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   Archives 2012


December 31, 2012

The End of the End

It's the last day of 2012.  The earth has not reversed it polarity, at least not that I can tell, no apocalyptic disasters.  December 21st was much like any other day close to Christmas, people bustling in preparation for the holiday.  I made cookies with my granddaughters.  2013 appears to be arriving on schedule, without interruption or delay.  I wonder how soon the next doomsday prediction will surface. 

I have found 2012 to be a very busy and fast moving year for me.  I would make plans and they would change two or three times, sometimes more, before coming to fruition.  I am looking for this pace to decelerate.  That would seem a likely next step.

There's really not much to say about the coming year without projecting desires or fears.  So I return to the present moment again, and again and again.  Winter has arrived, the days are short and the nights are long and dark.  It is a time for staying close to home, taking inventory, reflecting on what you have.  In the Chinese tradition, during the last month of the year people are encouraged to forget old grudges and to forgive debts.  It is a quiet time.

Pleasant new year...shhhhhhhhhhhh.


June 29, 2012

Sands through the Hourglass

I called my brother today to wish him a happy birthday.  He is 70 years old!  Now that just doesn't seem possible, and I'm only 5 years behind him.  I am amused by my own mind's reluctance to accept the facts of aging.  When my parents used to complain about their aging process it seemed so silly to me that they didn't expect to have declining health, or to lose friends when they were in their 70's and 80's.  But I'm finding that I don't expect those things either.  I am just as disappointed to discover an ache in my body as I was when that happened in my 20's.  I had friends who died young, in their 20's or 30's, and I thought that was tragic.  Now when a friend dies in their 60's, I still think it's too young.  Of course I do, because now that's my age!  My father-in-law was a competitive Masters swimmer into his late 80's.  He had the hardest time accepting his decreasing times, even in his strongest events.  It was some consolation to him that he broke and held world records in his age group, but the slowing times were still a disappointment.  It was an interesting twist when he started looking forward to moving into the next 5-year age group, because usually an 85 year old can swim faster than an 89 year old swimmer, and he did.I'm beginning to understand why our parents were so surprised all along the way at the process of the body's decline.  I think it's because of our identification with the body as who we are.  Yoga teaches us to look beyond the body to a greater unchanging Self that lives within us.  That requires a shift in consciousness.  And, thank Goodness, Yoga also gives us some tools to preserve the body's fitness and prevent unnecessary lifestyle illnesses.  The MELT Method also was designed with the intention to offset the effects of aging so we can live pain free and remain active as long as possible.Well, now I have to go fill out the forms for my Medicare Supplemental Insurance and finish the crossword puzzle in the AARP magazine.  See you back in class on Monday when the Summer Session begins.

April 24, 2012

Connections all over the Place

My current interest in the MELT Method developed from a seed that was planted about 10 years ago when Gary Domby raved to me about a new book at the time called Anatomy Trains, by Tom Myers.  His excitement about the book stimulated my curiosity, so I bought it, tried to read it, and looked at the pictures a lot. Some of it made sense, a lot was over my head, and the bottom line was I didn't grasp enough of it to be useful to me or my yoga practice. 

But my curiosity and interest remained about the main topic of the book, which was the myofascia, deep connective tissues that surround, penetrate, separate and connect the muscles.  This led me to some yoga classes that mentioned the concept, but I was still left clueless.  Then, about a year ago, Margo talked me into trying a Yoga class with Ada Lusardi, and it was advertised as having a focus on anatomy.  Ada's outline for that class was core work, based on one of the 'anatomy trains' in Tom Myers' book ~ the train, or muscle grouping, called the "Deep Front Line."  That was the first time I saw some practical application of the information.  My friend, Sue Brantley, a Yoga and Pilates teacher in Portland, had started offering workshops in "Myofascial Release."  It seemed I could never make it to any of these workshops, so when I saw her last Fall, at another class of Ada's, I invited her to teach Myofascial Release at the Yoga Loft.  Sue's two workshops, one for the lower body and one for the upper body, were the most popular special event classes we ever had in our little studio.  And the work turned out to be so much fun, not too difficult to do, and made me feel just as wonderful as a yoga practice.  There I was, hooked on another body treatment.  I think everyone who took the classes had a similar reaction.One of Sue's co-workers at Pacific NW Pilates had already taken some MELT Method training.  So through her, Jean Leavenworth, I hooked up with more information about MELT ~ Myofascial Energetic Length Technique ~ on the Web.  That's where I found Sue Hitzman, the creator of MELT, a body worker and quite well-known fitness instructor.  Did you ever see an infomercial in the late 90's for the "Crunch Boot Camp" videos?  That's Sue in her 20's, beating up her body with high impact exercises.  Injuries led her to a healing path.  When I read Sue's blog I found her viewpoint to be holistic and so harmonious with yoga philosophy that I felt strongly that I should take her next teacher training in Portland. Now I'm more than half-way through the training and I see the potential for the MELT techniques to help many people rebalance areas in the body that may have been stuck for years and even yoga didn't help.  It is a slightly different approach to achieving balance in the body, to stimulate, lengthen, and rehydrate connective tissue, rather than stretching and strengthening muscles.  Of course nothing in the body is really isolated from or independent of the whole, so all parts benefit.Sue has created a "living body model" that breaks away from the old musculo-skeletal model of how to keep the body fit.  She has studied at great length with pioneering scientific researchers, body workers and health care professionals.  She is a self- proclaimed "anatomy geek," having done many dissections with Gil Hedley, and can be seen in his DVD series, Integral Anatomy, available now in the Yoga Loft Library.  Many of the MELT techniques are more focused than Yoga postures, because they have been designed to simulate the hands-on treatment that Sue uses in her practice. The techniques feel like a massage.  The treatments for the hands and feet have effects on the whole body. The method uses the concepts of anatomy trains, found in Tom Myers' book.  I've had the book for 10 years and it's finally starting to make sense! 

I haven't been this excited by any body practice since I've been teaching yoga.  I look forward to your honest feedback, as we MELT together.

February 12, 2012

The Myofascial Web

Yesterday Margo and I attended another workshop with Ada Lusardi.  Ada visits Portland about twice a year from her base in the San Francisco area. She entitled yesterday's class "Unwinding the Web, Yoga and Self-Myofascial Release." If you've been a student at the Yoga Loft, you know we had two workshops at the end of last year with Sue Brantley introducing myofascial release techniques.  Since the beginning of this year I have been gradually incorporating these methods into our classes a little bit at a time.  The effects of this practice are surprisingly similar to those of a traditional yoga practice.  I find there is a shift in body alignment, a noticeable impact on body energy and an accompanying feeling of well being. To me this was quite unexpected. Other than from practicing yoga, the only time I've really felt such dramatic changes in my being have been from a good acupuncture treatment, or sometimes from a massage.  I'm talking about walking away from a practice or treatment feeling completely grounded, mentally focused in the present moment, and like you're starting fresh.  Keeping our yoga practice fresh and interesting is one of my intentions, so it pleases me to be able to bring to you this new approach to integrating the body, mind and energy.Here are some links to facts about the fascia of the body.  Until recently it was thought of as a unintelligent connective tissue that deserved no more attention than to be discarded during anatomical dissections. It is comprised of bundles of collagen.  It runs through the entire body, from head to toe in one continuous sheath.  There are sub layers of these sheaths, which some anatomists refer to as "anatomy trains."  When acupuncture made its debut in the West in the 1970's, medical science was at a loss to understand the basis of the acupuncture meridians.  They don't seem to logically follow the nerve pathways or other known patterns in the body.  Now science is catching up, because of the new attention being given to anatomy trains.  If you would like to read about this you can Google: Myofascial Meridians as Anatomical Evidence of Acupuncture Channels by Peter T. Dorsher, MD.  There is a PDF file of this article which does not permit itself to be copied, so I couldn't link to it. 

With the dawn of the so called "New Age" and "Paradigm Shift"  humans have begun to regain a knowledge of the connectedness of all things in Nature.  The fact that we are now discovering that there is an entire system in the body, previously ignored, that not only connects all the parts that we previously viewed as separate systems, but also is sensitive and integrated into the overall body intelligence, appears to be part of our dawning awareness of connection, or one could say ~ yoga. 

February 7, 2012

Putting it to Rest

OK.  Today I actually heard William Broad speaking in his own voice on the radio...

Fresh Air: February 7, 2 - 3 p.m.
NYT science reporter William Broad discusses the science of yoga. Using the latest scientific research, he explains the benefits of yoga, while debunking the myths surrounding it and explaining why certain yoga poses can be quite dangerous.

A written transcript of the above mentioned interview.

...about his newspaper article and forthcoming book.  For as much research as this science journalist has done on "yoga," and for being a dedicated practitioner, he knows just enough to sorely misrepresent what Yoga is. 

The interview confirms what I thought when I first read his article on 'how yoga can wreck your body.'  He makes no distinction between the vast practice of Yoga and the much smaller practice of asana which is one of many disciplines within the practice of Yoga.  In addition, in the radio interview, he made it sound like there is a difference between what he calls "yoga" and meditation.  He misrepresented a branch of Yoga called Tantra, and he mispronounced Hatha.  He relates a story of his own personal injury in asana practice, clearly showing that it was due to a total indulgence in the ego, yet he does not recognize that or use it as a teaching opportunity.  About this important aspect of yoga, the ego, he is clueless.  I now regret having even brought so much attention to him. 

His observations on the risks and dangers of asana practice must have needed to come to the forefront.  I am considering some changes to my teaching to make the practice safer for all.  That is a benefit that may arise from the dialogue.  But I don't plan to buy his book. 

No more about him, I promise. 

February 1, 2012

Continuing Dialog

Click on this linkto read the ongoing conversation about the NY Times article on Yoga. There is a video of Leslie Kaminoff speaking that I thought was particularly interesting.

January 27, 2012

That's more like it

The link below will take you to an interview with yoga teacher, Glenn Black, who was quoted in the New York Times article "How Yoga Can Wreck Your Body."  I was glad to see that he has had an opportunity to clarify some of his views.  The only thing he says in this interview that I don't agree with, is that "ego is a good thing because it gets you through life."  I don't think so, but still, I suggest you read what he has to say about yoga, asana practice, his own injury, and responses to his statements quoted in the article. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/eden-g-fromberg-do/yoga_b_1202465.html

January 22, 2012

Controversy or Wake-up Call?


William J. Broad’s New York Times article of January 5, 2012, entitled “How Yoga Can Wreck Your Body” is stimulating responses from members across the yoga community.  The article quotes a yoga instructor with almost 40 years experience as saying that the vast majority of people should give up yoga altogether.  It’s simply too likely to cause harm.  It also brings into question the methods, motives and training of yoga teachers who push students toward the goal of achieving more advanced postures.  The risks mentioned go far beyond muscle strain, bone or joint injury.  Cerebral damage, stroke, retinal tears, and arterial occlusion command the reader’s attention.

 Is this a surprise that the type of exercise now generally referred to as “yoga” can potentially be harmful?  I don’t know why it would be.  Do we know of any type of exercise that does not have some risk involved or some contraindication for someone?  We have a medical specialty called “Sports Medicine” that keeps doctors busy with people who have injured themselves through athletics and/or exercise. Why do we see so many disclaimers associated with exercise equipment, videos, and accessories stating that we’d better talk to our doctors before beginning a new program?  We have been warned about exercise.  Do we think that pertains to the proverbial ‘other guy’?  What naiveté has made us believe that an exercise called “yoga” could do no harm while offering the possibility of healing us of ailments ranging from plantar fasciitis to cancer. 

I believe the content of the article is true, if it’s read as referring to “exercise” when it says “yoga.”  I think the whole article would be more accurate and truthful if the word "exercise" were substituted everywhere it says "yoga," and the term "exerciser" put in the place of "yogi" and "yogini."   But then it might not have caught so much attention if not associated with the fad of yoga. The word yoga is becoming assimilated into the Collective Ego like it's been captured by the Borg. Look at how widely so-called yoga postures are used in advertising and film now and how the mockery of chanting makes for a good joke.  Notice how the N.Y. Times chose to illustrate Broad’s article, (at least the online version) with Broadway stars clowning around.  Hmmm….of all the pictorial choices they could have made for a serious article!  

At the 2006 Symposium on Yoga Therapy and Research, well-known yoga teacher and author, Gary Kraftsow, said that he was able to build his house on Maui from the money he earned teaching therapeutic yoga to injured yoga students and teachers decades ago.  Therapeutic yoga is not a different kind of yoga.  It is the proper application of appropriate practices to the specific needs of an individual. This is the essence of a true hatha yoga practice. This could involve the use of postures, breathing exercises, relaxation techniques and meditation, as well as evaluating one’s diet, occupation, personal relationships, ethical values, and attitudes toward life. 

In fall of 2010 a book was published called Yoga Body, by Mark Singleton, followed by an article in the November issue of Yoga Journal entitled, “Yoga’s Greater Truth.”  Singleton’s research indicates that the exercises we call “yoga postures” did not originate in India.  He traced a system of physical culture that began in Scandinavia in the late 19th century and spread with great popularity across the continent and into India, where it resonated with yogi’s who loved it and made it their own.  In the early 20th century Yoga came to America in mutated form. 

Now, in the 21st century, we have something commonly referred to as “yoga” or “yoga poses” by the average American.  To think that this Americanized yoga exercise with a dab of meditation slapped on at the end of class is true Yoga, is like thinking that learning to read means you can understand everything that is written.  Yoga is a vast study with many branches available to those who seek.  Most of it has nothing to do with exercise.  Failure to distinguish between these two yogas creates confusion and misunderstanding. 

Nevertheless, our mutated, Americanized system of hatha yoga is a practice that thousands, if not millions of people, have come to value as a source of numerous boons, including improved strength and flexibility, healthy digestion, pain relief, relaxation, stress relief, mental composure, and emotional balance.  Many have experienced the reversal of symptoms and the healing of disease.   

The first ethical practice of yoga is ahimsa ~ do no harm.  That includes to one’s self.  Have I ever injured myself practicing postures?  Yes, at times, when I was trying to get somewhere other than the present moment, or to create a version of myself that I thought would be better than the one I had.  But fortunately they were only minor injuries, nothing that wasn’t resolved in a week or two.  These were learning experiences and I am still in the process of some.  I have had other injuries and chronic problems that were caused by everyday activities.  There have been times, even years, when I was unable to do certain yoga poses without pain.  Things change.  Yoga teaches acceptance, patience and openness.  It cultivates the ability to perceive from a place of inner truth, what is right for each of us and how much is needed.   

There are many lessons to be learned from yoga, that can be taken beyond the exercise mat, and that bear no risk of bodily harm.  This was not told in the New York Times article.  If you choose to practice yoga, it is wise to remember that your yoga teacher is not your yoga teacher.  The real teacher is the body.  The body overrides anything your yoga teacher might instruct.  If it feels that to do something would not be helpful, don’t do it.  Remember how to listen to the body.  Priority one.  Listen to the body.  Then, honor that voiceDo not ignore.  This is one’s ‘response-ability,’ to find what is right for one’s self.  We are protected and nourished by natural energies within us and around us.  These are just some of the blessings of a yoga practice. 



Wisdom of the I Ching ~ Online

One of my favorite teachers, Carol Anthony, co-author of I Ching, Oracle of the Cosmic Way, is now available to watch on You Tube.  She has recorded 10 short videos, each about 5 or 6 minutes long, sharing her own experiences, from her first encounter with the book to the path of meditation experiences that have followed for over forty years. 

Yoga teachings takes many forms, I Ching being one of them.  It is a beautiful accompaniment to the path of yoga outlined by Patanjali in the Yoga Sutra.  The link below will take you to the first video.  The rest can be accessed from there and they are all numbered.  There is also a related video posted by her co-author, Hanna Moog, describing how to form a hexagram to consult I Ching.


January 19, 2012

Current Controversy

As soon as I arrived at the Yoga Journal Conference in San Francisco last week, someone asked me if I had read the recent New York Times article entitled, "How Yoga Can Wreck Your Body," by William J. Broad.  I had not, and didn't actually have a chance to read it until I returned home.It is thought provoking, so please read it for yourself: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/01/08/magazine/how-yoga-can-wreck-your-body.html?_r=3&pagewanted=1&hp

I have received three responses in my personal email from yoga practitioners who felt compelled to make their own comments about the article, and I want to talk about it too.  The meaning of yoga is abundantly misunderstood and therefore the word is frequently being misused.  I will publish more of my own opinions regarding the ideas presented in the article soon.  Stay tuned...

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