Tuesday, January 19, 2010

I admit it: I'm avoiding my practice. I'll chant mantras throughout the day with no problem. Heck, my 4 year old can chant "om gum ganapatayei namaha' right along with me. I will even use Nadi Sodhana when I feel a bit of stress during the day.

Yet when I think about carving out some devoted time and sitting down to do some restorative yoga or yoga nidra, I get all nervous and anxious. Yes, I realize it's counter-intuitive. These techniques are supposed to sooth the parasympathetic nervous system and I would likely feel calmer after I practice.

I am even conscious of why I am having this reaction. I'm scared because the last time I went in to child's pose I was shocked by my defribulator. The last time I really had to dig deep and rely on pranayama, I was on a gurney waiting to be wheeled in to surgery and terrified. The last time I truly sat present with myself for any length of time, my chest was cut open and doctors were digging around inside of me.

A friend did a beautiful guided meditation with me on Sunday. She really got me to touch emotions so delicate I almost couldn't hold them for fear they might break. It's strange to be in a paradox like this... I need to go there to invite these emotions to the surface, acknowledge them and let them go. Yet at the same time, there is primitive fear that embracing such depth would bring me to despair.

I question where to go from here... how do I break through the wall between me and myself? The old Nike commerical goes running through my head, "Just do it."

Maybe tomorrow?

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Going with the Flow

It's been a tough week. Let's be honest: it's been a tough few months. In addition to dealing with a sick husband and a wicked cold, I ended up in the emergency room last week. It turns out that because they had to place the new wires for my ICD in the same vein as my old, capped off wires, there's a bit of a blood flow problem. There's far less space for the blood to move. When gravity isn't on my side and I'm not completely vertical, I get a tremendous pressure on my head and neck. It's a sensation I can only liken to my neck being squeezed... highly uncomfortable. It makes leaning over to put the kids in car seats, tie shoes, or make beds take so much longer because I have to keep standing up to make the blood move. Sleeping is uncomfortable as well. The hope is that as my body adapts to the wires, this will all go away in about two to three months.

To say that my health issues are starting to get to me is and understatement. I was bitching and moaning about my frustrations with my health on facebook. My status read,"Kristie would like-- someday soon-- to feel healthy. It's been since Nov 12 that I've been 100%. Since then: 3 icd shocks, two surgeries, recovery, scratched cornea, slow blood flow in veins around the leads of my ICD, and now this nasty cold resulting in stuffy nose, fever, cough and chills.... I'm over it!" The next day my status read, "Frustrated that I am not the mommy my kids know and love and haven't been since Nov... And I have at least two more months until my neck issue clears up and I can bend down or raise my pulse without feeling like my head will explode."

One of my wise friends wrote back and suggested I use this as an opportunity to practice patience. Intellectually, I realize she speaks the truth. I get it. Patience, however, has never been a strength of mine. I sat there reading her words and it was as if I was reading Greek. Patience? What's that? How does one go about having patience?

The answer was discovered within. The more my heart rate rises and strains to make that blood move, the more pressure I feel as the blood tries to work around the wires. The exertion my heart puts forth in trying to force the process only makes the situation that much more painful. It exhausts my energy and drains my resources. hmmm... sounds familiar. Just as the blood in me must slow down endure these new obstacles, so do I. I'm thinking I might have to take a lesson from my blood and learn to go with the flow.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

learning to let go...

The concept of Aparigraha is a difficult one for me—and one lesson that the Universe has repeatedly tried to teach me in this life. My struggle is not with attachment to material possessions. Though I was raised in affluence, my mother’s puritan New England values taught us to value people above things and to recognize the simplest riches in life- love, nature, curiosity, imagination…

It is in my relationship to others and my struggle to control that which is out of my hands that I find Aparigraha particularly hard to grasp (pun intended). Indeed, it may be one of the root causes of my anxiety. I have learned in the last few years (basically because the Universe had to bluntly show me!) how to greater appreciate Aparigraha in regards to letting go of my attempts to control my life. Two great lessons stand out to me.

The first lesson came with the birth of my two children. With my son, I was so focused on having the ‘ideal’ birth. This meant drug free and as close to a home birth as I could get in a hospital (I had to be there because of my heart condition). I also tried to control when he would arrive. By 38 weeks, I was trying everything to encourage him to come out- hikes, caster oil, evening primrose oil…you name the old wives’ tale and I had tried it. Finally, I had done enough and had my dilation checked enough that I basically induced my own labor before he was ready. My water broke and I was not in labor. The doctors induced me and I labored for 12 hours on Pitocin before finally giving in to a light epidural. Seamus was born 45 minutes later. As I cradled my perfect little boy, I could not help but feel a twinge of disappointment that I had forced things to the point of having a managed birth.

With Emelie, I was determined to allow her to come in her own time. She was due on the 8th of January (1-08!). The day came and went. My mother and sister flew in to town and walked and massaged me. They left days later with no new baby. My doula came over and did a fear release- still no baby. I finally realized I had not let go of her ‘due date’- this arbitrary date that the baby could arrive two weeks before or two weeks after. She was her own soul who would do things on her own time (a lesson my son’s growth and development had taught me). When we went to bed the night of the 17th, I looked at my husband and actually told him I was fine if I didn’t go in to labor that night because it would just be a lot of stress with Seamus. The next morning I woke with contractions. I checked email, took a nice bath (shaved my legs!), and played with Seamus. When I finally couldn’t walk or talk through a contraction we went to the hospital. We met my doula there and found I was 7 cm. I caught Emelie Anne as she left my body two hours later after a drug free birth (1/18/08). When I let go and let her come when she was meant to I was able to relax and enjoy what was meant to be.

Yet even with the lessons taught to me through the births of my children, when it comes to my loved ones I struggle with Aparigraha. Clearly, I am highly bonded to the people in my life. I even practice a model of parenting called “attachment parenting.” I have great fears about dreadful things happening to them. Working towards letting go of those fears and having faith in the Universe has helped me reduce anxiety. Yet, the concept of Aparigraha still alludes and confuses me—I am an attached person.

The second lesson took a bit longer for me to learn. When I had to stop dancing, I was lost for a very long time. I searched and yearned to fill the void with every little idea that came along. I resisted the change out of fear. If I didn’t dance, who was I? I had to let go of identifying who I was with what I did and discover that Kristie is not just someone who dances.

My road became varied and bumpy. Of course, those 8 years of wandering along my path were not for nothing. I was forced to fill the void by trying all sorts of lovely things. In this way, I discovered I had so much more to offer-- so much more to be than ‘just’ dancer. I discovered qualities about myself I never knew existed because I was so myopic about dance.

It was not until my therapist suggested that I not try to hold on to the dancer identity and just be open to what comes my way that I felt the call to teach Yoga. Once I listened to that call, I found peace. The bitterness that I felt towards my body, my career, my life…it all dissipated. The space that was left was then able to be filled with understanding, perspective, and appreciation for the time I did have and the level of professionalism I was able to experience. I realized that what was fulfilling for me in dance could all be developed in Yoga. I don’t need to dance to find playfulness in moving my body or joy in cooperating with others to understand movement. The anger and disappointment I had always felt towards my physical being was gone because in Yoga, it is still strong and able. Additionally, I found benefits that were not present in dance: instead of working in a world that is highly competitive and superficial, I can foster a career based on collaboration, depth, and respect for those in my field. All these gifts came only when I let go of Kristie the Dancer.

Working towards Aparigraha appears to be one of the great lessons of this lifetime for me. Each time I practice, I learn to let go of trying to grasp what the practice should be and simply let it be. As time goes by this becomes easier in practice and that ease seems to bleed in to my daily life. I may never fully understand this Yama in this life. For now, though, I’ll just keep on practicing.

Monday, January 4, 2010

an obstacle to practice

"In the process of identification, powerful obstacles arise."-- Yoga Darshana

I had two surgeries in November. Needless to say, this has put a bit of a damper on my asana practice. In Yoga, the obstacle of illness or sickness is called Vyadhi. This obstacle, however, has given me new opportunity for growth. Vyadhi reminds me to stay in the present and accept where my practice has to be at the moment. There will be times when my asana practice will be strong and regular because my health is good. There will also be times when the other aspects of yoga need to take precedence because my physical limitations do not allow me to practice asanas, or perhaps just specific asanas. These times become an opportunity to maintain presence in my body while focusing more on the other 7 limbs of Yoga. Even while laying on my bed, I can practice asana in my mind, recite Mantras, and lay in meditation. I can practice jnana yoga--the Yoga of knowledge-- by reading sacred texts.

When I feel up to it, I am given the chance to continue the presence of my body through slowly moving in to asana practice... starting with restoratives, and gradually increasing my strength using props. What a great way to maintain focus on how my beginning students might feel!

What I love about Yoga is that the Mat meets you where you are. Where you are can change from day to day-- even moment to moment! The challenge of the asana practice then becomes working to accept what you can do right now. It is not focusing on what you could do or what you will do... you just do what you can now and you don't HAVE to be or do anything more.

The more I practice yoga, the more I realize just why we call it "practice." You practice on the mat what you need to practice in life. The practice of Yoga reminds me that it is ok to just be where I am...feel what I feel. I don't have to be brave or strong, even when others say that I am. I have learned through this that the real bravery is being present with all that arises, even when unpleasant. In receiving my heart condition, I was offered an opportunity to practice my humanity and acknowledge I do not have to be anything but what I am right here and now. My lesson in 2009 was that in being brave enough to be present, the acceptance of being gives birth to strength....to wisdom...to peace... to trust...to truth.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

here goes...

My mother always suggested to her three children that we journal. In her mind, it would help us to view our world more clearly and realize our intentions. In yoga, we create intention so that as vibrational beings, they will come back to us.

As a yoga student, instructor, and stay at home mom it is always my intention to "live my yoga." This term that is often tossed around is quite meaningful to me. It means that I intend to incorporate the yamas and niyamas-- the ethical precepts of yoga-- in to my daily life... To practice in life what I practice on my mat.

So here goes... my journal of intention and my journey of living my yoga. Enjoy!