Yoga Therapy

Fat.

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In my last post I mentioned that there is more to live for than the fear of subcutaneous fat, something that most can probably relate to.  We live in a society that has demonized this very valuable and necessary tissue.  We pinch it, poke at it, grimace at the sight of this harmless tissue on our bodies.  We hide beneath baggy clothing, scoff if it hangs over the waist of our pants, cut it out of pictures, and waste endless hours trying to burn it away, only fighting against the natural balance of our bodies.  I’ve perhaps spent more time than most engaged in these self-centered pursuits, and for what?  My reasons are somewhat biologically based and rooted much deeper in my eating disorder, but that doesn’t excuse these behaviors.  I am most definitely not healthier, stronger, or more beautiful for any of it.  Indeed I am less healthily, have lingering physical problems and at the ripe old age of 29 I have osteoporosis.

Subcutaneous fat is not the devil it is made out to be and in fact 70-80% of our fat is subcutaneous!  It is NOT the cause of illness or disease.  This is caused by visceral or abdominal fat which is what is packed between organs.  This visceral fat raises the levels of free fatty acids in the bloodstream which can then go on to clog arteries, causing heart attacks, strokes, diabetes, or other health issues.

Visceral Fat vs Subcutaneous Fat

Someone who has little extra subcutaneous fat (to which I’m now just referring to as fat) may be healthier than someone who exists at a low body fat percentage.  A lack of fat can cause problems with metabolism, hormones, a susceptibility to getting sick, they can bruise easily, and for women a lack of period and low bone density.  Fat is protective and much needed!

A female typically deposits their fat around their hips, thighs, and buttocks and having fat shouldn’t dictate our feelings towards ourselves if we can’t fit into skinny jeans designed for a 10-year old.  Should we starve ourselves or exercise our bodies into the ground to hear the satisfaction of the zipper closing? I think not.

In other totally unrelated news my phone had an interesting message the other day  I’ve been getting a plethora of signs from the universe sine I’ve arrived home from Bristol.  As I sat in a waiting room at the doctor’s office I pulled out my phone to play a word game where you connect letters on a 5×5 grid, however my phone had better ideas.  Smack in the middle of the screen were the unmistakable words:

EAT ME.

Seriously.  I can’t make this stuff up.

Photo Credits: thelifeathletic.com, dnfitness.wordpress.com

Letting it Go

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In the days since I have been home from Phoenix Rising Yoga Therapy training I have been working on reorganizing my life in a way that best serves me, both in general, in my own healing and also in a way that fits into my life.  Let’s face it.  I can’t just throw everything out the door, nor do I want to!  We can’t have homeless pugs walking the streets!

As part of this I’ve decided to let go of my very part-time job tutoring in Columbus City Schools.  While I did enjoy the work when I was there, a lot of the logistics weren’t working out well.  Rushing there and then rushing out to teach on most days was driving me crazy.  Not good for someone who is very vata! I am also picking up 3 more yoga classes and with adding in all my Phoenix Rising work of at least 20 hours a week this flying around like a mad woman wasn’t going to fly!

I’m also trying to figure out how to untether somewhat from technology.  While I love blogging and networking I am feeling that some of it has become a bit much.  In trying to reach out to others, connecting with those also on a healing journey, as well as to those in and around the yoga world I have somewhat lost sight of myself and where I, Hannah, fit in with all of that.  It can be exciting and addicting to see readership grow and while there is value in it I also don’t like becoming attached to the statistics and numbers and always trying to hit the ceiling of the “biggest day” my blog had or of trying to push it forward in some inauthentic way.  I feel like I always have to be on and at the forefront of the next big story that may be connected to eating disorders or yoga.  I am not a journalist and being in this mode is exhausting!  Add to that my bazillion RSS feeds that I follow and I don’t have much of a day left over!

There are many interests I want to follow in the yoga world and I need more real time in order to do this. Perhaps by unplugging somewhat I can become more plugged into my passions!  Yoga philosophy, anatomy and physiology, learning Sanskrit and continuing to grow as a teacher.  I am still intending to blog regularly but may not be as plugged in inother capacities.  A great quote I read yesterday sums this up.

“Technology is the God that limps.  It thrives on reason but suffers from a dearth of wisdom.”

No matter what we do technology will always be a left-brain dominated pursuits.  It takes the whole and makes it into parts, dividing and organizing in a linear fashion.  Like the left-brain it is at times helpful, but when too dominant it can lead to being unbalanced.  We need some of the right-brain pursuits in concert with the left to find our best path.  I invite you to embark on this with me.

On a related note here is an amazing clip of a TED talk relating to this left-right brain talk.  An amazing story.

 

I Lost the Script

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Somewhere between Columbus and Vermont I lost my script.  Maybe I left it at the airport in Washington, Burlington, Cleveland, or perhaps it floated out the window as I flew above the snow-capped mountains and sunset lit skies.  Whatever the case I lost it and I don’t want it back.  I’ve forgotten my lines and instead of thinking forward to what will be, planning, anticipating, waiting, I move to a place where I can live in the moment.  The idea that we know what is to come is an illusion.  I have planed and planned for some much of my life.  Fighting for perfect, linear alignment, but the truth is that nothing is linear and alignment is only fleeting.  Instead I move to embrace what is, no matter the shape, color, way, or method in which it comes. Ritual and routine have a place, but to become attached to them is only a set-up for failure.

This morning as I sat in reflection this idea of non-attachment, or vairagya is what stood out to me.

1.15 When the mind loses desire even for objects seen or described in a tradition or in scriptures, it acquires a state of utter (vashikara) desirelessness that is called non-attachment (vairagya).

Interestingly vairagya is often spoken about alongside practice or abhyasa.

1.13 Practice (abhyasa) means choosing, applying the effort, and doing those actions that bring a stable and tranquil state (sthitau).

Through my practice I move towards becoming aware of my actions, thought patterns and tendencies; this awareness is where ritual and routine are important.  They cultivate the ability to discern the actions, speech, and thoughts that move me down the right path towards non-attachment, not only in moving away from that which does not serve but ultimately in never taking it on in the first place.  This is vairagya.

I find that I don’t feel attached or drawn to so much of what I left in Columbus.  I wasn’t jumping up and down this morning at the first opportunity to make it to the gym.  I wasn’t excited to numb out again and return to my old ways.  No, instead I sat.  I sat and I felt.  I felt awkward and big, almost as if my body became a giant triangle at my waist, the energies of the unknown spilling over my boundaries, in my mind enlarging the confines of my body.  Perhaps something I could interpret as being fat, gaining weight.  I felt unsure of what step to take next.  How to facilitate the movement, the flow, of my life into something that is more authentic.

If I had chosen to become enmeshed right away in the distraction of movement I would have missed the small flicker of excitement at reclaiming myself, the idea of nourishing and resting myself as I know I need.  Indulging in self-care beyond a massage or a manicure.  Self-care becoming self-love.  Something lost along the way.

Self-love.  No, not a selfish ideal, but instead selfless.

As I went through the day today I had a calmness about me that I haven’t felt in a long time.  Yes I did work out, but even then I wasn’t attached to what I was doing.  In the moment it felt good to move and lift weights, but if tomorrow doesn’t allow for that movement or if tomorrow my body doesn’t want to do it then so be it.  I’m choosing to listen to the vibrations of my soul, rather than the chatter in my head.  Will each day be this easy to choose one over the other, no, but that is also ok.  I am here and here I am. What is happening now?

Elissa Cobb, the director of Phoenix Rising Yoga Therapy, posed a question that is resonating strongly with me and I pose it now to you:

What if your life became your spiritual practice?

Photo Credit: Acidcow.com

A Beginning of Consciousness

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So much has happened since I last left you with my journey into Phoenix Rising Yoga Therapy.  While my initial intent was to blog throughout my time in Bristol, Vermont I quickly found that writing publicly about my experience was proving to be quite difficult.  It was a jarring transition from the training environment to the rest of the world, even if a virtual one and I didn’t think that doing so was a good idea.  Even the few posts I had, short and sweet, were difficult to write as this technologically driven world doesn’t jive with the process of going inwards.

And so it begins.

After stepping out of my life for almost three weeks I now sit on an airplane typing this; preparing to step back into my life, and stepping into it in a much more authentic and present way.  Present in all the capacities that I can be: physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual.  I’ve spent so much of my life residing in the safety of just the physical and the mental that I’ve missed out on a lot by neglecting the other two.  Perhaps I didn’t even realize that they existed.  Failing to meet the basic needs of food and rest will do that to a person.

 

I emerge from this training strong and empowered to flourish, grow, and heal in my life.  My time in Bristol had many different shades and tones and interestingly it was as if my life was sent into rewind and then someone hit the fast forward button. Even my tone and verbiage correlated at different points to certain times in my past.  In real-time I went through a hyperextended back, a break-up, three moves (one atrocious!), and then to cap it all off I came down with a bad cold and a low-grade fever for four days.  In my sick misery I stumbled through the days, almost unable to be present in any capacity except physical and gravely frustrated by this.  I found myself at a crossroad.  I’ve never before been away from home and sick, whether it was really sick or eating disorder related and not gone home.  On the second day of being sick I felt so horrible that I was ready to call it quits.  My body and mind ached and I just wanted to be home. Then I realized it.  I don’t have to be at my physical home to be home. I have the power to nurture myself and to make the decision to rest my body to allow it to heal, to recover.  This is the path I choose.  I remained in Bristol and I got better.

This power to heal, to nurture myself resonates in a bigger sense.  I have often likened eating disorder recovery to a dance, two-steps forward, one-step back.

I’m calling myself out.  I’m one-step back.  Before going to training, my struggles were worsening.  Too much working out and not enough fuel.  I have an unfortunate ability to ignore my body and not hear its sufferings.  It was only after stepping out of my life long enough to come to some sort of equilibrium that I realized how much I hurt.  Without the mask of a stomach ache I could feel my bones ache with fatigue and hear my joints click.  I can feel the fogginess in my brain and while I can go on with it and often do, it just doesn’t feel right.

I have an intention upon my return to come back to create a stronger structure.  A focus around meals and a balance in movement. I don’t need to be working out an hour a day and then doing an hour of yoga.  What I do need is to listen to my body from the inside and allow it to come into truth from the inside out.  Will I like the result?  Perhaps not externally, but that isn’t what I am choosing to live for.   Maybe the Hannah of yesterday, thin, sometimes too so, isn’t the Hannah of truth.  I’m tired of holding up those mirrors of a stranger looking back at me when I look in.  I’m ready at last for the external to match the internal.  Even amidst all my recovery I don’t ever know that I’ve allowed that to happen.  I’ve remained attached to what I thought I should be, what I thought I should look like.

I get goose bumps as I write this but over the past couple weeks I’ve gotten many signs that this is a chance at rebirth.  This is a chance to metaphorically give birth to myself.  The unconditional love that a mother gives their child.  I can give this to myself. A second chance.  After so many years I fear what could be on the other side of not taking that chance.  I don’t want to find out and will gladly shake hand of truth and step forward.  Both feet in.

This is where I find my balance.

Balancing on Two Feet.

 

How Yoga Can Wreck Your Body? A Response.

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If you are paying attention in the yoga world you have probably come across the recent article from The New York Times, How Yoga Can Wreck Your Body. This article outlines the dangers of the practice of asana as it has evolved in the West.  Yoga in our culture has become much about the postures, rushing quickly or straining from pose to pose in what could better be described as calisthenics, bearing only a minor relation to the true roots of the practice and virtually ignoring the integrity of the postures.  While the occasional class in this manner shouldn’t cause many problems, a repetitive practice like this will slowly reveal underlying physical weakness and cause problems later down the road.

The main yoga teacher cited in the article, Glenn Black talks of the tradition of yoga and that it wasn’t designed for classes en mass or people who sit in front o their desks everyday.   Bodies such as these says Black aren’t made to jump into physically demanding classes once or two a week, straining to get into pretzel like contortions. Yoga isn’t about pushing people or forcing a student into the pose.

Several descriptions of extreme cases of injury follow, some temporary and some permanent.  Yikes.

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So what is my reaction to this article?  The author, William J. Broad, who has a book coming out next month, The Science of Yoga: The Risks and Rewards,  and Glenn Black are correct in their words and I remind the reader that they need to look at the first word of the title.  HOW. Yoga does have enormous potential to cause injury and it frightens me at times to see students put their trust in teachers who have little or no training especially in areas such as anatomy, assisting, and sequencing.  I shudder looking back at my first months of teaching when I hardly knew what I was doing or the potential for harm that could have happened in my classes after just a basic 20-hour weekend training, which was allowed by Yoga Alliance.  I had only my own body and practice to go off of.  Thank goodness that nothing ever happened and that I had my background in studying anatomy and physiology in school as well as teaching it to fall back on.  Still should I have been teaching yoga then?  No.

Something that is not often discussed is the need for awareness of the body in space in yoga.  It is essential for a new yoga student to develop this before they can really move on with their physical journey.  A lack of this knowledge is what contributes to injury.  Ask a student to flex their foot and you will see many variations of what this means.  It isn’t about the way the posture appears but rather the movement to get there and then once there the alignment to remain safe.  There is a learning curve is stepping into this. Students need to be patient and willing to  strength and integrity in their joints and muscles before forging ahead with too advanced or too fast of a practice.

Teaching to large classes makes it difficult to really serve each student and mixed levels also presents an issue.  So what is the answer? It is up to the student to be responsible for themselves and their body.  They need to know when to push and when to back off.  Yoga is more about cultivating this tool than the actual postures themselves.  Don’t try to get into a pose more deeply just because the person on the mat next to you is.  The practice isn’t about them, it is about you.  What will you gain by matching them?  Perhaps a pulled hamstring?

I’m not saying that yoga can’t be used in a more superficial way for those wanting to change their body; It doesn’t have to be a deeply intense personal journey for everyone.  I am however advocating that the approach towards this needs to shift in order to remain safe, strong and healthy.

What are your thoughts on this article?  What is the power of yoga to harm? Please comment!

Photo Credits: http://www.vancitybuzz.com,  http://yogawithsubhash.com

 

Pulsation’s of Truth

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As of yet the power of the work and teachings that Phoenix Rising Yoga Therapy offers hasn’t failed to amaze me, both mentally and physically.  The ability of the body to hold emotions and memories is uncanny.  Our bodies want to speak, we just have to be willing to learn to listen and hear their innate wisdom.

On the day I left for training I somehow managed to hyper-extend my back.  Ouch.  The sensation was so bad as of yesterday morning that I thought at one point that I was going to be stuck on the floor for an extended period of time.  A sort of deep clockwise pulsing variety of feeling.  Totally consuming.

After our lunch break we were watching a demo when suddenly out of nowhere the reasoning behind my back pain became clear to me, along with some other odds and ends that had happened throughout the past two days.  This feeling was an indication of an opening in my first chakra, something that has been chronically blocked and anything but present especially in the past few vata intensive weeks.  This opening and grounding represents the ability to stand in myself, in Hannah, in my true nature.  I don’t’ have to reside in the monkey mind of my brain and in the past few days that part of me has been joyously quiet.  Even with the struggle about working out I have been calm in my thoughts, both waking and sleeping.  For the first time in a month I am sleeping all the way through the nights!

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SInce I stood up Wednesday afternoon my pain pain has disappeared.  Rather odd for something so intense. It was as if pain  was the only way I was going to hear my body.  Pretty amazing?  At least I think so!

Richard Simmons has been waxing and waning in popping up in my head. I’ve been walking to and from where I am staying to the training center, about a mile each way, but he can interject into my thoughts with that not being enough since it isn’t really “working out.”  The past two nights I have also gone to a modified Ashtanga class and then a full Primary Series, but again, not enough. I wasn’t dripping sweat and hadn’t lifted any weights besides my own body.  Thus a back and forth struggle.  Will I be able to tame this beast for the next 12 days?  I hope so.  What will happen to my body?  Will I really turn into that pile of mush I so fear? Perhaps I will emerge stronger and more able, allowing me to become a stronger support for both myself and others, an opportunity to step into the stillness of the work I advocate.

Have you ever had to step into stillness to find your truth?

13 Hours Later!

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Yesterday I finally arrived in Bristol, Vermont for the kick off of my Phoenix RIsing Yoga Therapy training marathon albeit a day late and weary after 13 hours of travel, a hyper-extended back that I had hurt that morning and an unexpected night in Burlington after arriving into a deserted airport at 2 AM! Somehow the biggest travel problems I’ve ever run into have been in getting here!  Coincidence perhaps?  Doubt it. Just divine timing!

I was thrilled to arrive into the warm embrace (even with the freezing Vermont winter temperatures) of the staff at PRYT as well as the family that I am staying with.  Oddly enough all of the stress that I had been feeling was gone, even prior to the hours of arrival when I was enmeshed in difficult travel.  My body and mind were happy to be in motion to be here!  Especially when I am greeted by these creatures:

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I am amazed ts how much of my mental chatter is already gone and I am feeling able to hold space yet again. However one of the samskaras that I am struggling the most with is that little devil on my shoulder, you know that one dressed in tight short shorts, a tank top, tall socks, and sweat band.

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Yes, Richard Simmons, also known as the Workout Devil. He wants to know when I am next going to hit up the gym and why I haven’t yet.  Admittedly the whole not working out thing is one of the hardest things for me in being away from home.  When I was here in October it wasn’t quite as bad since I was only here for 1-week, but 16 days?  Yikes.  During that time I did do yoga and walked a mile to and from where I was staying, but that doesn’t count in my mind.  Weights and sweat is what me or ED wants.  I’m still not sure which is which at times in that vein.

So what to do.  I need some input here and am asking you, my awesome readers to help out.  Bristol does have a gym that I could join for a week at a time and while I would have the time to do this after my training and could maybe rationalize going 3 or so days for each of the two weeks, I wonder if I really should.  Maybe I should give my body two weeks off and see what happens.  I haven’t taken that long “off” since ED treatment!  Speaking out of the other side of my mouth I will be walking and I will be doing yoga when my back is feeling better.  Oh that’s right.  That hyper-extended back I got when I was getting ready to leave for Vermont?  That’s what I get for too much working out in the time leading up to now, even though it wasn’t preemptive!

So yes or no?  Join the gym or step into truth? Please give me your opinion in the comments! (FYI ED is telling me that you will all say that I shouldn’t work out just so you can laugh at me getting fat…as I said, raw, real truth here!)

 

Photo Credits: Hannah Siegle, trliax.com

Happy New Year!

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Happy New Year!

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I hope that everyone had a fun and safe New Year’s Eve!  Today begins 2012, a new year and a time for many to resolve to change or bring something new into their lives.  While I’m not a big New Year’s Resolution person it can be a good time to take pause and revaluate where you are in your life, as we often don’t get many opportunies to do this.

Instead of a resolution I have a few things that I would like to see come to fruition in 2012 and with some hard work I think that it all can be done!

1. Complete Phoenix Rising Yoga Therapy Training.

2. Open my own Yoga Therapy practice.

3. Continue moving ahead in my eating disorder recovery.

4. Get paid to write.

5. Complete and outline and perhaps start on a major book idea.

6. Firmly establish and grow The Real Body Project both on a off the internet.


Do you have a list of what you want to manifest in 2012? Please share it in the comments.  I’d love to hear!

 

The Trouble with Change

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In my post on Monday, I talked about the usual relief I get as I moved towards the end of the holiday season and how it is different this year with jetting off to Vermont on Monday for Phoenix Rising Yoga Therapy training for 3-weeks.  As the fear of travel and change creeps closer I find it hard to focus on the present and easily slip back into old patterns of thinking however irrational.

Much of my focus surrounds not the change in food, but the inability to work out “as normal, ” or maintain my normal activity level.  As I worry about this I quite honestly don’t even know what it is I am worried about.  Gaining weight?  Losing muscle?  Yes, but no.  When I really think about it those aren’t so much the root of the issue.  Historially when I travel I actually have kinda enjoyed the time off and haven’t noticed any big body changes.  Maybe I’m worried about not wanting to get back into it when I return?  Hmm…that hasn’t happened either.

I also fear leaving behind all that is in Columbus, my teaching, my dogs, time spent working on The Real Body Project.  Yes, it will be here when I return, but still I worry that it will all disappear in my absence.

I’m pretty sure the anxiety is rooted in routines of the past, ingrained after so many years and hard to really let go of.  This fear of travel and change is something that is quite common to those with eating disorders.  Over this week I’ve felt the anxiety heightening each day.  While I don’t know that I can stop the anxiety I do find that I can calm it, both through yoga practice and teaching, as well as time with my dogs drinking copious amount of herbal tea.  Fennel, coriander, cumin?  Yes please!

This morning I spoke with my best friend who helped a lot with her words of wisdom.  She told me that if I am able to step into this change, however extended or brief that it could be a beautiful thing and that I won’t know unless I try.  A beautiful thing.  Yes, I like that.  Sometimes the fear of the unknown is so great that I forget that I won’t know what exists on the other side unless I give in, unless I give up the reins and step into possibility.

Possibility straight ahead please….

Stay tuned for next week and raw, real, honest truth.

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Photo Credit: Pinterest

The Homestretch

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I hope everyone had a great Christmas, Chanukah, and the like with family and friends!  While the change of pace during this time of year can be a welcome reprieve for many from the daily grind, I often find, as many do with eating disorders that it can be a struggle.  Different schedules, different food, and sometimes challenging relationships can be brought to the forefront.  I don’t want to come across as a Grinch or a Scrooge.  All of this is much more deeply rooted than begin a grump during the holiday season!  I addressed this around Thanksgiving time, which is often the “kickoff” of this season.  The post December 25th time now brings us to the sprint in the homestretch towards the end of the season and the start of the New Year.  This usually offers some breathing room to me and a sense of relief that the end is in sight.  I usually can’t wait for January 2nd when I can get back to my routine, whatever it is!

This guy seems ready to get back to it too!

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However this year is a little different.  In October I attended a Level 1 training at  Phoenix Rising Yoga Therapy in Vermont to see if I wanted to continue on the journey of training to become a yoga therapist.  I found the work amazing, engaging, and really at the forefront of the use of yoga as medicine, both physically and mentally. I knew I wanted to continue with the Level 2 and Level 3 trainings but wasn’t sure of the time frame.  As it turns out some of their curriculum is chaining both in the content and cost and after thinking it over for quite a bit I decided to do both of these trainings back to back.  Level 2, which is 6 days and Level 3 which is 8 months, but includes two residential stays in Vermont, the first of which I will begin immediately after finishing Level 2.

What do you ask does this have to do with the end of the holiday season?  Well I’m glad you asked!  I leave January 2nd for an almost 3-week stay in Bristol!  Needless to say this doesn’t offer me the solace in finding my routine again, but is instead a shake up of my world!  This is something I want to do, but nevertheless it brings a whole host of anxiety about stepping into this place.  An environment where I have to loosen the reins of routine and the norm.  I suspect that after settling in I will become contented with the peace, stillness, and growth there and then will struggle to want to leave at the close of training!  I hope I can find my lake again!

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While in Vermont I want to share this experience with you.  What it really is like being taken from my own home pond and plopped elsewhere both to help those who also have eating disorders and to help those who love someone with an eating disorder; real, raw, truth, coming from the belly of my soul.

Please share in this experience with me.  Subscribe to either my RSS feed or e-mail subscription so that you don’t miss out!