Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Stuff That Comes Up in Yoga Practice

Pigeon Pose - hip opener (Photo Credit: Yoga Journal)
It's funny, the stuff that comes out in yoga practice, sometimes.

For the last couple of months, I've been feeling sort of plagued with worry over things. Things that are only somewhat in my control. I've been dealing with some sort of anger issues (as evidenced by that last amazingly bad gallbladder blowout).

Don't ever let anyone tell you that your body doesn't store unexpressed emotions, because it DOES. Living proof of that: the pain that I've been living with in my lower back and hips and thighs for the last couple of months, all the while I've been worrying about (but not talking about) these issues in my life.

Sunday was our workshop day in yoga teacher training down at True North Yoga. We begin our Sundays with the 8:30 Gentle Yoga class, taught by Debbie, who leads the teacher training program. This particular Sunday, I was feeling intensely stressed out - Tom was away, I was on my own with Colden, and Colden had to go to his grandparents' house for another day, after spending pretty much all of last week there while dealing with the gastrointestinal side effects of the antibiotics for his double ear infection. (Just typing that makes me feel stressed out again.)

At any rate, this gentle yoga practice was all hip openers. Debbie has told us that we store anger in our hips - maybe that's why the gallbladder meridians run down from the hips along the outside of the thighs for a bit. I was having a hard time relaxing in this practice, but the stretching certainly felt good, and even though it was supposed to be a gentle class, I pushed myself right to my edge and a little beyond because it felt right for me.


The next practice at 10:00 was a Hatha class with Michelle, another teacher that I adore. Michelle's Hatha classes leave me feeling like someone has wrapped a big, wooly, cozy blanket around my mind. Usually.

In this particular practice, however, I started to get mad. Really mad. Pissed off mad. Finally, at one point, I just couldn't take it anymore, and I dropped down into child's pose for a bit. I got back up and tried to join the class again, but I felt more anger bubbling up from out of somewhere, and back down into child's pose I went.

I was seething.

I kept thinking to myself, this is ANGRY child's pose.

I just let the anger bubble up out of me and wash over me. I had no idea what I was angry about, really. Sure, I was stressed out, but I wasn't conscious of being angry.

So, I just let it go.

After a few minutes, I felt better, and I got back into the practice and had a very lovely Savasana at the end.

During lunch break, I was talking to some of my fellow trainees about the anger I felt in the second practice. From beyond the screen on the other side of the room, Debbie reminded me, "You know, we did hip openers this morning."

Oh, d-uh.

It was just another one of those eye-opening moments for me that we really do store our emotions in our body. It's another clear example of that whole mind-body connection.

When I told this story to my teacher in my Monday morning vinyasa class, we had a good laugh about it, and she said, "It's amazing, the things that happen in your yoga practice."

She's right. It is pretty amazing.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013


The other morning, I dropped Colden off at school, and made my way back to the studio for the Friday morning open studio before the Ashtanga Basics class.

It was cold and quiet outside, but the studio was a little warmer. I entered quietly - there were already 3 people there ahead of me - and put my bag down, went over into the apartment next door and changed into my yoga clothes.

The studio was all gentle light, warmth, and the slight smell of incense. I rolled out my mat, gently opened my journal and my notebook, and started scribbling my thoughts.

No one really spoke, unless we whispered. It was a nice feeling.

More people drifted in for the Ashtanga class, most of them were beginners, and some of them I recognized from my favorite natural foods store in Lake Placid.

And it was a wonderful class, and I stayed in the back and practiced along with everybody, taking care not to aggravate the pain in my left hip.

And I felt safe. And strong. At one point, it felt like I was moving so effortlessly, I thought I must have been doing something wrong.

It's why I love going to the studio for a practice, even if I'm in there by myself. I'm there, I'm present, and I'm breathing.

There's a sweetness in that sense of belonging.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Thoughts On a Mindful Life

I just want to clarify something about my last post about ElephantJournal.com's founder, Waylon Lewis. I may have been a bit - harsh? - regarding my assessment of his character, but this comes from a place that feels true to me, and if anything, my yoga practice has taught me how to trust my gut.

In his bio, Waylon describes himself as a "first generation Buddhist Dharma brat". He also appears to not know the function of the buttons on his shirts, or maybe he doesn't know how to work the buttons on his shirt. He appears to be pouty and edgy, all the while touting his great success and commanding speaking fees that range right up there with what I imagine Bikram Choudry charges for a 60 minute yoga class.

He seems to make it cool, make it "hip", to live the mindful life. Like it's just something else that can be packaged and bought and sold (ironically) without much thought.

But I'm here to say this: living the mindful life is difficult. It's hard. It's scary. I can see why not a lot of people would want to do it, because it hurts sometimes, as you watch yourself grow and change.

Waylon, I get the feeling that you wouldn't know what a mindful life looks like if it bit you in the ass.

Living the mindful life means selfless service. It means living with gratitude. It means staying open, letting go of everything that you think is important, and most of all, learning how to live a life of surrender.

I don't know where $2,000 a day speaking fees enter into that whole formula.

I don't begrudge you your success, Waylon. But I wonder...

Wanted: Suckers Who Know How to Write

What have I been up to for the last month? Well, not blogging, obviously.

No, I've been making time for a daily yoga practice, doing homework for my yoga teacher training, keeping up with work, finding time to bead, hosting house guests, spending time with my son and husband, and trying to keep all of us warm and well-fed.

Which leads me to...

On occasion, I frequent the website elephant: dedicated to the mindful life. The articles on there are fascinating and ring true to me, but the founder of the website, Waylon Lewis, comes across as some kind of self-important misogynistic prig. (Did that sound mean?) Indeed, if you look at his bio page, he describes himself as this edgy "Dhama brat" who seems to think that the 70s open-shirt fashion trend is hot once again. (Did that sound mean?)

I had been tossing around the idea of submitting a few articles to elephant to see what would happen, when my sister came across this: the elephantjournal.com Apprenticeship program.

For four months, you commit to spending about 10-15 hours a week learning from the staff (including the illustrious Wayne himself) about mindful blogging, social media, and other journalism skills for the electronic age.

In return, you get no financial compensation, and you must pay elephantjournal.com a $100 deposit, which they can keep at their discretion if at any time they decide that THEIR investment in you is "not worthwhile".

Woa, back up - the writer has to pay the publisher? Are we living in Opposite World or something?

I wasn't so outraged at first, but the more I thought about it, the more angry I became.

Sure, this would probably be a great way to learn more about social media, blogging, and how to use WordPress, which seems to be the current hot blogging/epublishing platform.

But just to make sure that you're really serious about it, YOU have to pay THEM?

Something just seems so wrong about this. It would be like if the publishers of Beadwork magazine, my favorite beading magazine, suddenly said to their contributors, "Hey, we really love your project and all the work you put into it, but if you want us to publish it, you'll need to pay us $180 to cover the costs of editing and photographing your project."


And if you are lucky enough to be able to survive Waylon's sarcastic tone and self-important chest pounding, then you MIGHT be lucky enough to earn a few dollars every month.

But, as he said, it's "highly unlikely".

I did notice a few of the posts where they list the writers who did manage to earn a few dollars a month in compensation for their work. One of the highest-paid writers contributed a total of 28 blogs/articles in a single month, and she was compensated $500.

That seems pretty good, right? $500 for 28 articles?

Not really.

When you think about the taxes that must be paid on income from self employment (around 50%), that means she earned a whopping $8.92 (approximately) per article.

This writer had tens of thousands of page views - which translates to clicks on the advertiser's links, increased readership, and maybe even a few dollars in donations to elephantjournal.com.

And she got less than $9 per article.

If you think that maybe it took her two hours to write each article, that's a net of $4.50 per hour.

She'd earn more money as a waitress, probably, than she would spending her time writing for elephantjournal.

So, if you're a glutton for punishment and enjoy being made to feel worthless while baring your spiritual soul to the world, the elephantjournal.com Apprenticeship program might be just the thing for you.