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Guest Post – Yoga and Rock Climbing

Friend and sister yogini Diana wrote this last month, but I thought it was great and worth reposting.   It’s all about the present moment :)

diana rock climbing

“Yell ‘FALLING,’ then push away from the wall, keep your feet flat against the rock, and trust your belay,” hollered Jason, our really cute shaggy headed rock climbing instructor (http://www.rockspotclimbing.com) on Sunday in my first climbing lesson.  It’s scary to trust that I could really freefall without fear because someone held me secure in their hands.  It worked, though – and the second time we ‘tested’ my belay, I was to fall without announcing it.  Because I knew that my belay was solid AND backed up by Jason, there was no fear and I just flew off the wall.

After the lesson, the climbing really began.  Rocks with the deepest indentations for my fingers were like an answered prayer as my grip weakened during the climb.  “Once you’ve climbed for a bit, rock climbing will begin to feel like climbing a ladder – boring,” admonished Jason.  “Instead of hand over hand, begin to map out the journey, strategize your next move, and get creative on the climb.  It’s all about having fun on the journey.”

Even with these words, I watched others new to this sport scrambling like mice over the rocks, leaving them breathless, forearms burning.  “Think of rock climbing as being like yoga,” Jason advised.

That’s IT!  All his instructions were yoga and real life instructions.

Rock climbing is just like yoga – as mind and body connect to the structure of the colored toe holds, there’s strategy and finesse in just how to step onto them, where to place your hands so your arms are lengthening away from the core, using muscles most effectively by pushing up with your legs with less pulling on your arms.  Just like the careful placement of your hands in down dog that allows a light lengthening from the solidness of your foundation.

Pause, breathe, extend.  Staying present and connected to my breathe, I looked for the next hand hold, then foot placed, exhale and push off.  Steadily, I climbed, and just like in yoga, treated the transitions with the respect of the pose knowing that these in-between-the-breath moments are just as critical to the flow of vinyasa as warrior poses.

A couple of times, I could feel fatigue and trembling thighs, my grip loosening its hold on the rock.  Still, I didn’t worry.  I knew my belay had me and all I had to do is yell, “Take,” and she would slowly lower me to the ground.  Just like in yoga, someone has my back – my belay in rock climbing and my inner teacher in life.  That deep inner knowledge gave me strength to go on.

An aha moment to once again validate the path of yoga is not just on the mat!

The Beauty of Chaos (by Gadi)


I studied chaos theory and fractals in my nonlinear dynamics classes studying Fluid Mechanics in grad school.  It turns out that a bunch of really cool and beautiful parts of our world behave almost randomly… but not quite: turbulence, weather, astronomy, biology, and many more.  In fact the chaotic nature of fluid visualization is one of the things that attracted me most to studying fluid mechanics.  I’m not the only one who appreciates it… the “Dancing Bag” scene from American Beauty is a great example.

So you can imagine how amazed and enthralled I was when Barrett brought this home!!!


Mandelbrot Cauliflower With Barrett

Romanesco Cauliflower With Barrett


This is a Romanesco Cauliflower.  Its pattern resembles a Mandelbrot set which is an equation that defined a group of fractals.

So, not only was I fascinated by this foods sheer visual beauty, I was also immensely curious about its origin and nature.  I immediately took about thirty pictures of it.  I’m including a couple here and hope that Barrett also posts some. (You can click on the pictures to see the full size images!)


Romanesco Cauliflower

Romanesco Cauliflower


The depth of the pattern is mesmerizing.  That is basically  what attracts us to images of fractals.  But when you see them occur in nature – well… that’s when it really blows your mind.  There is some design happening in nature which creates these patterns.  I for one believe it is simply the biochemical signals determined in DNA.   But don’t get me wrong, in my opinion that is no less amazing than some divine power.

The other side of this beauty is the technical…  turns out the mathematics of chaos isn’t really that complicated.  The fundamentals are basically just arithmetic.  While it might make me cross-eyed or give me math anxiety (seriously, I totally get it), I still find it amazing that such complex looking beauty can be very simple.

For example, the  Mandelbrot set (which the Romanesco Cauliflower resembles) is basically defined as:

zn+1 = zn2 + c

So, if C=1, and Z0=1, then the set is: 1, 2, 5, 26, ….  It turns out it’s a little more complicated than this, but not a ton more complicated – though the equations might make it seem that way.

I’ll leave you with one more image of this amazing food!

Oh… and it tasted exactly like a cauliflower.  No different at all.  Yummmmy!


Mandelbrot Cauliflower

Romanesco Cauliflower


The 5 Prana Vayus – A Guest Post

Boston-area yoga teacher Erica Magliaro is writing in with a guest post!

She went down to Costa Rica awhile back at my suggestion to study with our teachers, Don and Amba Stapleton, and she came back a fabulous yoga teacher!

She’s offering classes in Brookline, and also Pranassage, which is yummy yoga massage. Check out her website for details.

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Ever find yourself in pigeon pose, jaw clenched, shoulders tense, unable to relax?
What about lying in savasana, trying to focus but instead mulling over your last conversation with your boss or your significant other?

My teacher has always said, ‘Where the mind goes, Prana flows’, but what happens when we get stuck?  Sometimes we find ourselves unable to release physically and/or mentally.    Even as a yoga teacher, I can be as guilty of this as the next person….so when I get stuck, I like to remind myself of Prana at work:

Prana is our life force, the energy that flows through our bodies.  It is broken down into five forces, called the Prana Vayus:

1)  Apana is the downward moving energy in our bodies, grounding us.  Gravity is a simple example of apana.

2)  The next force of Prana is prana (lower-case ‘p’), which is the upward moving energy, or buoyancy, that counter-acts apana.  For me, I can really feel apana and prana at work in Tree Pose…being grounded in the feet, roots growing through the earth…but the buoyancy and lift of the body skywards.

3)  Samana is the third force of Prana, spiraling at our belly center.  It represents the energy of absorption, the fire of digestion, either physical and emotional.  This could be undigested lunch, or a difficult conversation you can’t get out of your head!

4)  Udana is the next force of Prana, representing the energy of sound and communication, giving us the ability to express our experience.

5)  Last but not least is vyana.  Vyana corresponds to the energy pathways in our body, connecting us to ourselves and to others.

I’ve been fortunate enough to fully experience Prana through the giving and receiving of Pranassage, an amazing blend of assisted yoga and massage.  The whole idea is that through touch, pressure, and postures, Prana is made easier to feel, allowing us to truly let go into deep relaxation with awareness of our experience.

So the next time you find yourself clenching in a pose or being distracted, try to remind yourself that it’s okay to let go and focus on the present moment…..allowing Prana to flow.

Namaste,

Erica

The 5 Prana Vayus

The 5 Prana Vayus

Spring’s Awakening – Guest Post by Lin-Ann

 

On this first day of spring, my body has some kind of internal switch that just goes click and just like that, the Winter of My Discontent begins to fade. Suddenly my brain feels awake. My body wants to move and stretch and bounce. Even if the spring sun isn’t quite warm, it’s the promise of longer warmer days ahead that brews excitement. In the past two months I’ve completed a kitchen renovation and began the fulfillment of a lifelong dream—the opening of my private psychotherapy practice. Seems only moments ago, I was the young adult on the other side of the chair (mat?) seeking identity, serenity. My new office is bright, charming, and cozy…and there’s a bamboo plant outside the window. In New England? How strange. It must be a sign. And, most importantly, the office is just big enough for two yoga mats. One for me. One for my client. Nevermind the 20 degree slanting hardwood floor. In New England we call that charm. I wonder how I could make that slope work to my advantage? Would it help me take flight in a handstand, or topple me over more easily?

I’ve yet to bring yoga into my private psychotherapy practice, but I’ve proudly heralded it as a specialty on my publicity material. I’m hoping to have a brave client one day. I’ve continued to use it with my teenaged clients at my “day job” and now I’m up to three clients with whom I’ve done regular practice. I recently began with a teenaged client whose body had bore the brunt of unspeakable abuses, and as a result she experiences physical pain in the parts that had been attacked and injured in the past. Like ghosts that continued to haunt her physical being, she feels sore and tense. Her individual therapist tells me that she has begun to teach her young client some simple breathing and relaxation exercises to precede their talk therapy. This young lady is sharp as a tack, and insightful beyond adult years, but words are sometimes hard to access when approaching the painful subject of her trauma. English is not her first language, and moreover, she is battling the tranquilizing effects of trauma on the brain. Surviving moments of life-threatening fear changes something in the brain—the mind learns to remain groggy and hibernated in order to feel safe, even long after the threat of harm is gone.

 

She had previously taken a group yoga class, and her preconceptions of yoga were that she “didn’t like it”. I wondered if the class had moved too quickly, ignored the sensitivities of a traumatized body…I was intent on showing her that a tailored, trauma-sensitive practice could be something entirely different. A primary area of focus was her back and shoulders. She had suffered severe injuries in these areas at the hands of her abusers, and although her body had medically healed, she still carries the emotional scars of this trauma through pain and tension in these areas.

 

There are three of us in the room—client, therapist, me. I lead her through slow yogic breathing, child’s pose, cat/cow, downward dog, gentle half spinal twists, thread the needle, shoulder openers including standing yoga mudra with legs apart…This is all done through multiple layers of body and language translation. The teaching begins with my own body, which translates into yoga language inside my brain. Yoga language into English from my mouth. English into the Portuguese-speaking brain of her therapist. Portuguese into Spanish from her mouth, Spanish into the brain of the client. The brain of the client into the body of the client. She moves her body accordingly. Throughout the practice, I allow her to come out of postures in her own time, giving her a sense of choice, control, and attention to her own body—three things she had been sorely robbed of in her past.

 

It is a short practice (never enough time!). After we are done, I roll up my mat and leave. Later I ask her therapist how she liked the practice. She tells me that after I left, she talked for an hour straight. Suddenly, before where there were few words, she had something to say. Something woke up.

Heart Yoga – A Guest Post from Lin-Ann

 

On Valentine’s Day Eve (don’t tell me it’s a Hallmark holiday–when else do we get to celebrate the heart in such a gooey gaudy way?), I was rushed to the ER in my first ambulance ride after experiencing the most frightening episode of heart palpitations. This was coupled with difficulty breathing, dizziness, chest pressure, and the certain feeling of doom. Ah, sounds like love, you might say. Is my heart trying to tell me something? I’ve barely recovered from the pains of heartbreak! :) I begin to think about the “heart” it takes to be a person who guides others in healing. I begin to think about the use of yoga in my clinical practice.

I began introducing yoga into my work with children way back in 2001 when I was a direct care worker with emotionally-disturbed children in a therapeutic day school/residential program. This was before I had any clinical training, and had myself only been practicing for a year or so. These kids taught me the fun and joy of exploring what the body can do. They reminded me of the silliness of the whole thing, this body that bends and twists, stretches and soars, bruises and heals.

 

The work I do today with body treatment has taken on an altogether more serious nature. My clients these days are teenagers, all girls for that matter, resilient, feisty, curious, self-conscious, smart, hilarious, and amazing girls. Most of them have endured horrific traumas in their lives, and the body is not somewhere that is pleasant or safe to exist. I recently took a workshop with Dave Emerson, RYT who owns and teaches at Black Lotus Yoga. He is the yoga consultant at The Trauma Center, a mental health agency based in JP that specializes in the assessment, treatment, training, and research of trauma. Dave led a two-day workshop in Providence with Bessel van der Kolk, reknown neuroscientist whose research into the science of the brain and its manifestations of trauma have contributed to the foundation of current trauma treatment. The main message is simple: the brain stores traumatic experiences in areas of the brain that cannot be accessed through verbal processing. They are the portions of the brain that control autonomic functioning—those unconscious processes that govern our heartbeat, our breathing. In their preliminary research, Dr. van der Kolk and Dave Emerson discovered that body treatments may be the more effective means of directly treating trauma.

 

I decided to take this into my own clinical practice. I have recently begun one-on-one yoga therapy with a teenaged client of mine. She is insightful, thoughtful, a “thinker” who often becomes flooded by her thoughts and emotions, and memories of the horrible traumas she has survived. In these moments, I have noticed that talking no longer helps her. She becomes overloaded, re-traumatized, tearful, and overwhelmed by the emotions brought about by memories of her past experiences. During times when she has become very emotionally overwhelmed, I have led her in a short series mat practice that involved heart-openers. She talked of physical pain in her chest. I asked her to stretch and open. Tears streamed down her face throughout the practice. How does it feel I asked. It hurts she answered. But she continued to move and stretch.

 

Today, we were doing our daily practice. Our space is a makeshift studio. I only have 30 minutes because if I don’t leave work precisely at 4:55 PM, I won’t make it to Healthworks in time for Barrett’s 5:30 class. I turn off the fluorescent lights, bring in my lamp, and roll out a mat. There is just enough room for one mat. I am wearing knee high boots and a skirt today (bad planning). But that doesn’t stop us from getting down to business. I lead her through yogic belly breathing in a seated position. We do some sun salutations and standing postures. I then ask her to lie on her back and hug her knees into her chest. She begins to talk about feelings, memories, concerns, worries, and I ask her to focus her attention on each sensation of her body, and to leave her mind behind. Her face instantly relaxes and I notice her attention return to her body. As she stretches out for Savasana, she says something to me that nearly floors me: You know, doing yoga makes me feel less alone. Really? I say, How? Well, she says, I usually get pretty lonely, like if I’m in my room all alone, almost like I don’t exist. But when I do yoga, it’s like I can feel myself there. I nearly fall over. Exactly! I exclaim. I can’t think of any better way to put it. A teen who has been through terrible trauma, who is terrified of loss, transitions, and abandonment, can move in a way that leaves her mind behind, and establishes and confirms her presence.

 

We end with Savasana, Namaste, a bow, and as she stands up she sighs “Man I feel SO much better. I was SO tense before.” Then, I am dashing out the door to drive home, change my clothes, snatch my yoga mat, scarf down a banana, find a parking spot, sprint up the stairs of Healthworks, mutter something to the woman in front of me in line : Man I need yoga just to de-stress from the stress of getting to this class on time. I nearly knock over two women trying to get my props. And then when I reach my mat—I can feel myself there.

I Trust the Internet More than My Pediatrician – Part 2

 

Here’s our Part 2 installment from new mom blogger Catherine.  A few weeks ago, she wrote this post about some common postpartum issues.   Enjoy!

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The next issue is a major one – the Vaccine Issue. My husband and I had been warned that there were some controversies around vaccines (mercury content, unnecessary vaccines, bad side effects, possible autism links, and so on). We did our best as new parents to look into this, research it with our friends, and read about it. But, of course, we are busy people so we don’t have time to read all of the literature about vaccines. We came across the Dr. Sears book (aptly named “The Vaccine Book”) which, for us, was the most balanced look at vaccines written for laypeople. We decided to follow Dr. Sears’ alternative vaccine schedule for our son. In this schedule, you get all of the recommended vaccines, just in a different order and staggered differently. From our first pediatrician visit, I warned our pediatrician that this is what we wanted to do. I offered to set up a special meeting with her where we could talk about the vaccine schedule that we were going to follow. Nevertheless, at our two-month visit, she had the four regular shots prepared to give him and was offended when I told her that we were not going to get those because we were doing something different. She harrumphed and made a photocopy of the Dr. Sears schedule. She then told me that what we were doing was against all medical protocol. I said, “OK, but that’s what we are doing nevertheless.” She was disgruntled for the rest of the appointment and I started thinking seriously about changing pediatricians at that point.

 

The final issue that made me switch pediatricians is not really a single issue. After the vaccine visit, I had other new parent issues and questions come up. Are his grunts normal? Until when should I swaddle my son? Is the red around his bottom a diaper rash? What kind and what’s the best treatment? Will the white bump on his face go away? He hates being on his tummy, is his neck really weak now? These and many other questions. I realized that I didn’t want to bring up any of these little questions with his pediatrician because I did not trust her. I was afraid that she wouldn’t respect my desire for a non-interventionist approach to raising my son – i.e. as few prescriptions and medications as possible. I was afraid that if I brought up an issue, she would bring out her prescription pad. 

 

This was the point where I realized that I trusted the Internet more than my pediatrician. I could go on the Internet to look up diaper rash, for example, and choose to read the information that accorded with my desire for natural methods (rubbing breast milk on his bottom – a natural solution that really worked!) And the Internet was full of information and never condescending to me. I didn’t have to withold information from Google because I wasn’t afraid of what Google would think of me as a mother.

 

So why not just have the Internet as your pediatrician, you might ask? (You probably wouldn’t ask that, but just for the sake of argument…) Well, looking up diaper rash and swaddling is one thing, but what if he becomes really ill? I don’t want to be keeping that information from my pediatrician and hoping that WebMD will be able to diagnose him remotely (“Please click here once you have placed your baby on the scanner.”) I realized I needed a pediatrician who I could trust, who would respect my wishes for a low-intervention parenting style, and who would understand that I’m trying to do the best I can for my son. I think I have found the right practice – one town away – and I hear they are friendly to alternate vaccine schedules. We have our first appointment tomorrow.

 

Yoga for Real Life – Guest Post

 

Welcome to our newest guest blogger, Lin-Ann.   She’s a longtime student of mine with a beautiful dedicated practice.  When she mentioned she’d be interested in writing about her experiences practicing and even teaching a bit of yoga, I jumped at the chance to hear her voice.   I’m so glad I did – read for yourself!

 

On Thanksgiving Day, I decided to take a month-long leave from my job to dedicate myself to self-healing. Admitting I needed this break was a big deal for a Type-A achiever like me, and being supported by my employer and my loved ones in taking the break is even more of a blessing. In my professional life, I give my energies to working in a residential treatment center as an adolescent and family therapist for teen girls with emotional and behavioral issues, most of whom have histories of significant trauma or mental illness. In my personal life, I am coping with the devastating loss of a significant love relationship. This has really gotten me thinking about the power of healing grief, trauma and other psychological ailments through yoga and other bodywork. (More on my professional endeavors in the next post.)

 

As a gift to myself, and as a way to dedicate the next month to self-healing, I decided to turn the newly-vacated spare room in my house into a yoga/bodywork room. I brought in my music, candles, my mat and props. So now, commitment to practice doesn’t even require taking my mat out of the closet. It’s all laid out.

 

 For a week, I’ve been knocked down with a sinus infection and plagued by the lethargy that accompanies grief. I thought that since I had not practiced in three days, I should go to the mat and see what it brings me. This was met with a lot of negative “brain chatter” as I call it: I’m too tired, too sick to practice. My body doesn’t feel like it. This is not going to feel good at all. I had bodywork done the night before which focused on my left glute, and a lot of accompanying anger emerged from that area of my body during the massage. My inner teacher was telling me to focus on stretching out this area, which had been worked pretty deeply the night before. I still felt some strange energy emanating from that point. I did a short series of sun salutations and then did half pigeon, revolved half moon, triangle, revolved triangle, baddha konasana (bound angle or butterfly), and then took a seated position with knee over knee (not sure what this asana is called). I also did ankle over knee, pulled into my chest, lying on my back. I ended with self massage using Barrett’s donated tennis balls on my left hamstring (to release anger) and left shoulder (a place where I happen to carry a lot of sadness).

 

During this short practice, I was amazed to feel a physical strength and peace that is too easy to forget that we possess in moments of vulnerability and weakness. As I moved and stretched slowly, another old friend that had not visited me for a while came to knock on my door: hope. Hope that there is a way out of grief, and I am taught this solely through the way my body feels, not what my mind tells me. My body says, See you can feel strong again. Look what your being is capable of. And then the mind follows. The evidence is in my body, so there is no way for my mind to talk me out of it. This, I think it’s the true power of healing through the body, rather than the mind. And this, from a person who spends most of her day healing others through talk therapy.

 

What elation to be able to find small moments of peace and present-mindedness, groundedness, and kindness amongst the chaos of this life. I wonder if any of you have experienced these moments, whether your body has been able to help free you from the trappings of the mind. Have any of you had your practice help you find your way out of trauma, grief, or loss? I would love to hear about your experiences.

 

It’s almost midnight, but I think I need to head to the mat now. Namaste, Lin-Ann

 

Last Day for Odyssey Discount!

Hi All,

 

Today is the last day to sign up for the Odyssey at a discount!    See this posting all about it and go here to register.

 

I just want to explain the below post.  I’ve wanted to have some other yogis write on this blog about life as it relates to their yoga practice.   Over the next few months, you’ll hear a couple different voices from yogis I know, talking about their practice on and off the mat.  I’m really excited about this!

 

Catherine is our first guest blogger.  She’s a new mom.   Stay tuned for another guest blogger later this week!

 

Namaste,

 

Barrett

I trust the internet more than my pediatrician

This is from guest poster, Catherine.   She’s a dedicated yogini and a new mom whose agreed to write a few guest posts for us here.  I thought it would be great to get her perspective about life with an infant.  Thank you Catherine!

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Uh Oh. I trust the Internet more than my pediatrician.

 

I have a big, healthy four-month-old son. Everything about him so far is very normal and average (which is great!) When I was pregnant, my belly would measure exactly on target for the week that I was in and I actually went into labor on his due date.

 

Given that I had such a low-risk pregnancy, I didn’t think much of the choice of his pediatrician. Around our 38th week, the midwife asked for the name of the pediatrician and my husband and I looked at each other as it dawned on us, “Oh, right. We should probably do that before he’s born.” Given that we were attempting to get 1000 other things done before he arrived, we went to the first pediatrician that we could find who was close to our house and covered by our insurance. We didn’t think much about the choice at the time. After ten minutes talking to the pediatrician, we thought she seemed like a very reasonable, knowledgeable woman.

 

And she DID turn out to be a reasonable, knowledgeable woman, but not the right pediatrician for us. 

 

She wasn’t right for us for a few reasons. First of all, there was the Eye-Gunk Issue. From birth, my son would get mucus-y stuff in his eyes. It happened particularly when he slept, but occasionally at other times as well. For the first 6-7 weeks of his life it didn’t get worse or better, there was just always eye gunk in his eyes and I would wipe it away whenever I could with a warm washcloth. When it first started happening, I looked it up on the Internet (of course, right? Why go to a knowledgeable professional when you have Google?) and it seemed to simply be a clogged tear duct. All the sites say to just keep it clean and the tear duct will eventually open on its own. When we saw the pediatrician, however, she saw the eye gunk and prescribed erythromycin to rub on his eyes.

 

I said, “But is it an infection? Isn’t that an antibiotic?” She said, “No, it’s not an infection but this will clear it up.” I remained confused by her answer but after another week where the eye gunk level stayed the same, I decided to actually fill the prescription and start applying it. We had a messy several days of me trying to coat the inner eyelid of a baby with petroleum-based goo. He would then always rub his eyes with his hands and then of course stick them in his mouth. Being a new mom, I then became worried about him eating the eye goo. Since it didn’t seem to help the eye gunk issue, I simply stopped administering the goo and just didn’t tell our pediatrician. I just made sure that his eyes were nice and clean right before we went to see her. Now that he’s four months, the eye gunk issue is totally gone. Chalk one up for the Internet.

 

Next time I post I’ll write about another major issue – all about Vaccines. 

 

 

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