Category Archives: yoga

What is the Feminine Side of Yoga?

It was the 80s in Southern California and I’d wandered into a well attended yoga class at a local gym. The teacher was a woman.

She approached me purposefully as class let out and asked, “What do you think about doing yoga from a more feminine side?

WHAT!

It took about three decades to answer that question.

Yoga was interesting though I can’t remember why I thought so at the time. Mostly I was curious. When I was younger yoga wasn’t even an organized thing.

Dance was the thing I liked. Long ago in New York there was Haitian dance that fed my soul and also a modern movement class that fed my ego.

That class was a disciplined method. Precise. A purposeful brain teaser.Haitian was the opposite.

Lose your mind. Complete freedom within the form.

Wild animal wondrous Voodoo magic, fierce, graceful,bewitching, athletic and feminine at once.

I moved between the fancy Upper West Side studio graced by the city’s elite to a condemned building on the lower East Side where I stood out among people of different color and cultures. Upper West Side ~ pop music, Lower East Side ~ live percussion. Polished wood to worn wood, view of Central Park to pathway through the homeless.

I lived a double life or even a quadruple one but no one ever picked me out for being wrong or a slacker. Or a guy.

Years and years later, I am sitting with a psychic. I’ve met several over the course of this life. Why would I go? People I believed in believed in them. Simple. And compelling.

Like others, she refers to a spirit guide who is appears to be mine. She says, he is telling me…..

He?

Oh yes. He. You are entirely male.

What!

Your guides are only masculine.

I recall the first psychic I met in NY in my twenties. She was a Channel. She kept saying, he and she said, he’s calling you darling. I’ve never heard him call anyone darling before.

You know?

Well I don’t but I never disbelieve anything until it’s proven impossible and so.

The weather turned suddenly cold in Nashville. I’m beginning a yoga class as I remember a description of bones being yin… dry and cold. The organs are yang. Heat.

To balance the brittle in our bones we begin to move from the front and depth of the organs and blood.

The spine is felt in the back body, the intuitive body, the receiving body. We take a moment to notice.

We will not harden what is already hard. We will move from the front body which is the way the nervous system works anyway and let the receptors in back be calm and gentle.

I realize even as I teach them that most of the yoga I’ve studied has focused on bones. Most of the tension I’ve felt is the feeling of spine and sacrum. So much attention there had hardened me.

And before I even saturated my life with yoga? Why did that teacher recognize the masculine in me?

I reckon that the reason I was drawn to Iyengar Yoga was the reason I persevered through the first dance class mentioned here. It demanded absolute perfection and attention to detail that was familiar. That environment would emerge in me later characterized by personal eccentricity. There was a militaristic quality that I was sort of used to as a kid. Structure and alignment for sanity.

Anyone who knows me would be shocked by that. Because I grew up in a loving home, given all one could hope for including scads of freedom. And more so, I was a recalcitrant. I ran wild and against the grain. But there’s a kind of OCD thing that runs through my mother’s family of overachievers that stealthily bled into me.

I am telling you a story that speaks to the unfolding of yoga that makes it ever interesting. It portrays our experience of ourselves as fluid. It is a shape shifter, an enabler, a shrink, coach, parent and child.

So what is the feminine side of yoga? It’s the folding and unfolding and relationship of organ to organ. It is core strength born from breath that bone follows but does not initiate. It is bone as the structure and the interior as home.

It is home.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Animals are Watching

I woke at dawn as I usually do. And forced myself back to sleep. It’s Sunday and I’m working on relaxing. Respite in bed is not a reprieve for me but today it came easily.

My dog, used to my habits, came at our usual time. She climbed onto the bed where she’d been allowed once when a vertigo event triggered anxiety that only my warm puppy could abate.

Now she drank thirstily from the cool stream that was strangely swiftly flowing through a crevice behind my neck.

Alarmed, I rolled away from the warm comfort of my sleeping husband and rushed out of bed to the kitchen as usual to turn on the kettle and looked out the window.

Hilary Lindsay

The gentle slope from the terrace up the hill was a flooded field. The bird feeders hovered over submerged poles. And the field was patterned in stripes of black and white softened with brown that revealed a congregation of wild creatures sitting terrifyingly still with their heads just above the rising water facing me, my house, a silent call.

We are in trouble. We are waiting for help.

Herons, cranes, deer, even a monkey came into focus as I stood frozen.  The monkey rose from the water, writhed and slashed and struggled to move and I thought monkeys might not know how to swim.  They will die. They are dying. There are so many. They are wild and alien and yet they’ve come to us like they are domestic, part of this house.

I ran to the bedroom calling my husband. You need to come. It doesn’t matter if you are tired. Get up you need to see this.

It had just begun to rain. Again.

And I woke up.

Yesterday Elizabeth Warren announced and all I could hear was the word “fight”. Big money, unfairness in cash, race, …. Shift I screamed to her. Don’t talk about health care talk about the planet, the food, the water, the raped land. Talk about the poison we are ingesting. Tell us we are an extension of all and they us and if we are to survive we have to eliminate our toxic overlords. The toxin is greed. They give us charity to save us from cancer while they make us cancerous. They give us medicine for all the disease they cause us so all we do is worry and band aid our shaking, limping mutated bodies and stay alive though it’s a half life. Talk about rebuilding community, eliminating loneliness, feeding and educating everyone.

Get these damn guns out of here. In this town children are snatching them from open cars. Where are the parents? Are they made useless by despair? Have they given up, the invisible till their spawn end up on the evening news?

Another press cycle begins as the crippled make the tedious trudge to the next presidential election. Will we notice the deflation, the anemia, dementia of ourselves as we make the choices that guide us forward? We are distracted by the affairs of weak men.  We are guided to look away from the big picture to little pictures about little people and their pathetic or natural proclivities that are perhaps the worst of us.

Still, we go forward in small ways, in anonymity. This is as it should be and always was. We don’t need a megaphone and a platform to show us that.

But as the most powerful nation on earth influences the other superpowers that govern these small lives in our separate, intimate communal, we are bowled over, drowning in the sound and vibration of the doom broadcast through the sound and visual waves we flounder in, the undertow.

I know why the creatures came to me as the rain began to fall again. They are me and I am them and they and I know it.

 

Can’t you feel that too?

 

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Downwind From the Crematorium

It flows from the top. Rogue winds carry the stench of decay. Trolls climbed on willing shoulders to the once hallowed house on the hill.  Now shoulders bow under the weight of our missteps. Some minds blown and others twisted.  Handcuff the free press. Release the free radicals. Banish charity. Dishonor agreements. Taunt, flaunt, violate. Ceaseless cycles of venomous discharge desecrate, devastate ravage and rage against the fabric of our country. That fabric that was flammable, flawed and fragile is being shredded and replaced with funereal shrouds.

Layla my dog and I head down the fire road toward the farm.

What’s that smell in the air? Chemical? Decay? The death of the E.P.A.?

Here at the Agricultural Center a group of four unlikely like-minded women from different worlds walk, talk and run their best buddy dogs. An unpleasant smell dismays me on this otherwise fine first crisp and dewy day of autumn as Layla and I round the lower field waiting for the others to show.

I smell disaster.

Bouncing between sleepless nights and stressful days, for the second time I’ve got symptoms of flu that disappear after a final collapse into a night of exhausted surrendered sleep.

It’s a virus that’s going around. Like wild fires, floods and opiates.  Warning bells toll in the ether. The force shields are down. We are subject to invasion.

Glenanne arrives with her dog Lucy. Christine is behind her with Chelsea. They want to walk the fire road I just came from. “There’s a weird really strong smell down there”, I tell them. I don’t want to go back.

Glenanne tells us the little red brick building down there is a crematorium for road kill. It’s not public knowledge. Carnage quietly turns to ashes under the ancient oaks amid serene white domed wooden barns and meeting halls. Moms gather to exercise, babies on backs and in strollers. Visitors amble among slave quarters and along paths beside the idyllic horse pasture that houses the police force’s tremendous and gentle beasts.

The surface is serene but listen to us as the dogs play and witness the rumbling underground.

We are all downwind from the crematorium.  The stink comes from the rotting head of a once youthful body that declared itself open minded, open hearted and democratic. It is clearly corrupted. It stinks.

On the other hand, under the oaks a group of friends share the rhythm of a turning season. There is a hint of new in the air. Change is always there and change cleanses the past. History is absolute but our impressions and focus shift. Rumbling leads to action. Action leads to change.

Here downwind from the crematorium, I smell decay but above me a lone hawk soars like a Phoenix.

 

 

 

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Is Your Relationship to Your Fellow Man Making You Sick?

Five thirty A.M. the reporters at NPR assault me with the news of the deadliest mass shooting in our history. I am awake.

My tired mind forces a memory scan. Who do I know in Vegas this week? It seems just yesterday my friend Holly said she is going there for something. Shit. Was it this week?

Disaster comes upon disaster, one shoved down as the other surfaces coming with more and more frequency.  The Trump disaster overshadows all. Hope is slipping.

The webinar I watched on Alzheimer’s hits my frontal lobe. The doctor listed the places on earth called Blue Zones where people have the least medical issues including Alzheimer’s. In the U.S. there is one place. It is Loma Linda California. He says it is not any particular diet as much as a clean diet devoid of alcohol and smoking that keeps them healthy but there is more than that. There is community. Love and charity prevail not instigated by crisis but on a regular basis. It is the basis.

We cannot thrive on a daily diet of grief. The stress is killing us as fast as fast food, climate disasters and drug overdoses. Stress corrodes the brain.

We live in a war zone. We are at war with each other. We are at war with our President. We are at war with our own failings.

My husband notes on shooting a documentary about Trump supporters that the commonality is the question, what about me? He perceives an overarching narcissism that trumps empathy.

Put on your own oxygen mask before your children’s. Who doesn’t know that? You need to love yourself before you can love someone else. That’s common knowledge too, right? Charity begins at home. We are advised to look after ourselves in order to become. But how do we know what is too much charity and what is too much self interest.

After all, for true self interest we should be concerned as much with the people around us as ourselves. They are our environment. They are the fabric of our lives.

There is a social implication of controlling others or overwhelming them which is described in the yoga text, Yoga Sutras as bramacharya. This does not define dictatorship versus charity but allows us to consider staying in our own lane either way. However bramacharya does not stand alone. It co-exists with a call to kindness, generosity and contentment with oneself and one’s lot.

 Insecurity is the enemy.

Are we stuck between those that wonder what about us and those that worry what about me? Do we rail against what seems an extreme of one or the other? There is so much need for those outside our pack and also so much instinct to gather the loved ones and shut the door.

A Pakistani Muslim friend of mine daughter started kindergarten this year. She invited the class to her daughter’s birthday party and only a handful of people responded and came. She found out another girl whose invitations went out later had a party the same day and that’s where most of the class had gone. They hadn’t invited her daughter and they hadn’t responded to her invitation though the policy at school is for invites to go through the school and to everyone. My friend had an emotional crisis. Why was her daughter shunned? And then she got sicker than she’s ever been. She tells me it’s the flu and she felt like she was dying.

I write this because it seems a metaphor for all our sickness, this social disease. This dis-ease.     My friend is used to a strong community. She is an outsider here. What does this do to our bodies?

Today another person went off the rails and unloaded bullets into strangers. We don’t know why yet. There will be demands for better mental health screening, for gun control and for tightening up against terrorism if they find any links to a terrorist group outside the U.S. I doubt any of it will successfully happen.

Human beings need a chance to work a job that allows them to care for themselves and their children. We need to be educated. We need to eat and drink cleanly. We need to have fun. We need time to have fun. We need to live a life beyond survival. We need time and space to be charitable. We need friends and family who are not crazy to care about us. We need to feel secure.

Tech life allows us to find new avenues of isolation and rudeness.  The benefits of information at a fingertip seem small compared to the disruption of our social lives. There’s no turning back but there has to be some measure of discernment and that is the problem. There is no true north. That star there? It’s fake. It’s that easy to dismiss something that is accurate.

We are untethered. Fact has become opinion even to its face. There is no moral anchor. Where will it come from? I don’t know. I know for a student of yoga the moral restraints and observances as described in the Sutras is a useful checklist, as useful as any commandment from the bible.

If it seems I’m saying that yoga will save us think again. I know lots of morally bankrupt yoga folks. No one is exempt from hypocrisy. This is a think piece. I’m thinking out loud. Hope it gives you something to consider about yourself as it does for me. And if want to read the basis of modern yoga’s moral system, this is a good place to start. And by the way, I don’t know that it was written so much as a moral system as a way to manage personal energy so that me, myself and I can find peace within whatever situation I’m in. If it is a way of separation, it is at least a separation that leaves room for inclusion. Now go figure that riddle out.

 

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Ask Alice How She Feels Right Now.

EAT  ME

 

My body is sensitive to drugs, to food, to thoughts and so is yours but you may not notice. So many of us have trained ourselves or been trained to disassociate from discomfort that when asked how we feel we have no words. Perhaps we realize we feel nothing but confusion. It’s a modern malady. But then in an industrial world resting or too much self care is viewed as self indulgent or weak.

 

I took CBD* oil (Phytocannabinoid Diol)combined with other hemp plant compounds for joint pain and began to notice I was mellow in the way I felt after yoga and bodywork.  I hadn’t realized how anxious I’d become. The nation is suffering from the effects of the last election and maybe that’s it but yoga wasn’t fixing it except for moments.

 

We live in a garden of plants that support the health and longevity of our human bodies. The fountain of youth is a dream or nightmare but there is some basis to believing in its existence.

Though I primarily use plants for medicine, this plant provided me a lesson in personal power. It is challenging to regulate how much I need of it day to day or even hour to hour by how I feel. In a world where even we yogis hand over the power to a doctor when our bodies concern and confuse us, this substance requires you to FEEL in order to self-regulate. This creates a healthy dynamic in the relationship between doctor and patient. This is personal power beyond moving the body or centering the mind without sickness. While I am a patient that goes to a doctor armed with information, I still have doubt about what does and does not work in many circumstances. The use of this oil demands I trust myself. (I am compelled to issue a disclaimer that if a person needs help and does not have the ability to self regulate, a doctor’s advice is essential.)

 

This is both yoga and beyond yoga where yoga binds consciousness to spirit and matter using the body as the vehicle. That vehicle is an energy system in a state of

Flux,

Imbalance,

Movement,

Motion,

Change,

IMPERMANENCE.

 

When we become sensitive to our bodies,

When we become intimate with ourselves in relation to other,

When we are able to sharpen our attention to choose happiness,

We may find ourselves living in yoga.

 

 

*CBD is a molecule in the hemp plant whose cannabinoid system like cannabis supports human receptors in the brain and body called endocannabinoid receptors. The plant and we share a genetic code in some way.

Please do not run out and buy CBD. Hemp is not very absorbable and you will waste your money if the product does not have a carrier for the blood system. Also, make sure you get a product where every batch is tested at a reliable lab. Organic does not mean clean.

 

 

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Go Ask Alice Why Yoga Isn’t Enough.

“This one makes you taller and this one makes you smaller.”

 

I began this post a month ago and like many of my projects it went the wayside. It was a view on taking CBD oil and personal power. I learned something I want to share about that. I will make that a separate post to follow this.

 

I picked this up because Michael Stone the Buddhist teacher, yoga teacher, activist died suddenly. I knew him from his writing and from reading a manuscript that was an intimate look into the soul of the man through his ongoing correspondence with a friend. I could feel his broken heart. He was so smart, so clear and yet lost. It’s hard to explain. I never knew him but I felt like I got him. Maybe I recognized something I knew from myself. Maybe I’m not alone. He had thousands of followers and friends.

He was broken for the last time and in trying to put himself back together seemed to make a desperate choice to take a street drug. It killed him. He had bi-polar disorder and apparently had tried many avenues of treatment over the years to manage it.

 

I write this now because this morning I recalled my first friend in Nashville who was a yoga teacher of great skill and lineage. I remembered her shock when I told her I was getting a massage which I did a few times a year as a treat. She asked me how I could do yoga and not get bodywork as she did every week. I was surprised.  Although I taught and led strong classes I didn’t feel like I wanted bodywork. I didn’t need it. And I wondered why someone doing yoga was so needy for outside help. That circle of yogis engaged in a practice of psychotherapy as well. They were upturning stones for answers at a time I was not questioning much.  I was content.

 

I eventually got hurt which lead to compensation that took me down a rabbit warren I couldn’t retreat from. I understood the need for help. I couldn’t see myself objectively. I just felt pain.

 

That pain correlated to what I felt was the degradation of the practice of yoga in a place that had been the Holy Grail here in Nashville.

My physical pain became tied to emotional pain that never resolved except through acceptance which in my opinion is limited.

 

So I’m publishing this with a different bias. My thirty years of experience working with people through movement and yoga revealed that people come to yoga to be unbroken. Yes, they come to be fit but in my experience, in my classes even in the day they were pure power, I found hunters looking for sustenance.

It aggravates me to see the sea of mainstream conclusions written about yoga and meditation solving the human condition. I do both and I advocate both. Yoga and meditation make profound shifts in our consciousness toward awareness. I’m a fan of awareness but it’s not always pleasant and a person who is awake can also be hyper sensitive.  Sometimes yoga is not enough.

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Samskara and the Witness: Yoga’s Value in the Time of Trump.

Samskaras are impressions that form our unconscious thoughts and actions.

Bramacharya is the tempering of excess.

 

I have a failing dog whose cries sound like a bird that has newly taken residence in my yard. He falls and the puppy runs in to tell me. Is it him or a bird? I jump up now when I hear the bird. I am confused and it’s corrupting my concentration. My impressions are nervous and exhausting. I recognize that something must change. My choices challenge me.

 

Obstruction of justice, Russia, agenda, fake news, collusion, credibility and incompetence represent the concepts that frame America this day of June 8th. James Comey, former FBI Director will be heard. The moon will be full. The pundits will interpret and Americans will take sides.

 

Here in Nashville, the city is teaming with tourists for Bonaroo and CMA week. Music fills the air. The town is charged with love for our hockey team the Nashville Predators who will compete for the Stanley Cup in Pittsburgh tonight. They are my clients. Music is much of my moving life. I am not entirely distracted by politics today.  I throw my thrown gardener’s back into the mix. I am in pain so I’m already irritated. Just these things create a background for my impressions of the news today. This is a molecule of what informs my consciousness. The rest is my history. And yours.

 

I remember saluting the flag with pride. I remember a country that made me feel safe. I remember a mannered country even if it was only the surface. I remember feeling the grownups in charge would take care of me. But then I was raised kindly in a safe and privileged place by two grownups who are together 64 years today. I have an impression. I am loved and I love easily. I was raised by people who took care of those weaker or less fortunate. I believe in entitlements which I think is a horrible word for helping those less advantaged. I have traveled and felt the sameness of folks from different worlds. I embraced the alternative world of yoga and shunned the status quo as a young adult. It was a time that embraced that.

 

I know to listen to the opinions of people who think differently than I do because I am aware that my impressions color my views.  I admit to rage over what I perceive as deeply cynical or naïve views. I can barely stand to watch Fox news though my husband insists we do to understand what we’re dealing with. But I see obnoxious. And I know those people see MSNBC, CNN, NBC, ABC, CBS and the newspapers that once had the greatest gravitas the same way and worse.

 

How do we witness objectively? How do we begin to lose our impressions and be an unbiased jury?

 

We listen to the words out of people’s mouths without interpreters. We come from kindness to embrace all living creatures and this earth. We look for credible evidence which means it can be proved. We choose to withhold absolute opinion. If we’re lucky we feel what feels right according to the rules of right and wrong we learned at home, at worship houses, at school.  If we had none of that we look for something to trust. Something of love. Something of light.

 

In yoga we breathe gently with consciousness in rhythm with movement. We hold our attention to the sensations of the moments. We try to lift the cloud by being patient. We hone awareness. When confronted with truthful feelings we examine them. It’s not foolproof but it’s what yoga offers.

 

My impression is that both the words liberal and conservative are good in context. Liberal when it means generous. Conservative when restraint is called for to reign in incorrect generosity. That concept is covered in modern yoga as bramacharya.  Modern yoga philosophy recognizes the other factors that allow us to recognize bramacharya in our own lives.

 

This is not a tutorial on yoga. It is to say that yoga is needed more than ever in these days of confusion. When right and wrong is no longer absolute, when facts are called fake, when robots are manipulating our impressions for gain, it is imperative that we find a way home.

 

Author’s note: this is truly a blog post written quickly and as ….. an impression. :()

 

 

 

 

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