Monthly Archives: January 2012

Shake Awake

“The word ‘myofascia’ connotes the bundled together, inseparable nature of muscle tissue (myo-) and its accompanying web of connective tissue (fascia)… The design, if you will—of the ‘fibrous body’ in the upright adult human. This fibrous body consists of the entire collagenous net , which includes all the tissues surrounding and attaching the organs as well as the collagen in bones, cartilage and elsewhere.” Thomas Myers
“Fascia is the soft tissue component of the connective tissue that provides support and protection for most structures within the human body, including muscle.” Wikepedia
In a workshop she taught at Yoga on High several years ago, Melinda Cooksey showed us a series of movements made by flapping or swinging parts of the body that release tension head to toe, or fingertip to fingertip, or leg to hip and up into the ribcage. Given her example, I came up with a set of these movements that are my favorites, along with some simple stretches that complement them. When you watch the short video demonstrating them, you will see them travel through the body along the lines of the fascial net. The first exercise flaps the feet, which nods the head. To me, these movements feel warming and deeply relaxing and can be done anywhere. Melinda suggested doing them first thing in the morning, but I’ve done them to relax before going to sleep or even on the floors of airports during longer-then-expected layovers. Yoga teachers, if you discover that your whole class is exhausted, these movements are appreciated.

Watch the video to see how they work, but do them without watching. This is not really a led practice. Christen, the model in the video, demonstrates each movement a few times, but you should repeat each movement for as long as you like. Other than moving the body loosely and freely, rather than tightly controlling each movement, there’s no wrong way to do these. Follow the natural inclinations of your body.

[vimeo http://www.vimeo.com/34171619 w=400&h=225]

Linda Oshins -- Video Blog Entry from Matthew J. Cline on Vimeo.

My thanks to Melinda Cooksey who will be teaching again at Yoga on High on Saturday, June 2, and to Christen Corey, a budding yoga teacher, master chef, and the model for this practice. And grateful kudos to Matt Cline who made the video so patiently. His website is www. mattclinephotography.com.

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Be Part of the Solution: Why Water Matters

by Gail Larned
You may have seen or read ads for Britta water filtration systems that shows plastic bottles lined up end to end along a coastline. The narrative tells us that the number of water bottles that are thrown away could circle the Earth 50 times – an astounding 38 BILLION bottles. It’s a mind- boggling number! And that’s not the only problem
with bottled water. The amount of oil used to make these bottles
annually would power 1 million cars for a year. Environmentally, aside from oil use, bottle water extraction has a huge impact on local water resources. The “Big Three” culprits in this crisis – Coke, Pepsi and Nestle – are getting access to water both in the form of city water and underground water resources. at a huge cost to local communities. around the world. People have seen their wells dry up and lakes and rivers run dry. In one case the corporation is paying 1/64 cents for a gallon of water, selling it at a huge profit, $1 / gallon. In Sacremento, in 2009, Nestle signed a contract with the city for access to city water for $0.71 for 748 gallons of water! This example is not unique.
In addition to the environmental impacts of bottled water are health and safety issues. Tap water is regulated and teated regularly for safety. The Food and Drug Adm. is tasked with monitering the bottled water industry and hasn’t the agents to do the job. So they let the corporations police themselves for safety. We know how well that works. Through billions of dollars spent to spin the truth, they’ve created the image of tap water as less safe and tasty than their products, when reality is the exact opposite. In his book, Bottled and Sold: The Story Behind Our Obsession With Bottled Water Peter Gleick writes about the comtaminants in the bottled water tested. The range is chilling: benzene, mold, sodium hydrochloride, kerosene, styrene, algae, yeast, elevated chlorine, filth, glass particles, sanatizer, tetrahydrofuran, sand, fecal coliforms and other forms of bacteria and crickets! YUK! Additionally, as to taste, in a blind taste test in Chicago, 2/3 of participants preferred tap water over the bottled brands – Dasani (Coke) and Aquafina (Pepsi).
If you want to be part of the solution to this problem and protect your self and your loved ones, don’t buy bottled water! Instead use reusable water bottles, of which there are many attractive choices.
Use filtered water (Britta, Pur, etc) or fill your bottle with tap water. Either choice is vastly better that the bottled alternative.
And don’t forget that the chemicals in water bottles can leach into your water, so avoid them all together.
We are in the midst of a growing global water crisis. Other things you can do help are: use a low-flow shower head, don’t let the water run while you’re brushing your teeth or washing your hands. When washing dishes, use a container of soapy water to wash, and then rinse the dishes rather than letting the water run while you wash one at a time.
Be creative in how you can conserve this essential resource.
So, here at Yoga on High we are phasing out bottled water. We hope you’ll support our effort and do your part to be “part of the solution”.

The statistics I used are from the book Water Matters, edited by Tara Lohan and published by AlertNet Books.

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All Work and no Play Makes Zack’s Meditation Devoid of Joy

By Zack Lynn

My first experience of meditation came when I was a young teenager while listening to a self-relaxation cassette tape that my mother had obtained from somewhere. The instructions were very vague and simple, mostly dealing with breath and body sensation, so I improvised and found ways to take myself deeper. I remember feeling a sense of relaxation and profound quiet that I had never experienced before. I played with the techniques described on that tape for a year and often used them to fall asleep or to relax when I was feeling particularly stressed, but eventually I forgot about that tape and the experiences that I had.

My first actual instruction in meditation came in college from a man with whom I was taking an off-campus speed reading class. I’m not sure of the exact instructions, but they were something like “just sit there and clear your mind and meditate.” I followed his instruction for weeks, but began to believe that I was a failure because no matter how hard I tried, I could not force the thoughts from my mind or relax my body. The harder I tried, the louder my mind became. So, as often happens with meditators, I quit practicing. I wasn’t even open to the idea of meditation because I knew I couldn’t do it.

When I tried to meditate again, I developed a somewhat dedicated practice, but was still finding that I was “bad” at it and often stopped. It was just one more thing at which I failed so instead of the practice providing useful insight, it was just another activity in my life that made me feel inadequate. Finally, I found my stride and now have a deeply satisfying and healthy practice that enhances my life and it’s experiences and, for that, I am truly grateful.

As a new meditation teacher, I’m “surprised” to hear that many people have similar stories. In some ways it saddens me that so many people tend to struggle with a practice that might be as intuitive and natural as reaching for a glass of water or taking a breath. In response, I have begun to view myself not as a teacher who offers a set of techniques that must be followed, but as a fellow human being who may have some had some insight that others might find useful in their practice. My role has become to support them in whatever way is appropriate for their wellbeing.

In his book Meditation Made Easy, Dr. Lorin Roche describes some mistakes people make when learning to meditate. Near the top of his list is what he terms “technique-itis”, which happens when a practitioner is tied to a particular technique or instruction even though it’s not working for them. In many cases, this happens because of something that he or she has read, or because a teacher or friend has told them that “this is the way to meditate” and they assume that it’s the “right” way. Unfortunately, some teachers even proclaim that their way is the only proper way for everyone.

I think it is important to understand is that many of the techniques and practices to which we are exposed come from monastic lineages. Is that a problem? Maybe. Keep in mind that monks and nuns have chosen a lifestyle that goes beyond just a meditation technique. It’s a lifestyle that is much different from the life led outside of a monastery. They spend years meditating for hours a day, every day, with the support of teachers and peers. It’s important to remember that they don’t have jobs outside the monastery, spouses, children, mortgages, or many of the other things that we “householders” juggle in our lives. Is it realistic to assume that the techniques used by sadhus will be healthy for us? Maybe not.

I’m not saying that any meditation techniques aren’t useful. They exist because they work for some, possibly large, groups of people. But are they all useful all of us? Absolutely not. A particular technique that is fantastically healthy and useful to one person could be downright unhealthy and even devastating to another. If someone is injured, most people agree that certain asanas should not be practiced if they could make the injury worse. Why would we view meditation any differently?

As a meditation teacher I believe that the best way to support my students is to view each as a unique individual with thoughts, feelings, emotions, and beliefs that are different from anyone else’s. I try to meet them where they are now and offer a variety of practices with which they can experiment. Then they can determine their usefulness for themselves. In the end, a technique isn’t even required. After all, meditation is something so natural that we as humans are practically programmed to do it—just practices and techniques that are there to help us along.

As an individual practitioner, I offer this advice: Take a realistic and honest look at the way you are meditating. If you find that it’s perfect for you, then please develop it further as you’re ready. However, if you consistently walk away from your practice feeling frustrated, inadequate or anything less than content, I hope that you will muster up a sense of adventure and try something else. If that doesn’t work out, your old practice will still be there waiting for you.

You see, for many years I forgot about my first experience where I was able to play, experiment, and do what came naturally. It took many years for that circle to complete, but once it did, I created a practice that is deeply gratifying…and healthy.

Namaste!

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How Yoga Can Connect Our Bodies

By Anne Marie Blaire

Note from Marcia about this blog: In my classes this past week, we discussed the NY Times article How Yoga can Wreck your Body. These discussions have been important and my own ideas have been written in the blog we posted last week. But it occurred to me that one way to balance the negativity of the article was to ask each student who wished to offer a word or phrase about what keeps them coming to yoga—in many cases over many years. The answers were varied and inspiring including: flexibility, strength, balance (physically and in life in general), inner peace, health and vitality, keeps me young and keeps the spark in my heart glowing that makes me glad to be alive.

I received this email the next day from one of our teachers and longtime cheerleader, AnneMarie Blaire. After reading it I just had to share it with you because she expresses so beautifully why so many of us keeping coming again and again to this practice and to Yoga on High.-Marcia

I was going to add this to your list of why we practice yoga, but didn’t want to start “round two” of really great reasons, lest we would have all been caught up in a yoga lovefest without movement.

While I joked that one of the reasons I practice was for “the chance that I might see Jerry Marcom’s smiling face in a Hatha L3 class” it’s been one of the primary draws to yoga and YOHI -- A SENSE OF COMMUNITY.

As I looked around your class last night, I knew most of the 20+ faces and counted 14 of the faces as good friends whom I have gotten to know over the years. Some of these friendships started in the classroom when we partnered in your class, Linda’s or Rodney’s; other’s I’ve taught, mentored or been a student in their classroom. I’ve shared meals with most, become Facebook friends with many, celebrated my birthday with some, been fed and supported by others when my mom was dying and I’ve just enjoyed a conversation with in the lobby or parking lot others.

As I continued to ponder these smiling faces, the diversity of our backgrounds, daily lives, professional lives and personal stories, I realized that without yoga and YOHI, I never would have met any of these amazing people whom I now call my friends and part of my yoga family.

Without our yoga connection, if I’d run into any of them at Northstar or Stauf’s Coffee Shop, we most likely would have smiled at the other and continued on our individual paths. Without yoga and the classroom, I would not have discovered the unique personalities behind those who have become some of my dearest friends. Yoga has tossed together seemingly unconnected smiles to allow us to discover something amazing about ourselves, compassion, strength, wisdom and humanity.

As I look forward to 2012 and my new life in Paris, it is not without sadness for what I leave behind. YOHI and my yoga family has been one of the greatest gifts in my life and it’s the randomness of my yoga family and my unique students and peers which has made me a better teacher and a better person.

As I looked around the room on Sunday morning when we celebrated Tom’s birthday with 40 Sun Salutations, I wondered if I would find my new Parisian Yoga Family in time for my 44nd birthday. I had just 366 days to build my new world and I’m not even there yet!

So I come to yoga because I cannot imagine my life without it, but it’s far more than the asana, pranayama and meditation, it’s because of the community of yogis that my life is so blessed!

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Hospital Cleaning Person Knows Best

by Marcia Miller

The New York Times just published an article about the risks of doing yoga, that set me thinking. When I first read the article I thought well, yes, this is true, yoga can be dangerous, just as anything powerful can be dangerous. A knife can cut vegetables or your finger. Drugs that can help a patient can also kill that same patient if given in the wrong dose or at the wrong time. Any physical activity that offers benefits also offers the potential for injury—ask any runner or gymnast. And the number of people who visit the emergency room because they tripped over a leash while walking their dog is close to the number of visits for yoga injuries. Hopefully we don’t stop doing any of those things, but learn ways to be smarter and more careful.

It is true that many yoga teachers have limited training; just as there are students who go to yoga class without practicing safely. Part of safe practice is choosing a teacher wisely. There are ways to find excellent and well-trained teachers and these blogs address them.

At Yoga on High all of the teachers are certified and many have over 500 hours of formal training. We also have a range of classes so that beginning students will be in a class with other beginners and not pushed to do poses beyond their abilities. From the very first class, we teach students how to pay attention to their bodies so that THEY are empowered to be smart about what to do and not do. We teach them basic anatomy and therapeutic movement for their joints as well. For best results, students of yoga can find teachers who are skilled in understanding the potential dangers of practice AND how to maximize the well-researched benefits of yoga with the minimum amount of risk.

After reading the Times article, all these and many other ideas were rolling around in my head, but I knew I would not be able to write them down in the near future. My father, who is 84, is in the hospital with a blood clot on his lung, and I have been spending hours each day with him. A few days ago he could hardly do anything—even sit up in bed—but yesterday he was a bit more energetic and lucid. He has always been an athlete (he was playing racket ball up until 6 months ago.) But he had been sedentary for most of the last week and was eager to move around. I offered to teach him some in-bed yoga movements that are part of the Urban Zen Integrative Therapy protocol that we teach at Yohi. We started by having him move his legs back and forth like windshield wipers. Then he flapped his feet back and forth and bent his knees and stepped on the bed to mimic walking. He moved his arms up over his head and did little twists in bed. He was excited that he could move this much and was energized by the circulation that increased throughout his whole body. His color changed and he was no longer bored, he was engaged and alert in a way I hadn’t seen in days. As he was rolling his shoulders around, a lovely 30-something woman came in to empty the trash. My father proudly said that he was getting his yoga lesson but to come on in and do whatever she needed to do. She looked up at us and got excited herself. She was clearly an immigrant and in her best English she said that she loves “yo-ha.” She said she practices every day. She said it was hard in the beginning but after a month it only felt good. It helps her sleep and when she is exhausted after a long day at work she does her “yo-ha” and then has energy for her evening. For 10 minutes, she talked about how helpful it was to her—the whole time she was cleaning his room. We saw her again today and she told us she had a miscarriage a few months ago and that yoga helps. As she got ready to leave the room, she paused at the end of the bed, looked my father in the eye and said, “Sir, please keep doing “yo-ha” everyday; it’s very important.”

Of course I know all these benefits firsthand, but to hear her words that day with all that was flowing around in my mind was a gift of remembrance. This woman has never been in a class with a teacher, she has only learned from television. But she practiced with several programs until she found one that worked for her. When I offered her some free passes to Yohi, she looked amazed that such a place exists. She said she doesn’t know how to get downtown, but will make the trip in a few years when she is a citizen and more familiar with the Columbus. In the meantime, she will keep doing yoga on her own because it works for her.

The experience I had with her and my father reminded me (once again) of the power of yoga, of the beauty and blessings of our practices. I felt that it balanced the article that somehow left all that out—the article that talked all about the potential downside of yoga but left out the gifts—the reasons that 20 million people practice in the first place. I have already heard of a few people who say they will never try yoga because of that article, and I feel deep sadness at that. Most people I know who practice yoga, and I am one of them, feel that it has saved our lives, not just once but over and over again. As you practice yoga I hope that you are smart, careful and loving, and that you keep coming back to these precious, glorious practices that can nourish our bodies, our minds and our hearts. Over and over again.

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Good Grief

By Martha Marcom

My first venture into blogging was about our dog, Lily. That sweet girl died this past week. I’d been steeling myself for her departure. Her litter-mate, Ranger, had passed away in 2009, and I thought at the time Lily might be dying as well. In Ranger’s final weeks, Lily was sleeping all of the time and disinterested in her surroundings. We realized many months later that she had been in mourning. While seemingly unawareness of Ranger’s condition, she was actually deeply cognizant that her sister dog was getting ready to depart the earth, and her grief began then. Lily kept one full year of quiet time before reemerging as her old lively self. We belatedly understood that Lily was deep honoring Ranger’s dearness and their years of lively friendship.

We didn’t always have Ranger, Lily’s litter mate who’d remained with the breeder (my sister!) for her whole puppyhood. Lily made it clear to us that she longed for a dog. She would look out of the windows all day, intent on her self-appointed job of keeping our home safe from any potential marauding squirrels. And when a random dog walked by, she would bark in a way that seemed to say, “Come see—it’s a dog!” If it was a dog she knew, the message was even more excited, “My friend is out there. That’s my friend walking by!” My sister gave us Lily’s sister dog, and they taught each other skills. Lily taught Ranger to overcome her fearfulness and to approach an unknown dog in a playful way, and when Ranger found how rewarding it was to connect with other dogs, she became the ambassador of the pair to meet and greet new dogs.

Lily, Martha, Ranger from early this century

In my mind, I have been preparing for Lily’s passing. She was 108.5 dog years old. I knew the end was near and I’d had it all worked out—playing up the benefits of not having a dog, imagining life without the worry and the growing expense. Clearly, Lily’s body had begun to fail her and, although the pain medication seemed helpful, in death she would be free of her arthritis, her deafness, her dimming vision—all of her limitations.

What I did not anticipate in the preparation for her loss was that my body would react so strongly. The night she was unable to stand on her legs, I became so nauseous that I was useless for a while—through the visit to her vet, her departure, and even now.

The physicality of that dog—her presence in our home, her cheerful company, the intimacy of stroking her beautiful coat, sharing her delight in seeing members of her “pack,” her tremendous appreciation of food and being outside—that physical absence is painful and dizzying. And she was also my yoga dog, a faithful witness to my practice every day for all of those years.

I steeled my mind against her loss, but it seems that a deeper level of my being reacted to it in a more powerful way than I’d planned.

Dogs teach us about both life and death, and are masters of generating love. They are shining examples of living in the moment. They are joyful. They fully inhabit their bodies and use all of their senses. Our dog mourned the loss of her sister with her whole heart and being. She accepted her own deafness and her failing limbs and eyesight with no complaint and with great dignity.

I had attempted to diminish the pain of loss, but as the wisdom of my own sweet dog and my own wise body reminded me, that’s not necessarily the way love and loss works.

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