I tapped into a resource that helped me understand my body better.
I’ve been a fan of Yoga Spirit as it pioneer the use of online audio and webinars with leading yoga teachers and other experts, like Amy Weintraub, Leslie Kaminoff and Judy Hanson Lasater. It disappeared from the web for a while only to come back to life as part of YogaTherapyWeb.com. In January, the site turned itself into Yoga U. Most content requires payment for downloads, but there are a lot of free resources that can wet an appetite for the for-pay material.
I signed up for Tom Myers‘s two-session webinar: Fascial Fitness – An Emerging Revolution in Movement Science (January 25 and February 1). It also comes with other material, including some videos of fascial fitness routines. He wrote Anatomy Trains: Myofascial Meridians for Manual and Movement Therapists, 2nd edition and I plan on reading it as soon as I get through the dozen other books piled up on my desk. That’s why I signed up for the webinar — I can capture the essence of what Myers is teaching in a couple of hours. The first session clarified in my mind that I am on the right track in trying to deal with my peripheral neuropathy. He has an elegant compelling conceptual framework for parsing the body and its internal matrix, backed up by the latest scientific research on the role of fascia. In this webinars, he is tailoring his message specifically to yoga instructors and giving suggestions for optimizing sequencing to improve fascial fitness.
This webinar, along with other webinars and interviews, will be recorded and available for purchase at a later date at YogaU Online.
To protect my knees in compromising yoga positions, such as half pigeon, I normally stick a rolled-up hand towel behind my knee, pressed between my thigh and calf, to prevent my meniscus from being pinched.
Today I took my Yoga Tune Up Balls to class and used them in half-pigeon in place of the towel. With its uniform size and resilience, the ball fits snugly in the hallow created by my knee ligaments and seemed to generate more space in my joint. I will investigate what other poses which I can use the balls with.
I got the idea from doing one of Jill Miller’s lower body routines, in which I sit in hero’s pose, with the balls between my thighs and calves, and gradually work the ball position from just behind the knee to mid-calf, giving the muscles a massage by moving from side to side.
Her 20 minute talk hit some deep personal scars and led me to her site and then the book. While reading the book, I was undergoing all the problems with my peripheral neuropathy, and there was an amazing interplay between my myofascial release therapy and the central concepts of Brown’s book. On the masseuse’s table, I had to strip down to my boxers and bare myself to the therapist, communicate my pain and numbness, convey how one type of stroke was making me feel, and trust that he would be able address some of the constrictions of my tissues. I had to expose my physical vulnerability to be able to start healing.
Shame and numbness
On another level, I discovered from my reading of Brown’s book that I felt deep currents of shame and, indeed, shame may actually have been one of the strongest motivating forces in my life. Shame is a “fear of disconnection” that people might find out what I am really like. Shame is such a blunt instrument that I couldn’t use it all the time, but once it’s out, it’s hard to lock it away. One way of dealing with this sense of shame is to block it out by numbing it. Brown says you cannot numb just one emotion (in my case, shame), you end up blocking the whole emotional spectrum.
Although doctors might argue otherwise, my numbness was both emotional and physical, and the deaths of my parents and the disruption that those events brought to my life this year had worsened my peripheral neuropathy to the point that it was threatening my well-being. I was grasping so hard to to my personal facade that I was choking off parts of my body and soul. Taking pain medication was just another way of blocking out parts of my body, when I needed to get back in touch with them.
Brown’s book, which has the subtitle of “Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are,” does a great job of breaking down her approach to dealing with life and accepting the vulnerability of being imperfect, and then lays out 10 guideposts that can help anyone follow her map.
Brown has a manifesto that I keep posted near my desk and stashed in my shoulder bag, and it’s available as a colorful postcard. I am going to cite it in full because it conveys her message better than I can:
Authenticity is a daily practice.
Choosing authenticity means cultivating the courage to be emotionally honest, to set boundaries, and to allow ourselves to be vulnerable; exercising the compassion that comes from knowing that we are all made of strength and struggle and connected to each other through a loving and resilient human spirit; nurturing the connection and sense of belonging that can only happen when we let go of what we are supposed to be and embrace who we are.
Authenticity demands wholehearted living and loving — even when it’s hard, even when we’re wrestling with the shame and fear of not being good enough, and especially when the job is so intense that we’re afraid to let ourselves feel it.
Mindfully practicing authenticity during our most soul-searchng struggles is how we invite grace, joy and gratitude into our lives.
For the past month, I’ve been using the TriggerPoint GRID – Foam Roller on a nightly bases, just before I go to bed. I first bought a more traditional solid foam roller, but my body weight compresses the foam fairly quickly while the Trigger Point GRID has a rigid plastic tube that holds up to my weight. Trigger Point Performance Therapy, the manufacturer of the GRID, has lots of videos to guide you through exercise routines based on the grid. I work my back, things and calves. The New York Time had an article about the value of self-massage for athletes.
While the GRID does not have the focused, accurate touch of my massage therapist, Howard Rontal, it does sit in my office and I can use it whenever I want. I even took it to Buenos Aires because it takes up practically no space in a suitecase (stuff it full of socks). After being confined in a conference room all day, I’d rush back to my hotel room and relieve all the compressed stress.
I also noticed that my strength has increased for sustaining full boat pose (Paripurna Navasana): when I roll my calves and hamstrings over the GRID, I am propped up on my arms, moving forward and backwards. An added bonus since it’s one of the areas where I’ve been the weakest.
I was playing around with a sequence of photos taken at Thrive Yoga a while ago, and I blended them into a video sequence. It’s got the usual hackney cliches of transitions between stills, pans and zooms. But it was fun.
About 18 months ago, the site Yoga Spirit seemed to disappear from the Web when I was hoping to get one of its online yoga therapy courses. The domain was no longer valid. I googled the name and still could not it. I had to take it off my listing of yoga media.
Google’s Chrome browser offers a three-dimensional model that lets users zoom in and out of the human form, remove layers, and explore the body. You need to have the Canary beta version of Chrome. Other options are to use Firefox or Safari with an WebGL Implementation like Kronos. You can view the nervous and digestive systems, zoom in on the skeleton and bones, and also play around with how they are interrelated. You can term the body around to take a look from the back or side. you can also stick some names in the search box, like “vagus nerve” and the organ or part of the body is displayed.
I could see this as being useful for teacher training/yoga emersion class or for just learning what lies under the skin. Unfortunately, there is no browser applet for the “subtle body.”
I keep having to remind myself that for most people, yoga can appear really intimidating, complicated and alien. After six years, I love to plunge into the history, anatomy or psychology of yoga, but most beginners are worried that not nailing trikonasana as on the Yoga Journal cover will somehow impair their practice. That worry, bordering on fear, impairs their practice more than incorrect alignment.
So I appreciate a resource that tries to make yoga accessible. Today, I chanced across Five-Minute Yoga, belonging to Eve Johnson, a Vancouver-based Iyengar yoga instructor. Another reason for liking her blog is that yoga is her second career: she worked as a journalist mostly for The Vancouver Sun and CBC radio, similar to my case. She has a set of audio tapes of five minute yoga sessions aimed at beginners. You can even get it on a USB flash drive and take it anywhere.
Eve Johnson published a insightful review of Stefanie Syman’s book, The Subtle Body, in the Vancouver Sun [no longer available / MLS], which is how I came across her site.
Yesterday, I reviewed Trudie Styler’s Warrior Yoga and said that it was not appropriate for beginners. It occurred me that I knew exactly where to refer novices interested in good beginner videos, and it’s at Gaiam Yoga Club. About a year ago, I was asked to use the service for a month and comment. I wrote one entry and then my knee injury blew up my practice and diverted my energies. My trial pass ran out, and I forgot all about it.
But thinking about what makes a good beginner-focused video, I remembered the weekly videos of Rodney Yee and Coleen Saidman and realized that the online service offered nine hours of video, plus audiocasts, handouts and other assistance so it fits practically all the needs of a novice. Saidman and Yee demo all the poses, showing modifications and adjustments, progressing from simple to more complex. They fully describe all the “invisible” details that you need to know but will not see in a video. They keep up a steady banter, letting their joy in yoga shine through, while moving through sequences and stopping to emphasize details. You never got a sense that they’re talking down to you. The filming was confined to a studio so the videos are not as spectacular as the garden vistas in Styler’s DVD, but they are still quality productions.
Although Gaiam Yoga Club is charging $5 a week, which works out to about the price of a video per month or $65 for the full 12 week cycle, it really fills a gap in the instructional area. There is a free trial period and discounts. The videos can’t be downloaded, but you can save all the other material for later reference. Saidman and Yee also have a Gaiam DVD, The Practical Power of Yoga, which was broadcast on PBS last year as part of bonus gift in a pledge campaign. I didn’t see it so I don’t know if it’s similar to their Gaiam Yoga Club videos. I assume so.
Yee may not be the most highly esteemed yoga master instructor because he’s been at the forefront of commercializing yoga in books, videos, conferences, and workshops, as well as some flawed personal conduct that has offended the sensibilities of some, but is common, though not acceptable behavior outside the yoga scene. Yee and Saidman make an exceptional team in explaining yoga’s innards to novices.
Elephantbeans has brought together four great videos of yogis practicing in the Ashtanga shala at Mysore in India: Led Intermediate…mysore style. They are relatively short, but the quality is striking. It’s also ironic that an “intermediate” session would be so advanced.