Rox Does Yoga

Yoga, Wellness, and Life

practicing non-attachment at the car dealership May 9, 2013

Filed under: reflections,yoga lifestyle — R. H. Ward @ 1:46 pm

This past weekend brought me a new opportunity to practice non-attachment and letting go when my husband F and I bought a new car. We traded in our old car, which had previously been MY old car: a 2007 two-door black VW Rabbit I called “Buddy.” Trading Buddy in was definitely the right decision – it had been increasingly difficult to get YogaBaby in and out of the backseat, let alone travel any distance with her and her stuff. But it brought up a lot of memories.

I bought Buddy brand-new in summer 2006. I had just moved back home to Philly after being laid off from job in Boston and breaking up with my boyfriend of over six years. On the drive from Boston to Philly, my old car, full of my stuff, had started making funny noises, and while the car made it to PA, the issue turned out to be unfixable. I needed a car: I was living in the suburbs with my parents, I had no idea where I’d end up working, and I also had made big plans for a solo road trip. I was single, and so I bought a two-door car since I didn’t need to think of anyone but myself. (This situation resulted in some other purchases that later turned out to be unfortunate, such as a beige couch, but I digress.) After making so many changes in my life at once, the car was just the latest, and it came to represent my fresh start. Being in the car was like having my own little sanctuary when my parents’ house didn’t quite feel like my home anymore. I have great memories of the first road trip Buddy and I went on together, just a few days after I bought him: we drove to western Massachusetts for a wedding, then to Tennessee for another wedding, then to visit friends in North Carolina. It was a great trip, driving for hours with the windows down, singing along with the radio, just the two of us. Once F and I started dating long-distance, Buddy drove me to the airport many times so I could pick F up or fly to meet him somewhere for an adventure. Buddy and F got to be better friends once F moved cross-country to settle with me in Philly (F drove Buddy to work every day while I took the train). When we moved from my one-bedroom to a place large enough for both of us, Buddy drove us there; the day after our wedding, we stuck a “Just Married” sticker on Buddy and headed for the Poconos for a mini-honeymoon. Buddy’s been house-hunting, yard sale deal hunting, and to and from IKEA many times. Then in July, Buddy carried two of us to the Birth Center, and brought three of us home.

That little VW was a damn good car, and it was hard to say goodbye. But even as I personify my car and talk about Buddy like he was a real person, I know that it was just a car. What made Buddy seem like, well, a buddy was all the good times I had in the car, and all the different milestones that happened while I owned it. I don’t need to keep the car to remember my history. Buddy served me well, and it was time to move on. He’ll be a good car to some other single woman on her own, and he’ll have lots of new adventures.

So on Saturday, I let Buddy go, and we welcomed a Subaru Forester to the family. With its heated seats, sunroof, and roomy backseat and trunk, the Forester has a lot of positive qualities, and we’re getting along well so far. I can already see that I’ll have to practice non-attachment with the Forester too, but I’m looking forward to making many new memories as YogaBaby grows.


WWJD May 2, 2013

Filed under: reflections,yoga lifestyle — R. H. Ward @ 1:28 pm
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I was looking through my list of things I want to post about someday, and I came across the following link: Just Because You Love Jesus Doesn’t Mean You Have to Disrespect the Buddha, Dishonor Muhammad or Disregard Moses. Brian McLaren wrote that article to commemorate the anniversary of 9/11, but it’s just as valuable today – perhaps even more so, in the aftermath of the Boston Marathon bombing. I’ve seen a lot of hateful press about Muslims recently, stories with strongly worded headlines above photos of wounded people. It’s propaganda, and it saddens me. After the bombing, the city of Boston came together in pride and strength, and the rest of the US sent our support and love. Now a few weeks later, that community feeling has degenerated into hatred for those who follow the same faith as the bombers. After a wound or a scare like this, it can be painfully difficult to be open-hearted, but Jesus, Buddha, and Krishna alike would call us to that challenge. I hope to see more articles like McLaren’s that make us think about what Jesus truly would do and say if he were here today and inspire us to be gentler and kinder.




It all comes back around April 23, 2013

Filed under: reflections,yoga lifestyle — R. H. Ward @ 1:45 pm

On Sunday morning, I got a massage. It had been a Christmas gift from my husband F. My massage therapist Sarah lives only a few blocks from my house, so I could walk over. Sarah has such a sense of calm about her that a massage pretty much includes an hourlong guided meditation too, and afterwards, I felt so rested it was like I’d had a full night’s sleep. Walking home, I remember thinking that yes, I’m YB’s mom now, but I’m still myself. Sunday evening, F and I had a great time with YB, dancing to Mountain Stage on the radio and playing the exciting new game Laundry Basket Head. We laughed and laughed. At bedtime, YB went down to sleep sweetly without any fighting. It was the kind of evening I always imagined when I was younger and thought about having kids someday.

Then YB woke up hungry at midnight, and again at 4 AM. We seem to be going through a growth spurt/ravenous beast phase. At the 4 AM waking, it took me 45 minutes to get her down again. I didn’t fall back to sleep myself until after 5:00;  YB woke up crying at 5:40, then the alarm went off at 5:55. Meanwhile, I’m dealing with YB’s latest gift from daycare – a cold this time – and my nose is running off my face. By the time I made it down to breakfast, I was grumpy as anything. No more massages for me, I thought. I’m not still myself, there’s no use pretending. All I am now is the thing that takes care of YB. I knew what I was getting into when we decided to have a baby; I knew that people with kids are perpetually exhausted and snot-covered. This is what I chose, so I’d better just give in and accept it. And then I remembered that I had to teach yoga that night and I wanted to cry.

Some mornings are bad exhausting mornings; some evenings are full of giggles and dancing. What I need to remember is that I signed up for both, and as hard as the exhausting times may feel, the wonderful times do balance it out: they’re the reason I wanted a child, the thing that I dreamed of. Even when I feel most worn out and used up, I’m still myself deep down, and that will always be there. I felt grumpy and frustrated and tired and sick all day Monday, but Monday night’s yoga class made me feel like myself again. It all comes back around.


Profound Wisdom from Bob Ross April 18, 2013

Filed under: reflections,yoga lifestyle — R. H. Ward @ 2:29 pm
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In a week in which some really horrible violence happened in Boston, and in which a large portion of the US Senate voted to support violence, I think it’s a good idea to revisit the words of someone with a gentle spirit: Bob Ross.

Not long ago, I posted about a great inspirational Bob Ross video. Yesterday I saw this collection of 20 Essential Life Lessons from Bob, complete with quotes and images, and I knew I had to share. I hope it makes you smile and think peaceful thoughts about happy trees and beautiful safe places.



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!


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.


One or Two? February 28, 2013

Filed under: reflections,yoga lifestyle — R. H. Ward @ 1:07 pm
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Pretty much as soon as I brought YogaBaby home from the Birth Center, I’ve been worrying over whether we’ll have a second child. At first my worries were entirely childbirth-related: feeling kind of traumatized by the whole thing, I never wanted to think about doing it again. Then my midwife brought up birth control at my six-week postpartum check-up, and I started worrying in earnest. Did I want another child? Well, my heart sure seems to want one. But could we afford daycare for two children? And we’ve been getting by with just one car: my trusty two-door VW Rabbit. A second child would necessitate trading up for a larger car at the very least, possibly getting a second car. My VW, though tiny, is at least paid off, and so new cars would lead to car payments and more costs for insurance, gas, and maintenance. We’re comfortable now, but finances would be a lot tighter with a second baby. And what about things like yoga time, writing time, and just plain grownup time? We’re starting to get these things back now, but having two kids would probably mean giving them up again long-term. And would I really want to be pregnant again? I loved being pregnant, but from my vantage point here it seems like an awful lot of work. In many ways I think it would be good for YB to have a sibling, and I think having two kids would be a lot of fun, especially when they’re older, but the stress and exhaustion of having two young children that worries me. Do we want to go through that, even for the payoff of having two great kids down the line?

You may tell me that I have plenty of time to decide, and while it’s true that I don’t have to decide right this minute, I’ll be 34 this year, and F will be 36. Besides just the biology of my aging body, F points out that he’d like to be done with diapers by the time he’s 40, and that seems pretty fair. I’d like that too. A few months back I told myself that because I wanted to breastfeed YB for the first full year, we didn’t have to decide about another baby until her first birthday, and that helped for a while. Now, though, she’s getting older and leaving many baby things behind already. In many ways, that’s awesome – we get so much more sleep now! – but somehow holding a newborn is very different from holding a seven-month-old. I appreciated the hell out of my time with her when she was tiny, and every day I appreciate all her wiggling, hand-clapping, trying-to-be-standing action, but it still aches a little to think that that particular sweet time is over.

Clearly this is a huge issue that requires a lot of thought and discussion. This post is really just a quick synopsis of what F and I have been talking about. But I bring it up because I realized something. I noticed that I tend to think about (and obsess over) the possibility of Baby 2 when I feel the most overwhelmed, the most tired, the most insecure in myself. There’s a part of me worrying that F wouldn’t want to have another baby with me when I’ve shown myself to be such an unsupportive train wreck of a partner when there’s only one child to worry about; there’s a part of me worrying that I might want to have a second baby and won’t because I’m such a crap mom to the one I have now.

And I have to say, to hell with this nonsense. When I’m happy and engaged in the present moment, you know what? I don’t think about having a second baby, because I’m too busy enjoying the one I have. It’s my anxieties and fears and shames that are driving this constant worrying. Another baby will happen or not, depending on what F and I choose (and on, you know, fate and stuff), but my personal failings aren’t really a part of that decision, because I’m only human and so is F. The next time this issue comes up for me, I need to close my eyes and take some deep breaths. I need to remind myself that it’s just anxiety talking. And then let it go.


The Inner Light February 14, 2013

Filed under: reflections — R. H. Ward @ 1:52 pm
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My husband F and I have been watching our way through every episode Star Trek: The Next Generation. F had never seen it before, and I hadn’t seen it since it originally aired. Right now we’re almost done with season 5, which is some of the best Star Trek I’ve ever seen. And the other night we saw “The Inner Light”, one of my all-time favorite episodes.*

In this episode, the Enterprise encounters an ancient alien probe, which emits a strange energy beam, rendering Picard unconscious. In the space of about 25 minutes, Picard lives a full, long lifetime on a long-dead alien world. The people of Kataan knew that their world was dying; they didn’t have the technology to save themselves, but they were able to create and launch this probe, intended to share with one individual their culture from the perspective of a native.

There are a few interesting things here (at least, from a yogic point of view; there are lots of interesting and wonderful things about the episode!). The people of Kataan could have chosen to put any number of things on their probe: books, musical recordings, works of art. How about computer files containing the sum of their race’s scientific, artistic, and literary accomplishments? But they knew that this wouldn’t truly represent them; they knew that life, culture, art, and emotion have to be experienced and lived in order to be understood. No amount of book learning or data could communicate who they truly were as a people, so they found a way to give someone that experience for himself.

And that’s the other thing. The probe was only good for one go. It shared Kataan with Picard, and then its systems terminated. The people of Kataan hoped that their probe would reach someone wise, a teacher who would share their culture and way of life with others. They hoped that by giving this gift to one person, they would live on. They weren’t trying to share their entire history with another race as a whole – they shared one man’s life and memories, with one person.

And what did Picard learn from Kataan, besides how to play the flute? Several times during the episode, the importance of living in the present moment is emphasized. It’s what Picard tells each of “his” children: to seize the moment, embrace love or pursue their passions now. The experience of life on a dying world made him more aware of the present moment. And, along with the hopes, dreams, and loves of an entire lost civilization, that’s what he brought back to the Enterprise with him.

(* Tied with “Darmok”, also in season 5, which is an awesome episode for two reasons: the idea of a species that communicates entirely in metaphor, which makes my English major’s heart go pitter-pat, and the fact that Picard tells the Gilgamesh story, which I adore and have blogged about before here. And what do these two episodes have in common? Picard gets hijacked by a strange race, and Riker nearly ruins everything by being overly aggressive and trying to rescue him! Seriously if there’s anyone you could trust to handle himself well under strange circumstances, it’s Picard [with the exception being the time Picard was kidnapped by the Borg, which was one time Riker was well justified in his rescue attempts]. Riker almost screwed up two of the best episodes in Star Trek history. He could definitely use a dose of Zen.)


Damsel, Arise February 12, 2013

Filed under: reflections,yoga lifestyle — R. H. Ward @ 1:00 pm
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Here at the yoga blog, I’ve often written in the past about the intersections of yoga with Christianity, and I’ve shared my opinion that yoga and Christianity are very compatible, because most of the things that Jesus says line up really nicely with most of the things that Patanjali says in the Yoga Sutras, or Krishna says in the Bhagavad Gita. And I’ve shared my inability to understand the individuals of the Christian “religious right”, who say that God hates certain kinds of people, or who act hatefully towards certain groups. In my opinion, it’s more important to do the things that Jesus told us to do, like loving our neighbors and being kind, and I have trouble understanding how people who say they are Christian can act in ways that seem to be such a blatant contradiction of what Jesus actually said and how he himself acted.

And the other day, I read this article, Damsel, Arise: A Westboro Scion Leaves Her Church. And I was filled with hope. This person who genuinely wants to do good in the world, and who thought she was doing good, was still able to have an open mind, to engage in discussion on religious issues, to reconsider her actions and to change her life. I found the article, and Megan’s journey, to be incredibly inspiring, and I thank her deeply for sharing her story.


Identity-Based Habits: The Picky Eater February 5, 2013

Filed under: reflections,yoga lifestyle — R. H. Ward @ 1:48 pm
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I’ve been thinking a lot about that article on identity-based habits that I posted a few weeks ago. The concept just makes so much sense to me – that you’ll have trouble making significant changes in your life unless you change your self-concept and start thinking of yourself as the kind of person who can accomplish those changes. The more I think about it, the more examples I can find in my own life.

My parents tell me that as a baby, I loved to eat. I started on solids relatively early, and once I started, I’d eat anything. I sucked down baby foods that completely grossed out my parents and then opened my mouth for more. But somewhere along the way something changed. I started refusing foods and only accepting certain approved foods, like hot dogs, chicken, french fries, and mac and cheese. I became a “picky eater”. Dinnertime was often a battleground as I fussed and complained. Throughout my childhood I was notoriously picky about food, and looking back now, the pickier I was, the more I internalized that identity: no matter what my actual tastes might have been, I knew myself to be a picky eater, and I acted like one!

Eventually little things began to change my eating habits. At my part-time restaurant job in high school, I noticed that the Caesar salad and the zucchini marinara on the menu looked pretty good. I tried them, liked them, and began to eat them regularly. In college the limits of the cafeteria forced me to try new things so I wouldn’t have to subsist on a tasty but boring diet of froot loops and cheese sandwiches. During my senior year, the dining hall began a “pasta kitchen” line that offered two interesting dishes per meal and introduced me to the idea that pine nuts and spinach could go in my pasta, not just red sauce and meatballs, and the meals I tried that year were a major inspiration to my later cooking experiments.

Most importantly, I listened to my friends, people I liked and trusted who were surprised at the range of things I wouldn’t eat. Especially when I got to grad school and had to cook for myself, I knew I had a lot to learn. Christina taught me about garlic, chicken, and biscuits, among other things; Danielle and Sarah each taught me about guacamole; Dylan taught me about mushrooms, onions, and garlic, and how good they were all cooked together in olive oil; and much later, Fritz taught me the wide variety of things that can go in a burrito. By the time Fritz and I got engaged, I was ordering the octopus at fancy restaurants and sighing over my delicious Brussel sprouts.

As I tried and learned to cook new things, my concept of myself slowly changed. I was no longer a picky eater. Somehow I’d become a “foodie”: I’d grown to love cooking and trying new foods. And then I became a vegetarian, something a younger me (who refused anything green) could never have envisioned. When I think back to the 12-year-old me, or even the 18-year-old me, she would have been appalled. And that’s all rooted in self-concept: if I still identified myself as a picky eater, I would have missed out on so much deliciousness, so many enjoyable food experiences, and so many good times cooking and eating with friends. My self-identity only changed gradually over time based on what I learned and how that knowledge caused me to grow.

This is one reason why I think it’s so important to keep an open mind and never stop learning and growing. There’s so much in the world to experience that I don’t want to miss. And it’s why the idea of purposely, purposefully, changing one’s own self-identity is so compelling to me. If gradual, unintentional identity changes can have such effect, then what more can we do if we thoughtfully set out to change how we view ourselves? What new things will we be capable of? What distant dreams can we make into reality by becoming the person who can achieve them?