Posts Tagged ‘yoga’

Meditating Mom

January 8, 2014

The sun is just starting to crest over the roofs of neighboring houses when I wake.  I roll out of bed and say, “Thank you Spirit,” as my feet touch the floor. My husband is sleeping peacefully and the house is quiet as I prepare my meditation mat, blankets and bolsters on the bed.

Facing the open windows and the rising sun, I settle comfortably on the bolster and fold my legs into an easy half lotus. I take a deep breath as I look at the changing colors of the brightening sky.

My focus changes to my breathing and I close my eyes. I feel my body ease into the joy of stillness. I can feel my heartbeat. My palms are resting one on the other, and I sense the energy exchange between them.

“Hrmphtschorph.”

I hear my husband make an interesting waking sound as I feel him stretching on the bed. He gets up, walks into the bathroom and immediately starts brushing his teeth. I ignore the sounds and focus on my breathing once again. I am immune to outward sounds.

Knock, knock.

That can’t be one of my sons. My older son has already left for high school and my younger son doesn’t have to get up for another 30minutes.

Knock, knock. “Mom?”

It is the younger son. What is he doing up at this early hour? I hear my husband turn on his electric razor and the rhythmic whir as he moves up and down on his jaw.

“Mom, are you sure today is an A day at school and I don’t need my trombone for band?”

I easily open my eyes and slowly turn my head toward him like the meditating goddess that I am. I speak with a peaceful calm, “Honey, bring me my cell phone from the kitchen counter.”

He leaves and I return to my focused breathing. I empty my mind. I ignore the sound of the shower running and the clanking of the ironing board being opened in the bathroom next door. I am peace. I am bliss. I am meditating.

Bang. My son returns, swinging the door open with a bit too much force, and it slams into the bookstand behind it. I slowly open my eyes, and mentally remind myself that I am a yoga goddess. I am above anger and frustration. I am The Meditating Mom.

I reach from beneath my blanket and take the cell phone from my son. I patiently tap on the screen until I find the email from his band instructor. Together we read the email regarding the appropriateness of leaving his trombone at home.

“Okay, thanks Mom,” he says, and walks from the room, gently closing the door.

I return to focused breathing, an empty mind, a peaceful spirit. I am so deep in meditation, I don’t realize my son has returned until he says…

“Why are you sitting there like that? Are you meditating?”

I look upon him with the peaceful grace of The Meditating Mom that I am. I nod slowly, with loving eyes. Then I notice his hair is not combed and he’s wearing one light jacket to go to the bus – which is not coming for another 45 minutes. My meditating mind wonders 3 things at once:

  1. Why hasn’t he combed his hair? Didn’t he look in the mirror?
  2. Atlanta is experiencing record low temperatures in a single digit. Is he planning to go the bus stop in that light jacket?
  3. Why in the world is this child standing here ready for school almost an hour before he’s supposed to be?

But I am The Meditating Mom. I will not attack this child with queries and frustrated commentary on the importance of looking in the mirror before you leave the house. Instead, I patiently say…

“Honey, do you know how cold it is outside?” He shrugs nonchalantly. Does this mean that he doesn’t know or that he does know and just doesn’t care? I try another tactic.

“Come here. Let’s look at the temperature.” I click on the screen of my smart phone until the screen changes to an icy blue and the number 14 shows up. “Honey, that’s the temperature. It’s too cold for that light jacket.” He sighs in frustration. He thinks I might be suggesting he wear a heavier, warmer coat. Uh, yes. I am.

Holding out hope that he’s not completely insane, I try another idea. “Open your jacket and let me see what you’re wearing underneath.”It’s possible he has on a long sleeved shirt. Or maybe an athletic Under Armor beneath a t-shirt. Something that indicates he understands that 14* is pretty d@#% cold. Oops. That’s not what a meditating yoga goddess would think.

I take a deep breath and let it out slowly as I see my child is wearing only a t-shirt from the summer. No sleeves. No Under Armor. No undershirt. Just a summer T.

I try one more time to be the blissfully peaceful, soft-spoken yoga mama I know I am. “Honey, you need to put on a long sleeved shirt.”

He emits another heavy sigh, as though I’m the one that’s crazy and suggesting something absolutely asinine. “Mom,” he says with emphasis. “Can I just wear another jacket over this one?”

I do an internal debate with myself. Two heavy jackets equal one big coat. I can end this discussion and get back to my meditation if I agree with this negotiation concession. “Yes.” He leaves, satisfied.

I close my eyes. I settle beneath my blanket. I breathe.

Sigh.

Is that my son sighing in my bedroom while I’m meditating? I open my eyes and turn my head to see him leaning on the door and looking out the window. In his own way, he’s meditating. That’s my baby.

But this Meditating Mom is done for today. I get up and leave him meditating on the rising sun.

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Can Yoga Really Wreck Your Body?

February 8, 2013

When I initially read the title of the New York Times article, How Yoga Can Wreck Your Body, I was ready to debate, argue and share my point of view. Then I read the article. And sadly, I agreed with most of it.

I started my personal Yoga journey at the age of 26 in 1997. Ashtanga (Power) Yoga was my introduction to a world that was foreign to me.  Nothing during my first year of Yoga remotely related to Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras or the Eight Limbs. And I did what I was taught – push, work, challenge beyond limits. I received a “Yoga certification” the next year at a weekend aerobics conference in Baltimore, Maryland. I still recall the instructor asking me to demonstrate a move for the class because I was flexible – and I thought I was the BOMB! As a Yoga teacher, I taught what had been taught to me. Work, push, challenge. All of it was ego-driven and the complete opposite of the actual principles and spirit of Yoga.

Injuries from years of running and high-impact aerobics made me begin a self-study of naturopathic wellness, orthomolecular nutrition, and alternative medicine. I began monthly treatments of acupuncture, reflexology and massage. I studied and practiced different forms of meditation and started a serious practice of Hatha Yoga and Mat Pilates. My approach to Yoga had completely changed. In fact, what I was practicing in 2007 was so vastly different from what I had started in 1997, it felt wrong to call them both Yoga.

In the NYT article, William Broad details the journey of classically trained Yoga instructor Glenn Black. The main points Mr. Black makes that I agree with are:

  • Instead of doing yoga, “they [students] need to be doing a specific range of motions for articulation, for organ condition,” he said, to strengthen weak parts of the body. “Yoga is for people in good physical condition. Or it can be used therapeutically. It’s controversial to say, but it really shouldn’t be used for a general class.”
  • A number of factors have converged to heighten the risk of practicing yoga. The biggest is the demographic shift in those who study it. Indian practitioners of yoga typically squatted and sat cross-legged in daily life, and yoga poses were an outgrowth of these postures. Now urbanites who sit in chairs all day walk into a studio a couple of times a week and strain to twist themselves into ever-more-difficult postures despite their lack of flexibility and other physical problems.
  • There is now an abundance of studios where many teachers lack the deeper training necessary to recognize when students are headed toward injury. “Today many schools of yoga are just about pushing people,” Black said. “You can’t believe what’s going on — teachers jumping on people, pushing and pulling and saying, ‘You should be able to do this by now.’ It has to do with their egos.”

I disagree with the article in that I don’t believe Yoga will wreck your body – a poor Yoga instructor can wreck your body. Instead of avoiding Yoga, aspiring students should visit studios, observe a class before taking it, and ask the following questions:

  • Is the instructor teaching only on the mat or is he or she watching, moving, touching and aware of each student in the class? A teacher that treats the class like his or her personal workout or opportunity to shine will not be able to provide safe correction and alternatives for students in need.
  • Is the teacher pushing or pulling on students or gently guiding individuals into natural, safe and comfortable positions?
  • Are there props like chairs, blocks, blankets, belts, or pillows available? If so, does the instructor use them or share techniques about their use in assisting poses?
  • Does the class leader explain poses and offer alternate moves? A well-educated instructor will be able to discuss a pose from the perspective of anatomy and kinesiology as well as from an internal and organic point of view.

Like snowflakes, no two Yoga instructors are alike. Choose yours as carefully as you choose your physician or hair stylist. A bad perm can ruin your day, but a bad pose can ruin your body.