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.
I’ve been asked to review a new yoga DVD that Gaiam will be releasing later this month: Trudie Styler’s Warrior Yoga. In case that name does not sound familiar, think wife of Sting — you know, the rock star who “practiced yoga so that he could have tantric sex with his wife for hours on end” and earned a spot in mainstream consciousness (Well, Sting actually waffled on that claim, something about being drunk at the time, or something like that, because the story seems to change over time, but he and his wife do practice yoga; that part is true). Trudie Styler is an actress, producer and environmental advocate in her own right, as well as being a fifty-something mother of four, so I guess she does have a “warrior” quality about her. This DVD seems to be about more than just yoga for (sexual) fitness’s sake. In fact, Gaiam’s advance work seems to highlight life style choices and environmental sustainability as much as yoga styles.
Styler herself does not claim to be a yoga instructor, more a yoga evangelist. For yogic inspiration, she has recruited James D’Silva, a Pilates-slash-Yoga-slash-dance instructor who was borned in Gao, India and moved to England young. He has become London’s version of “trainer to the stars,” helping the likes of Madonna and other celebrities. He has a wellness center, Bombay Gymkahana, in London. He has been working with Sting and Styler with their private practice for more than five years.
A portion of the proceeds of this DVD is being donated to a UNICEF Drinking Water Project in Ecuador for rainforest residents whose water supply has been polluted by petroleum exploitation.
Once I’ve had a chance to view the DVD with care, I’ll provide my take on it.
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.
Kira Ryder, a West Coast yoga teacher, is one of the rising lights featured in the “21 Under 40” article in Yoga Journal’s March 2008 issue. She was early to exploit the advantages of video to open a window into practice. She has 40 videos stashed at LuluBandhas’s YouTube Channel. I especially liked her set of six videos on “Opening the Feet” — yes, you heard me right. Six videos, between 4 and 10 minutes each, on loosening up rigid feet. Just what I need. She also has Lulu Vu, which is her online video outlet for full-length classes, home practice shorts, clips from her teacher training and workshops. She also has a ChannelYoga [MLS: domain names are no longer resolving so the URL may have lapsed] which highlight non-instructional videos (some links are broken). Kira’s studio, Lulu bandha’s is in Ojai, CA, near LA. She also has a blog
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.
Inspired Yoga is getting into the swing of Obama Inauguration with Inaugurating the Sacred featuring master teacher Saul David Raye, stretching from today, January 15 to Monday, January 19. There are too many sessions to mention here specifically (yoga, Thai massage, meditation, chanting). In addition, there’s an Om Inaugural Ball on Sunday evening, January 18. Many out-of-town guests will be showing up at Inspired Yoga. More power to them. Recently, the studio and its owner director, Kyra Anastasia Sudofsky, were featured on CNN about the relief that yoga provides stressed out Washingtonians.
“What I’ve been found, no matter what age we are, we can build healthy muscle tissue or we can rot. And the choice is always ours. And I’m not into rot.”
Forest Yoga classes are intense and physically demanding, focused on physical core strength and body integrity. They hurt, but I know that they target areas that I need to strengthen to get to the next level. I find it a nice counterbalance to vinyasa classes that emphasize ease of movement, balance and flexibility. There are not many instructors that are certified to teach Forest Yoga, so probably the easy way to incorporate some of her techniques is to her DVD Strength & Spirit at her website. If you want to read articles and interviews, she has an exhaustive selection.
Dan Rather reports on “Mind Science” for HDNet. He draws on the partnership between the Dalai Lama and the Life Mind Institute, as well the recent book by Sharon Begley that I’ve already written about here and here. Rather does a good job of pulling together the most salient research findings and presenting them clearly and succinctly. He can seem a bit full of himself at times, but that’s what being on TV five nights a week in prime time does to you. If you can’t bring yourself to read, Begley’s book, then this is a viewer-friendly route.
This is a long feature, 51 minutes, and you are going to need high speed connection. If that’s too much, go directly to the online site where it’s broken into shorter segments or go to iTunes.
Since I am allowing other people to have a voice on the blog today, I am also going to link to Video on TED.com: Raul Midon plays “Everybody” and “Peace on Earth”, a songwriter, musician, and singer with a soulful voice for his complex, stirring lyrics.