Rox Does Yoga

Yoga, Wellness, and Life

Books: Caretaking a New Soul, edited by Anne Carson March 28, 2013

Filed under: books,yoga lifestyle — R. H. Ward @ 8:24 am
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Caretaking a New SoulCaretaking a New Soul, edited by Anne Carson, is an anthology of short essays about spirituality, education, and young children, aimed at families who don’t follow a traditional Christian path. Most people in the US are Christian; of adults who no longer practice, or practice a different faith, many were raised in a Christian household, chose a different path later, and are now searching for meaningful rituals and traditions to share with their children. Caretaking a New Soul fills that need, exploring a variety of faith perspectives, from Buddhist to pagan to the “buffet style” spiritual practitioner who likes a little bit of everything.

My favorite pieces in the collection are those from the Buddhist perspective, as that’s the faith closes to my own ideals.Raised Catholic myself, I appreciated the advice on how to teach meditation to a child in two essays: “The Education of the Buddhist Child,” by Rev. Jiyu Kennett, and “Call It Something Else,” by Karey Solomon. In “The Education of the Buddhist Child,” I really appreciated the perspective shift in discussing the differences in raising a Buddhist versus a Christian child. In “Call It Something Else,” Solomon talks about one specific method for teaching meditation to preschoolers. I’m looking forward to helping YB learn how to “make her star shine bright.” I’ve made copies of both articles for future reference.

The book was first published in 1989, with only a new preface added for the second edition in 1999, and this shows a bit in the content. I didn’t see any essays from a Hindu perspective, which would have been a welcome addition to me, or a Muslim perspective, which would have been great to include, but the second edition was published before Muslim spirituality came onto the scene in such a negative way with 9/11. Understandably, the need to demystify Muslim spiritual practice and childrearing wasn’t yet a major issue. There’s also very little discussion of alternative families. This issue doesn’t necessarily affect spiritual practice, but there are a lot of mentions of mothers and fathers that just wouldn’t be applicable for many modern families. And there are many “new age” sorts of references, and the pagan perspectives felt a bit dated to me. Overall the book still has a lot of excellent content for parents as spiritual seekers and teachers, but the reader has to be aware of the time lapse.

Interestingly for me, the pagan pieces made me think about my own bias: even in essays where I agreed with every substantive thing the author had to say, I still rolled my eyes at terms like “Goddess” and “Magick”. Why? As my husband F pointed out, a child is more likely to comprehend the idea of saying a magic spell over terminology like “the power of positive thinking” and “self-actualization”. Who cares what you call it, if it works? And reverence for the earth and the environment is important to my own spirituality, even if I don’t talk about the Earth Mother, and it’s definitely something I want to share with my daughter. Regardless of the words used, respecting the spiritual practices of others is important to me, and I will always want YB to be respectful, so I definitely have to examine my attitudes before I pass negative perspectives down to her.

In one section, Carson talks about how parents want more for their children. For many of us, our parents wanted us to have more than they did, largely in the sense of material goods and status: a good education, college, and fancy house and car. Carson, writing in the 1980s, notes that she wants her daughter to have more in the emotional and spiritual sense: more freedom from violence and prejudice, more self-confidence, more strength. That statement struck me hard, because those are the exact things that I want my daughter to have that I didn’t (and doing the math and realizing the Carson’s daughter is probably just a few years younger than I am makes me a bit sad, but also glad for the steps forward that have been made just in my lifetime). Thinking critically about spiritual issues and education is one of the main ways we can begin to build that future for our children.

 

Wellness and Work March 26, 2013

Filed under: reflections,wellness,yoga lifestyle — R. H. Ward @ 12:16 pm
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Nursing for Wellness in Older Adults, by Carol MillerIn my new job, I have the opportunity to think about wellness surprisingly often: I was assigned as editor of the book Nursing for Wellness in Older Adults. It its current edition this book features a photo of a beautiful, relaxed, peaceful older woman doing a yoga pose (the entire editorial team agrees: we wish we knew this lady!). Just imagine how delighted I was to be assigned this book project the week I started my new job. Wellness for older adults is one of the reasons why I wanted to become a yoga teacher in the first place. Working on this book seemed like a cosmic sign that I’d made the right decision in leaving my old job, where my books were typically about surgically managing disease, but rarely about healing more than the physical. This is one reason why I think I’m much happier working on books for nurses rather than books for doctors or surgeons – although both groups work in the medical field, the nature of the work they do is fundamentally different, and the work of the nurse feels closer to my own calling as a yoga teacher and a karma yogini than that of the doctor.

Recently I’ve been pondering what the focus of this blog should be. I started the blog to write about my yoga teacher training experience; without that as an organizing principle, I’ve just been following the lead of the blog title, “Rox Does Yoga”, and writing about things that are related to yoga in some way, even if the relationship is only in my mind: sometimes yoga postures or breathing, sometimes meditation or spirituality, but often things like physical fitness, exercise, happiness, goals and resolutions, motherhood and parenting, vegetarianism, and even fantasy and science fiction every once in a while. But “Rox Does a Lot of Stuff That’s Sort of Tangentially Related to Yoga” just isn’t very catchy. I’d been fiddling with the wording on my About Me page for a while when it finally struck me: “wellness” is a perfect term to describe what I do here. Physically, wellness incorporates yoga, physical fitness, and other health-related topics, but it can also include spirituality, parenting and relationships, and my interest in happiness and, more recently, resolutions, because all of these things contribute to a person’s overall wellness. It took my work at my day job to bring this perfect word to mind. Hooray for cultivating wellness!

 

What to really expect at your first yoga class March 21, 2013

Filed under: yoga — R. H. Ward @ 1:21 pm
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I love this fun snarky post by Rob Pollak: What to really expect at your first yoga class. Accurate in many ways, especially “you will have no idea what is happening” , and I love the ending. Because no matter how confusing, weird, and embarrassing yoga may seem the first time you try it, it’s totally worth sticking with it.

 

Beginning Again… Again March 19, 2013

Filed under: yoga,yoga lifestyle — R. H. Ward @ 1:15 pm
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Recently I wrote about how I was starting to get my yoga practice back by carving out some practice time early in the mornings. Well, soon after that post, the entire family – F, YogaBaby, and I – all came down with a stomach bug. It took us days to recover. Then a family member visited from out of town, the entire family caught a low-level cold, and finally the disaster that is daylight saving time hit us hard. Any parent can tell you that “springing ahead” wreaks havoc on a small child, and it wasn’t too kind to F and me either. And so my yoga got off track again. I know that life is what’s happening when your plans get derailed, and maybe someday I’ll look back fondly on the vomit, screaming, snot, and exhaustion of the past month, but let me tell you it was not exactly fun to live through.

One of the worst things about a month like this, to me, is that I always seem to lose my yoga time right when I need it the most. Last week, for example, when YB was still adjusting to the time change and refused to go to bed for the fourth night in a row, I set her thrashing, howling little body in the crib, went to another room, and yelled and punched the floor. (Yes, the floor.) I felt frustrated, angry, and helpless, and knowing that none of it was YB’s fault just made me angry at myself for not having more patience. These are the feelings I count on my yoga practice to help me control; having that quiet time to check in with my body and spirit and to center myself helps me so much to be a calmer person.

My challenge at times like this is to find that calm center on my own, without the framework of an asana practice. That night I couldn’t find it. But YB cried for less than ten minutes before rolling over and falling asleep on her own – I was upset for a lot longer than she was. No amount of singing and cuddling from me could help her to do that, that night: she had to find it herself. The bedtime routine has improved steadily since then, and last night I had my sweet snuggly baby bedtime back. I appreciated it even more after the rough nights.

After a relaxing weekend and the chance to catch up on some of our lost sleep, F and I have started setting the alarm clock early again. We’ll gradually work backwards until we’re getting up at 5:30 again, but we started with getting up just ten minutes early yesterday. I did five half sun salutes in my bathrobe, then sat quietly on my meditation cushion for a few minutes. It’s a start. What’s important isn’t how many times you fall out of the routine – it’s being able to start fresh and begin again, and again, and again.

 

How to be a calm parent March 14, 2013

Filed under: yoga lifestyle — R. H. Ward @ 1:10 pm
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A friend sent me this great article: How to be a calm parent. I love this long list of ways to keep yourself calm when your children are inspiring not-calm. I’m going to file this away for future reference when YogaBaby becomes YogaKid. What things do you to keep calm in tough parenting situations? (Or any situations!)

 

Thinking about shame March 12, 2013

Filed under: books,reflections,yoga lifestyle — R. H. Ward @ 1:21 pm
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Fear and Other Uninvited Guests, by Harriet LernerI’d read Harriet Lerner’s book Fear and Other Uninvited Guests before, about six years ago, but thought that rereading it now would be helpful for some of my current mommy guilt issues. And it was helpful, but I felt like a lot of the information was very familiar to me, either because I’d read the book before or from my yoga work and yoga reading. So rather than a full book review, I’ll just hit the highlights that particularly spoke to me this time around.

Lerner focuses on fear, anxiety, and shame, three emotions that everyone has but that no one particularly wants to deal with. Lerner’s book is unique in that she doesn’t attempt to come up with a quick solution. What she recommends is learning to work with these powerful emotions: rather than being afraid of them, dreading them, and trying to push them down, she recommends getting used to them and learning how to function with them. I kind of like this approach; it reminds me of what I’ve read in some Buddhist books about moving through strong emotion.

A few sample passages that I particularly liked:

Unlike guilt, the experience of shame is not tied to a specific behavior. Instead, it is linked to who we believe we are, deep down. We feel shame when we think we’re too ugly, stupid, fat, mentally ill, needy, or incompetent to be worthy of receiving love or even walking around on the planet, using up valuable oxygen. Shame feeds the conviction that another person couldn’t possibly love or respect us if he or she really knew the whole, pitiful, God-awful truth about us. Helen Block Lewis, perhaps the first psychologist to give shame its due, made this crucial distinction. Guilt is about doing. Shame is about being. (page 121)

Sometimes, though, our feelings about our appearance have little to do with anything about our physical selves at all. We’re anxious, insecure, or upset about something else. Shame and self-loathing get focused on the body, but the true sources of anxiety are obscured from view. Anytime we become anxiously overfocused on this or that part of our body or appearance, it’s a good bet that we are underfocused on something else, past or present, that we don’t want to look at. (page 155)

I thought these two passages described really well some of the things that I’ve experienced when I’m in a dark place. The first passage really nails my whole “I could be better” problem: it’s one thing to want to do a better job at something, but it’s something else to wish I were better in and of myself. There’s been many a time when I’ve been sobbing my eyes out in the kitchen telling F (or my previous partner, he got hit with it too) about how I fail at everything and wish that I were a better person: a better wife, better mother, better friend, just *better*. Reading this passage really connected, for me, that this wanting to be better isn’t about how good or bad I am in actuality, but is about some shame that I must feel about who I am. I can say confidently that this sort of shame can be really painful and debilitating. I struggle with it all the time.

I like the second passage because it’s the first time I’ve seen someone explain another thing that often happens to me: that when I’m upset about something specific, like a bad day at work or letting a loved one down in some way, the next mental step I take is to get down on myself for my appearance. I call it “falling down the rabbit hole”, because my thoughts just spiral down and down. “I really disappointed my mom – she deserves a better daughter. I was such a slacker at work today, I didn’t get anything done. And I’m SO FAT,” I’ll think in disgust. And whether I’m overweight or not, what the hell does that have to do with anything? Nothing. It’s just another convenient way to put myself down, a shame target for my brain to aim at.

Lerner’s point is that no matter how strong emotions like shame, fear, and anxiety are, we can’t let them take over or stop us from doing what we want to do. We have to keep moving, through the bad feeling. Everyone has negative feelings sometimes – we can’t help that – but if we just hide out and wallow in it, the shame or anxiety will only get worse, more paralyzing. It’s by daring to take action in spite of our fears that we can learn to deal with these strong emotions and get past them.

 

Joyful Things March 7, 2013

I’ve been writing a lot lately about making resolutions and overcoming bad feelings like guilt, shame, and fear. I even have another post or two in the queue along these lines. When you think about it one way, you might see these as positive posts, reaffirming our ability to take action and make change – but looked at another way, I’ve been kind of a downer lately. So, in honor of the impending springtime, here are some wonderful things, things to rejoice about and be grateful for.

  • I have a poem published in the current issue of UU World magazine. This is exciting for several reasons: it’s the first time I was solicited for poems. As a Unitarian Universalist, it made me happy to see my work in a magazine that so closely aligns with my values, and which reaches such a wide audience of readers who share those values. And it’s the first time I got fan mail from a reader who liked the poem!
  • I work in a job where my group’s VP and product director care about meeting new hires and getting to know their people. I had lunch with our VP a few weeks ago, and our product director scheduled a group lunch for next month. Overall I feel listened to and supported at my job. And I have the ability to work from home when I need to.
  • I just realized that this January marked ten years since I started practicing yoga. Ten years! I took my first yoga class during my last semester at UNC Greensboro. It was an ashtanga-based power yoga class at lunchtime, Tuesdays and Thursdays, and I was really confused at first, but I loved it. I still love it ten years later. How cool that it’s become such a part of my life!
  • F and I celebrated a special anniversary last week: six years since our first kiss. It amazes me to think about how my life has changed as a result of that moment and all the wonderful things that came from it.
  • Speaking of wonderful things that come from kissing, YogaBaby is clapping her hands, waving, and trying to stand up at every opportunity. She’ll hold onto our hands and walk across the room now. When handed a photo and asked “Who’s that?”, she answered “Dada.” (And we were able to repeat this event three times.) She also says “mamamamama” now, but only under duress when she’s upset. Predictably, I come running when I hear it. Overall she’s pretty much a joy to be around.
  • F’s sister came to visit last week. It was wonderful to see her, and she stayed in with the baby one night so F and I could go out for a nice dinner.
  • When our entire family unit was down with a stomach bug a few weeks back, I had reason to be grateful (1) that I did not in fact die lying on the bathroom floor like I thought I would; (2) that F and YB didn’t get it as bad as I did and in fact YB had the mildest case; (3) that YB still felt sick enough that all she wanted to do was nap and cuddle, which was about all we could keep up with; (4) that I have the kind of husband who will go to the store for medicine at 1 am (with a bowl on the seat next to him just in case) and then will change the baby’s jammies and sheets when she throws up at 3 am and I literally cannot move; and (5) that my parents were willing to come over with ginger ale and jello the next morning to take care of us.
  • I’ll be covering the prenatal yoga class at East Eagle Yoga starting next month when Sarah, the current instructor, has her baby. I’m excited for an opportunity to teach again, and I love prenatal. More on this in April!