New Yoga Anatomy Tool

I’m starting an Anatomy for Teachers pilot course soon and considering the best

Yoga anatomie

Yoga anatomie (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

options for imaging. There’s the Kaplan Anatomy Coloring Book, available for free download, and some great advanced video footage from Thomas Meyers’ Anatomy Trains workshops and dissections, all focused on fascia and meridians. But the ability to imagine the systems in motion and working together is golden. There’s a new set of software that promises just that, and at a really affordable cost:  Multi-fit’s Anatomy Imaging Software, with one section focused on yoga anatomy:

If you’ve used this software, please leave a comment describing your experience. I’ll report on mine in future posts.

Synaptic Gasp

Synaptic Gasp (Photo credit: ocean.flynn)

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1 pose, 1 breath: What yoga practice looks like in times of hardship

Hip Replacements rock on

Hip Replacements rock on (Photo credit: Jerry W. Lewis)

Practice is just that. It’s not perfect, and often not pretty. It’s the opposite of a photo-shoot and exactly the same as showing up.

To be a practice, as opposed to a hobby, pastime or performance, the activity has to be undertaken by one person with enough regularity to create continuity over time, which is the only way to witness deep transformation. Regularity of this magnitude, nearly daily – shooting for daily – hoped for daily, means you will practice through hardship.

Practice is not about belief or knowledge. It is not about religion or virtue. It is about the essence of being human: being present; showing up. You might believe that this regularity will pay off in some way, and your knowledge will certainly grow. But practice is just about the rhythm, regularity, witness, same thing different day; same day, different thing-ness of consciousness.

When you practice, you show up during the hard times. This morning, I had the “best” practice I have in over a year. In that year I’ve two surgeries, one a hip replacement, a cross-country move, two dear friends die and a career change. The hip replacement wasn’t from lack of practice, healthy living or “proper” yoga. In fact, years of yoga and healthy diet extended the life of my natural hip 13 years beyond when doctors told me I’d need a replacement, due to the birth defect. But I’ve had many “yogis” suggest how I could “correct” my practice.

In Practice

In Practice (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Here’s what I know about today’s practice: I had more ease, more flow and more outward grace than I’ve been blessed with in a bloody long while. It felt GREAT. And it may not have been as valuable as all the halting, minimalist, do-what’s-possible practices in the year leading up. During those times, my asana practice was often restorative, sometimes a single pose. My meditation was frequently while lying down, and for at least three months after the surgery, always laying down and not infrequently ending in zzzzzzzzzzz… Not exactly zendo worthy, but not not practice.

While we were moving, I always had my yoga mat with me, but it was just a tease, a Manduka hope, a promise and an expression of longing more than doing. The yoga I managed was at truck stops while stretching our three dogs (one dying) or in the two foot space at the foot of the hotel room bed.

While and after our dogs died, one agonizingly and messily, one so quickly I’d have missed it if I hadn’t seen so many people die and knew the sound, a heaviness surrounded my heart that reached out to my fingernails and prevented a proud, warrior like stance. There were many aborted practices, begun with every intent of wringing the sadness out, and dissolving into tears. There was crying in fierce pose (see what that does to your diaphragm!) and child’s pose (oddly, even harder).

But without the mostly showing up, occasional giving in and constant consciousness of whether-I-did-whether-I-didn’t and how it effected the state of my mind-body, today’s practice could not have happened. And today’s practice doesn’t matter. Not in and of itself. It matters because it’s part that year, of all the years and of what will be to come. The ease matters because it’s a palpable sigh of relief, and those are to be appreciated when they arrive. It matters that I showed up, but not how difficult or “advanced” my postures were. I propose that Warrior I with total presence is a more advanced posture during some times than any “Series IV” practice ever dreamt.

When your yoga class is part of your practice, each and every breath takes on new and different meaning. There will be advances, set-backs, goals met and goals changed. All of which will pale in comparison  to the feeling of showing up for yourself, because you no longer know how not to.

How about yoga for… your body, right now?

yoga under sakura

yoga under sakura (Photo credit: soulfish)

There’s yoga for your back , for your core, for your mind and for your Zen.

How about yoga for… you? Right now?

Sure you might have tight shoulders, hips, aching back or just want a good twist. But I’ll bet dollars to Down Dogs that once you do your first shoulder roll or forward wall hang, Sun Salutation or Fierce Pose, your body will know where it wants to go next, even without anyone telling your brain where to take it next.

Don’t get me wrong – teachers and classes are enlightening, edifying, fun, soul soothing and yummy. (I hope so, I am one 🙂 However, I think we have this practice thing all twisted up: the core of practice shouldn’t be with a teacher in a studio or even all planned out in advance. Just like piano, t’ai ch’i and meditation, you get the most out of the practice you undertake yourself. You. Getting up, rolling out the mat and having a little audience  with the teacher inside.

Your bodily sensation, together with your breath and your longing are the words of your inner teacher. Follow what you feel, watch the breath, take care of your breath and don’t follow mere thought or planning or even “what feels good” (though there will be some of that, don’t you fret!) Follow your longing.

You’ll have to get quiet to feel and to hear it. It might tell you to do fluffy propped restorative poses when you’d planned for a strenuous Vinyasa sesh, or the other way around. Follow it. Continually checking in: what next?

You can follow your bodily sensation to some extent in the context of a class – make modifications for your tight this or overly flexible that. But you can’t necessarily bust out your Hanumanasana in the midst of Surya Namaskar unless you want some crazyeyeasana.

That’s all as it should be. Classes are for exploring an idea and a n energy with a group, which requires a modicum of discipline and and conformity. But your personal practice, the one in your space,  led by your body, this is where you get to explore long and short holds, different combos, allow sensation to guide the next move and the breath to seduce the mind into shutting up on its own accord.

Keep going to classes, workshops, online offerings, Zendos, Salutathons. They rock. They’re fun. They feed your soul. Just don’t subject your precious heart to a mono-diet of group classes or teacher led asana. Roll out your mat. Have a home-grown appetizer, a self-made snack or a do-it-yourself dessert. You deserve it.

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Angles in yoga and other practice

Alternate angles

Alternate angles (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Practice is all about angles.  Yoga practice, writing practice, piano practice: it doesn’t matter in this way. The internal angles, the angles you can only feel and guide by breathing and longing, those are the angles you are refining, mobilizing, stabilizing and freeing.

Too often we think our yoga practice is about angles of arms, legs, torsos, and the usual adjustments really encourage this. Not the adjustments’ – or the adjusters’! – fault though. It is important that the lower side body not collapse in Triangle, just to the lower hand to the ground. It is vital that the knee not knock inward in Warrior I and II. These are important angles, and ones some forget to check if there’s no one to lightly touch the lower rib cage or ask them to press their outer knee into their hand.

But we give too much credence to these angles and adjustments when we keep going to those classes and listening to voices outside our own. Those angles are the way in, the signposts for another kind of sensing, one we can only do when our practice is ours alone.

And the paradoxical, terrifyingly beautiful magic of it all is that when we close the door, settle into that first Mountain or Vajrasana, however we’re meeting ourselves on the mat today, and claim our practice for our own, we are so deeply held and anything but all alone. Try it. I’ll meet you there.

Pairwise perpendicular angles 1

Pairwise perpendicular angles 1 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Changing practice

Combat boots are very popular for women to wea...

Mine zip up the sides so I can keep ’em tied. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As I write this, I’m sitting on my balance ball in my yoga room/office next to my hula hoop in BDUs, combat boots and a yoga top. There’s a pair of trauma shears in my pocket and a carpuject device, all just in case I’m called in, and a blue tooth in my ear to take that call if it comes. Right now, I’m writing. If I’m called in, I’ll be medic-ing. I’ve come to think of all my identities as verbs so they don’t feel so heavy.

I’ve also begun the process of negotiating those identities. Being a Paramedic was once a dream so intense it burned the grad student right out of me. No longer a dream, Paramedic-ing is one of my awesome realities, all of which inspire in me gape-mouthed breathless devotion at my good fortune and the amazing opportunities put in my path. And the larger reality is this: for the first time in my life I have more awesome than I can do justice to.

I used to work hard to quit stuff because it sucked – cigarettes, coffee (I’ve stopped stopping that), snarkiness (always a struggle, cause it’s just so fun), late nights, drinking too much, that kind of stuff. And in the process I learned that working hard against things usually keeps them in my life (does it work that way for you, too?) That it was a matter of choosing away from them, not against them that helped them fade into the fuzziness and golden light of good stories. The difference is to choose something awesomer than you think the old thing will feel if you do it right now, just one more time, because it looks so shiny and sexy and real.

Now I find that I have so many amazing choices for how to spend my days that I constantly feel like “not enough.”  I’d tell you I don’t understand people who complain of boredom, but really that’s just another way of bragging about busy-ness <yawn> and I’m choosing away from busy-ness. I am too busy, but I’m not going to tell you about it when I call to ask you to do something for me – because I know you probably are, too. Or remember having been, and know it’s a choice. Anddo understand boredom. It’s the feeling I get when I don’t want to do what’s in front of me (Is it that way for you, as well?). And I also understand choices.

So I’ve realized that for the past several years I’ve been choosing away from Paramedicine, but not because it sucks, but because there is so much to do, to tell, to love and to give. I love what I do when I go out in uniform and go places with my partner that someone in a room somewhere else tells us to go just because some other person called and asked for help. I love walking into a 26A that turns out to be 10D (fill “ho-hum” in the first slot and “do something now” in the latter), I love listening to people’s stories about why they need help, and I love finding the kernel of what I can actually help with in their story. I love sirens (when I’m working, not when I’m not) and opposing traffic and getting a nasal tube and chest darts and trans-cutaneous pacing and chasing your life faster than overlapping pathologies can. I love a good trauma because it lets me and people I work and train with do what we train to do, and when we’re good all at once, it’s most certain access to flow, to presence and to grace.

But (you knew there was one, right?) I’m realizing how much I love the life that I’ve woken up to realize I’ve  created: one of writing and coaching and teaching that creates quiet and flow and grace without sirens and chasing lives. And last year, while we lived in Silicon Valley for the hubs’ career and I took a break, I realized the UN-think-able: I can live without them. Yeah, I’ll just let that settle in, ’cause it took a while for me, too. I. Can. Live. … Without sirens and do-it-now.

CRazY. “Crazy!” I tell you! And here I have been, trying to craft a calendar, a schedule, a mind, a life that let’s me encompass the whole big, badass mess of my identities and activities. Tuesday will be my day on the streets; Mondays I’ll tend to accounts and licenses and the paperwork of business; Wednesdays I’ll work on the book and the launch; Thursdays and Fridays I’ll write for other awesome people because they treat me awesome and give me lovely things to do. Oh, and pay me pretty nicely. I’ll be sure to take weekends off to re-charge the ol’ creative battery and tend to that crazily amazing hubs and our groove, and to practice yoga and meditation every day (I’ll just slip it in between the this and the that), hike a lot (gotta enjoy the new hip) and enjoy the hot springs I longed for like a 13-year-old boy longs for real experience all last year when we were in Hippy Disneyland.

And Danielle LaPorte is right: Balance doesn’t exist. I wasn’t balanced when I was learning to be a Paramedic and holding onto it isn’t balancing me – it’s tipping me right over. Of all the -ings I’m embracing, it contributes the least to the life I’m creating. One of these things no longer fits with the other things. Not because other people don’t see how elegantly they go together (they did for oh-so-long), but because the life that feeds the -ings is no longer aligned with everything it takes to do that thing: the continuing education, the getting into and out of uniform (Hint: it’s more than putting on and taking off clothes), the never knowing when a shift will really end or how many nights I’ll dream of that man, that woman, the old couple saying goodbye, or the baby not crying when he should be. [I once knew a medic who said he didn’t do that (remember, get moved by). He wasn’t a very good person.]

So this morning I rose extra early to get my practice in before I went on call, just in case. Today’s my last day on duty, on call, on the hook, in the bus, my last day “just in case.” From now on, my life is not “just in case.” My life is for the burning fire of creativity and words and serving in another, a different, a new way. I’m choosing away from “just in case” and toward definitely here. I’m choosing away from “fitting it in” toward placing it carefully. I’m letting something awesome go so I can grab the awesome right in front of me with both arms. My practice is changing. I’ll tell you how it goes.