Thursday, October 10, 2013


These last 2 1/2 weeks have been hard for me. It all started with what I thought was a gallbladder attack. I got up, got dressed, and got in the car to take Colden and some friends of ours to the Adirondack Carousel in Saranac Lake on a gorgeous late September Saturday morning. Halfway to Lake Placid, I realized that it felt like there was a rock stuffed up under my lower right ribcage, and I was so queasy, I had to keep taking nibbles from the Saltines tucked into my handbag.

I wasn't sure I was going to last the whole time at the carousel. Colden enjoyed it (7 rides around on Thunder, the white Adirondack draft horse), but I was just feeling sick, sick, sick.

It didn't get any better the next day. I was supposed to be teaching my first yoga class at the studio. I thought I was better in the morning, and we went for a road trip down to Oscar's Smokehouse. But when we got back home, I was weak, and in pain, and nauseous. There was no way I was fit to lead a class in that condition, and I was angry at myself for getting sick less than 48 hours after I promised to fill in for Robin.

As the week went on, I felt sicker and sicker. I had muscle aches, pain shooting down my legs from my hips, chills (although no fever), and I was just weak and lightheaded and dizzy. I finally caved and let Tom take me to the doctor in the middle of the week (even though I was stressed out about how we were going to pay for it), and all my vitals and my labs were perfectly normal.

So, what was up?

I have no idea.

I went for a massage that day, as well, and my massage therapist summed it up  nicely: my body just felt plain toxic.

As the week went on, I started to stress more about my plans for the weekend - I was supposed to start my yoga teacher training on Saturday, two 10-hour days of practice and workshops.

I didn't feel great on Saturday morning, but I went, anyway. I didn't want to miss the first day.

Looking back, it was a mistake. My body was telling me to stay home, but I went, anyway.

Twenty minutes into the first practice, I had to drop down into child's pose. Then I laid on my back in a resting pose until it was time for Savasana.

I felt like I had failed.

We had a short break before the next class, and I wondered if I should just go out to the car and cry and burn off some of the negative energy and sickness that I felt. But I stayed, and then got ready for the second yoga practice, a Hatha class with one of last year's teacher training graduates.

It was a great practice, and I made it all the way through, but I spent the first half of the practice crying because my body felt so BAD. I felt like panicking.

I know that the whole point of practicing yoga is to stay in the present moment - but what happens if you feel like you're dying in the present moment? What if you feel so physically bad in the present moment that you want to scream or cry and run away in front of a room full of people?

I could not stay present in the rest of that day at teacher training. I felt sick, and all I could think about was getting home to my pajamas and some warm dinner that wouldn't upset my stomach.

Debbie, the instructor for the teacher training, wasn't surprised when I texted her the next morning to let her know that I would not be able to attend that day's training. I was sick, and weak, and in pain, and all I wanted to do was curl up in a ball under the blankets and watch old sitcoms in between bouts of crying. She said that she had been watching me the day before, and that I had just gotten paler and paler as the day went on. She said that she was surprised that I had actually made it through the entire day.

Well, I thought, I'm tougher than I think. Or stupider.

One thing I wrote in my journal after that second practice was how I noticed the way I was beating myself up in my head. HOW could I have let myself get sick like this? If it was my gallbladder or my IBS or whatever stress-induced gastric disorder du jous that was wrecking me, how could I have let this happen to me? Why can't I take better care of myself?

Ironic, isn't it? Beating yourself up for beating yourself up?

I realized that self-compassion is very, very hard for me. It's not easy for me to stop and rest when I'm sick because I don't want to be sick. I don't want to acknowledge the inherent weakness of my body, of being human. Even when I feel strong, I have to start realizing that my body is not made of iron. I am flesh and blood and bones, and those things will, from time to time, fail.

Like I had failed.

Now that I'm feeling a little better mentally and physically, I'm feeling like this whole 2 1/2 weeks was a giant test for me, to see how well I can stay in the present moment. And I feel like a huge failure.

I could NOT stay in the present moment. I could not enjoy my first day of teacher training. I failed.

On the other hand...

I have learned a few things from this latest flare up of whatever the hell this is that has been plaguing me for the last 2+ years. I've learned a little more about the whole mind-body connection. I've learned that I need to listen to my body. I've learned that I shouldn't be pushing myself so hard on the days when I just don't feel "right". I've learned that it's okay to be nice to myself when my body is begging me to stay in bed and watch old movies with Colden and my beads for a day or two.

Meanwhile, I'm still waiting to hear from the doctor on what my ultrasound looks like, and what she thinks we ought to do next...

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

What Should a Yogi Look Like?

I've got some updates on my recent gallbladder thing, but first, just a check-in on some thoughts that I've been having about the whole yoga-wear thing.

To begin, I'll mention briefly that I started my yoga teacher training last Saturday. Unfortunately, I felt way too sick to really enjoy it, and instead of being present during the whole first day, I was looking for ways to escape the physical misery I felt. Achy muscles, achy bones, shivers, abdominal pain - it was neither pretty nor pleasant. Debbie, our instructor, told me she wasn't surprised the next morning when I sent her a message that I wouldn't be making the training that day - she told me that I had looked paler and paler as the day went on, and she was surprised that I had made it through the entire day.

BUT. One of the things I noticed during our lunch break as I looked around at the group...

There are six of us in this particular training. None of us were wearing Lululemon or Prana or any of those "big name" yoga clothes. (Although, to be fair, I do LOVE the Prana top that Robin gave me as a thank you for working on The Yoga Tree's social media stuff.) We were dressed in comfy clothes - leggings, hoodies, t-shirts, sweaters... Nothing terribly glamorous.

Now, go to Google and just type in "yoga clothes". BOOM! You'll be overwhelmed with a barrage of websites selling everything from performance wear a la Ellie to the real hippy-dippy deal of Soul Flower. And I gotta wonder: just what should a yogi look like?

Personally, I've tried out some of that performance wear from Ellie, and to be quite frank, it makes me feel like an idiot. I am not running a marathon or working out at a gym. I'm just trying to find some stillness and some stretches.

On the other hand, some of the real hippy stuff, while visually pleasing to me, makes me feel like I ought to be practicing out in the desert at Burning Man or something. It doesn't feel like who I really am. (And that's the whole point of yoga, right? To figure out who we are?)

Look through any issue of Yoga Journal, too. Aside from the naked Kathryn Budig ads (which is a whole other rant for another time), you'll see ads from places like Hard Tail, Be Up, Inner Waves Organics, Me Sheeky, and Om Shanti Clothing. All the models are white, young, slender, and amazingly flexible.They wear "earthy" and organic clothing, and like all models, they exhibit perfect skin, perfect features.

Is that really what a yogi should look like?

I happen to be lucky enough to be friends with a group of pretty amazing ladies who all have, as one of them likes to put it, fluffy bodies. They do not fit into a size 6, or even a size 16. They are beautiful, they have curves, and they all love to do yoga.

I do NOT see anyone like them in the pages of Yoga Journal. I do NOT see anyone like them on most of the yoga websites I visit.

I long for the day when I see a magazine full of pictures of "ordinary" people doing yoga - overweight, middle aged, and maybe someone other than a Caucasian?

Yoga has taught me that everyone is my teacher. What you wear and what you look like shouldn't matter.

For me, though, it feels like a constant battle in my brain: I love the look of those pretty tops and yoga pants, but on the other hand, there's a part of me that wants to rebel and say, hey, what did people wear to do yoga in before Prana and Gaiam were incorporated?

Personally, I want my yoga clothes to be things that I can wear going about my every day life: a comfy pair of cotton pants or leggings, shirts and sweaters that are roomy and allow me to move. No need to change my clothes if I want to go to class at the studio or just drop down my mat in the living room and have a spontaneous mid-afternoon practice - in my comfy clothes, I'm all ready to go.

On another level, seeing all those model-perfect models online and in magazines is an easy path for us to judge ourselves. "Oh, well, if I don't look like THAT or if I can't do THAT pose, I must not be a real yogi." We're all human, and it's easy to get sucked into the kind of self-judgement that we're trying to escape by practicing yoga.

Of course, it's perfectly okay if you're slender and flexible and like to wear athletic wear to do yoga. The practice is all about acceptance, and non-harming, and contentment.

But do you still want to know what a real yogi should look like?

Use a mirror.