Posts Tagged ‘women and yoga’
Hey, so our friends at Borderstan wrote this article about me, and about small business in DC. Thank you!
why to stay on the ground during your period
Often, female students ask why they shouldn’t invert during their period, i.e., why they can’t do headstand, handstand and shoulderstand.
The flow leaving the body during this time of the month is in part expelled by the body, in part pulled by gravity. To turn that process upside down is to interfere with nature.
The subtler reason not to turn upside down is that menstruation is a time to turn inside. Ever since I read this book, I’ve believed that women best serve their bodies by slowing down during the first few days of their period, and by staying internally focused during the week of expulsion. This means: sleeping more, drinking caffeine and alcohol less or not at all; drinking more water; sitting home on the couch instead of going out (dancing, for example); eating comfort foods; etc. We benefit by listening to the inner body, which is hard at work getting rid of toxins and experiencing loss–a typically welcome loss, to be sure.
I should have known I was not suited for Wall Street when I started advocating then to my friends about taking a rest during this time. They thought I was crazy. My suggestion was–and still is– that women all be given one day off a month, to work from home, call in sick, cancel travel and meetings, and generally truncate anything that would involve external focus and effort. I believe sincerely that women would have fewer PMS symptoms, have easier menstrual flow, conceive babies more easily, and eventually understand their bodies so well that menopause would not be the “terror” that it is believed by many to be.
So. We can start in yoga class by being honest about our cycle, observe the temptation to do what “everyone” else is doing (remembering, of course, that all asanas, especially and including all the inversions, were designed by and for men), alert the teacher to the fact of our menstruation, and rest in one of these three poses. There are loads of others, but these in particular enhance flow, settle the mind, and allow us to examine more deeply the all powerful abdominal breath.
If you have questions, ask them here or come to my classes and ask.
i crave them like tastes
I’ve had to back away from my advanced yoga class, which is hard enough. And today, in the class I now take–still not a prenatal yoga class–I laid on the floor at the end of class, exhausted, and watched as my fellow classmates did pindasana and then its twist.
Ideally, the yoga practitioner, in my case a yogini, observes the fluctuations of the mind as they pass by the observing eye. In this particular case, I now observe and express the craving that came into my mind as I watched these practitioners do a pose that not too long ago, felt safe, comfortable, and challenging for me. I sought poses like this, in fact, because they quieted my mind and challenged the physical body simultaneously.
This experience led me to think: Surely we know now, as a yoga “culture,” what we know intuitively. Yoga is not about mashing the body into a shape for that goal alone, but rather, to stay in the pose and watch the reaction(s) of the mind. In my case, until the end of 2009, I will be watching my mind as I watch others’ poses. I post this reflection in honor of the attachment–ones that surprise me daily as my body swells and the lil’ lady grows–to what used to be “my practice.”
Yoga is indeed about letting go.
sigh, eat a cookie, it’s ok
or even lose sleep. just stop comparing yourself to how she looks, or if you do, at least consider the first picture!
and anyway there’s still the live puppy cam.
i just got off the phone with my husband, who is buying a black winter coat, a coat he does not currently own. the jacket is 40% off its original price, which is a great deal for December. he called to discuss the purchase, and to justify it he said,
“the thing is, i lack [a] black [coat].”
i thought this was a good justification for spending money, and it got me thinking about shopping in general, since many of us will me doing a lot of it in the next 20+ days.
a good way of shopping could be to buy the item only when
1) you want to walk out of the store wearing the item you like/love it so much,
2) you need that specific item because you actually do not have any (or one) of them.
another thing i’ve done today is watch this live puppy cam.
a few days ago i learned from a friend that an embryo’s heart starts beating at three weeks. though i’m not sure exactly (or scientifically) what happens from conception day up to day 21, i imagine that it’s a little like the intermission of the great 80′s game pacman, when they meet, and the two parts of the possibly-soon-to-be whole decide to merge. this newly merged entity then shimmies up to the uterine wall, attaches, with the wall forms the umbilical cord, and then, with a sigh, flips the switch to “on” and starts beating its heart.
my conclusion today, then, is that you actually can be half pregnant, for a short time.
i mean i had cancer
last night, talking with a student after my therapeutic class at smith farm healing center, i remembered that for all my teachers, students tend often to be the sagest.
This student has studied with me for more than a year, and she is recovering from cancer. she is young. i’ve been away from the class for a few weeks, and i was sharing with her some recent events in my life, and my reaction to what felt like a big disappointment this past week. before i could wax any level of philosophical about the experience, she smiled, shook one hand into the air as if flicking away my words, and said, “you know, you just never know why things happen. it could be that this is for the best.”
a lot of people say this when you express disappointment. in general i resist the flicking-away-of-feeling-let-down, because i question why disappointment, among other emotions, is so hard to tolerate and accept. but last night, my student went on to clarify that our conversation reminded her of one she had with her doctor last year. the doctor, also a woman, was in reassurance mode, telling my student that–now that her treatments were over and the cancer was officially in remission–”you’ll have a better year next year, for sure.”
and my student, still with a smile (though by this time a wry one), said to me, “I told my doctor, ‘you know, this year hasn’t really been all that bad. i mean, i had cancer and all, but as i think of it, the year was pretty good!’”
and so the attention goes
last night, in the yoga class i take, we spent a longer time than usual in the first two poses, down dog and handstand. then, to prepare for some other strength poses and backbends, we did a preparation for this pose. we were near, and with our backs to, the wall, and we had to press the tops of the feet into the wall to lengthen the spine and not give way to the low back.
i found the class very challenging, and i was focused on all sorts of things. but before this class, i had gotten a pedicure, and it hadn’t dried. so in doing this pose, with the tops of the feet and my painted toes pressed firmly into the wall, i lost the superficial benefits of the pedicure.
while i was in the pose, that’s what i was thinking about. during all the other poses, when my toes were not pressed into anything, i was focused on dropping my shoulder blades, lengthening my tailbone, observing my breath — among the requisite details for maintaining a safe and energetically charged asana. but during this preparation pose, i was not focused on anything other than the “ruin” of the time and money i’d just spent.
i don’t remember what the pose felt like. after that point, i occasionally gazed regretfully down at my toes and noticed my difficulty in staying present. at those times, i was not in my body, but in my memory, and in the desire for reality to be other than it was.
so i will not be getting pedicures anymore before yoga class.
the weather is, in fact, going to get worse.
i found this blog post on the wall street journal today describing several methods scientists could potentially use to control the climate. why not install huge solar mirrors to divert solar radiation, some are asking? please, yes, let’s spend money to send thousands of crop-dusting airplanes to blanket the arctic with engineed “particles,” others say.
the salient issue in any yoga or meditation class always comes back to control: what is in your sphere of influence, and what is not. one of the practices of raja yoga (the yoga we do in studios, the yoga of the mind) is to consider all possibilities. maybe crop-dusting planes in the artic is actually the answer. perhaps the long view is that this practice will save the earth.
i’ll be honest, though: it’s when i get to this level of justification–save the earth–that i have to stop and ask myself what we’re really considering here. what are we doing, and what are we reacting to?
the sudden hype over global climate change is obviously justified; only the diehards at this point are calling the rest of us chicken littles. but the question is: what are we trying to change and why? does anyone seriously think that a 4.5 billion year old rock won’t balance itself out, even if that means destroying everything on the planet that we–its squatters, effectively–call life?
crop-dusting the arctic is like taping the sprained ankle of a basketball player and telling him to get back on the court. as any fan has watched, this star might still be able to play and, position depending, will block, defend, and/or shoot for the rest of the game. but playing will in fact make that ankle worse, which in turn will lengthen the icing, xrays, and rehab when the game is over.
it isn’t even that our short-term, scientific solutions won’t help–the player with the sprained ankle might win the game. it’s rather that these scientific forays, and indeed the money and resources backing them, run the risk of diverting the attention from the real issue, which is where we actually are now. as a collective group of 5 billion people, and certainly the billions before us, we have created this.
the questions, then, are: what human practices have directly caused this problem? how do we stop them? how do we all accept responsibility for the fact that “developing” to this point has necessarily been derived of selfish, greedy, short-sighted, and in fact quite brilliant behavior and decisions? most important, is it possible for us to let go of the hubris of control, and to recognize that the 100 years we’re here, and any decision we make during that time, is not really going to impact the 4.5 billion more years this rock might keep spinning around the sun?
the point i’m making is that looking outward and upward is not always the place to go. the weather problems we are experiencing, and will continue to “suffer through,” are nothing more than a slap from earth, like any of our moms disciplining us as children because we reached for too many cookies at once. mom had a point: eat too many cookies, and you’ll get sick.
it’s nice to be a demographic
i observed this sensation last night thumbing through a catalog. sometimes it’s a comfort not to fight the grain, not to be so individual as to refuse to allow yourself the pleasure of receiving the efforts of people you’ll never know–these people, who are working day in and out to assess which daybed, rug, or wall hanging you’ll buy. of course we’re discussing money, so perhaps these supply-side people don’t care. on the other hand, as i (also) learned from a car commercial recently: “you’re our top priority because you’re the one in the driver’s seat.”
this leads me to a commercial that aired late during the academy awards. the commercial was for safeway’s organics line. a couple, both aryan and smiling, were sitting on a couch with blue and yellow tshirts. the tshirts had small writing on the chest of each actor.
the tshirts listed definitions (in the format of miriam webster) of the character these actors represented. i saw the commercial twice but didn’t look closely at the definitions until i saw, the second time, “intermediate yoga” on the woman’s shirt–this, in addition to something about her being funnier than she realizes.
since i am in the business of peddling peace, specifically the peace found through the practice of yoga, i became very interested in safeway’s message. is there enough of a demographic of “intermediate” 30-something yoginis (married to and/or dating and/or snuggling with blonde dudes on couches in broad daylight) to warrant this label on international TV with the oft-cited “billion people watching”? and if this is the case, does this woman represent a demograhpic of white, organic-eating, fair-trade-coffee-drinking, intermediate yoga practitioners out there? more to the point, as much as we in the yoga world may appreciate such marketing, how do you feel about having this particular woman-character represent your attempts to eat, love, and practice discovering union inside your self?