Snow.A lot of it.So much so, that the schools closed at noon today, truncating my office time and sending us all home to highly-saturated togetherness.The library isn’t even open.It’s that kind of snow.It’s total shutdown.
And, in this kind of snow, I don’t do so well.Cold-tolerance has always been a challenge for me.I can blame my California upbringing all I want – and so can you – but the truth of the matter is that I’ve always been this way.The kind of girl who is always cold.
I flippin’ hate snow…I can’t swear enough to drive this point home.The cold.Chilly water.Luke warm is cold to me.Tepid…Far, far worse.And, I can dislike this aversion all I want.But, it’s still there.
Three children later, I find I struggle with this even more.The flakes barely start tofall and I start pacing like a trapped animal.Rain, I can do.Rain is good mood lighting for a little deep writing riff.It’s a little slide guitar to what can be a ukulele some days.
Quite honestly, I don’t know what to do with it.My biological functions of sleep/awake cycles are screaming, “Sleep through it.The bears do!”But, my kids are screaming at the Wii – arguing and yelling at the computerized inhuman humans.I want to get some work done but my internet connection is down.I want to read, but the screaming won’t let me focus on the otherwise engaging text in front of me.I can’t even pay attention to Malala’s story.A great story rom what I can glean from chapter one.
It’s a back-and-forth – a dull one that drives me bat-wit crazy.
This confession comes with the realization that there’s a part of me that wishes to the moon and back that I was a snowbird, snowgirl, snowcat, snowperson.The worst part of that is wishing to be something else.It’s a bit like wishing away sadness.The act of wishing it away causes depression and anger. I’m annoyed at myself because I just do better in the sun.You will never hear me complain that it’s too hot.
But, then again… I just saw my neighbor push one of her dogs out the door and into the snow and the little Min Pin stumbled right back inside.The other one, the albino Jack Russel Terrior, peed and was instantly shepherded back inside with excessive and congratulatory patting.
Glorious vindication!Even the dogs don’t want to go out.The cat’s asleep.And, me…I’m doing this.Being honest.Mostly, because it’s the only thing that saves me from feeling like I’m the only one who misses the sand and sea and the left coast masquerade of freedom, neatly concealed until you get on the 405.
You and I can still be good parents even if we hate the barricade of this particular day.
And, look.I’m dealing.And so are you.Reinforcements being called in for the balance of the week. Perhaps forever.
My gift of Friday, was an invitation by a friend, Greg Sotire – musician, dad, fine guitar salesman, and otherwise incredibly clean-living vegan – to dinner. He suggested Veggie Heaven in New City. And, me, not knowing any place in Westchester to get decent vegetarian food (apart from the fast-foodish offerings at Whole Foods), was wholly game, especially after I learned why Greg wasn’t a cafeteria vegan.
“I’ve stuck to this diet since I started it.”
The reason was heart disease, on heart attack at age 32 when he became a vegetarian, to no remarkable effect.It did not resolve the artery blockage or his doctor’s warnings that there would be repeat arrests.Two stints later, be became a full throttle vegan and cleaned out his arteries with a vegan diet, a diet that also excludes coffee, alcohol and anything that can be described as unnatural…No nothing, to some.
No nothing worked.No nothing caused the miracle of clean arteries and no heart attacks.No nothing is that he completely reversed heart disease, more a matter of genetics in this case.Greg is forty now and smiles a lot and loves his food, music, son… food.
The thing about people with food intolerances or strict diets is that food becomes even more important when it’s unavailable.Most of the time, you have to eat “wilted lettuce,” Greg said, if you don’t make the effort, make the extra drive and get a little creative.
My diet is low gluten, much the result of having a child with special needs and seeing the good effects that diet manipulation can have on behavior, the gut, and general health.Low gluten cured my tummy trouble.I eat little bits of meat here and there and do eat some fish (mostly farm-raised salmon as I try to do my part to halt the imminent sadness of over-fishing) but it’s a really an issue of my once-titanium-lined (so I thought) stomach that children and life have considerable weakened.
Of course, exercise helps my tightly-wound self which also helps my stomach.It seems that the stresses of the world convene there for me.And I learned from Greg that acidity is also caused from anxiety and stress.
“Doesn’t that suck?”He laughed.Alkaline, ph-balanced water (the new reverse osmosis trend that does help, by the way) may be able to reduce acidity but it can’t cure stress.
Swim, bike, run, yoga…Helps me.Good fuel helps that.
I’ve never been to New City but it was worth it.I can’t begin to describe how tasty the chefs made the vegan offerings.Among them, spring rolls with mango, yummy shoots of something and a saucy cashew and almond paste wrapped in kale (gluten-free).There was vegan pork, vegan (mushroom) beef and tofu chicken sautéed (“stir fry” doesn’t do it justice) called Bang Bang chicken with beef, cashews, asparagus, peppers, onions and a delish sauce that Greg resurrected from a special he once had and they made upon request.Veggie Heaven makes their own faux (not fake) meat in house.Then there are the brown rice dumplings, leftovers of which today I couldn’t wait for lunch to eat.They covered breakfast and lunch even after sharing so that Greg’s son, Pete, could later enjoy.
Vegan Bang Bang Chicken with (Mushroom) Beef
Dessert bookended dinner with coconut cake.Oh, and the jasmine tea – the best I’ve ever had – which would be a compliment if I’d ever previously tasted jasmine tea – sweeter than green.There’s divinity in that.
The only thing that has ever come close to Veggie Heaven, defined by Wendy, the owner, as “Food for the Five Senses,” is the Ayurveda restaurant on the upper Westside of Manhattan that I used to frequent as a resident there.
Veggie Heaven makes vegetarian beef, pork and chicken taste better than the real deal.Fresh-tasting is an understatement.
To say it is worth the drive…Well, it’s worth the drive.Even after I already had lunch at Andy’s Pure Food in Rye.It was a Good Food Friday.Ever day should be so good.
Let’s work together, my friends, to increase Veggie Heaven revenues… There’s talk of a location coming soon to Connecticut.
The yoga teacher today at Bikram distracts me.The characature of him, that is:Martin Short impersonating a gay, Latin man, with Duran Duran hair sans Aquanet and with rosey cheeks.
But, here’s the deal.I laid my mat on that Flotex floor, grasped my hands together under my chin to start the first round of two sets of breathing.Three quarters of the interior walls are covered floor to ceiling with mirrors and I opted for the front row where anyone whose attended a few classes can, um, perch (I later executed a Bird of Paradise that the last person in the room, said, “Wow.”His name was Julio.I told him that my anatomy and practice allows for that, and that is a function of focus more than anything, which is why I life the sweaty mess of this yoga).
I digress…Well, there’s something new.
So, I’m thinking about the mirror in front of me.How I have to look myself in the eye for every posture of the entire class.My mind is scattered so I try to skip over the second set of breathing into a side bend, hands together to form an arrow, index fingers pointed and arms precisely straight.My eyes are red.Mostly, because I’ve been sad and discouraged of late, despite the goodness of one door closing and others swinging open as if by magic.
On that particular day, I didn’t want this particular yoga instructor.I wanted to hear what Jean had to say.I wanted to get what I needed.Assurance in her words that come with a fresh class every day despite what could be monotony after something like ten years of ownership.The same class but different every day.Do you know how difficult that is?
So, that’s what I wanted.But, I got Latin Martin Short.
But, by the time we arrived well into the floor series, the second half of the class, our instructor began talking about Kung Foo Panda and the postures of the class – the way he says it, it sounds like “posters” and it took me a while to understand what he was saying…Now I consider that my problem, not his.
He talked about how the evil tiger finally snatched away the sacred scroll.When he finally got it, he unrolled the scroll to find no words – just a mirrored, empty but for the reflection of his face, scroll.
The message was that the power of the dragon warrior is to be found inside.
It’s where transformation begins.I stayed another thirty minutes after class in that room with its near silence, using the heat to ply my body to do what my mind needed to do, if anything, to know I tried, and that I could do something.Right now, any self care – yoga, running, swimming… – is the easiest thing I do all day, even when it feels like the most difficult, it shows me that I can show up and do something.
When asked to write an blog post on the topic of The Common Core for weareteachers.com, I realized that I did not know enough about it to form an intelligent opinion .So, I went to work, backstopping where I first heard of the controversies surrounding the Common Core – not all curriculum-centered, but encompassing the roots of educational programming and the information issues that filter from our government, into our schools, businesses, and what used to be, our private lives.
The seed was first planted in September when I attended the kindergarten principal’s coffee.Dr. Peter Mustich, the Rye Neck School District Superintendent, spoke briefly about the iBloom system that the state was mandating through federal incentives.While federal educational incentivizing mandates are against the law, state funding as reward, is not.With corporate-backing, districts are being asked to provide student academic and behavioral data and possibly released or sold to third parties for research or marketing.
That lead me to a bit of an information tirade of my own – asking that our PTSA provide more information on data collection, which lead to more research about the Common Core.Oddly, the only way that I can seem to convey this information is in a timeline of my experience with it.Perhaps, in hopes, that you’ll understand better that I am a parent who knew nothing, but was prompted into advocacy because now I do know something, thanks to a handful of incredibly knowledgeable parents who are also obsessed with reforming reform.Parents, who, as you will see from their comments below, are educators and are wholly informed on this topic that takes the our trust from teachers and puts it in the hands of state legislators.
In a nutshell, legislators and corporations are leading this academic reform movement to capitalize on a misperception:the misperception that ALL American schools are failing, that we’re falling behind internationally and the only way to enforce teaching standards is to test kids to the point of exhaustion. Accountability is placed in the hands of the teachers, though the tests come from a private publishing company capitalizing on the government’s misperception.But, where did this start?
Thankfully, in my research, I came across a book recommended by a former teacher:REIGN OF ERROR:THE HOAX OF THE PRIVATIZATION MOVEMENT AND THE DANGER TO AMERICA’S PUBLIC SCHOOLS by Diane Ravitch.I’m still slogging through the book because it is packed with information that needs to be digested in pieces so that my emotional reaction to those pieces does not block continued absorption.There’s a lot there and it’s shocking.
There are a few episodes of the TWILIGHT ZONE that would clarify this shock.
One of the points that the book made was that the impetus for educational reform came from the 1983 publication of a report called A Nation at Risk.“It’s basic claim,” reports Diane Ravitch, “was that the American standard of living was threatened by the loss of major manufacturing industries – such as automobiles, machine tools, and steel mills – to other nations, which the commission attributed to the mediocre quality of our public education system; this claim shifted the blame from shortsighted corporate leadership to the public schools.”
While I’d like to distance myself from this comment to say that it doesn’t break my heart to hear that highly paid corporate leaders are placing greed first, driven by the need to capture more profits without consideration to quality or national loyalty, and placing blame on badly paid, badly treated but passionate and caring individuals assigned to care for and guide our children for more hours in the day than most parents, working or not working, can attend to them in a meaningful, instructional and creative way.I am ashamed at these individuals – the corporate entities leading reform – because they replace substance with ego and a broad and profitable agenda.
Really, the only thing that can push forward a program that has no grounds in educational research or pragmatic thought is money.The aforementioned book and my research goes on to explain that the impetus of this Common Core and data collection, is leading toward the privatization of schools.The privatization of schools means that children will not be granted“a free and appropriate education.”The twist – because there always is one – is that these private charter schools, won’t have to subscribe to the standards required by public schools.They will have no Common Core.Conspiracy theories aside, it sounds like a hoax meant to make public schools fail so that privatization is the only clear path for a solid American education.
And, guess what.Someone profits.
While these realizations have been hitting me in waves, I have to say that this year my family did not travel to see extended family outside of the state.We were home for Thanksgiving.After the holiday passed, I realized that the kindergarten Thanksgiving feast did not happen.I was told by a parent and friend that it was cancelled the year prior when the kindergarten aides were let go.And, one of my children’s teachers said that they built a curriculum around the feast and that the Common Core no longer allowed time for it.
During this conversation, I managed a simple smile and nod to a kindergarten teacher who I’ve known now for years – a teacher who always offered a warm, sincere smile in return for the haggard-grin of a parent juggling three young children.What I see now, is a look of defeat trying to cheer itself out…in a kindergarten teacher.One that is solid and steady and loved.I am not the only one who finds it terribly wrong to treat our teachers this way, in our free country that allows for creative expression and individual success but takes away… creative expression and individual success.
I’m not the only one who finds it wrong because I did the research and I showed up and I signed my letters, and now I’m left with this little crusade among the informed who want to inform you.
Teachers are required to give tests in a sequence.Tests, like the kindergarten gym test created with age-inappropriate questions children cannot answer simply because a publishing company that creates the tests, needs a baseline to gauge a child’s progress.
To teachers, it’s a waste of time.All of the time testing to satisfy Pearson Publishing’s focus group responses required to build curriculum, takes away from meaningful classroom instruction.Teachers and students are being forced to change direction entirely and quickly, without allocated transition time.
Legislators have linked failing schools to circumstances that fail children.The circumstances are not teachers.Failing schools exist in troubled communities, and though our successful school mothers are now being called spoiled brats by legislators for wanting to opt out of this curriculum and incentivized academic performance, and instead funnel it into the needier schools, while keeping a curriculum that already works, our school district and others suffer because some need more help and this is the only way legislators without teaching backgrounds, could not create anything else.
In terms of data collection:data collected through iBloom ranges from student behavior to academic achievement and is stored to be used without parental controls.What is important to remember here is that these students are minors, but this does not resonate yet as a legal matter.It should.
Pearson Education is failing.Legislators are failing.Who’s making anyone of them accountable for the harm that data collection can cause to a child who slipped up once or twice?
And, why is a curriculum mandated to schools that already exceed national standards?Not that it would work anywhere else, mind you.But, I think I already covered that.
Since I am not a teacher, but know many educators who are also parents, I collected opinions from them too.We’re all not know-it-all helicopter parents orchestrating the minutia of our children’s lives, but concerned parents and educatorss who understand what works and what doesn’t.
As of yet, our legislators are not listening.
It seems like a mixed message to me – one being that kids should not be given choice.That teachers should instruct with myopic tunnel vision, teaching age-inappropriate content to children who should take what’s given to them.I make the connection between a generational argument – a criticism of modern parenting.I’ve been told that young children should not be given choices.I’ve been told this by my mother, who grew up in an era where choice was limited.You bought a pair of sneakers of the few brands and styles offered.You followed a particular route.You want to talk to someone – pick up the phone or speak face-to-face.Life events had a certain map to them.Even employment at the same company for years offered a reciprocal loyalty and security.
While it can be argued that we are fortunate for a vast array of options now offered to us, I fail to understand how any child will grow up with the ability to navigate choice if they are offered none.Discrimination is a skill that teaches people to choose based on areas of talent and interest, of ethics and societal mores.
But the creation of curriculum that adheres to a one size fits all standard, does not take into account choice.I am not one to pander to the fickle needs of children.I do not subscribe to the practice of we are all winners and everything deserves a reward.I do not spoil.
But, teaching a circumscribed curriculum that doesn’t take into consideration difference, learning styles and the obvious need to teach children how to sipher through massive amounts of content, is short-sighted and misdirected.
We live in a free country that allows us to choose our content, but we offer no plan to help the future of our country to use it wisely and to good effect.
Test taking is not a life skill.Teaching to a test is not a lesson in discipline, it’s a lesson in getting through.It is not a lesson of mastery or mining talent, it is a lesson that education has nothing to do with anything real in life.
To put it into an internet perspective, we allow corporate executives to dictate a movement toward charter schools – privately-funded schools that do not have to follow any such standards like those mandated now.It makes absolutely no sense.Zero.
Funny thing is that Bill Gates is one of those people spearheading this campaign – a successful and incredibly wealthy man who dropped out of high school is one of the largest backers of the Common Core and iBloom.
No one is thinking about our children.It’s just money their pockets.That’s all it is.Argue what you want.
I think the amount of assessment the teachers are required to do now is absolutely absurd. It unnecessarily takes away from teaching time. I understand as a parent and a former teacher that occasional assessment is useful to see individual needs, but I can state from experience, most teachers know the strengths and weaknesses of their students within the first few weeks of school without doing any formal assessment.
True individual assessments take a good amount of time and it is impossible to do it correctly with the limited time these teachers already have. Again, it takes away from valuable teaching time, including non-academic teaching time, such as special projects or creative free time (the things that keep many of the students interested 🙂
So basically, although I do think individual assessments are helpful and needed occasionally, possibly 3 or 4 times throughout the year, it is a hinderance the way it is being used now and discouraging to many of the children.
– Marla Schneider, former teacher, mother of four elementary-aged children
As a parent of 3 children, aged 13-18, I have seen all walks of my kid’s education. As a teacher for over 20 years, I have also experienced all walks of public education trends throughout the years. I can honestly say, that at this point in time, morale for both teachers and students is at an all time low. While the Common Core may have started out with good intentions, it has spun wildly out of control, and can quite possibly be the demise of our feelings of self worth, and our passions for both learning and teaching. Teachers and students are feeling frustrated and under-valued by the over emphasis that testing has in the classroom. Curriculum is test driven, results have high stakes, and the enthusiasm and love of both teaching and learning is quickly being squeezed out of the classroom! No longer is there an emphasis on creating life-long learners who are bright and inquisitive. Today, education is more focused on the end result of a poorly formulated state test, which is not an accurate reflection of what is developmentally appropriate for children. Between the implementation of tests that are too challenging, and the combination of raising the bar for meeting grade level expectations and the lowering of the bar for assisting students who struggle, there are no winners in this vicious cycle of assessment.
My own children are all different types of learners, and for the most part have always met with success. My youngest, however, is a struggling student who will probably never meet grade level expectations. She is in “nomads” land; she doesn’t meet the benchmark for success, but doesn’t qualify for support services either. How, with the rising level of expectations, is she to catch up? Homework is a tearful event, and preparing for subject area tests are even worse! At this point, I am just hoping that she doesn’t fail anything, and will actually graduate on time in 2018! Maybe by then, the state, in their esteemed wisdom, will realize that they have successfully created students who do not have a desire to learn. Then, perhaps we could go back to the way things used to be… happy kids, in loving school environments, with teachers who care and kids who actually want to be in school, learning!
– Betsey Ensign, 5th grade teacher and mother
Education at its best should be rooted in child developmental theory. Children are born curious and eager to discover the world. Schooling should simply provide an environment to nurture these innate qualities.
Play is the foundation for children’s learning. While children play they develop relationships, learn to negotiate, develop cause and effect, count, sort, recognize patterns, become dexterous and coordinated, make sounds that turn into letters, words, then stories. The amount of learning that happens within a day is almost immeasurable.
Unfortunately, education as I describe it is under attack. Corporate education reformers say that we must now adopt a rigorous curriculum to make young children college- and career-ready. It is not only inhumane to force children to learn material for which they are not developmentally ready; it is futile.
We see a trend towards rote lesson plans and high-stakes testing as a direct result of pushing children in ways they are not meant to learn. Consequently, there is the need to repeat and retest because it does not make sense to them.
When children’s curiosity is engaged and the material comes from their own play, learning happens with minimal effort. Stop the hours of mundane lesson plans, stop the testing, and watch the learning that happens.
–Gina Tampio, mother of two elementary-aged children
As a teacher, I see the stress and frustration that the rushed and bungled implementation of the Common Core curriculum and the new teacher evaluation requirements has caused for teachers and administrators, especially at the elementary level. It is nothing less than heart-breaking to be forced to teach in a way that does not engage you or your students, that you know is often developmentally inappropriate, that doesn’t allow you to address the individual needs and ability levels of your students. It is infuriating to know that under the new APPR evaluation system, the only thing that really matters is how your students perform on a poorly-constructed standardized test that sets kids up to fail (an evaluation system under which the New York State teacher of the year was not even deemed “highly effective”). It is sad to see administrators removed from their work from students because their jobs have been reduced to dealing with the enormous bureaucratic task load that Albany had dumped on them.
But I’m an adult. I can handle whatever Albany sends my way. And if I decide I can’t handle it, or don’t want to handle it anymore, I can quit my job and pursue another field, difficult as that might be. My 8 year old son does not have that luxury. In the past year he has gone from someone who loves school and is excited to wake up in the morning, to a child who says almost every day that he hates school and just wishes that he could have “one good day.” There is no longer any room in his day for the kinds of creative projects and lessons that used to engage him. Science and Social Studies are barely touched upon anymore. ELA and Math instruction, despite his teacher’s valiant efforts, have been reduced to tedious test prep. He comes home from school defeated, only to face an hour or more of homework – always worksheets from engageny or his Common Core-aligned workbooks. And he is not alone; I often hear similar stories from other parents. What can my son do? He can’t quit third grade. We’ll never get his third grade year back. So I feel like I have to speak out for him. I don’t want him to hate 4th grade and 5th grade — I teach at an alternative high school — I see what happens when students become disengaged. So I am speaking out for him, because he has no voice in Albany. Parents have to fix this. School boards and administrators are trying, but Albany isn’t listening to them. Parents have the power of numbers — we are constituents — we pay taxes, we vote. And no one can accuse us of being self-serving, of not wanting what’s best for our children (accusations frequently made against educators speaking out). Our only interest is our children. And we can’t afford to be patient.
Ah, the start of fall. Leaves falling in droves from trees, squirrels scurrying to store nuts for the winter, darkness coming much earlier in the day…and cooler temperatures adding a layer or so to what we wear before venturing out for our runs. Or…are we? I’ve already been asked several times if I was running OUTSIDE now or next week or this winter. Really? Do the thirties – I’m talking temperatures here, people – really mean a move to (yuk) indoor running?
They certainly need not mean that. Moreover, winter should be a fabulous time to build some running base and strength, to relax a bit and build some of that VO2 max we hear about all the time. So…what should you be considering in terms of winter “off season” running?
If you are an endurance athlete or someone intending to run a half-marathon, marathon, or complete a half-ironman or ironman next year, it’s never too early to start building run strength. Long, easy runs help build endurance and the ability for your body to use oxygen efficiently. They’re also of tremendous mental help for those times that you know you’ll have to be out on a race course for a while. Cold and even snow are easy hurdles to overcome – for the cold, the simple rule of thumb is to dress for 20° warmer than it actually is – you warm up considerably on the run, so you can prepare for that. On REALLY cold days, which for me are mid-20s and under, beyond the obvious hat/gloves/tights/layers, slather some Vaseline on your nose and cheeks. Even snow is easily overcome; I actually love to go for an easy run in fresh snow. While some people will even turn to snowshoes, I have a pair of YakTrax (the running shoe equivalent of chains for your auto tires), though in 30 years of running, I’ve worn them maybe twice. Basically, you CAN run outdoors all year round.
(OK, if it’s below 10 degrees, then MAYBE it’s worth staying in, but I’ve run in 3 and 4 degree temps, and dressed appropriately, it’s doable.)
You may have guessed by now that I am no fan of the dreadmill (or tready or treadmill), which will be an anathema to some people. And I can understand the advantages of a tready sometimes: it’s softer than pavement if you’re injured; and most treadmills are kept inside and thus you are protected from some of the severe temps noted above. But I’ve always felt that treadmills force you to run a bit differently than you do outside unrestricted and without being subtly pulled by the tread. If you’ve been injured, say with an Achilles, calf, or hamstring issue, I’d be careful about turning to the treadmill given that it will slightly pull your legs along and change your stride a bit (despite providing a softer surface).
So now that you are all geared up to run outside, let’s see what fun we can have! I like to play the “catch the leaf game” in the fall. That’s when, while running along, you try to catch leaves falling ahead of you, sort of like a neurotic fartlek workout (for the uninitiated, “fartlek” is Swedish for “speed play;” it’s basically a term that refers to doing interval work during a run). There’s “leap the puddles” and “avoid the mud” as well, along with “warm the hands,” the game in which you find the appropriate hand gear and positions to keep your hands warm from start to finish – do you keep the thumb wrapped in your fist or do you let it free float, waiting for that first 10 cold minutes to go by? Now don’t get too nervous here…even in the direst cold, my hands warm up after about 10-15 minutes of running. Lastly, there’s the “don’t slip on the ice like a clown” game in which you basically attempt to continue to remain on both feet while running despite the patches of black ice you often can’t see on the road (or brown ice on the trails). Fortunately, that is also something I’ve done quite rarely, perhaps twice in the years I’ve been running.
How much should you be running and how fast should you be running those miles? As I noted at the beginning, winter, which in theory is an off season for triathletes (I distinctly remember mine last year – it was a Tuesday in December), is a time to relax, rebuild, and remember that there are other things to do besides train. But OK, since we are all type A+++ folks, we’re going to do SOMETHING out there (accent on the “out”). So my advice is to major in strength, getting base miles in with a combination of long and frequent runs and some tempo running. Speed can be done over the winter (and winter track meets can be fun if you have incredible patience), but I’d orient it toward tempo and fartlek – and hill work (yes, the hills can build similar speed/strength as speed work) – with a very good dose of easy running mixed in. The right combination depends upon your near term (winter/spring) and longer term (tri season) goals as well as the amount of recovery your body needs from last season.
David was the last of us to contract chicken pox, but he got it the worst.My older sister picked it up at school, passed it on to me and finally, probably about the time I had scratched off the last of the crusts from my skin, he came down with it.He must have been less than one, since I, two years older, have no recollection of this.I just know that for years my parents would recall how sick he got and how worried they were.He had been born prematurely and from day one, my parents worried about him.Just a skinny little thing, covered with pox, my dad would recall from time to time with a grim shake of his head.In my early childhood, I didn’t have a clear notion of what chicken pox was.I imagined for a time it was some sort of culinary dish like chicken cacciatore or chicken a la king.This kind of misunderstanding was typical for me, a middle child benefiting from what I later liked to call benign neglect as I was buffered on one side by a preternaturally verbal older sister and on the other by my sickly younger brother who together managed to soak up most of the parental attention.I was free to concoct my own versions of things in dreamy solitude.Worried attention, on the other hand, had a rather toxic affect upon my younger brother, I think, who grew up to be a robust, talented, but extraordinarily anxious young man.
We shared a bedroom throughout a good deal of our childhood and for the most part it was a harmonious situation, though of course we did have our occasional squabbles. He had what was probably some sort of vocal tic that would manifest just as he was settling into bed. As I read on the adjoining bed, short little grunts and sighs would emanate from his side. I learned to merely grit my teeth since complaining to him, just made it worse and my parents, I was sure, would take his side. Later he decided that the light of my lamp bothered him and I would retreat to another room. He would emerge after some minutes claiming that a faint light under the door was preventing him from sleeping and I would withdraw to a far end of the house. For a scrawny little thing, he wielded a lot of power.
As I grew older, I developed protective mien toward my brother. In college, we talked often on the phone. Usually, I could gauge his mood in the first millisecond or so. Frequently, he would start with sort a brief vocalization, sort of a throat clearing then a long pause and then slowly at first he would pour out the various things that were on his mind. I would listen, make an occasional encouraging comment and finally I would hang up the phone feeling totally spent.
In one of those conversations, he confided to me his growing conviction that he was gay. I immediately assured him that I was fine with it, but at the same time, I was yet again gritting my teeth, wondering how my poor scrawny younger brother, covered with pox, could deal with the world as a gay man. For some time, I carried this revelation in solitude. Gradually, the circle of those in the know grew and some years later we were able to enjoy a friendly if not entirely relaxed Christmas at Dad’s (my mother had had since passed away) with David and his black male lover.
In 1982, I began my internship in pediatrics at Bellevue Hospital. The work was grueling, but fascinating. My brother, in the meantime, had gone to the Studio School not too far away laying the foundation for a painting career. Will he ever choose something easy, I wondered at the time. He supported himself by working as a typesetter at the Nation magazine and painted tirelessly in a loft that he had bought in a pregentrified of area of Brooklyn and which he shared with his boyfriend. I remember being amused that my artist brother owned property before I did, the doctor. His work habits were fueled by an intense nervous energy. He carried a sketch pad with him everywhere. We would on occasion travel out to the country together to visit our father and I would laze around while he would spend virtually the whole weekend tramping around with his easel.
David sometimes invited my wife and me to elaborate dinner parties in his loft. He would hover over the stove carrying on multiple conversations with his guests, usually artists and writers, while frenetically tasting, adding ingredients. His salads, in particular, were the product of endless additions of minute amount of spices and herbs. I marveled at all the talents that were emerging and began to feel a tad envious as I compared my conventional life style to my brother’s bohemian bonhomie.
In 1981, the CDC reported a cluster of 5 homosexual men with pneumocystis carini pneumonia. Initially the disease was known as GRID or Gay Related Immune Deficiency. As it became increasingly recognized that more than 50% of cases were not gay related, it was changed to Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome. At Bellevue, we began in the fall of 1982, to see young children with unusual infections. I remember one infant in particular who was my patient. Despite all our efforts, she got sicker and sicker. Drawing blood or replacing an IV in her became a dreaded task for all involved and I remember struggling sometimes up to an hour, ungloved in what was typical during that halcyon era and afterwards scrubbing off all the blood from my bare hands. Only in retrospect, did we recognize that she represented one of the first cases of pediatric AIDS, usually contracted at birth. Two years later, a pediatric AIDS clinics was set up at Bellevue.
That era in some ways resembled America pre 9/11. Though the AIDS crisis intruded upon our consciousness far more slowly than the terrorists attack upon the World Trade Center, there are, I think, some real similarities: the sense of an undetectable enemy, a similar kind of fear. AIDS changed our feeling of safety and brought an abrupt halt to the notion of sex without consequences which had blossomed on the college campuses of the 60’s and 70’s after the advent of oral contraception. Potential lovers were scrutinized suspiciously in the same way that air travelers uneasily eye fellow passengers of Middle Eastern appearance. Unlike chicken pox, which mounts a frontal assault upon our respiratory tree and then quickly fans out through the blood stream establishing gaudy beachheads in the skin and mucous membranes, the AIDS virus is the ultimate bioterrorist, sneaking into our bodies undetected, biding its time in patient preparation for its assault on the immune system. In the case of chicken pox, the body’s immune system steadily fights off the infection and the pox marks which initially look like dew drops on a rose petal as they are poetically described in medical textbooks, become cloudy, and then burst leaving a crusted bump. The patient practically always recovers fully, but yet there is one similarity to the AIDs virus: the varicella virus does not completely leave. It nestles in the ganglion roots of the spinal nerves establishing a redoubt where it remains dormant, kept in check by a vigilant immune system.
As it turned out, David was aware of the cluster of cases in Los Angeles before I was. I prided myself that I kept up with the medical literature, but I missed that report. The gay community, on the other hand was already humming about it. He called me that fall, his voice cracking, and there was that long pause that I hadn’t heard for years. He was frantically worried that he had contracted the gay disease. Over the next few months, it was like old times: late night calls and nervous ruminations. Looking back on it today, I cringe as I recall my repeated reassurances. Don’t worry, I counseled, my assured tone fueled by my confidence in the power of my medical knowledge: a confidence that, as is commonly the case among doctors, reached its apogee towards the end of my internship. Only later, did I come to appreciate the pipeline of information from the gay community that David was privy too, which proved to be a much more reliable source about the nascent AIDS epidemic. Gradually, he calmed down, and by the Spring of 1983, he rarely brought it up and was deeply consumed for preparations for his first solo art exhibition. On the wards at Bellevue, our conversations turned increasingly to speculation on what was causing this mysterious disease. As David calmed down, I began, in secret, to worry.
It was a good two years later that David called me to tell me that he was laid up. He had an attack of shingles. He related this to me calmly, mildly complaining that the pain was interfering with his painting schedule. I feigned an equal casualness as I strained to keep my own voice from cracking. After hanging up, I stood there and my wife entered the room astonished by the tears streaming down my face. Varicella, benign varicella, had reared its ugly head after 30 years of slumber in the dorsal roots of David’s thoracic spinal nerves producing a band of blistery eruption which snaked round from one side of his back to near his navel. Shingles, results from a reactivation of the varicella virus in the spinal nerve. While merely a temporary, albeit painful, affliction for the elderly, for the young gay male, it is a harbinger of much worse things to come, because it is a sign that the body’s immune system is starting to wane. Since there was no blood test for diagnosing AIDS at that time, this was the first incontrovertible sign that he had a problem with his immune system. Once I learned he had shingles, the last vestiges of denial fell away and I knew.
Some months later I dropped by on one of my regular visits to his loft and found him stretched out on his bed, breathing a bit heavily and with what seemed to be a slight bluish cast to his face. He waved me closer with a smile before going into a paroxysm of coughing. Just a bad cold, he told me and I managed to convince myself that he was not breathing rapidly and that the lighting was a bit funny. The next day, I came again and this time I brushed away his protestations that this was a cold and convinced him to go to his doctor. His doctor took one look at him and dialed the hospital. While waiting for the hospital to pick up, he turned to look at me and I thought I saw a recriminating look on his face. Why had I not been more alert to the clear signs of respiratory distress that any intern could see? By that evening, he was in the intensive care unit at Columbia Medical Center on a ventilator. He showed remarkable strength and dignity while flat on his back with a hose sized tube ensconced in his trachea. He wrote frequent notes on a little pad with the same frenetic energy that so characterized him. He wrote “I’m optimistic” among other things and was careful to equally divide his attentions among the circle of friends and relatives around his bed. I remembered his almost disabling anxiety when he thought he might have AIDS and marveled at how well he coped with actually having it.
Most people survive their first episode of pneumocystis, but David did not. I asked his doctor about this, and he did not have a definite answer. Years later, I learned that subtle genetic differences probably account for the variable outcomes. We had a memorial at a gallery in Soho. We stood, surrounded by his paintings and many of us in turn stood up to talk. As I approached the front to take my turn, I thought how strange for me, a doctor, to be giving a talk in a Soho art gallery. There was one other doctor in the crowd, his doctor, a specialist in infectious diseases from Columbia. Several years later I read an article about the AIDS epidemic in the New York Times Magazine and saw that David’s doctor was prominently mentioned as a pioneer in the early treatment AIDS. Towards the end of the article I learned to my astonishment that he himself had recently succumbed to the horror of the disease that he had been close witness too as a treating physician.
In 1989, my then two year old daughter, Jessica, came down with chicken pox passed down from her older sister. It was a fairly typical case and on Sunday morning of Memorial Day weekend, the lesions looked like they were mostly crusted over. Late that afternoon, her fever returned, but now was much higher than it had been at the height of her illness. Within a few hours I noticed a faint rash, appearing like mild case of sunburn. I snuck into my study and quietly looked up toxic shock syndrome. I closed the book, convinced that I had succumbed to that age old malady of med students of seeing in themselves whatever disease they happened to be studying and I calmed myself down. It was my wife, using a mother’s instincts, who truly recognized the severity of what was transpiring. I placed a midnight call to one of my partners and together we drove to the medical center. It turned out she did have toxic shock syndrome, which is a rare complication of chicken pox. She was in the hospital for a week or so, but completely recovered.
David’s paintings are hung throughout our house interspersed with Jessica’s, who has become an accomplished painter. I watch her move quickly, about the kitchen and I catch a glimpse of small round scar between her eyes, the only remnant of her bout with chicken box. She leans over a salad she is preparing, making familiar minute adjustments. She fixes me, with a look. “Dad, what’s a matter, you’ve never seen anybody make salad before?”
Two years have lapsed since I attended a yoga class at Yoga Sanctuary in Mamaroneck. Thanks to a Groupon, I returned on Thursday to find Ellen Patrick, certified yoga therapist, teaching Yin Yoga. Ellen had taught me a lot about alignment – so much so that I was able to continue my Vinyasa and Ashtanga practice due to her expert instruction that had me release my clenched shoulders in Down Dog and put the effort into my more relaxed upper back (between my shoulder blades). Tiny adjustments make a big difference.
Lately, my left hip has been nagging and unable to right itself out of what I determined via x-ray, to be some kind of tissue-related pain, something that I intuitively understood after sustaining years of injury to my body as a side effect of the sciatic pain that reduced me to a hunched over and crying pregnant woman six-and-a-half years ago. It eased with the help of chiropractic care, specifically through Active Release Therapy from the Optimum Health Center in Mamaroneck. Chiropractor, Seth Pearl, ran this second facility (to the main office in Scarsdale) but has since closed that site and consolidated his holistic practice to I-Have-No-Idea-Where.
I’ve consulted with Mamaroneck Acupuncture about this hip injury and received a home exercise program from an orthopedist. Acupuncturist, Dr. Henry Wu, helped but only diminished the pain – the exercise instructions remain in a stack of papers in the stacked papers area of my house.
Ellen Patrick seems to have provided the assist needed with very simple stretches and the use of a foam roller – I own one of these, but the trick is just knowing how to use it for maximum benefit.
“So much more than a yoga studio, The Yoga Sanctuary offers Yoga, Yoga Therapy, Pilates, and Massage Therapy. An oasis for vitality and tranquility, we offer our students various tools that will help to reduce the stress in their lives and enhance their health and well-being. Anchored in ancient traditions and validated through modern science, the services we offer are designed to empower and influence each individual’s life in a more positive direction. Unique to The Yoga Sanctuary, is our Yoga Therapy progam, which addresses the needs of students on the physical, physiological and psychoemotional levels. Our highly trained and certified yoga therapist, Ellen Patrick, E-RYT 500, provides group and individual instruction providing for issues ranging from lower back pain to Multiple Sclerosis to anxiety and depression.”
Woke up this morning thinking about the days that I spent with Dad – weekends with him at The Palm Restaurant – not entire weekends – but those Saturday nights we would drive east on Santa Monica Boulevard and arrive there almost by magic, pull up to the valet, walk under the valet overhang – black background with the palm tree logo in gold shining through.Someone taller and in a black coat pulled at the large black door handle and ushered me and my two brothers onto the sawdust-coated hardwood floors, past the coat check and cigarette machines.Past the buzzing conversation at the pretty, mirrored bar where, I’m sure, my father’s Chivas Regal scotch was set among the other pretty bottles behind the dark and shiny bar – the top of which was at least a foot taller than my young self and remained taller, and larger and intimidating despite my growth to a towering five feet, three and a half inches.
Greeting us at the door was Chi Chi then Tony at the host podium and the walls covered in the character portraits of every star that ever entered that place or had died famous or, quite often, topless or with a hat or a cane or a distinctive jawline. It was an education to me and to my two brothers – that one lady lounging by the palm tree, blond and barely clothed, characterized outlined in black like a comic book character is round an perfect. Piercing eyes identified the men like heroes and swarthy, childless, unattached singletons.
But a lobster was brought to the table and we were taught to put it to sleep by stroking the back of its neck before it was plunged into a boiling vat of water to cook while our clams casino and half and half (battered and fried onions and homemade potato chips) were served. Dad ate the green guts but called it something else. There was melted butter and lemon and a bib. But, my brothers and I often ate meat instead.
It’s not a typical story. Not just the meat part, I mean.
Neither is the story about the time my brothers told me to go into the men’s bathroom to see the odor-killing disk in the urinal they used for target practice before I got a quick look then got my fingers slammed in the door.
A screaming girl at the bathroom doors and kitchen entrance was interesting, to say the least. We were often the only children patronizing The Palm Restaurant.
I miss that place. Sawdust slipping under my feet, like it belonged to a bunch of adults grinding at the wood floors toward the same satisfaction children toil dig out and in a sandbox.
“Yoga is an internal practice.The rest is just a circus.”
– Light on Yoga by B.K.S. Iyengar
Some time ago, I wrote an article about yoga and my experience with grief – the passing of my father who encouraged me to start taking yoga after injuries that made me stop cycling and running – two of my favorite pastimes that slowed me down and calmed me and made me write more effectively and clearly.
I realized with that short essay, that yoga has a strong connection to my emotional expression now. I found that I came to my mat feeling like my head was caught up in a tornado and ended my practice with a realigned spine, the air passing easily in and out of my lungs, and my shoulders normally set below my ears (where they had crept with stress).
Caught up in the idea about yoga as a vehicle to grief relief, I began talking to my yoga friends and instructors about it, and found that a woman from class that I had seen but barely knew, had written an essay on the subject to complete her yoga certification. That person was Jennifer Swain, and her husband, Michael, passed away in 2008 after a fight with pancreatic cancer. She spent one and a half years in a cancer ward while he received treatment. During that time, she explained that her body went through changes reflecting what unfolded for her emotionally as she coped with letting go of her husband and watching her two children, then sixteen and fourteen years old, do the same for their father.
After Michael died, she began what she describes as a rigid exercise schedule of running, swimming, walking the dog very early in the morning. She would need to move the moment she woke up. During that time, she also began taking yoga at The Wainwright House and The Rye YMCA – both Astanga and Vinyasa classes.
One of her yoga teachers, Lois Wald Ps.D., a clinical psychologist turned good friend, reminded her that, “it’s okay to slow down and allow yourself to feel what’s going on.”
Like many athletes new to yoga, the tendency is to look at yoga like another form of exercise – to muscle through the postures. From my own experience, repetitive injury is the best lesson in the body’s limits and the need to attend to form, rest and movement. It seems to be the only way I learn. Like Jennifer, pain got me to the mat and to the soft landing place that yoga has to offer – a place of surrender.
Jennifer settled into a consistent yoga practice. The result of that was not the immediate relief of grief, but rather the release and surrender to it. Slowly, she blended the other forms of exercise with yoga then began teacher training through Kaia in Westport, Connecticut.
“I never would have done this had it not been for the death of my husband. Not that I’m at all grateful for that, it just is the way it is.”
Grief or grieving is the human process of dealing with loss. Emotional suffering is a natural response to a loss of any kind, but especially the loss of someone or something to which a bond has been formed. We form attachments to a relationship, a pet, our health, a job, a relationship, or a financial situation but in all probability we will lose one of these things.
The act or unconscious attachments we have to believing things will stay the same can lead to an almost unnatural response to changes and losses in our lives. Responses to grief vary from person to person and there is no evidence that there is one right way to respond. The stages of grief have been outlined in five distinct stages: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance.
Grief is complicated and varies greatly from person to person. The grief of an adolescent may be different from the grief of an adult. The loss of a parent, sibling, spouse, child, or marriage can all bring with them different sets of behaviors.
Jennifer and I found common ground sharing the ways yoga helped us through grief: the loss of her husband and the loss of my father six years ago. The loss of anything, really.
When I lost my father to cancer six years ago, I began reading a book about grief as a way to connect to the process and understand what I would go through. It was not the first time I that someone I loved had died. There was only a wide open patch of nothing. Reading about death and grief, helped me realize that all I could do was to be patient with the process – be patient with my anger, exhaustion and sadness at the loss of a conflicted father-daughter relationship. Almost every day, for the last two years of his life, we talked on the phone. Often, the longest conversations between us occurred when I was driving to and from yoga or swimming. It was similar to Jennifer’s experience in that cancer ward. But different because of the distance.
Exercise has always been a reliable safety valve to me, a release to otherwise detrimental stress. Admittedly, I sometimes rely on it too much. Jennifer found, and I did too, that yoga integrates the mind and body purposefully winding breath around movement. At the very least, you must breathe. Any yoga instructor will tell you that it is perfectly acceptable to attend class and lay on the floor in savasana and simply breathe.
The breath, or Prana, is the restorative link that connects the physical body with the spirit. The simple act of pranayama calms the mind and warms the body. It requires surrender to breath. Pranayama calms the panic and overactive mind that can accompany loss or death of a loved one. Trauma depletes us physically, mentally and emotionally. The emphasis on the breath in yoga is the link to a spiritual realignment of the body and mind, both of which suffer a state of exaggerated imbalance through the process of caretaking and death.
“You can’t make a career out of grieving,” either, Jennifer said. We sat down for the second time to talk about this essay. She quoted a Chinese proverb: “You cannot prevent the birds of sadness from passing over your head, but you can prevent them from making a nest in your hair.” Also true.
My favorite yoga instructors, the ones that seem to integrate the teachings into their own lives, and live, breathe and speak it, have a way of setting intentions for a particular practice with a reading or acknowledgment of the present: the chaotic or subdued energy of the season, the extreme heat, the frigid cold. The combination of meditation and asana revive the body as well as the mind. The teachings from the yoga sutras feed the wandering mind by giving it something to grasp. It is what loss needs. The focus on the present and the acceptance that things are always changing, combined with the wisdom of the yoga traditions, are enormously helpful. The perspective that yogic teachings have on death and dying are so contrary to western beliefs but are also soothing and helpful to the experience of loss. Death is part of life.
Vairagya, or non-attachment is one of the main teachings of yoga. If we can embrace the almost counter-intuitive concept that things are in a state of constant flux with results both good and bad, we can begin to think about death differently. This is not to say that we will be free of the pain that accompanies loss, but we can alter our perspective of the event and transform our response to meet the changes.
The inevitability of death is integral to the human experience. But, to the living, any death is hard to deal with, especially if it’s either sudden or violent or entirely contrary to what makes sense according to merit or age or immense love. The use of yoga in concert with other channels toward healing can help open the body and the mind to accept the harsh reality of loss and transition, whether it’s talking to a friend, a clinical psychologist, or an individual, or group of people (formal or informal), who have experienced a similar loss.
An asana practice clears the channel for grief to pass through. Yoga will not save its practitioner, but rather soften the passage of painful emotion. Postures done with props, specifically blocks and bolsters, can open a body held rigid in the throes of sadness. The asanas (poses) need to be less strenuous – grieving itself expends energy. The practice should be geared to rejuvenate and heal.
Supta Baddhakonasana (Lying Down, Bound Angle): Lie on your back with a bolster under your spine, beginning close to the earth so as to feel grounded and safe. Poses begun on the floor will engender safety and grounding. It is a reassuring place to start when life off the mat becomes chaos.
Supta Virasana (Lying Down, Hero): Sit on the floor between bent knees, spreading about eighteen inches apart, and place a bolster under the bottom so as not to stress the joints. This pose can be used for meditation and pranayama (breathing).
Janu Sirsasana: (Seated Head to Knee) Sit with one leg extended and the other bent and placed into the upper inner thigh and groin. Gently twist and fold over the extended leg with a flat back.
Paryankasana One: Same as Supta Virasana but with one leg extended while the other remains bent and close to the thigh. Bend at the hips over the extended leg.
Marichyasana: Sit with the left leg extended, the other bent and pulled into the abdomen. Bend at the waist and reach the same side arm around the bent knee toward the back where the other hand grasps the wrist of the hand wrapped around the bet knee. This can reduce stiffness in the back, neck and shoulders, areas aggravated by the stress of grieving.
Ika Pada Rajakapotasana (One-Legged King Pigeon). Right leg bent with chin parallel to the front of the mat. Left leg is extended straight behind, toes on the floor, with even hips. Inhale with one breath, shoulders back and up, then bend over the front leg. This pose is restorative as the opening of the hips can help release suppressed emotions.
Uttanasana (Standing Forward Bend): Standing straight, bend at the hips until hands rest evenly on two blocks placed in front of each foot. This pose relieves anxiety and slows down the heartbeat.
Heart openers will help one to heal and to open up to all the positive things in life. When we grieve we often round our shoulders and pull inward.
Matsyasana (Fish): Lie on your back, legs extended straight in front. Push into the elbows and arch the head back.
Dhanurasa (Bow): Lie on your belly, legs bent and hands grasp tops of feet. Legs pull up rather than the arms pull the legs into the body. The position naturally raises the body off of the floor.
Urdhva Dhanurasana (Wheel): Lie supine on the floor, knees bent and set hip distance apart. Plant hands equidistant of shoulders behind the head and push up and into wheel pose where the heart, chest and throat are open.
Poses that require balance may help to restore one’s balance. They build confidence and create openness to new experiences.
Ardha Chandrasana (Half Moon): Leg straight and planted on the floor. Bent at the hip with same side hand on the floor, opposite leg straight (parallel to floor) and opposite extended straight above.
Salamba Sirsasana (Supported Headstand): Arms bent, hands grasp (in a concave shape) around the crown of the head. Legs extend straight above.
Vrksasana (Tree): Standing tall, left bent leg and place foot on inner thigh. Reach and extend both hands straight above head.
Crow: From a squat position, place hands on the floor in front of you, feet together. Shift weight to the hands and lift feet off the floor, knees in the pockets of the underarms or resting along triceps.
Side Crow: Variation of crow with legs extended to one side, hands planted in front the same way.
The above represent simple explanations of the poses as they would be photographed, and are not specific instructions. Asanas should be performed with the consult of a certified yoga instructor together with mindful breathing.
The postures don’t relieve the feelings but the combination of asana and pranayama help access them. Dr. Lois Wald added, “Holding postures longer than usual fosters a sense of surrender which can allow deeper feelings to emerge. All you can do is feel it no matter what you try to do or not to do.”
1.Slowing the breath allows us to let go and simply be;
2.Relaxes rigidity and tightness in the body that occurs as a result of trauma;
3.Focusing on drishti (gaze) and breath helps empty the mind of chita (monkey brain);
4.Mindfulness of the chita allows its release;
5.The community of like-minded people create a supportive environment – typically, yoga practitioners have an interest in improving themselves.
Yoga itself is not the relief. “Yoga can help in the transformation of grief from the overwhelming feelings of grief. The understandable wish is to deny these feelings. It’s a slow process of learning to feel the grief and incorporate it in healthy ways,” said Dr. Wald.
There is no magic concoction that allows for grief to subside. Once the feelings present themselves, what do you do with them? Here are some essential ways that helped us better take care of ourselves:
1.Talk honestly with someone you trust (friend or therapist);
3.Be alone when you need to be alone.
4.Be with people more than you think you need to be;
5.Engage in physical activity, apart from yoga, that makes you feel good;
7.Do the things you love even when you don’t want to – everyone has different methods of self-nurturing;
8.Be patient. It will take longer than you think it will to feel normal;
10.Eat nourishing food.
Injured or not, we just keep breathing and moving… arms, legs and lungs. That’s all it is. That’s all of it.
Lucky, (trying) twisty me. I’ve been practicing yoga off and on for twenty years – most of that time being off.
The last seven years have been consistent and I’ve been blessed to have fantastic teachers along the way.
One of the gifts of this journey, as been to watch some amazing individuals grow as teachers, one of whom has flourished into one of the more balanced and intuitive instructors; each class taught by Samantha Sidari Tollinchi is offers a different flow, and taps into the energy of the season.
One such class left a particular impression on me – I wish that I had a microphone or video recording device for that one hour. It was perfect class.
I’m not kidding.
Instead, Samantha sent me the below after I asked her for a quick summary of the intentions and awareness she brought to everyone’s mat that day:
“Ayurveda is considered a sister science to yoga, both coming from the Vedic tradition in India and are approximately 5000 years old. The word Ayurveda translates as ‘the science of longevity’ and includes using herbs, food, asana poses and what is known as pancha karma (purification practices) to heal and balance an individual. All people are unique and not one prescription therapy would be used for another person.
Currently we are in the fall season, which is known as vata season in Ayurveda. Each season has it unique characteristics that require different changes to our diet, yoga practice, etc… in order to keep ourselves in balance. Vata is comprised of space and air and characteristics include light, dry and windy. To balance vata, grounding is required. Moving slower and more deliberately in yoga, eating heavy, oily, denser foods, all help to balance out the airy environment around us.
Vata season is a natural time to deepen your spiritual work.”