Rox Does Yoga

Yoga, Wellness, and Life

An Open Letter to Yoga Teachers November 27, 2012

Filed under: yoga — R. H. Ward @ 1:50 pm
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Today I’m sharing a post from AnytimeYoga: An Open Letter to Yoga Teachers. I agree with everything Tori lists here, because these are not only reasonable things to request, they’re reasonable things to expect. When I was actively teaching, these were things I tried to do, and I think I succeeded at least some of the time (although I haven’t been trained to use props so I teach with them only rarely). I think these are great reminders for any yoga teacher. Further, they’re a list of things that those new to yoga ought to know are reasonable things to want from a class and a teacher.

When I was a new yoga student, sometimes I felt something was strange but couldn’t articulate what it was, or thought it was just a “yoga thing”. But if you feel uncomfortable, and what’s happening is something Tori has described in her Open Letter, then that’s not a “yoga thing”, and it’s not cool. You deserve better, so either ask the instructor about it, or try a different yoga class. You and your unique body and your unique needs are welcome in yoga, and a good yoga teacher will make you feel that way.


Mornings November 20, 2012

Filed under: reflections — R. H. Ward @ 1:00 pm
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Yesterday YogaBaby had her four-month doctor visit and some vaccinations, which didn’t agree with her, so she was up every two hours fussing during the night. I’ve adjusted to a lot of the changes of motherhood, but not the lack of sleep, especially when I feed her at 5 am, drift off again at 5:15, and wake up with the alarm at 6. I spent a good amount of breakfast time whining to my husband, who had given up on sleep after that 5 am feeding and gotten up, and who had to be at least as tired as I was. The baby, of course, was peacefully sleeping.

After breakfast I went into the bathroom. The sun was just coming up, so I left the lights off, and looked out the window at the brightening sky behind my neighbors’ houses, and the bare tree branches silhouetted against the dark gray sky overhead. It reminded me of how I used to exercise in the early morning: yoga on our enclosed porch, watching that sky brighten through the big windows as I saluted the sun, or jogging in the cold crisp air, getting acquainted with the colors of the trees and the rabbits, squirrels, and sometimes deer in my neighborhood. Feeling my feet connecting, first thing in the morning, with my mat or the sidewalk or the beaten trail through the park. How solitary I had felt, how good and strong.

If this were fiction, this is the part where I’d realize that giving that up for now is all worth it in my new life as a mother, and I’d leave the bathroom window refreshed by my memories and with a renewed sense of purpose. But this is real life, and I am tired. I miss being outside in the cool air; I miss feeling flexible and strong and powerful, in touch with my own breath and my inner spirit. I miss being by myself. I took a long shower and washed my hair. Then I went in to feed the baby, and she looked up at me with her big grey-brown eyes, full of trust, and she gave me her big good morning smile. And I smiled back.


[Note for my future reference, and for those following the ongoing sleep saga: this post was hand-written last Thursday morning, after a doctor visit on Wednesday evening, and it took a while to type up. Since then the sleep has gotten worse, and even worse, and then last night slightly better.]


books: Healing Back Pain Naturally, by Art Brownstein November 14, 2012

Filed under: books,yoga lifestyle — R. H. Ward @ 1:08 pm
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Healing Back Pain Naturally, by Art Brownstein


My father has had three spine surgeries to date, and as a yoga teacher, I’ve wondered what I could do to help him while at the same time fearing to damage his back further. My friend Kyle recommended this book. Dr. Brownstein’s program is one that a yoga teacher can really get behind, focusing not just on recovering from physical injury, but on the mental, emotional, and spiritual aspects of healthy living as well.

Dr. Brownstein begins the book by telling the story of his own struggles with debilitating back pain and his journey to recovery. His experiences give him a special understanding of what those with back pain are suffering. Because of his own search for healing, Dr. Brownstein has a unique perspective on how to heal from a back injury and prevent future problems.

Dr. Brownstein’s program for healing is based on his concept of the mind/body connection, described in chapters 2 and 3. According to Dr. Brownstein, mental and emotional stress can result in an increase in muscle tension and tightness, leading to injury. Dr. Brownstein urges the reader not to overmedicate, or to leap ahead to treating back problems with surgery and other invasive techniques; rather, he advocates spending some time with the pain, to understand what’s wrong and what the body is trying to communicate. It’s important to understand how the back works physically, and chapter 2 describes back anatomy in detail so the reader will understand the structures and terminology and know how back pain can result from weakness, imbalance, or strain elsewhere in the body. But sometimes the best and most permanent solution to a back problem is to make changes to lifestyle and behaviors that cause stress.

This book covers the full lifestyle spectrum in Dr. Brownstein’s approach to healing the back. Chapters 4 and 5 discuss the physical body. Chapter 4 includes a wide variety of stretches for the back; most of these are taken from yoga asanas, and may are simple and gentle enough to be done in the midst of back pain and can lead to some relief when done properly. Dr. Brownstein outlines how to use these stretches, in the order he lists them and over time, to regain mobility and reduce pain. Once the back has been fully stretched and the pain is gone, the reader can move on to strengthening the back as described in chapter 5. Back muscles that are both flexible AND strong are less likely to be pulled or strained.

Chapters 6-10 cover stress management, healthy eating, work, play, and spirituality as they relate to back care and overall health. Dr. Brownstein takes a holistic approach based on his mind/body concept: since anxiety and stress can affect the body, causing muscle tension and contributing to injury, it’s important to heal not only the body but also the mind, heart, and spirit to truly recover from a back problem. By reducing stress, reducing caffeine intake, improving one’s outlook on work, opening the heart in personal relationships, and cultivating a sense of humor and fun, the reader can improve her overall health and happiness and remove many of the stressors that can lead to future back pain and injury.

I’ve never suffered from a chronic pain condition, so I can’t comment on the book’s usefulness for those actively in pain. However, as a yoga teacher, this book helped me to understand better the perspective of someone in that kind of pain and gave me some tools to help those future students. I plan to buy a copy of this book for my dad as well.


First Hindu Congresswoman in the US November 9, 2012

Filed under: bhagavad gita,yoga lifestyle — R. H. Ward @ 1:00 pm
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Among the many interesting victories in this week’s election, Democrat Tulsi Gabbard’s win in Hawaii caught my attention. Gabbard will be the first Hindu-American to serve in Congress, and she’ll take her oath in January on the Bhagavad Gita. How awesome is that?

Huffington Post reported on Ms. Gabbard last week – their article describes her background more fully. HuffPo also quotes some of the senseless hate that’s been strewn against non-Christian politicians, from Gabbard’s opponent in the race, Republican Kawika Crowley, as well as the American Family Association and the ever-evil Rick Santorum, who according to HuffPo stated that equality was a uniquely Judeo-Christian concept that “doesn’t come from the East and Eastern religions.” Which is completely erroneous, by the way. I’d venture that Eastern religions are actually far more egalitarian than some forms of Christianity, many of which have that whole “I’m saved and you’re not” thing going on. Anyway, I think it’s fantastic that Gabbard is following her Hindu values (and, I’m guessing, what she perceives as her karma yoga duty) by serving her country.

Hawaii also elected Japan-born Mazie Hirono, who was previously one of the first Buddhists to serve in Congress, and will now become the first Asian-American woman in the Senate. Rock on, Hawaii.


New Beginnings November 7, 2012

Filed under: reflections,yoga lifestyle — R. H. Ward @ 2:00 pm
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Last week I started a new job.

I wasn’t happy at my old job – I’ve always been up front about that here on the yoga blog – and I’ve written about trying to apply what I’ve learned about meditation and mindfulness to my work troubles. I reminded myself to be grateful to have a job at all, especially one that paid well, where I was liked and respected. I tried to treat my job as my karma yoga duty, the work that’s mine to do at this point in my life and the work I need to do to support my family, and so I tried to do my best and practice non-attachment. My mantra became “I am here to do my work the best I can, without attachment to the work itself or its results”. On the whole, this isn’t a bad attitude to practice, but it was always hard to let go and not get caught up in frustration, and I kept hoping I could find a job that would suit me better: work I liked better, a better work-life balance. After YogaBaby arrived, sending out resumes became my little project, something I worked on while she nursed or slept in my lap. And I got some calls, and some interviews. (And believe me, you’ve never been nervous about a job interview until you’ve worried about leaking breast milk in front of your potential employer.)

A few weeks after I started back to work, this job offer came along. It wasn’t perfect (with all due respect to my new colleagues and my division director – hi, E! – who’s already found this blog). The work will be pretty similar to what I was doing before (although with some key differences that make me think I might like it more). The pay is also very similar (although the recruiter did her best to make the offer as sweet as possible). It’s a lateral move in terms of job title (although with more potential for advancement than I felt I had at my old job). The offer was actually so similar to what I was doing and earning at my old job that I had to consider it for almost a week. I compared the cost of health insurance, the time off/vacation policy, even the 401K matching program – in some respects my old company was stronger, in other respects the new company was stronger.

Ultimately, it came down to a choice between the known and the unknown, the familiar and the new. Did I want to stay where I was and maintain the status quo, good and bad? Or did I want to take a chance that I could be happier making a change, taking a risk?

I decided to take the chance, partly because I knew that if I didn’t accept the job, I’d always wonder if I should have, and partly because I feel like you can’t wait around hoping for change to come to you. There’s no point in waiting for the perfect thing to come along because nothing in this world is going to be perfect. I felt that I had to put myself out there and take action if I wanted a change to happen, and I really did need a change. I made the best decision I could, and so far, I think I made the right choice. So here’s to change, and risk, and being brave, and crossing our fingers as we jump.


The Yoga of Parenthood, Part 2: Cobra Pose November 2, 2012

Filed under: yoga — R. H. Ward @ 3:40 pm

Cobra Pose

I’m not actually sure if this should be Cobra Pose or Sphinx Pose. Her elbows are mostly down, which would indicate Sphinx, but I think the work she’s doing and her attitude here is much more Cobra. And let me tell you, it’s really exciting to see her nailing this pose after weeks and weeks of working on it.

To learn more about Cobra Pose, check out my Pose of the Month post about it!