Thursday, January 28, 2010

More things to be grateful for

In this age of snark, I'm just too sincere. Oh well. Hipster writing is nothing I'll ever master the art of, and I never intend to.

That being said, here is today's bit of gratitude:

I've been sleeping poorly and discovered that long naps seem to be more restful. Still, I'm overtired. But, I've been waking up in less pain after sleeping in three to four hour stretches. This late morning, after my second round of sleep, I felt simply awful, so I'm not sure that strategy is working all that well. Hey, I will try anything.

That bit of trivial information about my life isn't the point of this post. It was only the set-up (which, for all I know, wasn't needed, but hey, that's the way I write).

I felt broken by pain. I watched my thoughts, wrote them down in my newly started pain diary, and then did some yoga. An hour later, I felt about as good as it gets.

Some years ago, I thought I'd parlay my working as a tattooist into working as a massage therapist. I must have been crazy (and when am I not?) 'cause I was already having chronic pain issues and my hands were shot, but I had this grand idea that I could do it anyway, and that I'd heal myself through healing others. Well, another grand idea down the drain. I've been kicking myself around thinking I wasted time and money on training. But today, I realized that all that training, at the Kripalu Center, was worth every bit of time and money. I learned far more about yoga than I did about massage. That was the point of learning at Kripalu.

Later, even though I wasn't a yoga teacher (another thing I kick myself around for, but for not doing), I took a week-long class with Don Stapleton, who founded the teacher training at Kripalu. This deepened my relationship with the kind of yoga I had already been practicing, a yoga that has little to do with named poses and precise forms, and everything to do with listening to the wisdom of one's body. He calls it "Self Awakening Yoga." When I was in that class, I wasn't in the best of shape, but I found myself doing things with my body I had no clue I could do. It was exhilarating. I was in such a state of bliss, I called everyone I knew and told them that I loved them. This was a bit of shock to a few people, who had no idea how to respond!

Flash forward to this morning. I'm stiff. I'm stressed. My head is pounding. My back is screaming at me with every step I take. My stomach is in knots. As usual, I wonder "what the hell is going on in my sleep?" (which is a good question, actually).

Slowly, I unwind myself. I do pranayama: yogic breathing. Four breaths in, hold for seven breaths, breath out on a count of eight. This really causes the body to unwind itself. I start that on the cushion. Then, I let myself, ever so slowly, move in the direction of pain and release, breathing to this count, eyes closed, focusing my attention on the places where it hurts, moving my breath into them, letting them release, not pushing it, just letting it be, breathing in, holding, out, in, holding, and out again.

I move so slowly that if one was watching, if they didn't stay a while, they might not think I'm moving at all. This type of movement really focuses one's attention. It's impossible to move that slowly and not be focused. I have no agenda. I am only following where my body wants to move, and at some point the urge to move stops, and I'm done. That's all.

So simple and so incredibly wonderful. I have much gratitude for having learned this. It's a subtle practice of yoga, and not one that's taught much or practiced much. Most are way too impatient to do it. It feels incredible for me.

That's why I'm amazed this I was so easily talked into believing that I shouldn't practice it. Two years ago, when I developed problems with my foot, and had subsequent nerve damage, I was told to stop doing yoga, that it had damaged my foot. Y'know what? I don't believe it. I did then. I was scared by what happened, and when one is scared, it's easy to get them to believe anything (and oh, how that can be applied to everything, can't it?)

Well, another layer of bullshit has been thrown off. (Yes, I do curse.) I think I know bullshit when I encounter it, but words like "nerve damage" can be blinding.

Image note: Don Stapleton. Thank you, Don. His book, here. His someday-I-hope-to-be-able-to-go-there-yoga-center-in-costa rica is here.

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