  The answers are pretty interesting. 

And what happens is that when I focus on myself and how i’m dealing it totally takes me out of how lousy the people and life events are around me.  I get out of judgement mode.  I’m more likely to look on the people and events with compassion, because that’s how i’m treating myself.

And when I can figure out a way to be OK with it I’m more likely to deal with the situation in a functional way (hopefully) with less stress.   And that makes all that hard navel-gazing work totally worth it.

Byron Katie talks about Loving What Is, regardless of what it is.  Whew.  I dunno if I’m there yet, although I like reading her stuff as a stretch goal.  One day I’ll get there.  Until then I’ll work on dropping the judgements and being OK with what is.

Baby Leo started sleeping through the night and I lost the huge bags under my eyes, i just have delicate little dark circles now.  So I celebrated by doing what any red blooded woman would, i started meditating in the mornings again.  It’s funny because why didn’t i start earlier?  What’s 10 minutes?  But when you’re sleep deprived all you can think about is being horizontal in bed.  Even if you’re just lying there with your eyes scrunched closed thinking, baby’s going to wake any second, baby’s going to wake any second.

I keep it simple, I sit cross legged on the couch and focus on my breath for 10 minutes or more if I’ve woken up early.  I used to have such a hard time letting go of my thoughts (or is that *ignoring* my thoughts, or is that telling my thoughts to go *piss off*), now it feels like such a relief to Not Think.  I know there’s a whole day of scattered thoughts ahead and remembering only half of what i should and doing maybe some of what’s important.  Only following my breath for a few minutes feels like heaven.

What i’ve noticed with meditating is that i’m more clear during the day.  You know how they say you should pick your battles?  And you know how there’s about 500 of them a day when you live with a five year old “asserting his independence” (although  i usually call it other things)?  I used to think that those decisions took time, one needed to think long and hard about whether this was a battle that was getting picked or not. 

Now it’s instantaneous.  Am I making waffles because he’s asked 26 times?  Nope still not, i’m tired and need to stick to my “no”.  Am I going to try to make the baby understand that it’s a real drag when he throws his banana chunks all over the kitchen floor instead of eating them?  Meh, I tried that yesterday and it’ll cheese me off to try again today.  Instead I’m just going to take them away from him before the kitchen floor starts to sprout banana trees. 

Bing bango, the decisions just make themselves.  And i know you’re thinking, Cor maybe it’s not the meditation, maybe you’ve finally figured out how to navigate your way through the complicated waters of parenthood.  And i say, yup, i don’t care if it the brand of *coffee* i’m drinking, i’ll take the clarity.  I’ll keep meditating too. 

It feels so good to give myself the first few minutes of the day.  Just for me.  And my living room windows face the water and the sun rising so it’s a good place to be in the morning.  Sometimes the baby wakes up while i’m sitting but he doesn’t go into full cry or anything so i just use it as an opportunity to let the sound go.  Baby will be ok for 3 more minutes, keep breathing.  And being thankful that i’m sitting and breathing.

It feels so good to do what feels good.  I’ve been trying to listen to my gut or my intuition or whatever you want to call it  and i think that’s how you best evaluate it.  Does this feel Good and On Track and Interesting?  I worked with someone from California who used to say about someone, “he’s got a lot of Go Energy”.  It’s a funny woo-woo expression, but it seems to capture it – does this thing have a “Go” feeling to it?   It’s a feeling thing and not a thinking thing.  It’s not –  does my head think this should be on the top of my To Do list?  It’s not a “should”.  It’s gotta be a “wanna”. 

I had D K Brainard do a personal astrology reading for me for my birthday this year.  He said that’s what Tauruses are all about, doing what feels good or will feel good.  The reading was awesome.  He really sees stuff in your chart, it’s not just “you’re a very outgoing person”.  It helped me understand myself better.  It was affirming and positive about what’s coming.  He said I need to, “try to let go into feeling good and then life will flow to where it needs to go”.  He said that letting go is my challenge this time around and I’d say, oh yeah it is. 

But on the “doing what feels good” front, there’s still a hardwired puritan bit in me that resists it.  Like it can’t be ok.  Like all the good and proper things to be done in life are the things you absolutely hate.  But that’s silly.  Like people being in jobs they hate because mom wanted them to be a lawyer and they really want to work with kids.  If you have to work 40 hours a week until you retire, you need to do what holds your interest.  Do what feels good.   

A simple example for me is clutter clearing.  I love to clear a good bunch of clutter but I until I’m in the right mood it’s a drudgerous task.  If i try to do it before the mood strikes it’s right up there with cleaning hair out of the drain – yuck.  It’s tough to make decisions about stuff, it takes forever, I drag my feet.  But when the mood strikes, man, those garbage bags are full and the place is organized faster than i can say “wow i haven’t seen the floor in here in ages!”  If I’m in the mood, it feels good to do it and feels even better to have it done.

So you’re saying, yeah ok but what about doing tequila shots until you fall over?  That might feel good at the time but it won’t feel good later.  And I say, maybe it needs to be in a big picture sense.  Like the hangover the next morning doesn’t feel good so maybe that cancels out whatever feeling good happens the night before. 

Or maybe the other tact is the really big picture which is, you fall over this time and suuffer the hangover so the next time someone pulls out the bottle, salt and lime you’ll say – boy there was part of that that didn’t feel so good last time so maybe i’ll play it different this time.  You will make sure you’re staying in a “feel good” place this time and avoid the screaming hangover.  I’m still thinking all that through.  Is it really ok to only do what feels good? 

Sometimes things aren’t black and white.  When I’ve just sat down to eat and my son reminds me he needs a drink, it doesn’t feel good to get up again but knowing he’s got a drink and isn’t going to become a dehydrated raisin makes me feel good. 

My other caveat on the feeling good thing is that it’s gotta feel good for others too.  If you’re making yourself feel good at another person’s expense you can’t be an aware compassionate human being and think that’s ok.  It’s gotta feel good for everyone or you’ll just feel guity.  And that doesn’t feel good.

I’ve found that a big part of doing what feels good is managing my energy, which i’m trying to get better at.  When i was working i had a schedule that i needed to manage my energy around.   But without working it’s a free for all.  Since i’m a morning person anytime I’ve had energy I have it burned up by noon.  Then I have nothing left to stay ahead of Angus after school when he’s ready to take on the world (or *destroy* it, depending on the day) after sitting in a desk all day. 

So I’ve tried to not only do what feels good but do itwith more ease.  I remind myself that I don’t have to do x task or y activity at an 110% pace.  In fact it’s better not to.  85-90% is just great.  Yoga taught me that.  And as I go to classes i see that not a lot of teachers teach that, they feel it’s their job to push you as hard as possible.  Maybe they feel like only lazy people go to yoga.  But the fact is, i can push myself hard enough, I’m trying to do less these days. 

I love trying to maintain ease in yoga.  How can i hold Tree pose without being a rigid stump?  So that the slightest breeze will knock me down?  How can i be a bendy swaying baby birch tree that  responds to the breeze but holds her center?  And fall in and out of the pose with humour?  How can i hold a firm standing leg and core but let my bent knee relax open, let my shoulders fall away from my ears, let the muscles in my face relax and let the thoughts in my head be “la-la-la-tree pose” instead of “IF I FALL IT WILL PROVE I’M TOO STOOPID TO DO YOGA”.  You know?  Holding the pose, with ease.  Hanging out in the pose without rigidity. Doing and not doing.

Now i’m trying to find that ease in everything  i do.  If  i’m walking up a hill pushing 70 pounds of Leo and stroller, sure it’s hard, but can i do it with ease?  If i’m picking up groceries but am short of time can i just ignore a few things on the list and get it done with ease rather than race around like a mad woman and knock over the barbeque display while i’m at it?  

It’s like the ying-yang symbol, some black in the white, some white in the black.  I’m doing stuff, but with ease.   Getting things done because they feel good, and feeling good doing it.

I finished my detox last month and I’ve been trying to hold to the eating plan in a few key places.  I’ve found my body is much happier avoiding flour foods and processed stuff.  I’ve also been consuming dairy, but not doing the cheese ‘n crackers snacks that have been a go-to snack in the past, actually not doing much cheese at all.   

I’ve also been working my way around a bunch of whole grains, eating way more veggies and playing with the amount of protein that seem to work best for me.  The bonus in all of this is that my cravings are gone.  It’s the most amazing thing.  I’ll think, hmmm it’s 3:00 in the afternoon and a cuppa tea would sure be nice.  Which is way different from before which was more like IT’S 3:00 WHERE’S THE DAMN SUGAR!  In an Incredible Hulk kind of way.  And boy, that’s worth all the brown rice consumption in the world.

The other day I remembered barley, specificially pearl barley which is a nice whole grain low glycemic food.  I hadn’t had it in a long time and thought it was time to try it again.  I wasn’t sure what I was going to do with it but went off to Planet Organic and found some organic barley in the bulk food section.  When I got to the check-out, the girl with the german accent picked up my little bag of barley and held it at face level like it was a valuable object she was offering to the gods.  She said, ahhh, barley, my mother used to make this all the time, I’ve forgotten about it! 

I said, yeah me too, i used to eat it and then i stopped but i want to get back on that horse.  And then i asked her how she likes to cook barley.  She said, it’s best as a risotto with lots of butter.  And i thought,  mmmmmmmm.

So when i got home I put a cup of barley in my rice cooker with 3 cups of chicken stock (I used Better Than Boullion which tastes amazing and saves you having to buy all those stupid little cans of stock) and a tablespoon of butter.  It took 40 minutes to cook and tasted great.  The kids loved it to.  I told them it was fat rice.

In last night’s yoga class we did the humming breath to start.  You do a regular inhale and then when you exhale you find a nice low note that rumbles around in your chest and belly.  The sound is supposed to dislodge blocked energy and all that.  I love the feeling of  the reverberations in my torso after I’ve stopped.  Last night in the class we were breathing in unison and our hums were in harmony.   We sounded like a choir that had forgotten the words.

After class I spoke to someone who is taking my class as well as another during the week.  She said she was telling her massage therapist that the other class is more strenuous than mine.  They do full Sun Salutations and challenging poses that exhaust people by the end of class but it doesn’t make her break a sweat.  

She said my class is more easy going but she sweats like crazy.  Her massage therapist said that she sweats in my class because it’s “real yoga”.  I don’t really know what that means but I said thanks.  I also said, “maybe my room is hotter”.