Thursday, December 15, 2011

Looking forward to January's classes

My yoga class has been cancelled for the month of December because the Pearls of Wisdom bookstore rightly needs the space for managing the Christmas stock. :-) After two weeks of no classes I am finding that I miss the class greatly. I find myself poring over my yoga books and scouring yoga videos for ideas for new sequences to try. ;-)

You know, I am so proud of my yoga students in the month we have worked together so far!  When I first started teaching these two ladies a month ago, one of my students, a woman in late middle age who had never taken yoga classes before, thought herself very inflexible. But she came to class with a wonderful “I’ll give it a try” attitude and a joyful smile.

Just four weeks later, she says she feels much more flexible and is pleased at how much she is able to do. She feels more confident in getting up from the floor (something that had been an issue for her), and also reports greater flexibility in her neck, another problem area. I can tell myself, just by watching this woman in class, that she has greater awareness of what her body is doing and more sureness in the movements.

During our last class together before the break, I worked them harder than I have before. It was a post-Thanksgiving detox to flush out toxins and get the digestion moving. We didn’t do sun salutations, but we did move faster than we have before, generating a fair amount of internal heat in the process. We were all feeling the workout, but they held their own and kept up with me. I was so proud of how far we’ve come: them as students and me as a teacher. It was a great class!

I am looking forward to practicing yoga with them again next year. I can’t wait to see where we’ll go.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Yoga for menstruation

My period started today, and I'm really feeling it: low energy, cramps, cranky, the works. I decided to try a bit of yoga to see if it would help. I found a video from Yogatic that has a nice, gentle sequence you can do when you are on your cycle. I tried it, and I do feel better. I still have some cramping, but it's not as bad as it was. Plus I'm much more relaxed and less cranky than I've been all day. Maybe even good enough to face the Sunday grocery store crowds? We'll see.

Anyway, here's the video:

Friday, October 28, 2011

This getting soft is hard work

We work really hard in my Tai Chi class. I wasn't looking at my watch during this week's class, but I swear we did this one move (Step Up, Deflect, Intercept, and Punch - catchy name) for about 15 minutes. Then we went and did another move (Single Whip) for another 15 minutes.  That’s pretty intense work.

My left shoulder was already tender from where I bruised it in a fall nearly two months ago. I couldn't figure out why it hurt so much this morning until I remembered which particular moves we were doing last night. The "Intercept" move is basically a shoulder rotation, followed by a forward thrust.  Oof!

I’m glad I have a massage scheduled for tomorrow. I will definitely be having her work on my left shoulder, neck, and even the left side of my back which is sore from the trunk rotation of the movement. I’m also thrilled to be able to tell her that I’m sore from a workout, rather than from working too intently at the computer. *grin*

My teacher (Sifu) says that there is an ease in the way we perform the form because of how hard we work in class.  An ease that you don't even see in other practitioners of the particular form that we practice, which itself is based on body mechanics. He has us work to refine and refine the movements like we did last night so that eventually we develop a softness and ease in the form.  

I am clearly not there yet. But then, I have only been taking classes for seven months. The softness will come, in time, I’m sure. I just may have to wait a few years for it to develop. Until then...practice, practice, practice.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Yoga for a sick day

I was sick today and spent most of the day in bed. I guess I have the cold that's been going around my office. But aside from a little nasal discharge, and a tight feeling in my chest, my only real symptom is fatigue. I have been really tired all day.

This surprised me, because I didn't think I was all that sick. I expected to perk up in the afternoon, at least enough to feel like doing the dishes. But I didn't feel like moving at all.

The only thing that got me out of bed was this blog. I was like, "I should do some restorative yoga and then write about it. Wouldn't that be cool?"

So finally, after reading up on yoga to help the immune system, I pulled myself out of bed and onto the mat. I stopped for a shower first, in the hopes that it would warm me up and make me feel better. I did some gentle breath of fire, followed by cat & cow, supported bridge pose, supported fish pose, and finally legs-up-the-wall.

You know what? I do feel better. Good enough to put away dishes and write this entry, at least. Of course, I will probably fall right back into bed any minute now...

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

A student!

Last week no one showed up to my first scheduled Gentle Yoga class. I was a bit disappointed, but actually I was mostly fine with it. Having no students gave me a chance to bring in the props I have gathered and find a place to store them in the back room of Pearls of Wisdom, where I’m giving the class. I was also able to figure how to set up my classroom to best use the space, and then do the practice – a dry run or dress rehearsal, if you will. It’s all good.

Yesterday, though, I actually had a student! She was enthused and ready to do yoga. However, it wasn’t the student I was expecting. I was expecting to have a woman who has had wrist surgery and can’t put much pressure on her wrist, including getting up from sitting on the floor. So I had planned a session entirely of poses in a chair and standing poses. The student who did come is experiencing plantar fasciitis and has no trouble getting on the floor. So I had to switch gears in the middle of my planned set of poses and try to address her foot issues.

What a great learning experience for me. We did some foot stretches and I taught her a couple of good massage techniques to use. I also did some good leg stretches with her: seated wide angle forward bend, cobblers pose and garland pose. I missed some good poses for plantar fasciitis, though, like Warrior I and staff pose. So much for thinking on my feet! I’ll have to add those to the workout if she returns.

For my first time out teaching I felt awkward; my instruction patter didn’t flow and having to switch gears through me off. But I don’t think I did all that badly, either. Remembering how nervous and awkward I was the first time I taught pranayama, I think I did okay. :-)

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Teaching yoga

Today is a big day for me. Today I start teaching my first ongoing yoga class: Gentle Yoga For Inflexible People. I'm teaching on a volunteer/donation only basis, which I feel is right since I haven't yet even begun a yoga teacher training.  

I have been planning this class for almost two months now. I haven't said anything here because I didn't want to jinx it, in case I changed my mind or it didn't happen for some reason. is the day! It's happening!

I have put this class together based on the yoga that I have been able to do as I have regained my strength and flexibility over the past year or two. I'm also using a lot of material from Peggy Cappy's Yoga For The Rest Of Us book and DVD series of traditional yoga modified for various body types and abilities. The DVDs in particular are useful; Peggy's students in her videos are of varying ages - including above age 70 - and she demonstrates poses modified for their varying levels of flexibility. 

The meditation class I've been teaching this year has expanded to include a short warm-up and breathing (pranayama) exercises. Teaching this class has been incredibly rewarding and fun for me. I'm having a ball with it! I have been having more fun than I've had since I went to massage school. When I am teaching I feel completely in the moment. A sure sign that I'm doing something right. 

From this joy, the idea came to me to expand my teaching to include a yoga class. Plus, I feel certain that the practice will benefit me as well, by helping me get stronger and prepare me for an faster-paced traditional hatha yoga class. My goal is to start attending a regular yoga class in the winter, and hopefully start yoga teacher training next fall.   

But first, tonight's class. Several of my students from the mediation class have promised to attend this evening. I have practiced; I know the poses and routine I'm going to do. I am just about as ready as I can be. I am nervous, but really excited as well. 

Friday, September 30, 2011


Abundance is when everything is perfect as it is.  -  Osho

Monday, September 19, 2011

Facing fear

Yesterday was a big day for me.  I got four hours of Tai Chi instruction in one day! It was a make-up session my teacher provided for anyone who has missed classes in the past. For the first two hours he taught the form that I learn in my regular classes. I really enjoyed it! I got some really good instruction that should help me be more relaxed and effective in the form. The two hours seemed to go by really quickly.

After that I had a two hour lunch break, then returned to the school for two hours of push hands instruction. Push hands is a two-person Tai Chi form. I had assumed we would be working with a partner, but instead we simply performed solo drills. It was hard, partly because we performed the same move over and over again for 15 minutes or more, and partly because the moves were all new to me. But I was determined to stick with it and learn.

I did okay, but by the last half hour I was brain dead. I couldn't tell my right from my left. I had no idea if I was doing the moves correctly at all. I considered leaving, but I decided it was worth it to stay, if only to get a workout. And to be able to say that I made it.

And I DID make it! When I started taking Tai Chi, almost six months ago, I could barely make it through one hour of class. When the time came for the next class a week later, I felt that I had barely recovered from the previous week's class.  It has only been in the past couple of months that I haven't felt really tired at the end of an hour-long class.

So I was pretty nervous about attempting four hours of Tai Chi in one day! Now, I was pretty darn tired and sore afterward. Hungry too, but too tired even to make much in the way of dinner. I made myself a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, grabbed some corn chips, and had a lie down.  

I'm not sure how much I got out of the push hands class, but I'm really glad I did it. I faced my fear and learned that I can make it through four hours of Tai Chi in one day. Maybe the next time a six-hour workshop comes around, as they do every so often, I'll be strong enough to do that, too!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Learning Tai Chi

I have been learning Tai Chi for four months now, taking classes once a week. The form I am learning is a 60-move Yang form. Taking classes once a week, and practicing at home every day, it took me three months to memorize the entire form.

Doing this exercise has been quite an adjustment.

The first month, I learned how weak my legs were. My legs hurt all the time. I stretched every day, but it wasn't until I started stretching them two or three times a day that they really decided it was okay to relax.

After the second class, I got bronchitis. I had been concentrating on my breathing so hard, I felt like I'd just been running.

The second and third months, I started to have some other strange physical symptoms. I began menstruating more...spotting and having an extra full period or two. Disconcerting. I searched online and in my qigong books. The only explanation I could find was a study reporting that estrogen levels went up in women after practicing Tai Chi (and down in men, interestingly).

I also started having, shall we say, sensitive digestive issues. I will spare you the details. Again, I haven’t been able to find any backing documentation, but my theory is that the movements of Tai Chi strongly work the waist, thereby massaging the vital organs such as the liver, stomach, and intestines. That would probably increase the liver’s production of bile, and help digestion. My body was going through a cleansing!

Thankfully, all these physical adjustments have settled down now.

As difficult as the physical adjustments were, the emotional adjustments were even more disconcerting.

Often, I would feel unsettled and agitated for a day or so after class. This feeling was familiar to me from when I started getting acupuncture. It's the feeling of more energy moving through my body than I'm used to. I was kind of expecting it, but that doesn't mean it wasn't uncomfortable. Unfortunately, the post-class feeling of being agitated lasted for over four months, much longer than I anticipated.

This emotional cleansing has been the hardest adjustment for me to deal with. I talked about it with one of my massage therapists, who also does energy work. She wondered if maybe I was picking up the emotions of the other new student who was learning the form at the same time I was. We worked in close proximity, and it made sense that I'd be picking up is emotions because I was so open in the new practice.

Together we came up with a strategy to protect myself.  She lent me several CDs of spiritual, chakra-balancing music to listen to both before and after class. She suggested I use some essential oils to make a protective aromatherapy blend that I could use on myself before heading to class.  I suggested that I make a trip to a local park after class to help me ground the energy. Not only would the park be a great place to stretch after class, but I could do some of my balancing qigong exercises there as well. And being in nature, it would be easy to send any unwanted energy away and into the earth.    

I have taken all of those precautions, and it has helped immensely! I no longer have such an emotional fallout from the classes.

And now, I have been practicing for just over 4 months. I am finally starting to see some benefits to daily practice!  Tai Chi grounds and balances me. I truly miss it if I don’t practice for a few days. Also, my carpal tunnel symptoms, already very manageable because of my work habits, seem to have lessened even more. My tight right shoulder is looser.

When I first began learning Tai Chi, it took a great deal of energy and concentration. Now, it’s just something I do. It’s not that I’m not continuing to learn and work deeper, but I find that the practice no longer demands so much of my attention. I have integrated it into my life.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Inner flood

I wrote the following in early February, the day before my Reiki 2 attunement.

Since I started getting Reiki in December I have felt like a dam within me broke through. I have finally let go of the energy I was holding for a new job and possible move, which never materialized.  My energy is now free to find new directions.

I probably would have made this shift anyway, but the addition of the Reiki is making this change all the more powerful and swift. The dam within me burst and my heart is flowing out. My acupuncture intern noticed the change in me as soon as she saw me this week. "I can tell by your face that things are much better for you," she said.

Tomorrow morning I receive a Reiki 2 attunement. Right after my Reiki 1 attunement a decade ago I felt like the top of my head had been lifted off and I had been scrubbed out with a bottle brush. It was uncomfortable, and I don’t think I was ready then for that much energy to run through me. But now I have over nine years of meditation and yoga practice, and two of qigong, behind me. And four recent Reiki healing sessions to cleanse and prepare me. I think I’m ready.

Even still, I want to prepare myself. This evening, I will do some qigong to work out any tension in my body, then spend the rest of the evening in meditation and prayer. I will eat a light dinner and an even lighter breakfast. I’m supposed to fast for 12 hours before the attunement, but I don’t do well with fasting, so she says it’s okay for me to eat a very light meal.

I am excited, and a little nervous. After this I will be able to give distance energy healing to others, as well as giving healing to myself in a way that won’t cause me pain. It will also increase my spiritual awareness and will most likely continue the opening I am feeling going on inside me.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Fall Into Spring

A lot has happened in my life since the last time I posted here. Sadness and frustration gave way to expansion and growth as the year turned from fall, to winter, to spring. This post gives the highlights of those changes.

My fall seemed unrelentingly stressful. My elderly cat, who had taken so much care for over a year, finally worsened and I had to put her to sleep in early September. I became increasingly unsatisfied with my work situation over the summer, and applied for several jobs to change my situation, but with no luck. For reasons that I won’t go into here, those potential work avenues are now closed.

I struggled with pressures on the work front, both positive and frustrating, that just kept coming and never let up.

I continued to feel frustrated with my lack of strength and flexibility.

I just wanted a life that worked again.

I felt like I was in a holding pattern. Craving movement, and frustrated at its lack. As is often the case when it feels that life isn't working, I recognized that much of the frustrations I was feeling were because of my attachment to a certain outcome. One particular job that I wanted badly. Getting this job would have meant a big change in my life, including a potential move. As I waited to hear about it, I held open space in my life that I hoped that job would fill.  

At the change of the year things began to shift. I started making new, positive steps in my life.

* I started seeing a Reiki healer I had seen a few times about a decade before. Our work together really shifted my energy and freed some of the blockages in my life.

* I began making plans for the new year. Plans that would fill the space I had been keeping empty. My New Years goals for 2011 included 1) begin taking Tai Chi classes and 2) begin teaching meditation regularly.

I started teaching/leading mediation classes in February.

In late February, after too long a delay, I was finally able to find time to have a heart-to-heart with my manager, and ask for some of the duties I had found missing in my job. Amazingly, she was able to give me everything that I asked for. My job is now (for the time being at least) much more fulfilling than it has been in a long while.

I started weekly Tai Chi classes in April.  

My life has changed in so many ways for the better. All of the new things in my life have brought me a great deal of learning and growth. I plan to be a better blogger and record some of those blessings here.