Samatha Yoga https://samathayoga.com Union with Tranquility Mon, 22 Oct 2018 06:27:11 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.9.8 https://samathayoga.com/files/2016/10/cropped-samatha-favicon-32x32.png Samatha Yoga https://samathayoga.com 32 32 Bedside Yoga for End-of-Life Care https://samathayoga.com/2018/10/22/bedside-yoga-for-end-of-life-care/ https://samathayoga.com/2018/10/22/bedside-yoga-for-end-of-life-care/#respond Mon, 22 Oct 2018 06:18:24 +0000 https://samathayoga.com/?p=1022 In 2015 I was asked to sub a class for older adults, Gentle Hatha Yoga. The teacher was going to be gone for a couple of weeks and I was in the system as a sub, the club was running out of options and gave me a ring. After a couple of weeks I was asked if I’d be interested in taking over the class permanently. Apparently the class had asked if they could “keep” me, they’d been unhappy with the current teacher and felt like I was a better fit for them. That was when my passion for working with older adults was ignited.

Now I teach 10 classes a week that are for adults 60 and older. Younger folks come too, the classes are perfect for people who need a class that is a little slower and has an instructor that’s also a yoga therapist! This year I even presented a poster and a short talk at the Yoga Service Conference, sharing the Yoga in Chairs class I created and offer at the Mt. Scott Community Center three mornings a week.

In working with this age group I see people process a lot of change and grief. Grief for the physical ability they once had. Grief at losing parents. Grief at losing spouses. Grief at losing friends. Then there is the grief of a student who leaves classes because an illness has reached a point where going to yoga is no longer feasible. Having predominantly older students means that someone dear to me is always processing one or many of these kinds of grief.

I feel well prepared for this role of holding space for grief for my older students. When I once practiced with a Zen community one of my service positions was keeping the Merit List. This was a list of people close to members of the community who were either in distress of some nature or who had recently died. In my community we chanted the name of someone recently deceased for 49 days; the time it takes the soul to cross the Bardo. Sometimes I received the news of a death before my teachers. It taught me to be present to grief and to hold space for the grieving.

Years ago, when my teacher, Molly Lannon Kenny, lived in Seattle, Washington, she helped create a program for a hospice center there, the Bailey-Boushay House. She mentioned it during my time training as an Integrated Movement Therapist and whenever she did I’d think to myself that I wanted to know more about bringing yoga into hospice centers. Grief is a singular journey for each of us, we process our losses differently from person to person and, I think, from loss to loss. The presence I developed in my Zen practice, along with the practice I have in holding space for my students, I know will serve me in offering yoga interventions to the dying and those affected by the dying; family & friends and hospice staff.

This December I’m getting my chance to know more; I’m attending a small retreat with my teacher in Mexico to offer Bedside Yoga for end-of-life care. This is a perfect fit with the advanced training I’ve already done to offer integrative yoga to older adults. I’m thrilled to be attending this and it has already prompted me to take care of things like getting a passport with my married name and applying for pre-check on flights since I’m going to be helping with the Yoga Service Conference for the next few years, which means flights to New York.

I’m trying to find ways to raise more money, hoping to ultimately make this training debt-free! if you’ve got a few bucks to spare, I’m running a fundraising campaign and I’d be so grateful for your support.

 

 

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Child’s Pose – Balasana https://samathayoga.com/2018/07/02/balasana/ Mon, 02 Jul 2018 22:37:45 +0000 https://samathayoga.com/?p=974

Pose of the Month: Balasana, “Child’s Pose”

Sanskrit:

Bāla – Child, infant

Bālāsana – Child’s Pose

 

If you’ve ever attended a yoga class there’s a good chance you’ve heard an instructor say something along these lines, “If you need a break, just go into Child’s Pose.

However, there is a general assumption that Child’s Pose is a restful, restorative posture for everyone. I personally do find this to be a restful pose and it feels good to my lower back, gently stretching the lower back, an area I experience chronic pain. For many folks the suggestion to go to Child’s Pose to rest is poor advice. This posture may well be far from restful and a student new-to-yoga would be at a loss as to what to do when they do need a rest.

Students with conditions affecting the feet, ankles, knees, hips, back, shoulders, or neck might find this posture very painful; notice how many joints I listed there! Larger-bodied students might find this pose very uncomfortable. Some students have conditions where having head down is contraindicated. These are only a few examples of the types challenges people face when advised to go to Child’s Pose to rest.

With that in mind, what are the ways we can help with this. Here’s the method for going into the classic, Hatha Yoga version of Child’s Pose:

 

  • Kneel with feet touching.
  • Fold belly over thighs, bowing over legs and extending arms out.
  • Rest forehead on the mat.
  • Keep belly tucked in, reach hips toward heels.
  • lengthen through spine, ribs and arms.
  • Breath open the back body.

Take the Pressure Off

Consider trying a the variation where you have the big toes touching but the knees up to mat-width apart. This variation takes pressure off the belly when bowing forward.

 

 

 


Take the Weight Off

Use the blanket to relieve the pressure to the ankles. If the head doesn’t come to the floor easily, add a block to support the head and keep the neck long.

 

 

 

 

 

 

A blanket can also be used to support the weight at the shins, rather than on knees and shins.

Turn it Upside-down

Don’t be afraid to take an upside-down approach! Laying on the back and hugging the knees in with the hands*, either on top of or behind the knees, will give a similar stretch to the body without putting all the weight onto the joints the way kneeling does.

*A strap is also a great way to pull the legs in.

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Why We Do Restorative Yoga https://samathayoga.com/2018/06/19/why-we-do-restorative-yoga/ https://samathayoga.com/2018/06/19/why-we-do-restorative-yoga/#comments Tue, 19 Jun 2018 22:00:51 +0000 https://samathayoga.com/?p=976 This post originally appeared on the Yoga Service Council blog in April 2018.

Why do we do Restorative Yoga?”

Recently a student asked me this question at the beginning of a class. They added, “I mean, it feels good, but what good is it?”

Restorative Yoga is unlike any other approach to yoga. There’s no balancing, litttle strengthening, and only a bit of stretching. A class may never leave the floor. How is it yoga?

I responded that Restorative Yoga is when we practice resting. While movement is a part of yoga, so is learning to rest. Restorative Yoga helps rest in a way that restores the mind / body / spirit system.

The second and third of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras explains why we undertake the practice of yoga.

1.2: Yoga is the settling of the mind into silence.

1.3: When the mind has settled, we are established in our essential nature, which is unbounded consciousness

More often, the third Sutra talks about how we dwell in our true nature, “Then the Seer (Self) abides in Its own nature.”

When we look deeper into that word, “abide”, particularly in how it has been used across other spiritual traditions, and we come to the belief that to abide is a kind of deep resting. When we’re settled, we rest in such a way that we connect with our essential nature, our True Self.

Why do we need practice resting?

We now live with constant connectivity, we’re always on and alert for the next thing to react to. The lines between work time and personal time are blurred for many people as we’ve become more public in our lives and always connected. In our society we’re rewarded for “going the extra mile” and encouraged to give “110%”.

As a result, we’re lousy at resting. We sleep, but we go from one state of sleep to the next with little to no actual rest. What sleep we do get is usually inadequate to the needs of real rest. People fall into bed, writing one last email, only to awake exhausted, checking a device for what disasters transpired during sleep.

Living this way is not only physically exhausting, but creates mental fatigue and constant low energy. Despite incessant signals to rest from our body and mind, we continue do more. We live in a culture that values productivity, contributors, sending a strong message that your value as a person is measured by how much you’ve done and what you earned.

We’re told to both work hard and, ever more commonly, play even harder. This unsustainable model keeps us in a state of hyperarousal. Our Sympathetic Nervous System (SNS) works overtime to help us be alert to threats to our way of life and we channel the urge to fight or flee into the energy to keep being productive, keep reaching the next goal.

The more activated the SNS is, the harder it becomes to rest. Resting becomes elusive, just ask anyone who has ever struggled with insomnia. It can feel like we’re stuck “on”.

If we don’t learn how to drop out of the high alert state into real rest, our bodies and our mental-emotional state show strain. Fatigue can become standard until we are forced to stop through crises, physical or mental, or both. No longer able to fight or flee, we go into the third option of the SNS, we collapse.

When do we truly rest in a way that heals and restores us?

The path for healing for this state of hyperarousal lies in the Parasympathetic Nervous System (PNS), the “rest and digest” system that enables the optimal state of resting in the essential self.

The PNS supplies the energy that repairs torn muscle fibers and breaks down the contents of the digestive system into the nutrient components needed throughout the body. It is also the system that repairs and creates new connections in the brain as well as increases production of both gray and white matter.

This energy, the energy to repair the whole mind / body system at a cellular level, is also the energy that powers our creativity. That idea about stress fueling creativity turns out to be inaccurate. When we’re stressed, our systems are focused on keeping us alive not on how to write a novel, paint watercolors, or solve a problem. It is the rest state of the PNS that allows for the full flowering of our creativity and curiosity.

Our understanding of the the SNS has created medications to suppress reactivity, helping keep various mental states, like anxiety and depression, from becoming overwhelming. However, there is no medication to turn up the the PNS. That’s where Restorative Yoga comes into the picture.

A Restorative Yoga session will have gentle movements and fully-supported postures held for several minutes. In these held positions the students practice resting. To encouraging settling rest they might take some large in-breaths with long exhales, then return to a natural breath. In my classes I remind students to feel movement in the body on the in-breath and practice letting the body relax into the support of the props with the exhale. Just that, inhaling gentle awareness and exhaling into a state of effortlessness.

In this state of resting in awareness the PNS energy arises and we experience healing on all levels. During Restorative Yoga the less the student actually does, the less effort they make, the more beneficial it is for them, the more activated the PNS becomes.

Rarely in life do we get maximum results for the least effort, but in Restorative Yoga this is exactly how it works. We slow down in order to fully recharge; explore ways to step away from reactivity and into calm abiding . We practice believing ourselves as worthy of nurturing and stillness.

When we allow ourselves to rest in this complete way, we are not only taking steps to repair our whole mind / body system, we’re also abiding in our essential nature.

 

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Just Enough https://samathayoga.com/2018/06/12/just-enough/ https://samathayoga.com/2018/06/12/just-enough/#respond Tue, 12 Jun 2018 23:38:19 +0000 https://samathayoga.com/?p=965 Last month Trinity College Dublin released a study* that identifies how the brain functions when prāṇāyāma helps us to focus. The study revealed activity in an area of the brainstem, the locus coeruleus, which produces noradrenaline. This chemical helps us to focus our thoughts and emotions. When we’re stressed out or anxious, too much noradrenaline is produced and we have a hard time focusing. When we’re feeling blue, too little is produced and the result is a difficult time focusing. There is a sweet spot, we need just enough noradrenaline to function best.

I’ve been sharing this information with my students, noting how both mindful breathing and focused breath control, prāṇāyāma exercises, help the locus coeruleus to produce just enough noradrenaline to help us focus. In regards to aging brains, this study begins to look into why the longtime meditators have more “youthful” brains; losing less mass than brains of non-meditators. Reduced loss of brain mass may be related to a lowered risk of dementia.

It may be that the state of just enough noradrenaline is the state in which our brain makes new connections, helping us to maintain neuroplasticity. This is not only promising in regards to aging, but also significant in how we approach living with ADHD and PTSD. Empowering people with tools they can use, on their own, anywhere would not only provide relief and support, but rebuild the sense of capability for someone who may feel helpless in the face of anxiety, anger, and depression. I know in my own journey with C-PTSD, prāṇāyāma helped me feel less powerless, particularly when I’m anxious. I love that prāṇāyāma is not only a tool to help in the moment, but that it may support long-term healing through rebuilding connectivity in the brain.

Learning about the function of the locus coeruleus was not only fascinating from a neuroscience perspective, but it resonates with me in my practice as well. In Buddhist practice, we often refer to our path as the Middle Way. This often is related to a tale of a musician going to the Buddha for advice on how to practice. The Buddha responded by asking the musician about the strings on a sitar; what would happen if they were too tight? What if they’re too loose? The musician responded that when too tight, the strings break, and when too loose, no sound is produced.

“That is how you practice. Neither too tight or too loose.”, is said to have been the Buddha’s reply. That is the middle way.

This is an important lesson to take into the whole of our practice. Not being too rigid in any way and keeping enough discipline that we’re not slack. In Western society we’re all too often encouraged to “give 110%”, which is the very definition of too much and explains why burnout is so common. I myself lived many years practicing along the “too tight” mindset and was nearly hospitalized due to exhaustion.

Not only has rediscovering the middle way of practice been a huge benefit for me personally, it has informed the work I do with older adults. Now the majority of my clients and students are age 60 and above, I find myself guiding others in how to find the middle path between challenge and rest. Exploring together a practice of allowing ourselves to make just enough effort that we can feel exertion, but are present, breathing, and even enjoying our bodies. A practice focused on “Just Enough” creates space for my students to be more forgiving to their bodies, less stuck in the energy-draining efforts of resisting and denying the changing of the body.

*There’s a great summary of the study available from Trinity College Dublin as well.

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First Snow https://samathayoga.com/2018/02/21/first-snow/ https://samathayoga.com/2018/02/21/first-snow/#respond Wed, 21 Feb 2018 20:33:43 +0000 https://samathayoga.com/?p=950 First Snow

The snow
began here
this morning and all day
continued, its white
rhetoric everywhere
calling us back to why, how,
whence such beauty and what
the meaning; such
an oracular fever! flowing
past windows, an energy it seemed
would never ebb, never settle
less than lovely! and only now,
deep into night,
it has finally ended.
The silence
is immense,
and the heavens still hold
a million candles, nowhere
the familiar things:
stars, the moon,
the darkness we expect
and nightly turn from. Trees
glitter like castles
of ribbons, the broad fields
smolder with light, a passing
creekbed lies
heaped with shining hills;
and though the questions
that have assailed us all day
remain — not a single
answer has been found –
walking out now
into the silence and the light
under the trees,
and through the fields,
feels like one.

–Mary Oliver

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The Guest House https://samathayoga.com/2018/02/21/the-guest-house/ https://samathayoga.com/2018/02/21/the-guest-house/#respond Wed, 21 Feb 2018 20:30:52 +0000 https://samathayoga.com/?p=947 The Guest House

This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they are a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice.
meet them at the door laughing and invite them in.

Be grateful for whatever comes.
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.

— Jellaludin Rumi,
translation by Coleman Barks

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Loving-Kindness for Anxious Times https://samathayoga.com/2018/02/21/loving-kindness-for-anxious-times/ https://samathayoga.com/2018/02/21/loving-kindness-for-anxious-times/#respond Wed, 21 Feb 2018 20:24:06 +0000 https://samathayoga.com/?p=939 The endless cycle of daily outrage and despair over events of the day is exhausting. There is so much to worry about; climate change, Supreme Court vacancies for those of us in the U.S.A., the rights of asylees and refugees, the rising tide of white nationalism, etc. These are anxious times and at times it can feel overwhelming. Our resources, energetic and financial, are strained and it can feel like we have nothing left to offer. Those times are the perfect time to turn to loving-kindness mediation for ourselves and others.

I first learned about Mettā meditation when I practiced with a Zen Buddhist community. One of my teachers at that time, Jan Chozen Bays Roshi, believed that loving-kindness practice was the best thing you could turn to in any situation. Anxious for yourself, Mettā is the right choice. Anxious for someone else? Angry? Despair for a mass tragedy half a world away? Outrage and sorrow and children being shot in school? In all these situations, Chozen would remind us, Mettā is the right response.

 Mettā, loving-kindness from Pali, is considered one of the four sublime attitudes of an enlightened being, the Brahmavihāras, which also include compassion, empathetic joy and equanimity. Applying Mettā to our own lives helps us to treat ourselves and others with greater compassion. Starting from a place of self-care and friendliness within ourselves gives us the resources to offer compassion and love to all living beings.

While Mettā meditation is usually associated with Buddhist communities, it arises out of the rich tradition found in Vedic texts. The Upanishads discuss the virtue of Maitrī, also found alongside compassion, empathetic joy and equanimity, being the the first of the Four Immeasurables, the Apramāṇa. These become the Brahmavihāras in Buddhist practice. Practicing the virtue of Maitrī is also encouraged in Jain texts and was included by Patanjali in the Yoga Sutras.

Mettā gives focus to our natural responses and helps us to be soothed enough to respond more fully. If we find ourselves still unable to respond, we can use Mettā practice to hold ourselves gently rather than fall into negative self-judgement about our inability to somehow to rise to the occasion as we think we ought to.

How do do Mettā Meditation: 

For you practice you will find a comfortable, seated posture. I’ve also found this to be a rich practice to bring to walking meditation as well as something for my busy mind to do while I’m riding on public transportation, stuck in traffic, waiting in lines, etc.

You will do four rounds of offering Mettā.

  1. For yourself.
  2. For someone you care for (personal love).
  3. For someone you feel neutral to (impersonal love).
  4. For someone you have a difficult relationship with.

The phrases used during each round may vary and you can change things to suit your specific practice that moment. I personally use two phrases for most of my Mettā meditation practices.

May I be free from anxiety and fear.
May I be peaceful and happy*.

For the second round the “I” would change to the name of the person you care for. The third round you would identify the neutral person, e.g., “May the cashier at the market be free from anxiety and fear.” In the third round you would again use the name of the difficult person you are directing  to.

Chozen would remind us that some days that word “happy” feels too difficult to work with. Rather than berate ourselves for being unable to wish happiness to someone we perceive as doing great harm, we should instead change that wording to, “May that person be peaceful and content.”

I often like to end classes with an inclusive set of Mettā phrases:

May all living beings be free from anxiety and fear.
May all living beings be peaceful and content.

Mettā Variations:

There are lots of variations of these phrases, find or create ones that resonate for you. Here are some additional examples to consider.

From the Metta Institute

May I be happy.
May I be well.
May I be safe.
May I be peaceful and at ease.

From Buddhist teacher Jack Kornfield

May I be filled with lovingkindness.
May I be safe from inner and outer dangers.
May I be well in body and mind.
May I be at ease and happy.

Traditional Tibetan Buddhist Prayer from Padmasambhava Buddhist Center:

May all beings have happiness and the cause of happiness.
May they be free of suffering and the cause of suffering.
May they never be disassociated from the supreme happiness which is without suffering.
May they remain in the boundless equanimity, free from both attachment to close ones and rejection of others.

 

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Loving My Body https://samathayoga.com/2018/01/31/body-appreciation/ https://samathayoga.com/2018/01/31/body-appreciation/#comments Wed, 31 Jan 2018 21:34:13 +0000 https://samathayoga.com/?p=930 New Year’s is a traditional time for new beginnings. I began studying yoga in January 2003, one of those many people trying out yoga for the first time. Overwhelmingly there is a message to change your body. Holidays are over, you overate, and clearly it is time to start working on that swimsuit body. People begin weight loss programs, buy countless books, join fitness centers, and otherwise spend billions of dollars, estimated at $60 billion in 2016, on trying to have a different body.

I know, I’ve been one of them. I come from a family of body-obsessed dieters. I cannot even recall when I first began to diet with my Mother, but I’m sure I didn’t need to lose weight when I did it. As adolescence hit I hated my changing body and the attention it got. Once I went away to college I put on more weight. I kept putting it on until my early 30s, I felt more comfortable in my large body.

When I was diagnosed with Degenerative Disc Disease one of the first things I was told to consider was weight loss. At the time I was also receiving news that I had very high cholesterol and I’m from a family where heart disease and strokes mortally affect the women. So I set about to lose weight like I was told to.

At first it was easy, I had decided to become vegan as part of both my yoga practice, particularly when I became a teacher and wanted to find ways to really live my practice, and my deepening practice in a Buddhist community. That dietary change had dramatic, entirely unexpected, benefits to my health. My cholesterol dropped by over 100 points and the ratios were now ideal. My allergies improved noticeably and I stopped having sinus infections, leading to lung infections, multiple times a year. I lost 100 pounds with ease.

My back pain didn’t improve.

Then it stopped being easy and I really wanted to get back down to a size I was when I was at 18. At time point my physician wasn’t encouraging weight loss any longer, my change was profound and more than hoped for. I was the one who kept pushing, falling prey to the constant dieting I’d done throughout adolescence. When the loss slowed down I turned it into a project.

I used multiple websites, and eventually apps for my phone as well, to meticulously track every calorie in and out in my day. I rigorously kept under 1500 calories a day while pursuing an increasingly vigorous yoga practice. After two years in that mode I’d lost 50 more pounds and was down to a Size 8. I’d made it.

My back pain never was changed by weight loss. Yoga remains the single most beneficial tool in managing my pain.

In the past 10 years since I made that goal I’ve regained 40 pounds. Given that most people gain back all of what they lost and more, I’ve done really well. I’m about the size I was when I left college, Size 14.

This January came around and I felt the siren song of weight loss. I could do it again. I have bins of too small clothing I’m saving for when I drop that weight again. I could devote most of my free time to obsessively tracking calories again, becoming an internal bully to not eat more calories than I am “allowed”, and constantly avoiding social engagements where people might comment on my not eating. I can turn it into a project and do it again, “It is only 40 pounds this time!!”, sings the song.

A lot has changed though. In becoming an Integrated Movement Therapist I’ve become devoted to helping people cultivate friendship with their bodies. I interrupt my students fixating on weight and body size as being linked to actual health, reminding them that healthy has a variety of shapes and sizes.

It really hit me this January that I simply cannot tell my students that weight is not an indicator of health when I am spending all my time obsessing over calories and how to push myself to lose those 40 pounds again. While I can teach postures I cannot do myself, I cannot teach people to see themselves and whole and complete, just as they are, when I’m bullying myself into weight loss.

My body has seen me through some truly hellacious experiences. Despite being in chronic pain, my body moves me trough teaching 5-6 days a week. I have to be careful. mindful of my body more now, approaching 50 years of age and having lived in chronic pain for 18 years, but my body still supports me doing so many things. So this year, for the first time in decades, I’m resolving to love and appreciate my body, just as it is.

My body isn’t a problem, it isn’t a project to be managed and solved.

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Generous Compassion https://samathayoga.com/2017/12/31/generous-compassion/ https://samathayoga.com/2017/12/31/generous-compassion/#comments Sun, 31 Dec 2017 15:52:48 +0000 https://samathayoga.com/?p=921 Generosity is a practice that measurably improves our life. The act of generosity is usually portrayed as giving material goods or money. The winter season is full of year-end appeals for donations, this being an important time of year for these funding drives. Marketing at this time of year encourages us to give lavishly to others and to ourselves, worry about the debt later. While we can distract ourselves, numb ourselves with material wealth, it ultimately doesn’t create happiness.

The focus on generosity as an act of material giving leaves out a variety of opportunities to practice generosity. We can be generous with our time, from volunteering our time to taking a moment to listen to a friend who needs a kind ear. We can be generous when we choose to be compassionate and patient instead of giving into frustration when we deal with irritations we run into from day-to-day. We can choose to treat ourselves with kindness instead of listening to negative self-judgement.

This month, I’m particularly getting to practice with that last one as I address some long overdue dental work. I’ve had some pretty terrible experiences with dentists in the past, including being repeatedly shamed for having anxiety. I also have an intersection of childhood trauma and dental work that makes the having dental treatment tremendously difficult for me. At the beginning of the month I had the whole 3.5 hour experience of having full x-rays taken, major cleaning, and an exam. It was exhausting and my tender gums are still not wanting anything crunchy in my mouth.

After that, relatively endurable experience, and in order to really maximize the meager dental insurance benefit I have, I scheduled two crowns to be done the week before Christmas. That turned into a root canal, my first ever, followed by the crown later in the week. This means I’ve another crown, the dentist suspects a second root canal too, to plan in 2018. I also have a tooth with what look like an unusual, in that it is in a straight line, pattern of decay, that will be evaluated in mid-January by a specialist as it may well need removal and an implant. I’m trying to take this in stride and be both vocal, consistent, and transparent with my new oral care-providers; making sure they know exactly how I am doing with appointments, during and afterward, and just how severe my dental anxiety is, and why.

With this added load of anxiety this month I’ve been focusing on keeping my energy up so I can teach my classes and connect with people I love. While teaching is tiring, it helps me to feel grounded and balanced; connecting with my students and clients truly lifts my spirits as well. I’m continuing to practice telling people I’m grateful instead of apologizing for what I see as personal failings, something I wrote about last month. I’m using my mindfulness practice to catch when anxiety is steering me into the dangerous shoals of negative self-judgement and shame, instead finding what might soothe my energy in that moment. I’m taking anxiety medication without getting caught up on some idea that I should be better at all this already; accepting that not everything can be “yoga’d” away, yet.

On Christmas Eve a storm arrived in the morning and we spent the day watching ice form on the plants and roads. We hunkered down, made lasagna together, and enjoyed one another’s company. We’re starting to invite people over again, but also keeping things a little smaller and more simple. Our New Year’s Eve was spent having dinner together and trying to stay up until midnight. We danced with the dogs wth the music on loud, so as to drown out the fireworks people were setting off, then went to bed.

Looking forward to exploring more posts, more pictures of yoga, and podcasts in the coming year. I’ll personally be making more art and committing to the hard work to dismantle the shame I have around money and my body.

 

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Choose Gratitude https://samathayoga.com/2017/11/28/choose-gratitude/ https://samathayoga.com/2017/11/28/choose-gratitude/#respond Tue, 28 Nov 2017 21:08:00 +0000 https://samathayoga.com/?p=913 I’d had a plan to write about the slippery slope of using comparison as your gratitude practice, how it robs you of the joy of being truly grateful. Then I saw some great advice about choosing gratitude over apologies. That lead me to a charming comic of this advice by artist Yao Xiao.

Sometimes an apology is right on. I forget to take care of something, that’s a good time to apologize with sincerity. However, sometimes we fall into the habit of apologizing for ourselves when we could be focusing on our gratitude for someone instead.

I seriously love this idea. First of all, it refocuses a situation on the positive, being grateful. Instead of jumping to apologize, focusing on perceived negative behavior, move towards gratitude. It also calls people into awareness of their own kind behavior, it creates a connection around gratitude. Someone might not even think they’re doing anything special by listening to you try to talk through a problem, but they are and it is so much better to thank them for their kind attention and perspecitve than to apologizing for “rambling”.

This resonates with me so much since I tend to jump to apologies for what I perceive as my “failing” somehow. This response was habituated through years of interactions with my abusive Mother, toxic family, and a couple of deeply dysfunctional relationships in my 20s and 30s. Getting into negative self-judgement goes hand-in-hand with the apologizing; I’m always looking for my faults. As a child I learned it was easier to call attention to myself, point out the negative judgement first, rather than be caught off guard by a family member. Having an unpredictable, abusive parent also meant that I often apologized even if I’d not done anything wrong, apologies soothed my Mother.

The whole idea of choosing not to apologize, and instead choose connecting with another person through gratitude, feels a little radical to me. My initial response is to wonder what the other person is going to think if I don’t call out my error? Are they going to think I don’t care if I don’t apologize?

On Monday morning I was given the perfect opportunity to test out this new approach. I was late to teach my morning class. I was moving slowly that morning and had a headache. There had also been a serious traffic incident that closed the interstate near my home, the way I go to teach. I made my circuitous way in to teach, feeling grateful that at least the room would be unlocked and the props out already.

It was a great plan, but it turned out the class before mine had been cancelled and everything was locked up. My students were all milling around in the lobby! I got the key, unlocked everything, and got the yoga props out. As I took the key back to the office, I called over my shoulder, “Thanks for waiting for me!”.

When we’d all sat down for our Yoga in Chairs class I thanked everyone for their patience and good humor on a morning that felt harried and off the track already! I received gracious reassurance that everyone was glad I’d arrived safely and it wasn’t that late!

What a shift that was! Instead of stewing in my own negative self-judgement for not leaving earlier and being late, I was basking in the compassion and generosity of my students.

I shared with them all what I’d read and challenged them to give it a try in their own lives; replacing apologies for gratitude. Some students shared that they appreciated having my gratitude, that it just felt better than the usual, “I’m sorry I’m late!” It felt like we made a connection.

Like all gratitude practices, we make a mindful choice to choose gratitude. We’re always looking for what we’re grateful for in each moment, there’s nearly always something. We’re choosing connection through gratitude instead of apologies rooted in negative self-judgement.

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