Category Archives: svadhyaya

Signs and symptoms of shock vary…yoga offers a path of recovery

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I thought these lists of symptoms might be helpful as you try and make sense of what you’ve been going through.

Signs and symptoms of shock vary depending on circumstances and may include:

  • Cool, clammy skin
  • Pale or ashen skin
  • Rapid pulse
  • Rapid breathing
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Enlarged pupils
  • Weakness or fatigue
  • Dizziness or fainting
  • Changes in mental status or behavior, such as anxiousness or agitation

http://www.mayoclinic.org/first-aid/first-aid-shock/basics/art-20056620

Emotional Symptoms of Grieving

A person who is dealing with grief will most likely display some of the emotional symptoms associated with grieving. The Mayo Clinic lists the emotional symptoms found with prolonged, or complicated, grief. These can include:

  • Increased irritability
  • Numbness
  • Bitterness
  • Detachment
  • Preoccupation with loss
  • Inability to show or experience joy

While these emotional symptoms are normal in the days and weeks after a traumatic event, they can be indicators of a more serious disorder if they do not fade over time.

Physical Symptoms of Grieving

It may come as a surprise that grief is not entirely emotional. There are very real effects that grief can have on the body. Some of the physical symptoms of grieving, according to the University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth, are:

  • Digestive problems
  • Fatigue
  • Headaches
  • Chest pain
  • Sore muscles

Though these symptoms are normal during the grieving process, you should remember to contact your doctor if you experience any severe physical symptoms.

http://www.psychguides.com/guides/grief-symptoms-causes-and-effects/

I’ve felt a lot of the above symptoms in the last 24-hours. In addition, I only want to eat toast. I’ve had moments when I believed my legs were going to buckle out from under me. I’ve felt myself dissociate—floating out of my body while I fixed my gaze on this tiny red decoration in my kitchen. And I’ve had eight to twelve seriously messy cries.

In the midst of all this, I’ve also felt something else: A need to take care of myself.

You know those people who have a fine-tuned moral compass? The ones who can identify and support the things that align with their values and call out the things that are not? The ones who have a clear sense of right and wrong and are able to move and act on that inner guidance with clarity and courage? The people who stand up for others and for themselves and don’t miss a beat? The ones who can lead? The ones who can follow a great leader? The ones who dedicate themselves to a cause worth fighting for? I want to be well resourced so I can be one of those people. I want that for you, too.

To do any of this, we have to prepare. It occurs to me that maybe the last eighteen years of yoga practice have been preparing me. Maybe you’ve been preparing, too. We aren’t done. We need to care for ourselves and continue to practice. With this, our ability to pay attention and stay focused will improve. Dhāraṇā —dhyāna — samādhi[1] describe the progression of deepening focus.

Attention is important for several reasons. One good reason? It comes with a side of praśānta[2]peace. Yoga describes peace as a symptom of attention. Peace doesn’t mean that everything around us is perfect. It’s a feeling that we can have on the inside even when the outside looks bleak or threatening. Nirodha — a deep state of attention and the flowing peace that comes with it are felt everywhere in us –in our body, breath, mind, and emotions. This is important because attention with peace can give us equanimity. When we can hold the binoculars steady and bring the little bird in the nearby tree into focus, we have a chance at seeing it clearly.  Attention, like binoculars, is a tool that can help us to see something we couldn’t see without.

Patanjali defines three aspects of a yogic path: tapas – effort, svādhyāya- self-reflection, and Īśvara-pranidhana –acceptance[3]. Do some work. Think about what motivates your actions. Know that you won’t always get everything right, and that’s okay. This is ongoing, moment-by-moment kind of practice. It involves Abhyasa and vairagyam[4]making efforts and relinquishing what gets in the way of those efforts. And you know what helps a lot with this? Śraddhā – a conviction, abiding faith, or something you can believe in. Patañjali says when we know and can feel this deep faith, it is a sign that we are very near our goal.[5]

Acceptance doesn’t mean going along with everything is happening. It does mean that we allow ourselves to see our current situation clearly and accurately. Prāmaṇa[6] is clear and accurate understanding. If we can see and understand a situation, then we can address what’s actually going on. If it’s not a good situation, we can go inside ourselves and listen for the guidance that helps us to know what we can do about it. We need viveka – discernment, to do this work and to make sense of the many things that go on in our inner world and the world around us. There’s a lot going on all of the time and viveka is helpful when we need to discern between the stuff we should witness compassionately or even dispassionately and the call to stand up and act.

Let us really take care of ourselves during these next 4 years and beyond so that we are nourished, resourced, clear, perceptive, and strong. May our efforts and practice continue, re-invigorated by our circumstances. Yoga, or whatever practice you cultivate, is going to be as important as ever in helping us all to be the kind of humans and the nation that we want to be.

[1] YS III.1-3

[2] YS III.9

[3] YS II.1 – kriya yoga

[4] YS I.12

[5] YS I.20

[6] YS I.7

The help of a good teacher

Alexander Technique work at the Ojai Women's Retreat.

Itsuko and Carol offer hands on help with Alexander Technique at the Ojai Women’s Retreat 2016.

I have a pretty good sense of what is going on in my body and I think a lot about what is happening in my spine, so it’s so wonderful when someone can help me to see or understand something that I haven’t felt before. This happened during my retreat experience in Ojai, California last week.

The retreat was interdisciplinary. I taught a daily yoga practice and yoga sūtras and Carol, my wonderful teaching colleague, presented the parts of the workshop on Āyurveda and the Alexander Technique. I didn’t have any experience or expectations of the Alexander Technique, though I knew it had something to do with improving posture and letting go of tension in the body. Carol did a great job introducing the technique and giving us ways to practice the principles of the method. We had language to help us remember and stay with the main concepts, and with the help of another wonderful AT teacher, we each received some skillful and gentle hands on work.

It was during this part of the classes that I had a remarkable experience. Itsuko worked with me and as she gently slid her open hand across my lower back, it was able to let go a little bit. It felt easier and lighter there. Her soft and skillful touch at the back of my neck let me feel that I could move my head forward and up and let go of some of the holding and tension there. I could sense the length come. And then her hand went toward my mid-back. She said something like, “you don’t have to work so much here” and I felt, for the first time, the reaching and straining that was coming from that place. I made some subtle adjustments and noticed the back of my spine round slightly toward her hand. This was fine and pleasant. Something also happened in the front of my spine. In a place tucked in behind organs and protected by the lower ribs I began to release. But this time I didn’t feel ease. I had the ache of letting go of something that I’ve been gripping for decades and whatever was being held in started to spread. I imagined a jar that’s been sitting at the very darkest spot under the sink catching years worth of drips from a very slow leak… I had knocked it over and it was spilling into me. I felt relief, but I also felt some sadness and confusion. I had to sit still for a few minutes and notice that.

There’s so much we can learn with the help of books, stories, self-observation and reflection. It is a valuable and essential part of the work that we do. But having the support and guidance of a knowledgeable and attune teacher is also very important – even essential. There are things that we can’t see about ourselves because we’ve been with them for so long that they no longer operate at a conscious level. Kind of like the joke where one fish asks his fish friend, “how’s the water?” The other fish says, “what the heck is water?” The help of a teacher or someone who can help us to see our own structures or patterns in a kind and truthful way is an invaluable part of our learning and growth. I’m greatful for Carol and Itusuko for being those teachers for me this week.

 

Balance and self-care sometimes involves brownies

 

kids crossing a stream

Ask yourself the question how as a woman, mother, wife, teacher do you find ways in which to nourish yourself and stay balanced in your life. What are some of the things you do? You can write 2-3 paragraphs. 

I’m teaching yoga at a retreat this summer and I’ve been given this writing prompt as a way of sharing what I have to offer as a teacher during the 5-days in Ojai, CA. I have to laugh, because over the last few months I’ve been kind of hard on myself about all the things I’m not doing. Lately, a lot of my nourishing routines and hard won ‘good’ habits are slipping. As I sit down to write this, I’m finishing off my second brownie… and it is way past 8:00pm.

It’s not just the brownies. On this side of a big family trip, house guests, and a bout of sickness, my body is kind of tired, so I’m not rising before the sun. Instead, I do my yoga practice after I get the girls go to school. I’m not pushing myself to strive and accomplish quite as much during my work-week because the weather has been so beautiful and the garden calls to me. I have an exam that’s coming due, but instead of studying during the 30 minutes before the girls are home from school, I read my first romance novel. I found the discarded book poking out from under a bush as I walked through the neighborhood with a friend. On the cover I could see a little drawing of a cabin and hearts pouring out of the chimney. The title, in its fancy golden script, shone in the sunlight : Manhunt, by Janet Evanovich. I picked it up and slipped it into my purse, deciding to read it all the way to the end. And I have.

There have been times when I prided myself on all of the things I’d do each day in the name of balance and self-care. For about a year, I had an expanding list of do’s and don’ts taped next to my bathroom sink so I wouldn’t forget the recommendations of my Āyurvedic practitioner. I wrote out the prayer that I wanted to recite to begin my day and kept that at my bedside. The details of my yoga practice were in a special binder next to my mat so I could stay true to what my teacher gave me. These routines and special efforts were really important, as was the sense of empowerment and pride I felt when I did what I intended to do. It helped me to see that I can play an active part in how I feel. These routines made it possible to live in a more conscious and intentional way. Through this period, with the guidance of people who know me and care about me, I saw how engaging with simple things, earnestly and sincerely, does truly nourish.

Right now I’m discovering that my path to balance and nourishment doesn’t look the same as it did two years ago. I need to be easier on myself. After all, the occasional brownie at 9pm isn’t the end of a good life lived. And balance isn’t a destination. We don’t arrive at “Perfectly Nourished” and then just hang out there for the rest of our lives. It’s an ongoing process. Just like we have to eat, drink, and breathe every day, we need to continue to nourish ourselves in other important ways, again and again, each day. As time passes and we change, the ways we care for ourselves may change, too. Rigid and disciplined routines, though very necessary to help me establish good self-care and empower myself, aren’t what I need at the moment. Now, nourishment is coming from a schedule that is more spacious and spontaneous. I’m more balanced as I learn to look with less judgment and more compassion at the moments when good habits slide. It comes from time with family, time with friends and a community of people who are also engaged in this process. We support each other along the way.

 

Registration now open!

Ojai Women’s RETREAT

AGY readers receive a $200 discount on or before May 15th! IMG0172

REAL LIFE. REAL TOOLS.

AUGUST 31ST TO SEPT. 5TH, 2016

This 5-day retreat is specially designed to teach you the art of unlearning and letting go of old patterns that have long since lost their usefulness while also providing precious leisure time which allows these new skills and understandings to become more rooted in your daily life.

We teach YogaAyurveda and the Alexander Technique in a practical and meaningful way so that when you return home you will have useful tools to keep this new, balanced relationship going—not only within yourself but with everyone around you.

Carol P. Prentice ~ Amanda Green ~ Sydney Laurel Harris

Enter the code *RENEW2016* in your registration form under questions and comments to receive your discount. (*cannot be combined with any other discounts)

 

This class begins May 10th, and it’s free! Yoga for Addiction Recovery

 

Goodbye Peru

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We leave Peru today. Hazel can’t wait to be home and asks the details of our itinerary every few hours so she has an accurate hour count till she’s back in her room. I think it might have something to do with how often I lean in to “sing” the sounds of the beautiful Andean pan flute in her ear. We won’t have to worry about pockets full of change because Nora stops to get her photo taken with every baby lamb, alpaca, and llama she sees, an opportunity gladly offered in exchange for a little propina, or tip. We could write our own guide book on the locations of all servicios higenicos, bathrooms, in historic Cusco. Nora has had some tummy trouble for the last 25 hours, though she isn’t bothered. We learned that she considers her digestive distress a rite of passage, referring to it as her “butt period”– a term that sent all of us into uncontrollable hysterics at the one fancy restaurant we’ve visited in Cusco.

The children have heard me curse more in the last week than in their whole lives. Dave says that’s what happens when I’m south of the equator. I have to laugh at myself because before I came my yoga practice was so consistent and I felt so good that I actually had a vision that I’d bring peace, love, and appreciation of all things to the South American continent. It hasn’t happened exactly like that. Last night, Hazel congratulated me on my first day of no cursing. This was premature because moments later this street dog ran out in traffic and narrowly escaped death by taxi. It was literally under the front of the car when traffic came to a halt. The s-word left my mouth and of course Hazel heard. We have some great memories and photos to take back with us.

Yoga Sutra I.38 – Dreams can give us insight

 

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Yoga Sūtra I.38 svapna-nidrā jñāna-ālambanaṁ vā

Inquiry into dreams and sleep and our experiences during our around these states can help to clarify some of our problems.

-T.K.V Desikachar, Heart of Yoga

 

If everyone is born with a central issue that they’ll live and work with throughout life, mine is loneliness. The feeling isn’t always acute, but every year, around Christmas, it comes up and I wonder why I’m sensitive and moodyuntil I remember, “Oh yeah. Me + loneliness… We have a thing.” Then I attempt to consider the experience as yet another opportunity to be with this feeling and to see how we are doing.

I’ve been feeling the loneliness over the last few weeks, but life continues and as you may know, our house has been home to rats since October. Though we have made a big dent in the local population, we know there is at least one hearty and resourceful survivor. We don’t see evidence of this rat every day, but then we’ll hear it running in the attic or see a nibbled piece of fruit and we are reminded that it isn’t going down without a fight.

Last night, I had this dream.

I went into my bathroom and though it was the middle of the day, it was really dark. I guess there was some sort of storm outside. As I walked in, I encountered a dozen rats just hanging out, like they were having a meeting. I freaked out because now I could see that this rat problem was so much worse than I thought. I had to capture and kill them. The rats ran out of the bathroom and I followed them into the sunny entryway of my childhood house. As the rats went along the 1970’s flecked marble-like tile, they morphed into these large, soft, docile, bunny creatures. I worried that I wouldn’t be able to capture them, but then they slowed and allowed me to pick them up.

I picked them up one-by-one and carefully put them into a paper grocery bag. Each one was so much softer and sweeter than I expected and I realized how hungry I was for gentle touch and connection. I spent a little time with each one before I put it into the bag. I had a change of heart. I knew these rat-bunnies couldn’t go on living in my house, but did they really need to be killed? I decided to call the Animal Shelter so they could be someone’s pet.

In the past, I’ve shrugged off dreams, but since studying the yoga sūtras, and seeing how Patañjali is pretty much right about everything he says, I’ve taken I.38 to heart and look for insight from the dreams I can remember. I’m pretty sure this dream has a lot to offer me in the way of better understanding myself and these feelings of the season.

These themes of connection and alone-ness, of fear and love, of avidyā (misperception) and awareness are familiar ones to me, but having this dream and it’s weird sequence, associated emotions, and rich imagery is something more tangible to work with than mere concepts and ideas. It isn’t unlike what happens after meditation. Something else takes over in meditative state and what I see or experience isn’t exactly of my own conscious creation. My self takes a back seat while something else drives the experience. At the end of meditation, there can be a feeling of “coming out” or “coming back” from somewhere kind of like when I wake from dreaming. Sometimes, the impressions from that place stay with me.  These impressions provide another little window into my being which can enrich my practice of svādhyāya, self-reflection, so I know myself better. They can show me another way of looking at a situation. Each year that comes around and I check in with this central relationship, the one of me+loneliness, my perspective is a little different and my appreciation for what it means grows.

 

 

 

sensitive and cranky… Is it existential angst or just the holidays?

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I’ve been crying at everything lately. It’s not because I’m terribly sad, but it isn’t always joyful either. And it’s a little exhausting.

I guess I’m sharing this because most of the time, the things I write about are generally upbeat and positive. Or something happens in my life, related to yoga, and even if it was troubling or difficult at the time, I learn from it and it leaves me feeling hopeful and it’s easy to share. But I’m in a place that doesn’t feel easy. I’m sensitive and uncertain, I’m rebelling against the things that are good for me, and I feel like I’m waiting to know what to do next.

Practicing yoga makes my life better. No doubt. But it doesn’t mean that everything is perfect. It doesn’t mean that there won’t be times like these – times where the predominant experience is something other than unending bliss. Even in the cry-fest that’s going on right now, I’m comforted by the teachings. There’s a way that yoga helps with these times, too. Or maybe it’s better said that this can also be yoga. I can notice and reflect on what’s happening. (svādhyāya). I can make efforts to care for myself in a way that supports balance and attention (tapas). I can trust, that along with the bliss and the joy, this is a worthwhile and important part of my experience. This isn’t permanent. And the result of this experience is more than I can imagine. (Īśvara pranidhāna).

 

I love you all.

Mundane vs. Miraculous; The Battle Continues

Hazel as a little baby. Parenting a little baby is the ultimate experience of mundane-ity and miracle-ity all in one adorable little package

I have a yoga practice that I do just about every morning. It involves some chanting, movement, breathing, meditation and prayer. It’s the same practice at the same time and in the same place every day. It’s worth doing. My personal practice is the vital and foundational way I connect to myself, to others, and to God.

I practice in the early morning when lights are out and the house is quiet. It’s a special time of day. When I’m connected and really present, each breath can feel like a little miracle — like a conversation with something divine. It brings such sweetness to the day and reminds me of how I want to be.

It’s not always like this, though. This morning, for example, I caught myself going through the motions like some yoga-automaton. I was half way through my second āsana when I realized I’d been reviewing client appointments and thinking about emails that I hadn’t responded to. I’m not waking up at 5:15 am to think about emails. I brought my attention back to my practice then my mouth watered at the thought of the cup of tea I’d make for myself. I wondered what the weather was like outside and if I could go on a walk. I remembered that the library books are overdue. I kept going through the motions, but I wasn’t really there. My thoughts were somewhere disappointingly mundane. There was no little miracle feeling. There was no particular connection to myself and no awareness of God.

And it occurred to me that this may be my primary work right now– moving toward this special connected feeling and being there more and more of the time. If one end of the spectrum looks like going through the motions, (not just in my yoga practice but in teaching, parenting, being a friend) with my mind and my attention somewhere else, then the other end of the spectrum is this present, aware, connected place in which every moment is a blessing and miracle. This is where I want to be.