Monday, March 10, 2014

"Have you lost weight?"

"You look great"   "have you lost weight?"   Recently after improving my posture several people said this to me. Hearing this hit this nerve that just made me sad. Why? I'll tell you why! I hadn't lost any weight and didn't need to either! It upsets my sense of non-judgment how "looking good" and "losing weight" are so linked together in this culture.
Why not just look into someone's eyes and say "you look great!" period!
 or say "you look great, you must be taking good care of yourself?" or "you look great you must be feeling good"

 I love many people who are "overweight" by western popular culture and who are beautiful! Most of the women I spent time with in North Africa would be considered "fat" here, whereas there, the standards of beauty include fuller bodied and even robust women.
Yes, obesity is a cultural problem and health issue in the USA, but many people who are full-bodied and rounder suffer so much trying to fit a norm that is sick, yes, sick! We all know by now, how much digital manipulation goes into the ultra-thin models for fashion magazines. We know about the unrealistic proportions of the Barbie doll and the eating disorders such as anorexia and bulimia.
Some extra pounds is not obesity, there is a big difference and as a culture we need to stop buying into the fashion and diet weight loss industry's tactics!  I have met people who literally will "not be friends with anyone who is more than a few pounds overweight", saying "it just grosses me out". This is beyond judgmental, it is sad.
Billions of dollars get spent on weight loss and diet programs that don't work in the long run - just exploit people by making an underweight ideal that is abnormal and difficult to impossible for most people to attain, especially people who are rounder in their beauty. I use the word beauty but could replace it with handsome for the males, though this culture is much less judgmental towards full-bodied men.
Beauty comes in many shapes and sizes. Even us women ourselves need to broaden our perception of beauty, and not judge each-other by the cultural ideals that pervades the media.
"You look great" "have you lost weight"... I also heard this often at a time in my life where I struggled financially and wasn't eating enough. I also wasn't good about letting people in and asking for help, though now, I would.
Again someone says, "You look great" "have you lost weight", I didn't feel like I got a compliment, and I was reminded again how hungry I was, and how being hungry kept me up the night before.
 I wish I would've said "YES, I LOST MORE WIEGHT,  I"M HUNGRY, MY BODY FAT IS UNHEALTHILY LOW, WHY DO YOU THINK THAT IS LOOKING GREAT??Will you get me lunch???!  I did talk about this with some of the women who said it, and think they have a better understanding of the cultural illness that still has women thinking "you can't be too thin".   
I also have been a few pounds heavier than was good for me and went through hating myself and feeling like I was disgusting. Though, far from obese, I didn't like how it slowed me down.  I didn't loss the weigh until I started to love myself exactly as I was, which lead to things like dancing, yoga and hiking and enjoying moving then, the weight shed easily.
So maybe the next person you notice looking good you might just say "you are beautiful, I love you!" 
Better yet find the beauty in everyone around you and speak to that!
               You are all beautiful, and I love you. Namaste, Christina

Monday, December 30, 2013

Happy New Year! 
“To keep the body in good health is a duty… otherwise we shall not be able to keep our mind strong and clear.” ~ Buddha
As a new year starts many of us make plans and think of ways to be better in the coming year.  Almost everyone I know say’s they want to get healthier in the New Year. Often though, the changes don’t get started or don’t continue past a few weeks.   I encourage you to start simple.
There is no substitute for what eating well, moving your body,
self-love and mindfulness can do for your wellbeing. The Key is Self-Love.
The way to counter-act stress is to relax, get good enough at relaxing and you eliminate stress!  If you approach your “down time” with self-love, it is likely to be a quieter, simple time where you breath deeper and truly relax, mind and body in silence.  Watching TV, internet and/or drinking alcohol, though common ways to “relax”, are actually counter-productive for true relaxation.  Try this- Sit or lie down so you are comfortable and not likely to fidget, then give yourself 10 minutes and do nothing but focus on deeper and deeper breathing. Settle the mind, relax the body. If you do this daily, just this…in time you will make progress towards all you other health goals!  So why not make one simple goal; to relax more?  I actually think this is the best place to start. The whole purpose of yoga poses (asana) was begun to get the body aligned and relaxed enough to be still in meditation. The simple 10 minute exercise above was a meditation, at least a start.
If you approach eating from a state of being relaxed and with self-love, you eat healthier foods and savor the experience of eating. Start as you are shopping; enjoy the colors and smells of the foods. Find pleasure when preparing the foods. Maybe just being grateful for all that had to happen for the food to reach you! Enjoy the textures aroma, the creativity. Start simple do it for one meal a week- enjoy all parts to that one meal- maybe share with a friend. Personally I enjoy good food with good company the most.
If you incorporate movement into your day with self-love, it will be movement you enjoy. A habit or practice for the mind and body, not laborious work-outs that you drag yourself to, but joyfully inhabiting your body as it is now and also challenging yourself to be stronger and more flexible and coordinated as you continue. Dance, Yoga, Tia Chi, walking, running, biking…It doesn’t matter what you choose as long as you can find pleasure in doing it, and do it with enough passion and energy to sweat. I say it doesn’t matter what you choose, yet it does, because if it is not a mindful practice, including inward focus, you are not going to reap the full benefits for health of mind body and spirit. Developing the breath control (and capacity) in harmony with your movement-then it is possible to get in the “ZONE” that place all athletes, dancers, martial artists, etc.. get to when it becomes a blissful moving meditation and there is harmony of body mind and spirit(consciousness).  This is a natural heightened state of being.   aka BLISS!

Saturday, October 12, 2013

many ways to meditate

Mandala by Danmala-link to more below

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  

There are so very many ways to meditate. 

 Meditation is practiced by saints, mystics and common folks in all religions, cultures, regions of the world, and throughout time. Though it may not be called meditation. For example, the farmer who paused in gratitude and stared at the fields every morning for a quarter of an hour, this was his form of meditating,  because he did it even in times of drought and it brought him peace.
A Christian friend of mine once said "Prayer is asking of God, Meditation is listening to God". In  Zen seated and walking "practice" the idea is to be fully present in the experience of now. This may sound odd, yet in my own experience at a time when I was stressed and suffering,  it was through beginning meditation and yoga that I became aware of how my mind was so busy jumping from past to worrying about the future that I was missing what was happening right in front of me, I was not present.

 You may already have a preferred method, such as Transcendental meditation, guided meditations.... There are also the moving meditations such as walking meditation, Tia Chi, yoga  Martial arts and dance.  Moving meditation is not simply physical exercise, but,  practiced daily, mindfully and with proper breathing (all these practices ideally include breath awareness) they  become meditation.  Creative practices such as the visual arts, Music, Poetry and theater can also become meditation, under the right intentions and with regular mindful practice.
              How do you know if your practice (of anything) has become meditation?  You lose track of time. You feel restored and peaceful. You have more insight and self awareness. You are not concerned with outcome or results of the practice. You are "lost in the moment", which is an odd phase because one is actually found . You also experience relief from stress.
             When meditation is practiced regularly over time, this peaceful, and increased awareness begins to flow into your whole day, existence. You experience less stress, increased mental clarity, and better health. Everyone who practices true daily meditation begins making healthier life choices, often changing how they are in relationships and community, how and where they work, and letting go of unhealthy habits.
So there is everything to gain and nothing to lose -As this old Zen saying goes- "You should sit in Meditation for 20 minutes, unless you are too busy,  then you should sit for an hour"
On this site  is an article about a happiness study of brain activity and also a video interview with David Lynch "one of America's greatest film makers" about TM Transcendental Meditation.
a-buddhist-monk-shows-unheard-of-brain activity
I'd like to share with you the beautiful mandala's made by Danmala which are also a beautiful form of meditation.danmala.com/gallery

Friday, October 11, 2013

Fallen yogi

      The Fallen Yogi, ...with dementia

As a yoga instructor, I didn't want to share my personal history of being away from yoga,  Asana (poses) meditation and the other 6 limbs of yoga.  I am happy to say I got over that; Happy because I realize there is a level of wisdom that comes from having fallen and climbing back up, which is worth sharing and may help others.
     I know how it feels to do a forward fold (touch your toes) and discover I could barely reach my knees.  I know how a busy mind and out of shape body can't hold the simplest balancing pose (even modified). I was not a yogi for more than two decades of my life. Though I could say "I was busy, working, being a single mom, bread-winner, home-owner" I stopped making excuses.  I faced the reality that I had sold-out, and gotten so out of touch with the inner self, and self-love that it literally made me very sick. The primary symptom being *dementia. Leaving me with little good to offer those around me.  I completely understand the loss of vitality and the unhappiness that comes from a stressful life.
     I lived for a couple years with the fear that I was losing my cognitive functioning. I thought I had Alzheimer's disease or a brain tumor, but mostly my mind was a constant stream of useless worries, dissections of my past and fearful projections into a bleak future. This mental clutter and my clinging to "work" as the answer to everything, kept me running in the rat-race while the quality of my life disintegrated. I was just surviving, existing, going through the motions. Though I was "active" it was in a limited way and with so much tension and misalignment that I was wearing myself down rather than healing myself. Movement is a great healer, but not just any movement, and the occasional yoga classes didn't prevent my falling.
COMING HOME TO YOGA,  At  the age of 50, I started with 1-2 classes a week for a month. This was the only place were I experienced relief, felt at home, or had any sense of well-being and peace. Because I had been a yogi long ago, I knew to return to doing daily yoga, asana and meditation. The changes began to happen quickly, which was motivating so, I kept at it, it became my medicine to thrive in a life worth living.
         The first change was my mind stopped racing long enough (initially less than a minute) for me to remember what calm and peace where.  I began just closing my eyes and taking a deeper breath and recalling that minute which brought another brief moment of calm. With-in days, my physical body was resting better at night and I could see gains in strength and alignment in the first week which brought about increased energy. In that first month I noticed subtle increases in flexibility (I was never naturally flexible). and after a few months increased flexibility of mind begin to re-emerge; I was more open to new possibilities and ways of relating to others.  Most importantly my heart was more open, I wasn't numb, and I knew I was part of something greater, connected, a part of the One.  Perhaps, because of years of yoga dance and other various movement practices stored in my memory (mind and body-memory), I noticed the subtle changes more than many people would. Or it may have been the desperation after having fallen so far. 
How do you to start daily practice? That is very individual.  I began doing 6-10 sun salutations and meditating for 10 minutes, DAILY, in the morning. This created profound changes with-in a few days. This practice set a quieter tone/mind/vibration which I could access throughout the day. I was very aware that I had so much farther to go, so I increased, after just a few days to one hour yoga Asana and 30 minutes meditation. Then within another couple weeks to 45-60 minutes of meditation. It became my daily medicine, and my health insurance.  Now after more than 3 years (over 1095 consecutive days) I can't even begin to express in 100 blog posts all the benefits, joy, peace and clarity that I have gained. Remember I "had a long way to go", now I can find peace in starting one deep breath, most of time, no matter what is going on around me.
 ~ Namaste ~ Christina
     *I will, at some point, write more about the dementia experience. 

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

I’m NOT ready to do yoga”- Yoga Class otherwise known as Basic Beginner Alignment
 
 The biggest reason I hear from people for not doing aerobics, yoga, dancing or anything physical is… “I’m not ready? Really? Not ready? Why? "I'm too out of shape, I’m too fat, I’m not flexible” " I can't even touch my toes any more" Really? Another thing I hear is that "You can't change the way the effects of the years (decades) of habits with your body".  Really? I have and so have many other people, in spite of what popular thought, media and medicine may say.  Most of the best yoga teachers I know have had learn to heal themselves at some point and succeeded despite limiting diagnosis's from health professionals.  Then I wonder..... What is it YOU are going to DO to get ready? If the answer is nothing, Then again I say, Really? How is the quality of the life in your body? What is your aging going to look like if you can't do it now?  Are you waiting to have the doctors fix it with surgery?
 I’ve been researching this and watching and experimenting with techniques on myself and willing students.  This is what I’ve found out, it has more to do with energy than anything else – the energy that these not-ready thoughts carry and the fact that most people in western culture don’t even breath, sit, stand, walk, reach, and lift and lay down in the correct ways! Poor alignment and tension causing blocks in the flow of energy. WHAT??? Now YOU are saying “REALLY?” I’m telling you YES, REALLY. With learning and changing to have better posture and body mechanics for your day to day activities you can have more energy and be ready to do yoga classes sooner than you think!
This is the flat out truth about the, “I’m NOT ready to do yoga”- Yoga Class otherwise known as Basic Beginner Alignment
So the beginning yoga classes I teach now might not even look like a yoga class to yoga purists, but we do not live in India, people have not grown up using the range of motion required when sitting on the floor, squatting or grow up having good models of how to lift, reach, bend carry loads and walk. These things are learned generationally and kinesthetically in India and other cultures, and unfortunately, in the west, this is rare. So, yes! How the heck are people who have lived this way for decades going to do yoga? This is my own burning question, for the last few years as I teach older students, who have been sedentary. and now is my primary focus. The answer I have found and experimented with is re-education about how they are holding the body the other hours of the day, in-between classes.  
I started to realize that western culture: the culture of sedentariness and never sitting on the ground, where slouching became the model for illustration and fashions beginning in the 1920’s….where even medical illustrations do not illustrate optimal posture any more,( they show typical western posture). Where back problems abound, and hip and knee replacements are ever more common amongst younger and younger people. 
As I stated in a previous blogs… The biggest mistake people make in yoga or any “fitness” activity is to forget to tune-in and honor your own limits- where you are at, today. The second biggest mistake is to forget you are more than a mechanical body, that the mind, spirit and emotions all are involved. Yoga is more about training the mind than anything else. The physical moves or postures are just the tip of the iceberg, what is underneath is discipline, practice and process, change of attitudes, calming of the mind, focus and Breath.
So much of our day and live the focus of the mind is outside our bodies, when you quiet the mind, and breathe deeply you can understand your own body, and then it shows you how to heal.  The rhythms of the body return to harmony. The metabolic and systolic heart rhythms return to optimum harmony which is healing throughout our physical bodies. That is just the beginning. Sustaining the stillness of mind allows you to experience your essence which is joy, energy and beauty.  We remember our beautiful innocent selves, we remember being love and being one with all that is. 
 Again I will talk about eastern and third world countries because they do things that make perfect sense, they keep hip flexibility, back strength and good organ functioning because the sit on the floor or low to the floor on rugs, pillows or mats. They move in a much greater range of movement and strengthen all those muscles at least 5 times a day.  These are body-wise habits. If you look at all the most common physical problems in America it is knees, hips and back. These are not so common in cultures that sit on the floor. In these cultures activities like tai chi, yoga, dance and martial arts or done at all ages!!!  We love our chairs, and couches but they are not serving our bodies well. My bed is on the floor, I eat seated on the floor, and I’m typing now on a yoga ball at my desk, because I have been seeing and experiencing the ill effects of the furniture habit particularly in our elderly.  This is why I incorporate the training I’ve had in Alexander technique (Google it) and recently from the work of Eric Franklin and Ester Gokhale. I began to realize how westerners don’t even walk correctly. Ester Gokhale’s keen observation of multiple cultures and diverse person’s posture and body mechanics transforms into effective non-surgical healing methods for back, hip and knee problems. I want to share my own experience, when recently I spent 21 days walking 45 minutes 2 times a day and consciously changed the way I walk, my alignment posture and how I propelled myself forward.  It was profound; I began to have an incredible amount of ENERGY all day. Energy on all levels, mentally as well as physical endurance, I even had more energy for socializing as well! So I began sharing this with students. I felt like I was gaining the keys to really making a difference for my students/especially for the inactive or overweight or injured or older students. 
If people stand, sit, bend reach and lift with optimal alignment and minimal stress (strain), they are actually gaining strength and flexibility from their everyday activities. This prepares them for yoga, and they don’t leave the beginning class saying “yoga is not for me” instead they learn about the body, and movement in a way that is relevant to their everyday activity. They begin to understand how to gain energy, strength and flexibility throughout their day rather than wear themselves down. Understand that ENERGY that is within and around our bodies: remember Einstein's E=Mc2? If we believe only gravity-energy is affecting our body- that is all that affects our bodies! When we shift our thinking and began experiencing the energy-body profound changes are inevitable. Awareness within the mind is so powerful, even our thoughts carry energy.

 

 

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Dance - here's why we all need to dance-


I praise the dance             Saint Augustine
I praise the dance, for it frees people
from the heaviness of matter and binds the isolated to community.

I praise the dance, which demands everything:
health and a clear spirit and a buoyant soul.
Dance is a transformation of space, of time, of people,
who are in constant danger of becoming all brain, will, or feeling.

Dancing demands a whole person,
one who is firmly anchored in the center of his life,
who is not obsessed by lust for people and things
and the demon of isolation in his own ego.

Dancing demands a freed person,
one who vibrates with the equipoise of all his powers.
I praise the dance.

O man, learn to dance,
or else the angels in heaven will not know what to do with you.

by Saint Augustine
 


 This Article by Madisyn Taylor of the Daily Om  eloquently says everything you need to know about dance-
Our bodies were made to move and flow and within our movement we find a deeper connection to our bodies and the earth.

As children, most of us were encouraged to dance on a regular basis, freely and openly, in whatever way felt best. A few of us may have retained or regained our ability to engage in dancing unselfconsciously, but by the time we reach adulthood, many of us have stopped dancing altogether. We may have hang-ups about our bodies, or we may fear being judged. Then again, we may simply have fallen out of the habit for so long that we don‚t even realize we never dance anymore. Whatever the case, there‚s no time like now to rediscover the healing pleasure of moving your body to music˜alone, as part of a couple, or in a group. Opportunities to dance abound, once you start looking for them.

If you haven‚t danced in a long time and feel too self-conscious to start in a public situation, find some time alone to reintroduce yourself to the joy of listening and responding to music with your body. Turn the lights down low and remember that it‚s much more fun when you‚re not thinking about what you look like. It won‚t take long before your body remembers how much it loves to move. Feel the music in your soul, feel the vibrations healing your body. Treat the time like a meditation session in which you agree to allow yourself to fully inhabit your amazing body.

If you feel awkward, remember that every culture since time immemorial has celebrated life and the body with dance. All people carry the memory of dance in their blood and bones. In other words, you were born to do this, it is in you already; all you have to do is start moving. If you prefer more interaction, take a class one night a week. In most cities, you can find everything from modern dance to African dance to ballroom and salsa. Whatever you choose, you won‚t regret choosing to rediscover your birthright˜the healing, joyful thrill of dancing.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Happy New Year of Yoga



All the reasons for not getting to a yoga class are actually the reasons too get to one.
This is what I hear, over and over from people of varying ages.  and then the truth
“I’m not flexible”--- yoga helps you become more flexible!
“I’m out of shape-“-- yoga helps you get in shape!
“I’m too overweight” yoga helps with weight loss!
“I’m too old”--- You are never too old to reap the benefits of yoga! (yoga is age defying***)
“I don’t have the energy”- Yoga gives you energy!
I tried it once ….”Try a different class or teacher –e.g. if your over 50 look for a teacher over 50
                I am most concerned for boomers people getting older (older than they have to be).
 These are all statements related to ego- the ego doesn’t want you to feel better, be better, find peace. Ego says,  " have to be great immediately.   Truth is; yoga is non-competitive!!!!  The other yoga students are focused on themselves not YOU!!!  The inner spirit on the other hand knows what is best and that health, energy and peace come from mindfulness in movement.
 Yes, for some it might be better to start with Tai Chi, senior or gentle yoga. But to lessen your movement more and more is choosing to age faster, is eliminating future joy from dancing, playing with children, easily getting up from and down, sitting in the grass on a sunny day.
  The less you move the less energy you have, the less you move the less you are able to move and the more likely you are to become injured when you have to move. The more likely you are to fall. The less you move the faster you age. Moving mindfully after injury is the best way to heal and re-gain flexibility.
  The biggest mistake people make in yoga or any “fitness” activity is to forget to tune-in and honor your own limits- where you are at, today. The second biggest mistake is to forget you are more than a mechanical body, that the mind, spirit and emotions all are involved. Yoga is more about training the mind than anything else (as are  Martial Arts and Tia Chi)   The physical moves or postures are just the tip of the iceberg, what is underneath is discipline, practice, process, change of attitudes, calming of the mind, focus and Breath.    
 ***check out this link
Thanks for reading my Blog-  Christina (an over 50 year old Yoga teacher)