Yoga Family

I had surgery this Friday.  That being said, I tried to be at Teacher Training as much as possible.  Why?  It’s my yoga family. In my town!  I haven’t been to a training here in Wenatchee but it is so cool to have so many people that I truly adore coming to my home studio.  They have become a new family, my yoga family.

I feel about them like I do my “California Cousins.”  When they come to town, life as we know it stops.  You make sacrifices, you do what it takes to spend every second you can with them.

Also, they care for me.  I have people who really really care.  They don’t fake it, they don’t have to.  They don’t judge me or question it.  They are all completely real and completely real in their love and kindness.  They don’t have to try, they just do.  There is nothing like the relationship I have with my yoga family.  Love and respect.  Mutual understanding.  Unconditional acceptance.  If you don’t have a yoga family, you should.  And mine is pretty darn amazing.

I couldn’t make the hike yesterday, but I love these people.  Beautiful.  13411828_10100896627144203_772470144837506325_o

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Pain

We usually do what it takes to avoid pain.  Emotionally, Physically, Psychologically.  We all do it.  What if we try to embrace the pain.

What would happen?  I tried it out last night at yoga.  In Savasana, the posture which gives you an opportunity for rest or it can be the place your mind can run wild.  It’s the last place you want to be in pain.

But I couldn’t help but notice that in my pain this thought came to me – embrace it.  Be in it.  Instead of trying to ignore it or move my leg around until it was in some sort of unpainful position, I embraced it.  I focused on it, and it stopped feeling so much like pain.  I thought loving thoughts towards it and a warmth came over the area.

In a hot yoga class, there is a lot of pain.  All types.  It is about learning to work through it.  Feel the pain and be in it.  There isn’t a choice to avoid it.  Once you are there, you are in it.  The heat, the sweat, the pain of the postures.  You have to stay in it the postures longer than you wanted to.  But you are in that moment.  The moment of pain being over is a sweet feeling and sometimes that sweet release is what happiness is all about.

Just think for a moment.  Are you trying to avoid the pain? Distracting, ignoring, numbing?  Pain can be good – here is just a few ways:

  1. Pain can teach you where you are weak.  It can make you stronger and smarter by just paying attention to it and trying to rehabilitate the area.
  2. Pain can teach you a lesson.  If you have had an injury because of something dumb (when have I haven’t had a dumbness related injury?) You will learn what not to do.  Live and learn.  Isn’t that all about experiencing pain in some way?
  3.  Pain or mourning can be a lovely reminder of how precious life is.  How delicate and fragile.
  4. Fear of pain or avoidance of pain is sometimes causing us more emotional strife than just going through the pain.
  5. Notice how when you are sick you just remember how wonderful it was to not be sick and how you definitely didn’t appreciate the not sick times enough?  Pain makes you appreciate the peace, the painlessness.
  6. Pain brings you into the moment.  If you focus on the pain and experiencing it you are there, in the moment of pain or pleasure – whichever you are in, you are experiencing life.

Embrace the pain.  Trust me, it isn’t so bad once you realize how much work it is to avoid it.

 

The difference between “Can’t” and “Won’t”

A lot of people tell me they “can’t” do yoga.  I don’t fault them, don’t worry, yoga is HARD.  But just about everyone can do yoga.  They just won’t.

Consider this for a minute.  Can you touch your toes when you are sitting with strait legs?  Do you know most people taking any given yoga class can’t either?  But they are there, they show up.  And I’ve seen it, heck, I’ve done it more times than I can count.  Saying, “I can’t do this posture, that is just impossible.”  But I keep showing up and amazingly, I do every single thing I have ever said I couldn’t do.

For most people it’s a flexibility problem.  Even if you go to the gym, you probably are strong but missing flexibility.  Health is both.  It’s a balance between them.  You can run every day, lift three times a week.  But if your spine is compacted, your hamstrings are tight or you just feel sore or tired – you are missing something.  Yoga will help.  You will feel better, you just have to show up.

They say “all will come.”  They say “someday.” We hear this when they are asking us to do things that sound impossible.  But if you want something, if you want to get rid of the can’t and the won’t – you have to show up.  And it will come.  Breakthroughs don’t happen every day in yoga but when they do, it’s the best feeling in the world because you showed up, you practiced and practice and someday, yes, it will come.

First step, just get your feet on your mat.  All will come.

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That being said, I think I better get back to those daily headstands…..

BRCA, my Family and Yoga

The past week has been filled with reflection on my family.  We had a death in the family which brought my family together for my mother’s uncle.  Not knowing him very well, I knew him as the Leap Year baby of the family.  I think I remember going to his 16th birthday party.  But it made me think about how much I love and value my uncles and aunts, cousins.  Loosing a parent, one of their siblings, bonds you.  There is a gap there where she should be and although it should bring us closer, I think that gap is always unspoken.  We lost the person who connects us.

But at this funeral I also had the opportunity to meet someone I knew only by blood.  Specifically, our shared genetic mutation.  I believe we are the only two in our family in our generation to be passed this legacy.  Looking into the eyes of someone who you don’t know, yet you share so much, a pain, a sorrow, a fear maybe.  Something binds us that is greater than understanding.  It’s blood.

In yoga, this has brought up the struggles that my chest poses that I don’t talk about enough.  But I do want to talk about it because I know there are other women out there like me that had a prophylactic mastectomy and many more that have had cancer and a mastectomy. So a latest guide to the world of mastectomy yoga:

  • Hatha Yoga is a great place to start if you have had a mastectomy.  The stretching aspect will really help open the chest without putting weight onto the chest muscles.
    • Let me back up – Something like a plank or downward dog, side plank especially puts your body weight in a position that uses primarily the chest muscle.  For me, all of these postures are extremely uncomfortable and has taken a lot of work to be able to do what “normies” do easily.  If your reading and you haven’t had a mastectomy here’s what it feels like – do anything flexing your chest muscle.  For me, I do that and it’s squeezing a baseball into my chest.  Let’s just say it doesn’t feel good.  Hatha yoga doesn’t have any of those chest squeezing postures.  It does however have chest opening which is wonderful after any chest surgeries.
  • Vinyasa/Power/Fusion These all are “next level” when I talk about chest squeezing.  It is into balancing on arms, progressive pressure.  Post-Mastectomy these are the most difficult classes.  The Chaturanga push up is near impossible to me.  I constantly have to make modifications and at some point want to make a video to show the different ways I have modified this common posture.
    • I have to note, this is very likely can be different to the type of surgery that you have.  I have a friend that can do an awesome chaturanga and she has also had surgery.  For me, it is very challenging.
  • Yin – You need this.  Doesn’t matter where you are in recovery, this will relax you, open your chest, let all the stress from the back muscles that have been protecting your chest go.  It’s amazing.  For anyone really recovering from surgery, Yin yoga is an easy way to love your body while you are recovering.  It’s like an hour long gift to your muscles.

Other things like side planks I just can’t do.  I’m always on my knee.  I am starting arm balancing which is super exciting.  It’s actually easier than the typical flow because the strength is in the arms and usually the chest isn’t working.  What I love about yoga in general, there’s always an inch farther, a new and challenging posture and growth even in the hardest/mundane.  For me my latest breakthrough (if you know yoga, you’ll know this one) Three legged dog, to stacked hips, to wild thing, back to three legged dog.

Give love today.  Give love everyday.

 

 

Inhale Beauty, Exhale Love

In the last couple classes I have tried to focus on what I want to be in the world as I practice.  That mantra type thing has been: Inhale Beauty and Exhale Love.

What this means to me is that I want to take in the beauty around me, the beauty of life. If you look hard enough, there is always beauty to be found.  In every person, in every practice, in every piece of nature.  It’s all beautiful and my hope is to take in as much of it as I can, no matter how long I have here.  The world is a beautiful place, I am blessed to be here, able to take it all in.

I also want to exhale love into the world.  Sounds simple but it can take on a lot of meaning.  With my voice speak words of love, with my actions show love and that I might practice love and forgiveness to others and to myself.

Doing this in my past two Hatha practices has really deepened my practice.  Every time I loose focus or thing of my breath, I take in beauty and exhale love.  I just think those two words while I breath slowly.   Breathing has been a struggle for me – this has kept my breath slow and strong.  Focused on the good, not the bad.

What a gift I could be if I can master those two things.  Beauty-of-nature-daydreaming-23013589-1024-768

Yin – Shoulder Update

I went to Yin tonight and couldn’t relax.  I was so tense, at first, I couldn’t even do Corpse Pose (Savasana for those of you learning Sanskrit with me.)  My shoulder wouldn’t come to the mat, my arm needing to be almost perpendicular to my side.

I was sweating like crazy, my eyes burned, clothes that are not my usual hot room attire soaked.  I was miserable almost the whole class.

But around the half way mark I noticed my shoulder wasn’t causing me as much pain.  I was supporting myself on it with no pain.  There was the occasional twinge but nothing like I have felt for the last week in a half.  And it reminds me why I am doing this, why I love this.  It heals.  The ride home I noticed I could pull my arm behind me to grab my seat belt – something I haven;t done with my left arm since it happened.

That’s the thing about heat, maybe even the sweat.  It works out those tight muscles and relaxes them.  I’m sure that I am far from healed.  I can already feel it tightening as I type.  But I will continue going and it will heal my shoulder.  Just as it has my knee.  My ankle.  My chest.  My soul.  So many benefits.  My handstand career might be on hold but I will get back there.  (I don’t say headstand because I am pretty confident I could do one right now.)  Just one hour in the hot room – melts everything away.

Teacher Training Day 2 – Release

This morning I broke. Maybe that’s the wrong word. Broke down? Really it was about release. I needed to let something go, I probably still haven’t but I spent a good couple hours in a constant flow of tears. I can say tonight I feel better. It did help to let the tears flow (although I’m not really a keep the tears in kind of person.)

I think pretty much everyone went through a release of some type today. Or at least we all thought about what we need to release. Release is cleansing. We all know there is something. That one thing we hold onto so tightly even if it isn’t good for us. I kind of wonder why we do that. If it is hurting us, somewhere inside us we are locked up. It holds us back, keeps us from being fully ourselves.
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So out the tears came. We were talking about what is hard for us to let go, for me it came down to two words “not enough.” I have struggled with this in every part of my life for my entire life. I can pretty much apply those words to everything in my life.

Then while talking about it (after hours of tears) I flippantly said the words that I have been needed to hear, I am enough. Maybe not everything needs to be profound. Maybe it doesn’t need to be earth shattering. Maybe in my blurt, I found what I needed to hear. I found what my own voice can say to myself and 100% know it is true. None of that negative voice is helping me. It just holds me back.

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After all of this emotional release, I did a class. It’s amazing when you are feeling emotional weight what happens in yoga. It is a completely different experience. It isn’t stressful, you feel that cleansing motion work through your body. When I laid down for that final savasana, the tears fell again. But this time, they didn’t hurt, they healed. They felt like the final release of what I needed.

If you are a casual yogi, I encourage you to spend time before a class and see what you need to work through emotionally. If you can get there, the practice is much different. It connects the physical with the emotional in a way our culture needs but isn’t used to.

Physically, I want to be pushed. I love getting these postures right. We did more posture clinics and I worked a bit more on my handstands. I just want to do it over and over. I want to get it, I want that accomplishment of holding myself. Once you start, you can’t get enough. It’s so fun!

The best thing about being here is seeing the emotional and physical breakthroughs happening over and over again. I wonder about all the people who say they can’t and don’t have someone pushing them like we do here. We hear over and over, well just try. Yoga is about the try. The magic is in the try. The breakthroughs are in the try. You just have to get up and try – and sometimes try and try and try until someday, you are standing on your hands, feet overhead – and knowing – I am enough. Today, I know I am enough. Right now, I can be no more, I can be no less. I can just be enough the way I am.