I ran into a video about the liberation of a humpback whale ensnared in fish netting off the Mexican Pacific coast. A group of conservationist was filming whales and came across this animal, appearing to be close to death. The video shows how the people cut free the netting over at least an hour of patiently working with the whale. In the end, the last strands were cut and the whale was free. Within a few minutes, the group viewed a 30-minute display of the whale breaching the surf, slapping its tail and fins, and other aquatic acrobacy as a celebration of its reacquired freedom and, perhaps, even a gesture of gratitude to the humans who had intervened in her release from bondage and death.
This video has already been seen seven million so it’s already had its turn as a viral video on the Web, so it needs no push from me into the limelight. I still thought those leaps of animal joy out of the Pacific demonstrated the sheer emotion of freedom.
Have you ever visualize how blood flows through your body and returns to the heart?
Gil Hedley, the anatomist who has done so much to make us rethink our understanding of our bodies by doing the detail work of picking apart corpses, has a playful side to him and he has put it to use in explaining the synchronized flow of blood from the heart out to the capillaries of the extremities and back.
Gil has several other videos on YouTube, including the now famous Fuzz Speech about fascia and stretching, synthesizing why we do yoga to “melt the fuzz.” You can get more information on his website, including his teaching schedule, and his Facebook page. If you are not among the 344,000-plus who have seen the Fuzz Speech, you should watch it and let the message sink in.
For those with more time on their hands, they can watch his entire video series, Integral Anatomy, all seven hours of it, which has been free on the web for since February.
I chanced across this reference, Fascia and Structural Integration with Robert Schleip, who is one of the leader in the expanding understanding of the myo-fascial system in the body, and the video:
Finally, an article in reference to a DVD that gives some links to other resources. It all just reminds me that I have some much more to investigate about the mind-body connection.
Brought to you by the Insight Meditation Community of Washington (IMCW) and Tricycle magazine.
Oh, wait. I am too late to make much of a difference. Practically all the all day passes have sold out. You may be able to get individual tickets for films or dharma talks. On Sunday night, Krishna Das will be chanting a tribute to Ram Das, but you’d want to tickets in advance.
For Ryan, the raisin was the beginning of a transformation. The retreat, conducted by Jon Kabat-Zinn, founder of the Stress Reduction Clinic at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, led Ryan on a search into how the practice of mindfulness — sitting in silence, losing oneself in the present moment — could be a tonic for what ails the body politic.
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.
More precisely, the second week is drawing to a close.
I missed yoga classes on Tuesday and today because of other commitments. But I did fit in a restorative practice on those evenings. The biggest revelation for me was seeing the accumulative payoff of regular practice. On Saturday, in Susan Bowen’s 2/3 vinyasa flow class, she had us do wheel pose five times. I was able to get up for each one. Even more surprising, I did not do a preliminary step of going from bridge pose (Setu Bandha Sarvangasana) to wheel supporting some weight on my head and then in full wheel (Urdhva Dhanurasana). I did a bridge in which I made sure that my legs were doing all the work of sustaining the pose, my back was arched and then I placed my hands on the mat by my ears and pushed straight up. It was a smooth movement. In the past, the half-way head on the mat modification seemed to jam my neck into my shoulder girdle, making it much harder to push up into full wheel. I could feel the pressure on my spine.
I had seen this trick done by Sadie Nardini probably in a YouTube video. I had been able to do it a couple of times, but then my practice got completely disrupted and I lost the strength to push up. Doing it on Saturday just showed me that I had recovered enough to strength and improve my spinal flexibility to handle this power move into wheel.
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.
Seane Corn was the focus on a Speaking on Faith feature on Yoga: Meditation in Action in September last year (How I missed this, I don’t know. I suspect it was because I was absorbed by my injured knee). I’ve mention her before in the blog because of her yoga outreach program, Off the Mat, Into the World. There is a podcast or you can listen online, but there’s a lot more to explore that goes beyond the radio program. As a teaser, The video that follows is from Yoga Journal’s Yoga from the Heart and was recorded at a conference. Seane mentions that she practices as a prayer for her father fighting cancer, and that touched me because my brother is going through the same struggle. I was in awe of Seane’s control and pace during the Sun Salutation.