The Gift of Yoga

I met Jason when I was 5 years old. He was a spunky, snot-nosed neighbor kid who came over the day we moved in and asked if I wanted to come out and play. We were best friends instantly. Over the next few years we did everything together, and days with him always started out with his grand ideas of what we could do, and usually ended with us getting in some kind of trouble. He even told my dad when he was allowed to, that he was going to marry me someday. On days I had steak for dinner, he would come over and eat all the grizzly parts off my plate so I could leave the table and we could play. In fact, I can’t think of a time in my childhood that he wasn’t a part of.

My family moved away about four years later, and my mom tried to help us to see each other whenever we could. Soon after we moved again, this time to the other end of the country, which at my young age, felt like the other end of the planet. I missed my friends when I moved and eventually the feeling faded, but with Jason it never did. So I decided when it was time I would move back so we could be together again. So at 21 I did.

When I moved back to my hometown I looked for Jason for months, but all I found out was he had moved away. This was before the era of Facebook and my search options were limited. I settled back into my hometown, and slowly built my new life there. By pure coincidence seven years later Jason walked into my workplace and just like that not a minute had passed by. He had just moved back to town and we instantly picked up where we had left off so many years ago. He was into martial arts and yoga, and I was into smoking and drinking too much coffee. He was starting a business and I was a stressed out workaholic. One day he convinced me to go to a yoga class, and reluctantly I agreed. I didn’t like the class much, because it was tough, I was out of shape, and all I could think about was a cigarette. I didn’t get why he loved it so much, and we agreed to disagree on his love of yoga.

Four years had passed and we were finally married, and at our reception he toasted my father and joking announced “I told you so” while the rest of us laughed at the irony. It was one of the happiest times of my life. One week before our first wedding anniversary we were on a beautiful motorcycle ride in Montana’s Glacier Park. He was in front of me sweeping around the mountain curves when he misjudged his angle and hit an oncoming SUV. Jason was pronounced dead at the scene and I felt like my world had stopped. I was in a mind fog over the next few weeks, and I needed something that could take me from this life I was barely living. Instead of walking by my local yoga studio as I always did, I listened to Jason’s advice and I walked in to a yoga class. It was hard, but I noticed it was quiet, which was a far cry from my busy home full of people who meant well. I started going every day, and I was becoming stronger, weeping in Savasana less, and learning how to be still. I had quit smoking for some time now, adapted healthier eating, and even though I didn’t know why or how, yoga was getting me through the most painful time in my life.

A year later I signed up for a Yoga Teacher Training Intensive program and I started to understand the deep healing aspects of yoga that I had experienced firsthand. What was happening to me was finally making sense. I didn’t know it then, but Yoga saved my life. I am a completely different person. I have an established practice now, and my mind is strong and my body is healthy. I have moved forward and was even lucky enough to have found love again, and I have recently remarried. On the fourth year of his passing, I think of Jason often. If I could express anything to my childhood best friend, it would be to thank him for taking me to my first yoga class.

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The Middle Way

“Take what you need and leave the rest” ~ Anon

Remember those Petri dishes in High School Biology? Perfectly round, transparent, sterile orbs of neutral ground. Imagine for a moment, we could reduce every human being on this planet into that agar ‘jelly’ and other nutrients creating that organic surface for interaction. Billions of us are together in this Petri dish living our lives, and waiting for something to happen. Now imagine this bright, artificial light of stress, beaming into our dish, all day and all night long…everyday. Chronically intense and ever-present, this stress has embedded itself into our lives and the light switch has been taped to the ‘On’ position. This means there is no option to hide from this stress, or take a break from it, because within this Petri dish there is nowhere to go. Now imagine the different ways this can change us, within our cellular make-up and the environment in which we live.

Dr. Susan Rosenberg, a professor of molecular and human genetics at Baylor College has proven that a single stress source alone will turn up the spontaneous mutation rates within human cells. This really got me thinking about all of the illnesses we face as a result of genetic mutations inside us. Angelina Jolie recently made headlines with her double mastectomy as a preventative surgery after finding out she carries the BRCA gene for breast cancer. One of my blogs last year was also about a woman in my yoga class who was undergoing this same surgery and it was like alarms started going off in my mind, that as a species, we were getting sicker, and only coping with, not improving our situation. It seems that high blood pressure, heart conditions, cancerous mutations and inflammation are all par for the course now.  According to Medical Qigong Therapy, once an organ or body part has been removed, there remains an energetic void within the Spatial Cavity of the person’s tissues. The energy of the organ or limb, however, still exists within the patient’s body, as a ‘Phantom Organ/Limb.’ This also means, the stress it was harboring remains in the body too, until it is dealt with.

These days the root of chronic stress seems to be most common in excessive living.  Whether it is getting the biggest, baddest house or car, we are wearing our bodies down mentally, physically, and energetically trying to keep up with these decaying, impermanent things, and missing the whole point of it all. I had many reasons for moving out of that beautiful home on the beach recently, but truthfully, the most important one was what it was doing to my stress levels and my quality of life. Every weekend spent maintaining this house, cleaning rooms we never used. Since I have left I sleep better, breathe deeper, and I really feel like I have gotten my life back. It was an important lesson learned for me, and I will not forget it. As we look for another house, it will be comfortable, not excessive, and most importantly … easy. You know that motto, everything in moderation? It is mostly true, except common sense stuff like heroin or gunshot wounds, but what about stress…is stress okay in moderation? Primal types of stress are a necessity, like the fight or flight syndrome when confronted by a lion, but the stress we create ourselves in our everyday life is not, in any measure. As I purge my excesses, and bring my life back into its own peaceful harmony, I am reminded again that bigger is not always better, and just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.

Namaste

The Beauty in Trees

I loved this one commentary in a documentary I watched over the weekend on America’s view on what’s beautiful. When an East African woman was asked whether or not she loved her body, she looked puzzled by the question. “Why wouldn’t I?” she said. “I have hands that can do everything for my family, strong arms to get water and carry food. My legs are so powerful they can wrap around a man and hold him there; I love my body.”. Then the East African woman asked the narrator why she would ask such a question. The narrator replies “Well, I don’t particularly like my stomach since bearing children and my arms are droopy…” to which the East African woman interrupts “It is your body, and it is amazing. Do you see that tree over there (and she points) do you think that tree is beautiful? And this one here, (she points again) is this tree beautiful? They are both different, but do you think the first tree wishes it could look more like the second tree? Women are trees. You are a tree and I am a tree, and we are beautiful.” When asking teenage boys and young men what makes a woman beautiful, they were quick to answer with celebrity names and faces, but when asked why they were beautiful, what was it about them that made them beautiful, and they weren’t able to answer. In recent years, I have come to learn how to drop my inner critic, and although I still strive to improve, it is much nicer when it comes from a place of love and tolerance rather than the result of criticism and fault-finding missions. So how do we celebrate our uniqueness when we are constantly barraged with images of waif thin women and muscular men? It may seem overwhelming to try to change an industry, but we can start by supporting the companies who fall into line with our own values. Most importantly, we have the power to change ourselves from within, and how we view each other… and once we can do that, we will see a world that is so full of true beauty.