Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Being a Donkey

If somebody said you were a donkey, I don't think you'd take it as a compliment.   I, however, would like to be a bit more like a donkey. It's not the stubborn part of the donkey that interests me.  Lord knows I've been working on softening my desire to dig in my heels and hold my position. So, the donkey quality that I'm fascinated by is the steadiness of doing the same work day after day.

This connection came to me after a great lesson from Certified Iyengar teacher, Betty Larsen. During one of her technique demonstrations, I commented on her phenomenal virasana.  She told me, "You are just praising the donkey."  I asked her what she meant.  And she said, "If you do the work every day, this is just the fruit of the practice."  "Alright," I said, "I am complimenting your ability to be the donkey and show up every day and do the work."  "Fair enough," she remarked.

I'll tell you, it's hard to show up and do the fundamental work. We all want to express our movement in the biggest form possible. We're thinking, "Super size me!"  and  "I want to look like the women on the cover of the magazine!"  The only way, I think, to safely move in that direction is to build a solid foundation focusing on fundamentals.  Baby movements - sometimes micro - connected to breath with total awareness - feeling the difference - is how the shape shift occurs.

It takes a long time to plow a field. The donkey does not know this.  It just keeps moving forward across the field of its existence. The donkey also does not know what seed is planted and if weeds or wheat will grow.  The donkey doesn't wonder about rain or sunshine.  It just steadily plods across the terrain. And when the donkey eats the wheat - the fruit of its labor - it does not make the connection to its dedicated work in the field.

As humans, we can make the connection. What we often lack is the patience to just keep walking in the same direction.

Working privately with students, I often get to witness their amazement of the power of the fundamental work.  This week, a very athletic gentlemen couldn't stop laughing from feeling his body in a new way - marveling at the contrast after only doing Supta Padanghustasana on one side - and then pausing to feel the difference before continuing on with his second side.

These moments of witnessing the light come on helps remind me to stay steady with the work in my personal practice.  And as my leg swelled to two times its normal size earlier this week - thanks to my joint disease - I offered gratitude to the donkey work that has returned me to my full potential within 2 days.

What we teach as movement therapists is powerful.  I am a living testimony to the work - even if it is donkey work.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

If I Got a Tattoo...

Located at the beach, the gym where I've taught for over 15 years has phenomenal diversity.  And we all rub off on one another.  It's cool to witness not only how the generations influence one another, but also how folks from all walks of life make connections.

Last week, when I popped into a mat Pilates class taught by a good friend & teaching colleague, I was beside a long time fellow "gym rat"- a woman who's taken good care over the decades and continues to move with amazing grace combined with internal strength. As I unfurled my mat beside her, I noticed peeking out from beneath the hem of her paints - a vine - tattooed - and wrapping around her ankle.  I asked her how far the vine traveled up her leg because I envisioned how awesome it would be if it followed one of the Spirals of Anusara Yoga.

Living and working in the beaches area has allowed me to see some amazing body art - especially at the gas station where folks are often filling their tank in not much more than their underwear or a bikini that covers even less!

So, after teaching this morning, I'm wondering if I ever get a tattoo - where and what would it be?  This morning, one of the ideas we worked on is that the arms both draw into center and expand out. And in Anusara Yoga, we specifically draw into the heart space - the essence of who we are.  This energy body idea also connects fully with anatomy and how we are structurally designed. You will totally get this if you study the arm lines via Tom Myers' Anatomy Trains.

From my studies, I know that the work of my hands is a reflection of my heart.  As we joke in class, the more you connect with this idea of "the hands being the 'doers' of the heart" - the less apt you are to hit someone - the less likely you are to give them the finger.  Because, really, truly - that is not your heart's work - that is not who you are.

So, here's where my tattoo would be placed.  A pink heart - for the color of transformation.  A green one for the color of the heart space in the energy body.  And a blue heart - so my words also reflect the essence of my heart more fully.

Also from my studies, I know that the palm of our hands has incredible sensory perception.  We feel a lot through our hands.  We easily discern weight, texture, and temperature.  I've heard that if you placed a quarter on your hand, there are more sensory nerve endings in that space than there are in your entire back.  Our hands are meant to feel.

So, really, could I tolerate the sensation as the tattoo was designed on the palm of my hand?  Am I really willing to feel that much?  If I tattooed this place, would the sensory overload then lessen my ability to feel in my hand and eventually my heart? On the advice of respected tattoo artists, I think I'll pass.

May we lovingly hold our hearts in the palm of our hands.  May the work we do in this world reflect our heart-felt desire. As we breathe, may our hearts feel the ever-present connection to the Great Heart.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Savvy Students Do the Following...

In a recent Pilates Style article (July/August 2011), BASI Pilates Certified Instructor Danielle Connor offers students tips to help evaluate a movement teacher.  I have paraphrased some of her words.

1.  Has the teacher asked important questions about your health and the condition of your body?

2.  Have they given you any background about themselves aside from their certification?

3.  Do they have extensive knowledge of anatomy and kinesiology?  It's not just about teaching the exercises; it's about knowing how the body works so the exercises are applied correctly and safely.  Not only will you see quicker and better results if the instructor is able to explain how your body works, but you'll learn how to apply what is being taught to you to your everyday life.

4.  Do they have a deep understanding of the exercises and how to apply them to your body?

5.  Do they demonstrate and cue the exercises clearly?

6.  Does the instructor have a clear eye?  Are they catching muscle imbalances, movement patterns, weaknesses and strengths, areas of tightness or hyper-mobility?  Are they providing proper, appropriate, and timely alignment cues?

7.  Do they recognize how you learn?

8.  Are they personable?  Do you get a warm vibe from them?  You want to know that the instructor you are working with genuinely cares about your well-being and your results.