Category : Uncategorized

On Habits and Sleep

Earlier this year I read Better Than Before, by Gretchen Rubin, which is a book about habits. It’s an interesting read; some parts were helpful, and some less so. Below is one point that I found immediately clarifying and useful, and I wanted to share it.

Basically, some habits have a greater effect on your life than others. These habits will also affect your ability to stick with other habits, as well as profoundly influencing the quality of your daily life. These habits were (paraphrased):

  • sleep
  • what you eat
  • exercise
  • get rid of clutter

Of these, I have found sleep to be the most important. It might be different for you. For me, sleeping enough reduces my sugar cravings, gives me more energy, and basically powers me up to make good decisions the rest of the day. I find that it affects my mood as well; sleeping enough can be the difference between feeling happy, generally fine, and relaxed, and dealing with anxious, low-level overwhelm and irritation- regardless of external circumstances. This is a good article on all things sleep; how much, quality, what helps, what doesn’t.

The natural world is turning inward, quieting, and slowing down. You’re allowed to do the same. If you are stuck in “on” mode, get some bodywork, move around, and help your nervous system switch gears.

 

 

Gift Ideas December 2015

Here are some things I think are terrific.

  • Correct Toes. These toe separators allow you to be weight bearing (actually on your feet, using them), so you can walk, go to the gym, practice yoga, or (if you are feeling courageous) even run. They are excellent to prevent and potentially heal bunions, ease plantar fasciitis, and generally help your foot stay balanced, flexible, and strong.
  • Elizabeth Gilbert’s new book on creativity in daily life.
  • Norman Doidge is writing fascinating books on the brain. His most recent book is especially interesting, with some novel treatment ideas for chronic pain and brain injury. These are accessible, enjoyable reading on innovative understanding of how the brain works and how to heal it.
  • Lacrosse balls, bouncy balls, and tennis balls make great stocking stuffers. Use them for self- massage; if you want ideas, come see me! Small bouncy balls are good for specific work on small areas like hands, forearms, and feet; tennis balls are great for beginners, more gentle pressure, and anyone with osteopenia or bone density considerations. Lacrosse balls are good for more intense work (although they can be quite gentle). I use them all!

Happy holidays!

 

On Power and Choice

Yoga is an equal opportunity empowerment. But what we do with it and how we treat ourselves and others because we are empowered is what separates the divine from the demonic.” -Douglas Brooks, Hanuman lectures, disc 3

I was listening to a CD of Douglas Brooks yesterday. He is describing how the demons and the gods do the same yogic practices to acquire power; what they do with that power is what distinguishes them.

I’m taking this quotation way out of its original context (mythology in general and the Ramayana in particular). But the last few days have weighed heavy on my heart. On a personal note, two enormous, old, beautiful trees down the street from me were cut down to make room for more speedily-constructed houses. I felt- and feel- incredibly sad. Then the school shootings and the bombed Doctors Without Borders hospital.

Where are the best places to put time, money, and energy to alleviate some of the suffering and sadness in the world? There are thousands of good answers to this question, and each of us has a unique combination that is the most correct in the moment and over a lifetime. The above quotation was a good reminder for me to ask myself, again and again, “What am I doing with what is available to me? What am I choosing, and why? How am I treating myself and others?” These are important questions, and they can supply direction and solace when it feels like the wide world provides very little of either.

I’m potentially writing to a somewhat diverse audience, some yogis and some not, so for those who don’t know:

Douglas Brooks is a brilliant scholar who lived in India for many years and also happens to hold a few degrees from Harvard. He has a vast knowledge of mythology, philosophy, religion, and language.

Hanuman is the Hindu monkey god in service to Ram; the Ramayana is a long epic story of Hanuman, Ram, and Ram’s wife Sita.

On Dissection and Wholeness

In April 2015, I took a dissection course with the remarkable anatomist Gil Hedley. For six days, a group of us dissected four cadavers. It was one of the more intense weeks of my life. I got a miserable cold on my second day there; six nine-hour days in a row is a lot regardless of what you are doing; and we were taking apart cadavers, which is both miraculous and plenty of work.

After a few months of reflection, here are some impressions that have stuck with me.

1) I have a new appreciation for my body. I experienced a very visceral wonder for the thousands of things that happen in my living body each day without my knowing. As I swallowed handfuls of vitamins to combat my cold, I was very aware that I- my conscious brain- actually had no idea what to do with the vitamin C pills. But my digestive system and liver did. And I spent a week in profound, grateful awe for the vibrant aliveness of my body, full of movement and warmth, in stark contrast to the cadavers. Upon return, I paid close attention to clients’ malleable, living tissues. Your life force exists in every cell of your body.

2) I loved the parotid glands. These are the salivary glands located near the hinge of your jaw. They are much larger than I thought (the cadaver I worked on had glands the size of small apricots). And they’re beautiful! I’m not sure why I was so entranced with these small, wrinkled, pink glands, but perhaps it was because they were so simple to dissect and came away uncomplicated and whole.

3) Speaking of which, “uncomplicated and whole” does not really describe most of the body. I had thought that it would be simple to separate layers of tissues and see, once and for all, what was really going on in the front of the hip, shoulder joint, jaw, or along the spine. It’s actually incredibly complex, and layers of muscle tissue, fascia, tangles of nerves, and adipose (fat) cells all jumble together. My attempts to neatly compartmentalize layers and distinguish borders (and some anatomy atlases do this brilliantly) failed.

4) Bringing the experience back into my work, there is a vanishingly small amount of exact carryover. I spent a good long time one afternoon with the posterior knee joint. With a client on the table, is it much clearer? Not really. But I do have a larger sense of the whole (layers of tissue and an approximation of their textures in a cadaver), and snapshots of individual structures that come to mind quite frequently. My very favorite (of many astonishing moments) was getting to see and feel the falx cerebri, which is a strong ridge of fascia that separates the hemispheres of the brain. Along with the tentorium cerebelli, these fascial webs keep your brain in place while you ride roller coasters, do headstands, and generally move in the world. I think they’re wonderful, and it’s actually possible for a skilled practitioner to work on them with subtle, indirect methods.

Our bodies are worthy of awe.

 

Hello!

Hi there. I’ve been wanting a blog for a while now, and I’m excited to have this up and running. In the course of daily yoga practice, bodywork practice, workshops, and various readings, I often come across something I’d like to share. It might be a quotation, an idea, or simply a bit of information that I struggle with or wonder about. I hope this blog becomes something between a journal entry and a long Facebook post, but more polished and accessible than either of those.

I expect there to be a bit of a hodgepodge of information. Recipes, interesting books or articles, thoughts on workshops and seminars, and contributions from my own experience will all be here. I practice ashtanga yoga most days, and that opens the door to many posts all by itself. I’ll do my best to make what I write interesting and accessible.