Wednesday, August 10, 2011

London Riots and Thoughts on Finding Peace

The words on every one's lips this week are 'The London Riots' and as I always do when things seem to have gone this disastrously wrong I find myself looking for the yoga in it all. Some sort of lesson or purpose beneath it all.
If you haven't read anything on this yet here's a link to the Canadian coverage on whats been happening-               

When I first read stories like this I always find my mind reeling. Trying to understand, trying to see both sides. It's
hard to put myself in the shoes of rioters or police. I don't get the urge to throw bricks at people all that often or hit them with batons, but maybe if I lived with these people I would. 
So I try to break it down into something I understand, not to minimize the importance of the events, just trying to make it into something my brain can get. 

The behavior of the rioters seems almost animalistic to me. The destroying, the taking and the hoarding somehow reminds me of a dog that's often neglected and to frequently yelled at or kicked. And that's not to say that I think these rioters are mongrels, but if you read the news stories it says right there, plain as day that these people feel they are being treated as less then human. And it seems to me they have decided if they will be treated as less then human then they will act that way.  

The police and government in turn are acting the part of neglectful abusive owner even as this situation has swung so far out of their control. Refusing to call them riots, just thug behavior. Pointing out how many police have been hurt but never mentioning the numbers of rioters getting hit or injured. Ignoring the root of the problem but waving the rolled up newspaper at it, threatening to hit it if the barking doesn't stop.
And in that lies the problem, two sides of the war refusing to admit the other side might be right, and neither side able to have any empathy for the other. Both are saying in chorus, "I am suffering and it's all your fault!"  

In the yoga ideal in my mind the police/government issue a statement to the rioters stating "We recognize there have been problems here and that we have not been part of the solution. Poverty, racial targeting and unfair use of power are things we've had a hand in that have helped to instigate these events. We need to start working these things out on equal footing." and at that same moment rioters would release a statement to the police saying, "We recognize there have been problems here and that we have not been part of the solution. Vandalism, violence and a lack of concern for the health and well being of our fellow neighbor are all things we have used to create this situation. It's time we talk about a real solution." in the real world I know these things won't be said, instead both sides will continue to push until one side falls over or both lose the energy to stand and lie down for another 25 years.

My only hope is the belief that many people need to reach the very bottom before they can see how pointless this stuff is, and then some will stand up and say "Well, that didn't work, time to try something different." Maybe then it will be time for change.


Monday, August 8, 2011

Weekly Asana Analysis- Mountain Pose

Mountain Pose amid Baby Blur

Maybe this pose looks too easy but one of the great things about it is you can do it almost anywhere, standing in the elevator, waiting in line, at the bus stop, at the bar... And for people who are a little yoga shy don't worry, no one will even know you're doing it.

Mountain Pose- Tadasana
  1. Start this pose standing up with your feet hip width apart.  Your feet should be parallel to each.
  2. Once you've found the right position for your feet plant your heels and lift the front part of your foot up. When you put the ball of your foot back down try to put it closer to the heel of your foot, making a higher arch in your foot. Spread your toes as far apart from each other as you can.
  3. Moving up the body consider the tilt of your pelvis. The easiest way to do this is by touching your lower back. If there seems to have a big 'C' curve in it your pelvis is tilted forward. If it is very flat your pelvis is tilted back. If your flexibility allows it find a place in the middle where there is a curve in the lower spine but not so much that it is pushing your ribs out.
  4. Engage your abdominals slightly but do not make them so rigid as to stop your breath from entering your  abdomen.
  5. Pretend there is a string attached to the top part of your head in the area where all your hair swirls apart (the crown). Stretch up as though someone is pulling that string towards the ceiling. 
  6. Roll your shoulders together in front of you and then roll them back behind you like you are trying to touch your shoulder blades. Find somewhere in the middle that feels strong but not rigid. Take and deep breath and relax your shoulders away from your ears on the exhale.
  7. Turn your hands so that your palms are facing towards your legs.
  8. Tuck your chin towards your collar bone slightly (pulling it in maybe 1 inch).
  9. On your inhale fill your belly and your chest and on your exhale allow the chest to fall and your belly button to come towards your spine.
  10. Stay like this for ten deep breaths.
Tips- This is a great pose for assessing imbalance. If you perform it in front of the mirror look at your shoulders. Are they the same level and distance from the mirror or is one higher or more rolled forward? Look at your feet. Are your toes trying to turn out or in? Do your knees bend backwards or away from each other? Turn sideways and look again. Do you notice the extra curve in your lower back keeps wanting to return? Do your shoulders try to roll forward? Is your chin pulling forward? All of these are signs of misalignments in the body which can lead to pain in many different parts of the body. While it may not be obvious when you first look in the mirror it will become more obvious as you get used to looking for these things and also as you practice yoga these things will begin to come back into line.

For an added stretch reach your right hand behind your back and grab your left hand or left elbow. Let your right ear drop to the right shoulder. Depending how much stretch you feel you can start pulling your left arm to your right side behind your back. Try to release the weight of your head and relax all the muscles in the left side of your neck. Breathe and repeat on the other side.

For an added challenge while standing in Mountain Pose bend your arms at the elbow until your arms are right angles. Raise your arms until your fingers are in line with your chin. Pull your shoulder blades towards each other, contracting the muscles between your shoulder blades, release. Do this for three sets of 20, moving with the breathe and remembering to breath deeply.

    Saturday, August 6, 2011

    The Opposite of Yoga

    Recently in the news:
    When the whole meaning of the word yoga is union it's hard to believe that people can try to lay claim and say this is mine and that is yours. The main cause of any war is a belief that you can own something that no one else can. I think if I were Yoga to the People the best thing I could have done would be to just ignore Bikram, but they've already spoken and created ego around the whole situation. I think it's hard when you're passionate about something not to speak up for it, but when your passion is yoga a verbal spat doesn't really help your cause.
    Wow, too bad!

    Thursday, August 4, 2011

    Does Yoga Actually Work?

    The billion dollar question. It's pretty easy to sell yoga to a yogi, people who practice regularly have already been hooked, even if they just like to practice because they enjoy the way their backside looks in Lululemons. At this point in my life I've obviously been sold on the subject but I find myself asking why everyone else isn't hooked. While not everyone has taken the time to ask themselves "Why don't I try yoga?" one thing that may be holding them back is the question of whether it actually does what it promises. So I'm here to clear that up.

    • A study done in 2005 by the University of Pennsylvania showed a extreme reduction of pain and disability in people with osteoarthritic knees after 8 one week sessions of yoga.
    -Pose that helps: Pigeon- This one is good because it works the iliopsoas and stretches the inner thigh muscles, both of which love to pull the knee out of alignment.
    • A 2009 a randomized study funded by the National Institutes of Health for Heart, Lung and Blood Institute showed that 20 minutes of meditation a day caused a 47% reduction in deaths, heart attacks and strokes compared to people just educated about heart health. Later research went on to show that meditation actually decreased artery thickness, allowing more blood flow.
    -Pose that helps: Meditation- If you don't feel like reading this just search meditation in YouTube and any number of people will lead you through a quick meditation session.
    • Research at Harvard Medical Center found that long time practitioners of yoga and meditation had more active "disease fighting genes" increasing their fertility, and immunity while decreasing occurrences of irritable bowel syndrome, high blood pressure and inflammation linked to heart disease, arthritis and asthma. And the more you practice the more of these genes you activate.
    -Pose that helps: Standing Forward Bend- This one feels real good if you just hold it for a while...

    And those are just a few examples. As a health care worker I see the rise in health problems growing exponentially. Areas of health concern that seem to have the most growth are anxiety disorders, heart and breathing problems and chronic pain related to any number of untreatable conditions. While medicine has been so useful in decreasing communicable diseases and deaths due to virus and infection it really can't do a whole lot for chronic illness besides slap a bandage on it.

    Maybe a lot of people think yoga looks like too much work, but let me speak from experience when I say so is finding someone to help you get dressed in the morning when your body just can't handle the challenge anymore.

    Tuesday, August 2, 2011

    Ok, I'm back, what did I miss?

    There's always a small level of guilt that comes to me when I do things for myself. Maybe other people have this, I don't know. The last time I was writing on here was around the time I found out I was pregnant. Despite my beliefs that pregnancy was no big deal, an opinion based on stories of my grandmother never missing a day of work even on the day she delivered all eight of her children, I found the whole experience very humbling. Moving past my "ego" I had to admit to myself that I couldn't keep going at the usual pace I had been. Needless to say my dear blog readers you were left behind, but often in my thoughts. So after that long winded explanation/apology on with the update!

    My daughter Rogue Glorianna Valenta was born in a home water-birth at the beginning of July 2010. All the yoga and the added hip adjustments done by my osteopath Mike Annison made things go so smoothly I think we were all surprised. I had taught yoga up until the end of April, but by that time was ready for a break. I've kept up my own yoga and meditation practice as much as possible during my past year on maternity leave and notice the difference when I don't find time to do it even in the way my daughter behaves. Nothing makes you realize how much we effect each other until you see your kid's mood change almost directly to reflect yours.

    Over the year we enjoyed many camping experiences including the beautiful August meteor shower, and a trip to my favorite place Charleston Lake. I gained first hand experience of "Mommy-brain" brought on by total exhaustion, my two favorite occurrences being when I tried to open the front door of the house with the automatic car-door opener and the second being the time I hopped into the shower fully clothed. We made time to live out a dream of driving across Canada, we did a trip blog so we can show Rogue when she's older, follow this link if you're into those kinds of things. I took the time to read books, a novelty in today's busy world, and found inspiration in Pete Egoscue's views on living Pain Free.

    Now I'm back at work and continuing to seek balance in my everyday life. The blog has been revamped and I'm looking at ways to keep it interesting. I've begun A Course in Miracles and of course I am continuing my own practice. I'm not sure what's happening with my teaching practice at this time. I'm taking it slow and seeing where my path leads. But as always feel free to message any yoga questions or thoughts. New things to come so stay tuned.