Archive for Yoga

Fitness, a Do-It-Yourself Approach

For us elders, fitness is an activity to be ignored at our peril. We need as much exercise as our old bodies will allow. This means stretching to keep the joints flexible and breathing hard in whatever cardiovascular pursuit we choose.

I’ve been a yoga practitioner all my adult life. Back in the early 70’s, when yoga was considered either esoteric or just plain weird, I was one of Toronto’s early teachers. Later, I added distance running to my fitness routine. I loved this sport. For me, yoga and running are the perfect combination. Yoga doesn’t do much for cardiovascular fitness, but running kept my lungs and heart in good shape.

I’m too old now for running. In fact, any pounding of my septuagenarian joints would seem unwise. Fortunately, we’re never too old for yoga, especially these days when a wide variety of types of yoga are there just for the joining.

When I moved to Kingston, I knew there would be yoga classes. This was my chance to try something new.

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Feldenkreis, Yoga, Focusing, And Many, Many Other Models

Image from Feldenkrais Institute

Image from Feldenkrais Institute

Today’s blog post could be the final one in this series meant to provide readers with a wide range of choices when it comes to accessing the wisdom of the body. As those of you who have been reading this series know, I believe different models are right for different times in our lives. In my own experience, the body gets “bored” with any one model. What was once provocative and moved us forward, no longer inspires the body. The organism is so adaptive it becomes dulled to the catalyst that once stirred it into absorbing new stimulus: into revealing the body’s wisdom.

When I first discovered Focusing, I had vivid imagery, unmistakable body shifts and clear messages. My early experiences amazed and excited me. They provided me with insights and directions for the rest of my life. Today, the messages are subtle and nuanced: not definitive and bold. I continue to Focus all day, every day, but I’ve never had those earth-shaking shifts and insights of the early days.

Recently, I knew I needed a new kind of bodywork. I’ll always be a Focuser and a yoga person, but I needed a new stimulus. That’s why I decided to try Feldenkreis. As Focusing, it’s uncontaminated by the therapist or teacher. It understands that the body holds our truth and that the body taps into a deeper knowing than we can access with our usual level of awareness.

In my next post, I’ll tell you what I’m learning about Feldenkreis.

You’ll Never NOT Have Been Abused

I often hear survivors voice these worries:

Will I ever by normal? My life has been pretty good for years now. I exercise, eat right, take good care of myself, and yet sometimes I still get depressed and feel overcome by shame. All the externals are in place. It’s my internal life that often doesn’t’ feel good. I have my memories and have accepted what happened to me. I’ve had good therapy for the old wounds. But I still don’t feel great all the time.

I understand this worry. I’ve certainly felt all of the above at times. At this stage of my life, I have a really wonderful world and most of the time I feel good about myself, who I am and what I’ve contributed to the world. The best answer I can come up with is, “You’ll never NOT have been abused.” Read more

Fire up Your Bundas with Yoga

Now that I’ve retired from my private psychotherapy  practice I’m free to immerse myself in yoga once more. You may recall that in my 30s and 40s I was a yoga teacher whose life was shaped by yoga. Yoga helped me maintain some degree of calm and stability in spite of my childhood trauma. Now in my 70s I’m indulging my passion for yoga once again.

And what do I find? Lots of changes. Recently I returned from a weekend workshop in Pennsylvania at the Himalayan Institute. Our power and life-seeking energy get trapped in the lower body, they told me. We also hold our sadness and our fears there. Yoga teacher Shari Friedrichsen taught us how to release that holding by tightening and releasing the abdominal muscles as well as the sphincters in the perineum, urethra and anus. Read more

Three essential life lessons my yoga guru taught me

During my ten years of studying with Swami Sivananda Radha, my guru brought order to my inner chaos. One of the most effective practices involved determining priorities for each day. Everything else could fall into place around the most important events. Balance was central to the yogi’s life. Balance, however, did not have to occur in the space of one day. It could be over a period of time. For example, on some days getting things done might be the priority. On another, relaxing and self-care might be central themes.

She was the first feminist I met. Women need a room of their own, she told me. Very few women, even those in large houses, have a room where they can close the door and leave everything untouched until they return. If you can’t have a room, at least have a part of a room which is out of bounds to others.

On energy: think of your energy like fuel in your gas tank. Never run on your reserve. Another time she told me that energy was like a bank account. Some activities and people give you energy. These are like deposits in your account. Other activities and people drain you. These are withdrawals. Try to keep as much money in the bank as possible.

On food: if you think it’s bad for you, for goodness’ sake don’t eat it.

On abortion: It is hard to find a human birth. Usually the soul does not enter the fetus until the last moment. If a fetus is aborted, the soul is not destroyed. It simply goes looking for another birth.

On an altar: Make a special place in your house for prayer and meditation, even if it’s just a place where you don’t ordinarily sit.

Today, thirty years later, many of these practices still serve to structure my life.