When we are young, we learn the most fundamental teachings about being human: be nice to one another, share, clean up after yourself, don’t take things that aren’t yours, etc. But it seems that when we become adults, we often forget everything that was a part of these original lessons of life. Even the yoga community is littered with heartbreaking exchanges. If unkindness is evident in a community dedicated to conscious living, I imagine it is even more insidious in other spheres.
Fifteen years ago, I was not acting my age. Since I would recoil from any form of exercise, as well as any green foods, I was overweight, inflexible and debilitated by lower back pain. The 40 extra pounds on my frame — plus tight, shortened back muscles and weak abs — left me moving like an 80-year-old version of myself.
I suffered daily from sciatica, back spasms, limited mobility, weakness, you name it. When I got stuck in my car one day, unable to swing my legs out because of my sciatic pain — at age 23 — I realized, “Something’s gotta change.”
I started reading up and realized a shocking number of people suffer with chronic back pain, partly from hours spent sitting in a way that flattens the lower back curve. (BTW, Gaiam’s Balance Ball Chair, the very one I’m sitting on as I write this, is a great tool to help build core strength and re-align your spine.)
Then, I found yoga. Over time, using some of the same poses I’m showing you here, I built a lean and pain-free body.
We are all still reeling in the aftermath of the school shootings in Connecticut last Friday. I, for one, feel leveled and heartbroken. It is impossible to imagine the impact on the families who lost children, those whose children were spared but so profoundly traumatized, and the rest of us who bear witness from afar to the unthinkable.
Here, in the interest of offering at least a few words of comfort, is some guidance on how to talk to your children in the wake of this tragedy.
In the practice of yoga, as in life, it’s the moments when we work together that can inspire the most change in us as individuals. In this clip, Jenny Sauer-Klein, co-founder of AcroYoga, talks about the principle of doing what works. To deal with the inevitable challenges and miscommunications that happen when individuals become partners, we have to leave room for the unexpected. When we let go of assumptions and embrace the discovery of what works best between these two people at this moment, that’s when we allow the relationship — and each other — to grow.
I don’t like being upside down and backwards. This makes Handstand a challenge for me. I don’t trust that my fellow students can hold me steady while I substitute my hands for feet. It’s a reflection of my own limited thinking, not an accurate assessment of their competence.
Still, I try. I go to class and work gradually. First, I achieved Headstand, which I couldn’t do a year ago. It’s a stepping-stone to the loftier goal of Handstand.
Yoga is always putting new challenges in our paths. Just when we think we have achieved a difficult asana, we discover that it was the modified version. It taught me to give up hope.
I did a Google search on what causes stress in people’s lives and I found things like unemployment, divorce, financial problems, health issues, fatigue and so on. In reflecting on how I deal with stress, let’s just say that far, far less than unemployment has caused me to eat a dozen donuts in one sitting!
Yes, I’m talking about stress eating. Most of us have had the unfortunate pleasure of experiencing it at one point or another, and it is not for the faint of heart. I can down a whole can of party peanuts if Auden has a particularly bad day at school! Thankfully I have come to terms with the real me and I am now able to recognize the signs of impending stress and do a fairly good job of not eating us out of house and home when things get rough. Please allow me to share some of my tips, and I welcome any you have to share that have worked for you.
Oftentimes people come to me and state that their intention is to heal. The definition of healing is to restore to health and soundness; to set right; restoration of that which is damaged to its normal function; regeneration (spiritual, revival, rebirth); and renewal of any lost part.
“The renewal of any lost part” caught my attention. During challenging times people are often seeking parts of themselves that they think have been lost, stolen or damaged. I believe that we are, inherently, whole, and that at the core of our being, beauty and peace exist. When my clients speak about wanting to heal, we explore the deep desire to remember that they are not broken or damaged goods. We talk about the fact that in every situation there is good and it is leading us back to a state of wholeness. When the Japanese mend broken objects, they fill the cracks with gold. They believe that when something is damaged and has a history, it is more beautiful. What if that were true of us? What if each and every aspect of our life stories was an essential ingredient that made us stronger and more beautiful?