Monday, October 28, 2013


It has been about a month since I last blogged, but it actually feels like much longer than that because the days have been flying by.  My theatre job ended and I immediately started working in TV again as a set costumer and I have been loving every minute of it!  And there have been many many minutes.  I average about 12-16 hours a day, usually 4-5 days a week, so my typical week has been anywhere from 40-60+ hours, depending on the situation.  Occasionally I'll work 8 or 10 hours...12 seems short sometimes!  My schedule is unpredictable and always changing, and I'm always working in different locations, whether I'm working on location or at the studios.  I "dayplay" which means I work on different shows as a freelancer, and I'm currently working mostly on The Blacklist and Elementary, with a couple of days on The Good Wife very recently. To someone who does not work in TV or Theatre, this probably seems like a totally insane way to live.  And it is.  And I have to admit I love it.

I feel like my life has changed completely in the last month, and that is because it has.  I have decided to put teaching yoga on the back burner for a while.  There are a few reasons why this is the best choice for me right now, which include not only healing myshoulder situation (updates on that later) but also lots of financially based reasons.  Also, TV work is what seems to be happening for me right now, this work just sort of starting coming to me, so I'm going to ride the wave, rather than struggle with a new business in which I have very little connections locally.  Of course, I have been working hard in the costuming field for a long time, so in a sense, I have been trying to find my niche in that area for quite some time.

I just have to say that I'm very happy.  I'm feeling very connected to the shows I am working on, and feeling proud to be part of a couple of fantastic crews.  And I'm making a healthy paycheck, which is nice.  I'm socializing, meeting tons of new people, and visiting places I'd never have access to if I wasn't working these jobs.
Yoga will always be a part of my life, and I love sharing it with people and feel very connected in my soul through teaching.  Which is why I'm not abandoning it forever, just stepping away for a while until I figure out a way to make it work for me.  I'm thinking that perhaps trying to go straight to privates or to go the corporate route might be best, once I've established myself enough in the TV world to be able to have a regularly scheduled day off in which to teach yoga.  I've heard that there are a couple of ladies out there in the biz that have managed to combine the two careers successfully, and I hope to meet them and get some advice.  But for now I'm going to keep plugging away at my day job(s). 

For those of you who enjoy reading my blog just because I write it and don't care if I talk about yoga or not, first of all- I love you! second, I hope to write a little bit about my work, because it can be oh-so-entertaining!

Until then, please enjoy this photo of me in wheel over a giant fish costume that was sexed up by John Hamm a couple of years ago on SNL.  See, I was combining my yoga and costuming career before I even thought about teaching in NY!

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Short list of hotel room/traveling comforts

I'm currently traveling for work and living in a hotel room for 10-ish days, writing this post on my itty bitty phone, so I will keep this simple. The theme of simplicity is right on target with living in a hotel room, and I enjoy that connection.
I may be traveling again soon for work, but for a much longer time, so naturally I am taking notes from this trip. Part of me is nervous about the possibility of being on the road for almost 2 months, given my aching shoulder situation, but the way I see it, my shoulder is going to do what it's going to do, no matter where I am.
So, here is my list of things that make living in a hotel room, working long hours and being away from home not only comfy, but maybe even therapeutic.. I would like to be able to pack all of these things for future work trips.

1) foot therapy ball. (Google it) sooo good on the arches
2) tennis ball for self massage (back/shoulders/hips) against the wall
3) yoga mat- it's so nice to have enough room in my hotel room to just leave it out!
4) wine
5) lavender essential oil. I fling it all over the room or add it to my table side humidifier- (if I've brought it). Can also be used in the bath or as perfume
6) allergy meds- at least for the first couple days. It seems to help my reaction to recirculated air and offensively stoing cleaning products- I have a super sensitive nose
7) vitamins- gotta keep the immune system healthy. Especially important is vitamin D and shoulder meds for anti-inflammation
8) journal. Quiet alone time in a hotel room can lead to much self reflection, list-making, note taking, drawing etc.
9)book to read.
10) organic coconut oil for oil pulling. It's a routine I have developed and it's nice to be able to maintain that. It could also be used on the hair for a deep conditioning treatment, or on skin for a moisturizer.
11) bathing suit for jacuzzi

Extra bonus therapeutic/comfort things aka items I wish I had brought but felt I could do without for a long week. It might be nice to bring these things for a longer trip:
1) bedside mini humidifier
2) heating pad
3) neti pot
4) manicure supplies- polish, remover, file. It's nice to be able to freshen up the nails...

Saturday, September 7, 2013

but wait, there's more...

Last night when I arrived home, there was a birthday package waiting for me.  I checked the return address and was excited that it came from Morgantown, West Virginia, home of my soul-sister, Elizabeth of BlissBlissBliss.  Elizabeth and I have shared a beautiful friendship for 19 years and I could probably write a blog post about the things I have learned from her and ways that she and her family have enriched my life, but that isn't the project for today!  Today's post is inspired by last night's phone conversation and our discussion of homeopathic remedies, yoga and pain management.

As I opened the surprise box, I snapped some photographs and texted them to her, along with my first reactions to her gifts, in an effort to share the experience.  Elizabeth has a knack for gift-giving; everything is chosen and packaged colorfully with such thought and love, and it's always a treat for the senses to receive a gift from her. There is usually a lot of colorful, pretty sparkly goodness and oftentimes good smelling items as well. Included in my present were a couple of personal items, some tea from Elizabeth's own kitchen, and a book by Jack Kornfield from her library.  This was extra special to me.  I opened the book to this page and sent the picture to E.
 It says: 1)In business, reinvest a portion of all you make, keep a portion for your use, save a portion for those in need.
2)Whatever we cultivate in times of ease, we gather as strength for times of change. 
The first quote reminded me that I probably should not shop for a new Fall wardrobe right now and felt kind of like motherly advice and somewhat nagging- ha! Still it is good advice and timely.  The second  really resonated with me and made me smile.  It made me happy for myself that I know how to have a good time and appreciate being in the moment.  I reflected on what I do during "times of ease" and made a connection to sowing seeds for a garden.  It was reassuring.

Sending photos and texting was a fun way to share a moment long distance, but soon we grew tired of typing on tiny keypads and just called each other.  During our conversation, E asked what all I was doing for my shoulder, and I listed some of the remedies/therapies I'd been practicing.  I realized that I forgot to list these in my previous post, so I'm adding them here now.

1) I've been laying on this spiked bolster, made by Lotus, NY. I first saw an ad for a similar product in Yoga Journal a few years ago, but it was a towel/meditation mat covered in these plastic spikes.  The idea is that you lay on it and, as in acupuncture, the nerve endings just below the skin are stimulated, releasing endorphins into the blood, stimulating blood circulation and increasing intake of oxygen.  I LOVE this thing!  It's super weird, and slightly painful upon first contact, but it totally relaxes me when I lean into it.  This pillow has helped my insomnia.  I lay with the bolster running the length of my spine, and have found it to be an  instant sedative.  Sometimes I lay on it under my low back, stimulating the kidneys and digestive organs, and I feel like it helps me to detox.  Sometimes I put it right around my hurt shoulder and I feel like that is helping because it's sending fresh oxygen to those muscles.  But overall, I like this bolster because it feels good and instantaneously clears my mind.

2) Rolling a tennis ball between my back and the wall*
It's remarkable how deeply I can massage my own muscles with almost no effort.  I am saving so much money and blasting out all of the huge knots in my back by standing against the wall, with the tennis ball under my shoulder blades and slowly rolling up and down by bending my knees.  This is a practice I'd like to incorporate into the restorative yoga classes I teach.
*bonus points because I do squats at the same time, multi-tasking getting more exercise into my day!

3) Arnica Gel:  I'm not sure if this is working because on the tube the directions say that it is good for fresh injuries, and mine is old, but I figure it doesn't hurt!

4)Vitamins C, E and Zinc:  I read somewhere online that these vitamins would help to speed the healing of tendons, and strengthen bones.  While I am already taking a multi, fish oil,  liquid vitamin B, and D on the recommendation of my GP (to keep my thyroid in check), I thought I would try to supplement and see if that helps too.

and the 5th item that is helping me to heal is the act of sharing love with good friends, family and animals, whenever I can.

Friday, September 6, 2013

The 40 year old shoulder, aka my excuses for not blogging lately

 A post is long overdue.  During the summer, when I didn't have a "day job" and was focusing on teaching yoga and developing my career, social media upkeep was higher on my priority list.  But now that I'm back at work plus teaching classes, I just haven't had the time.  I guess it's really only been a couple of weeks, but it feels like forever since I've sat with my laptop at the coffee shop and just typed typed typed away.  I miss it.

I got primal on my birthday
There are other contributing factors to my recent dip in devotion to blogging.  One is that I was busy trying to figure out what to do for my 40th birthday.  I am not a person who is disturbed with my own process of aging, in fact, I'm pretty fascinated by it.  I could live without some of the side-effects like memory loss, achey body parts, and changes in skin elasticity, but overall, it doesn't bother me.  I think I'm aging naturally pretty well and I'm thankful for that. However, now that I've crossed that 40 threshold, I have noticed that life feels slightly different.  Like any major life change such as losing a parent, getting married, getting divorced, moving across the country, starting a new career (all of which I have experienced, some more than once), it's one of those happenings that you can't just ignore and pretend hasn't happened.  For better or for worse, things are just kind of different.

 I hadn't really considered this to be a "major" birthday for me until about a month before the day.  I like birthdays, and tend to celebrate for days. Because I didn't feel like this year was a big deal -yet everyone around me seemed to think it was and wanted to talk about it- I felt disconnected from the idea of the event.  Why didn't I have any strong feelings about it? What was there to talk about?  It's a birthday.  I started to feel very introspective. Then, all of a sudden it kind of hit me and I was pretty emotional in the days leading up to August 29th.  It grew to be a big-ish deal in my head. I was thinking about my life and 40 and "am I where I want to be" and "what do I really want out of life" "I'm so lucky to have this and be that" business.  I started thinking about aging and where will I be 20 years from now, and will I be healthy?
Will I be broke?
Will I be single?
Will I still be interested in having sex? (I think I know the answer to that one)
Will I still be in Brooklyn?  If so, will I like it?
morning glory or tiny universe?
Will I have a roommate? be shacked up? be homeless?
Will I have a pet? what about kids?
Will I have a garden?
Will I still be teaching yoga? doing costumes?
Will I have a place in the country?
...and more related questions.  Of course, I won't know the answers until 20 years from now, if I'm still alive and coherent. But it's nice for me to be preoccupied with thoughts about the big picture of my life, to check in with myself again at this stage and to experience the emotions that come up with this kind of self-reflection.  It's also nice to let all of that go.

 For the record, I had a wonderfully decadent birthday celebration in the country with sweet friends.  I ate lots of butter and sweets, drank coffee, booze, played scrabble, drew pictures, cooked, chatted, wandered,  wondered, joked, picked fruit, fed a horse from the palm of my hand, slept in, socialized and more. It was perfect.

drawing of sumac. it's poisonous and powerful
Anyway, another reason I've been dropping the ball on blogging is because I have gone full force crazy time with my effort to heal my rotator cuff injury. I reached a point of supreme annoyance, sadness, frustration, etc. about being in pain.  Though it's not severe, it's chronic and I don't want to live like this anymore so I'm kicking my shoulder's ass and taking it's name.  My wholistic prescription:
1)acupuncture 2X a week
2)lots of epsom salt baths
3)heating pad at night
4)anti-inflammatory meds
5)being more mindful in the ways I use my arm
6)doing my PT stretches
7)doing my PT strengthening exercises
8)doing some yoga daily, but avoiding shoulder
9)taking time to relax by cutting down on my socializing and projects/not over-busying myself.
10)***practicing the art of patience***

All of those things take time too, which takes time away from blogging, unfortunately. 

So far, it seems my shoulder is starting to feel a little better.  I have committed to doing all of these things for at least 6 weeks before I decide it's hopeless and I'll never heal and I hate my rotator cuff forever. I know I'd never really do that, because I have learned not to hate any part of myself and to only love myself (thanks 40!) But sometimes it helps me to toy with the idea of playing out the dramatic option, even though I know I won't do that. So that I can remind myself that I am making good choices....

But for now, I'll focus most of my efforts on #10 while I heal and reflect on my path in this life, today.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

My Current Resume, Bio and Business Card

Over the past few months, I have been making progress in the paperwork department of my yoga teaching career.  In order to start getting paid by the studio, there is a list of items that I need submit to them.  Included in this list is my resume, headshot, bio, EIN #,  and other types of documents for tax purposes.  I figured that since I put together a Yoga resume, I might as well add it to my blog.  However, not being particularly technologically savvy, I can't figure out how to do that!  I have spent many minutes too many looking through possible gadgets and such, but I have only enough patience to post it this way right now!
My bio also follows:
~My interest in yoga first developed some time around 1999 when I found a vintage yoga book in a thrift store in Austin that changed my life.  Over the years, my interest grew as I went from teaching myself in my living room, to taking classes at studios in my neighborhood, to developing a committed home practice, completing an intensive 200hr. Teacher Training program in Pittsburgh, PA, and now blogging and teaching restorative yoga in Brooklyn.  Throughout many changes in my life, yoga has been a support for me in many ways.  Having experienced it’s numerous benefits physically, emotionally, and energetically, I believe that yoga is a key to unlocking happiness in several ways, but especially physically by releasing some of the pain and emotional discomfort that we hold onto deep in our bodies- areas such as the hips and shoulders and even our guts!  By beginning to release that, we can begin to free ourselves emotionally, and that feels good.  I currently teach gentle and restorative classes that support therapeutic release and deep relaxation.  My classes are suitable for new students as well as advanced yogis. I honestly feel that every person in the world can benefit from practicing some form of yoga!

I ordered these super cute business cards on My only regret in designing them is that I did not include the address to this blog.  I just couldn't find a look that I was happy with because wherever I placed it, it just seemed to crowd the space of the page, and I wanted to keep an open, light feel.  That's OK because these are my first yoga business cards and I'm sure I'll end up ordering some other ones once I have given all of these away. 

Thursday, August 15, 2013

my first private yoga session

One of my career goals as a yoga teacher is to have private clients as well as teach corporate yoga.  (OK, so that's TWO goals...) I have had a little experience teaching corporate yoga through a few free classes at StoryCorps but that was a short lived and poorly-attended introduction to it.  Ideally I would go to big businesses and office spaces and teach a few classes a week to employees in their space, paid for by the corporation.  I'm really attracted to the idea of bringing yoga to people who work in highly stressful jobs, and see this offering from their employer as a major perk, and one day I hope to be part of that world.  So far I have not had the chance to consult yoga one on one...until recently.

I send out a weekly email listing my class times and locations that sometimes includes a little update on my progress if something exciting has happened on my yoga journey.  Through this weekly email blast, a friend of mine, Ursula, who owns and runs a printing press (and makes beautiful cards!!!), contacted me for advice on what type of class to take for some work related pain she is experiencing and expressed interest in having a private class. While I recommended my restorative class, as it would be beneficial for pretty much anyone and requires no muscular effort or any previous yoga experience, restorative poses wouldn't necessarily target the areas that are bothering her and bring her the type of muscular relief she is seeking.  Restorative yoga could bring her energetic and emotional relief in addition to relief from stress and would help to rejuvenate her, but I couldn't guarantee it would help her specific ailment, because that is not the focus of restorative yoga.
I was hesitant to recommend another class since I didn't know her yoga experience or what was going on with her pain, so a private seemed the best idea.  I was very excited to be meet the challenge of assessing her needs and creating a practice just for her.  I made a list of some questions that I thought would be useful not just for her situation, but for future private clients as well.   I didn't want to get too clinical or impersonal (or personal) on our visit so I didn't ask every single question, but we discussed quite a few of the following and I was able to make an assessment of her situation:
(not Ursula's press, I just liked the image)

-what kind of space do you have/ do you have a space available to practice at home?
-who is home/around/in your space when you can practice? (babies, pets, spouses, roommates)
-how much time are you able to give? (15minutes? an hour?  10 in the morning, 10 at night?)
-what time of day will you practice?
- do you do repetitive motions at work?  what are they like?
-do you sit or stand all day or walk around? 
-are you seeing/have you seen a doctor/chiropractor/therapist?
-are you going through a stressful situation/life change?
-how would you describe your sleep habits?
-what is your goal with this private yoga session?  is it physical, emotional...what do you want to get from this?
-what is your diet like?
-what is your experience with yoga so far?

this is the type of press she uses!
Ursula showed me her workspace and demonstrated running the paper press so that I could see the repetitive movements she makes.  I even tried it a couple of times to get a feel for it myself.  She described a shooting/sharp pain originating in her left hip, more towards the back than the front, and also complained of occasional but increasing wrist pain. Looking at the press, I was surprised that Ursula is not feeling any shoulder discomfort -probably because I feel so much shoulder pain that I am constantly aware of and empathetic to it!  But because she is experiencing hip pain, usually there is some compensation in other regions, and for me it is always the shoulders, so I was surprised (and relieved) that she feels fine there. I looked at her shoulders and I noticed that one did seem to be sitting just barely higher than the other.  It was something that nobody would ever notice at all, unless they were looking for it, which I was.  This is totally common and not necessarily related to what's going on in her hip, but I thought it was interesting to note. As a costume designer and an (out of practice) figure drawer, (and a student of anatomy) I love it when I turn on my observant artists eye and I notice things like this!  People's bodies are so interesting to look at, to really observe and see all of the little things that make us so unique!  In my world of costuming, one of my favorite parts of the process of building costumes is taking measurements.  Two people can have almost the same measurements yet their bodies look nothing alike because of things like posture, muscle development, where fat sits on the body and the effects of gravity.  It's so cool!  -My observant yoga teacher eye notices not so much if someone is short-waisted or has long fingers, but how their body (diaphragm and chest) moves when they breathe, or if they are holding their shoulders up to their ears or if their face is super clenched up.  It's neat for me to use all of these qualities of observation...I am thankful to all of those years of figure drawing for developing my eye... but anyway, I'm getting side-tracked...

So after meeting with Ursula, I went home and started researching.  I had a hunch that she is having an issue with sciatica.  I'm not a doctor, but based on my little bit of anatomy training, and books that I have, my sources pointed to that.  My therapeutic yoga books all warned to be cautious with doing yoga (particularly forward bends) if there is an issue with the sciatic nerve, so I thought it best she see a doctor before we proceed. Since neither of us really know what's going on, I wouldn't want to risk her hurting herself more or doing more damage, so the major yoga prescription is on hold for now.  In terms of the wrist pain, I think we can work with that and I can show her a few simple exercises that would help to alleviate that irritation.
Pepper Press!

While I could be upset that my first private yoga session wasn't fully executed in that I wasn't able to develop a practice for her, demonstrate and teach it to her (yet!), I don't feel like it was a waste of time or a loss in any way.  She is going to see a chiropractor (I recommended Dr. Grant of course!) and perhaps also try some acupuncture (on my suggestion, since it has been so helpful with my shoulder pain management), so I am glad that she is taking steps to heal her pain.  And that is a very yogic way!  Yoga is about listening to your body, respecting what it is saying to you, and honoring that.  While she may not be doing asanas (poses) yet, she is certainly practicing ahimsa... "non-injury".. the act of not hurting one's self or others :)  And in the end, I feel good because I too am practicing ahimsa by not choosing to push her to do yoga for my own selfish reasons of wanting to teach!

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Yoga+Gardens=Happy Celina

Today I had the pleasure of assisting Sarah Schumann, the owner of Shambhala Yoga and Dance Center, in an open level class at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, in the Cherry Tree Esplanade!  It was a peaceful and supportive setting and this was quite a lovely way to spend my Sunday morning. 
I arrived at the Gardens right as the security guard was opening up the gates and was among the first few people to enter the gardens.  Quiet surrounded me and I was quickly humbled by the enormous trees and I felt small yet expansive as I strolled towards the rose garden.  I am used to walking through the gardens with other people milling about, and it felt very special to be there as it was practically empty. I took my time as I headed towards our yoga spot.  I noticed the range of emotions that came up as I contemplatively walked through the greenery, I noticed how quiet and calm I became.  The BBG is a special place for me, and I have memories associated with every visit I have experienced there, some happy, some painful.  Though the grounds are thoughtfully landscaped, and therefore not "natural" in the sense of being like untouched mountains or a babbling creek, it is still a place that I like to go to when I need a break from the city and need to be recharged by nature.  I always feel at peace when I'm there, and I was excited to combine two of my loves together- Yoga+Gardens=Happy Celina.
As I moseyed down the sidewalk towards the visitor's center, I saw a pair of giant brown tree-bark-looking moth/butterfly-creatures, just chilling smack dab in the center of the sidewalk.  They stayed still for a while and kindly posed for my picture.  These moth-beasts appeared to be around 4" tall and even seemed to be situated on or attached to some kind of strange base (not visible in the photo)....maybe it was their excrement?  Anyway, they were cool-looking...a cross between tree bark and a moth and a butterfly.  That's the thing about being in nature, whether it's constructed or wild; there are always moments when creatures or plants or water features command your attention and cause you to slow down a bit and ponder life and all of its wonders. 
As I approached the esplanade, yogis were getting settled in the area, some chatting, some remaining introverted, some busying themselves by setting up their mats and removing shoes, etc.  An adorable family came together for the morning class, and as I introduced myself to them, I learned that they had experienced the last esplanade class together as a family as well.  I can't think of anything sweeter!
I joined everyone under the trees and opted to remain matless, as I had planned to move around while assisting.  It was a joy to feel the moist grass on my bare toes, my feet traveled in tune with the tiny hills and valleys of the ground.  Sarah led a sweet class, focusing on our awareness of ourselves in our bodies, in this place outside, among the trees, the grass, the sky, the air, the clouds, and our neighbors.  She has a wonderful approach and voice, and effortlessly guided us to connect our own physical bodies with the earth by beginning the class with a focus on our toes and the balls of our feet.  It was an effective way to bring this awareness of the real physical connection of earth and skin that we were lucky to experience, barefoot in the grass.  
Though my shoulder injury is still nagging me, I was happy to be able to demonstrate and practice with the group for a good amount of the class without abusing myself.  I felt connected to the class in a way that is a different experience from being a student, or a teacher.  I was neither leading as a guide, thinking and vocalizing as I would be as the teacher, nor was I listening intently to follow directions, focusing and challenging myself as I would be in the student role.  Assisting allowed me to gently guide and give manual adjustments, demonstrate, participate or quietly sit back and observe and share the energy of the group.   The class had it's own unique pace for me, which I created...and it was blissful!
Though this was the last yoga class of the summer at the BBG, Sarah has plans to continue the program though the fall and in the winter, and I look forward to practicing in the gardens.  As a person who grew up in Las Vegas, where 4 seasons refers to a hotel, not a reflection of climate cycles, I take great joy in witnessing the visible, colorful changes that happen in plant life.  I can not wait to experience yoga at the Gardens again come fall and winter.  Until then, I'll continue to enjoy teaching my restorative classes at Shambhala.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

update and a recipe

It seems I've fallen behind a bit on my blogging... So, I will just post a quick update and recipe for an awesome salad that I made last night. I'm keeping you on your toes, mixing it up, yes?

My name is on the schedule!
This week has been sort of amazing in terms of yoga's place in my life- and it's only Tuesday! I am teaching 3 classes, one of which is in the evening- tonight in fact!  This is the most I've ever taught in a studio, or anywhere else in a week, and I am really loving it.  I also had my very first private yoga client, visit one of two (or more)...This is a project that is super exciting to me because it requires reserach, study and development of a practice specifically for her.  What I did not know previously is that she has very little yoga experience, so that adds another dimension of challenge.  But I love it
and am thrilled to have the opportunity to work one on one. Lastly, I also attended a meditation workshop last night.  It was about doing meditation while laying down instead of sitting, followed by  a dharma talk.  The meditation was nourishing to me and I'm not sure if I fell asleep or just went really inward, either way, I was pretty out of it and relaxed.  The dharma talk left me confused and feeling un-enlightened.  That's OK.
I do have some anxiety about teaching an evening class, but I'm trying to just ignore it.  I think I am nervous because I don't know how many students to expect, so it is a little difficult to plan the class.  In restorative yoga, we use lots of props, which take up space, often spilling out off of the mats, so smaller classes are better, spacially.  Thankfully, I did some training in teaching restorative yoga with minimal props, so I can adapt, but I'm not at the place where I have all of that stuff just memorized and ready to come out of me, smoothly and gracefully... so my approach will be to plan for both a large class and a smaller one.  Argh!
Also, the class is 15 minutes longer than my usual, so I need to fill that time.  But I think I have that covered, in that we'll do a longer, more active warm-up. 
Also also also, I'll be subbing for the regular teacher, and I haven't had the chance to take her class since this subbing situation popped up last minute.  I know that we teach similar styles, but I don't want to disappoint her regular students by, well,  not being her- haha.  There's nothing I can do about that and I need to just get over that as well. 
In all, I'm not THAT nervous, and I'm really excited.  This won't be my very first time teaching, so I've got that going for me. 

Yesterday's class was fun, and I was rewarded by a comment one of my students made.  She said "that was like a mini vacation". YES!!!  That's what I want people to feel. 
The class started off a bit rowdy because a small group of lady friends came together who had not seen each other for a while and made plans to do my class socially.  That's totally my kind of jam, I'm all about bringing people together as I am a self-proclaimed social butterfly queen.  I felt honored that they chose to come to my class, but there was talking and busy energy about the room as we began.  One of the ladies, who now I realize must have been a brand new beginner and so was feeling a little self-conscious as we started, she kind of did her own thing and was also sort of talking to her friends a little while we were warming up. I had to assert myself as the teacher, and take control a bit.  It wasn't a big deal, but it was a hurdle I wasn't expecting to have to get through.
Anyway, the students started to calm down, cool off, and feel good.  I could see it in their bodies.  I think that the situation with the rowdiest lady who might have felt a little uncomfortable could have been nipped in the bud if I had remembered to ask if anyone was brand new to yoga.  I didn't think about it because restorative yoga can be practiced by anyone- no experience necessary to reap the benefits- so it didn't really concern me.  But, in forgetting to ask the students, I was only thinking of my own experience as a teacher, and I could have made her feel more comfortable upfront were I to address this at the beginning of class.  Now I know.  I think it is also good in that it opens up the conversation in the room, and makes me seem more open and approachable (or rather, exposes my openness and approachable-ness).  I want my students to want to ask me questions and interact and engage, so I'm happy to have found a new way to show that I am available.

and on to the food.  As well as being a social butterfly queen, I also consider myself to be a salad maker queen.  This is one I threw togehter last night.  

 Toustous (Couscous + Tuna= Toustous)

1 cup couscous
1 1/4 cup cold water
juice of 1 lemon
a little olive oil

Mix all of these ingredients in a bowl and let sit overnight (ideally), covered.  (6 hours was enough for me yesterday though) ---so this is great, you can start it in the morning before work and then when you get home you will have lemony couscous, made without using electricity!

Gather the following to add once the couscous is ready:
cucumber- chopped
a bunch of parsley-chopped
a little bit of kale- finely chopped
avocado- chopped
handful of sundried tomatoes (or regular tomatoes)
sunflower seeds
fresh chives or green onion
can of tuna*-whatever type you prefer
more lemon juice to taste
S+P to taste
balsamic vinegar to taste
more olive oil to taste

mix it all up in a bowl and top with a dallop of plain yogurt and maybe a scoop of hummus and you are rocking it.
 *you could also use salmon, but then the recipe would have to be called Soussous which is a little strange

Friday, July 19, 2013

Kids yoga-the last day

Last week at Camp Rhythmo, the kids had their final showcase, which they have been building up to and working on for weeks.  When I walked into the cafeteria, I was impressed with the set-up; displays of all of their projects and creations were hanging on the walls, including my favorite, the yoga collages we made on our first day together! I was excited to see the kids perform their songs and do the choreography and of course, their yoga demonstration.  The show was adorable and I felt so proud of the kids.  I may have even teared up a little, or maybe there was an eyelash in my eye??

On my very first day teaching kids yoga, I had no idea what I was getting myself into, but I ended up feeling so grateful for having had the opportunity to do this.  Sadly, the second session of the camp was cancelled due to low attendance, but my last day with the kids was probably one of the most challenging and the most rewarding. 

I walked in to the school room for my first day of session 2, and saw only three boys, which was a drastic reduction from my very first day when I met somewhere around 20-24 kids. Two of the boys I already knew from session 1, and the other boy was new.  My first thought was "Yay!  everyone can have their own mat!"  and my second thought was "How am I going to do this?"
The class started off a little rough.  I wasn't sure how to structure it since there were so few of them.
I decided to take a different approach and create it like a real/grown up yoga class...teacher up front so that students can watch the demonstration of poses, and students' mats lined up perpendicular. I needed to review and teach the new kid yet try to avoid boring the returning kids...I saw the challenge in this because not only were the returning kids a bit distracted and rowdy, but the new kid seemed tired and uninterested.  hmph.

I quickly went through poses we knew and had the returning kids demonstrate.  We covered breathing techniques and I introduced nadi sodhana.  New kid was not impressed.  So I pulled out my secret weapon- partner boat pose.  Fun was had by all!  That really got them all going! Sensing from this that we needed a faster moving class, we moved right into downward facing dog and then one-legged DFD.  A little bit of a balance challenge.  The boys were keeping up and seemed to want more of a challenge, so I sped things up and introduced the concept of sequencing. We flowed over and over through the poses we knew, taking short breaks in child's pose and then slowed down a bit and studied Tree Pose.  "This is boring and hard" said a boy that is often very distracted.  I replied only, "really?"
I could tell I was losing them so I decided we should be more playful and fun. We used our imaginations and turned our mats into magic carpets and went on a magic carpet ride, but that kind of backfired and caused them to want to constantly lift their mats up and not really do yoga...So I got us standing on our mats to do partner tree poses and we all grew like a forest, which was a good group activity.  (even though tree pose is apparently boring and hard)  Thankfully, we were nearing the end of our allotted time, because I was running out of ideas.
Wearily, tired new boy asked when we were going to "relax", which made me giggle a little bit.  Feeling like I needed a break myself, I complimented him on his excellent suggestion, and enticed them to lay on their backs in "relaxing pose" aka savasana.
It took some work to get them all into the correct form, especially one of the more hyper boys who kept fidgeting and talking.  I sat right up by his head and gently shhhh-ed him/them while verbally taking them on a journey.  I had them imagine being in their favorite place: the beach, their home, their bed, their couch, a garden, wherever they felt best and safe and loved.  I asked them to think about who is there with them, their favorite people, their parents, their pets, their siblings, their friends...I told them that in this place, they didn't have to worry about homework, or chores, or fighting with their siblings or cleaning their rooms.  While calmly shushing the boys between phrases, I noticed that the fidgety one started to become more still, as had the other boys.  I noticed pockets of absolute silence.  Though the boys weren't totally still, they were calm, quiet, and seemed content to just lay there and be.  I tried a little more visualization, but I wasn't totally prepared to do this with them and I didn't want to say anything that would make them uncomfortable or adults in savasana, it can be a very vulnerable place for a child to be, emotionally, and kids have fears about things that I don't even know I kept it light and generic. 

Though part of me wanted to see just how long this could continue and savor the quiet that is so rare among kids this age, our time was almost up, so I instructed them to move into child's pose.  They moved into the pose as if in slow motion. Dr. Grant came over and commented on how tranquil it was in our space and aided me by adjusting the kids and reminded them of their breathing.  Savasana continued on a little bit longer as they sat like rocks in child's pose.  Finally, we had to end the class and after sharing our Namaste blessings to each other, I asked them to reflect on how they felt.  I asked if they felt good right now, if they felt calm and content.  And they convincingly replied that they did. 

As I reflected upon the difference in the energy the boys had been throwing around the room only minutes before our practice, and smiled at the small but delightful change in the tone of the room.  I felt like I had really accomplished something, and maybe that something is a step towards a more peaceful life for all involved.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

this all would be so much easier if I was independantly wealthy

Henry Cavill is distracting...amiright?
So, I'm currently on a two-month hiatus from my regularly paying gig in the world of theatrical costumes.  My plan for this time was to: a) really focus on my yoga study b) teach yoga c) figure out  how I am going to transition into making a living in this field, or at least try to come up with some sort of plan or list of goals and sense of a timeline.  So far I am about 3/4 of the way through this hiatus.  I can happily say that I've been doing well and for the most part, staying focused on the big picture. But my approach and mind has been a bit scattered: one day I'll study kids yoga, the next I'll spend some time studying restorative...maybe I'll research upcoming therapeutic teacher trainings for this fall? ...but how will I pay for it?  ...what about reading some books on personal finance...but which one? ...and I need to network... and I need business cards and a webpage... and hey- what about actually doing some yoga?  Oh yah, I can't really, because I'm injured.... GRR! ...And hey, also, I'm single and I'd like to meet and date someone awesome...but I want it to be easy! HA.  (actually, I don't really care that much about that right now, which is refreshing)

Anyway, though it has been tempting to stray from my goals and just go out and socialize and date and such, I am devoted to seeing this through.  I would be really pissed at myself if I just wasted all of this time partying or running around NYC, blowing all of my cash and getting off track.  I'm aware of how important this time is for me and I won't let it just slip by.

Over the past several weeks,  I've been making a lot of progress and have been growing as a yoga teacher, but I have often felt stuck and as if I have nowhere to turn.  Though I have a lovely auxiliary support system, I don't have a mentor, or someone that I can check in with regularly that will let me know that I am making smart choices or help to keep me on track and give me  advice.  And I find that I don't know where to focus my energy.  Yes, I have a couple of very dear friends that ask about my progress, and I am thankful to have them to discuss ideas and I value their feedback and encouragement, but they aren't yoga teachers (nor are they costumers) so they can't answer all of my questions.  Plus, people have to live their own lives and probably don't want to hear about my stresses when we hang out...I barely want to talk about all of it because it's so complicated!  (Which is why I have this blog, so much easier to write it all out!)
Anyway, today after a mini freakout with a modicum of tears, I picked myself up and headed to the coffee shop...It was time to snap out of it and make shit happen. I decided that I needed to get all of this stuff out of my head and form a visual plan of attack (or more accurately, rewrite my original)  which flowered into a 2 page list complete with lots of arrows and a couple of circled proper nouns. While I've had the book, The Yogi Entrepreneur: A Guide to Earning a Mindful Living Through Yoga by Darren Main for some time, I haven't had the chance to really sit down with it as well as my laptop and my notebook and my calendar all together...all necessary tools in my plan-making practice.  The book was useful, as was the google machine and facebook.

One idea I came up with today that simplifies things is that instead of spending money on more continued ed training, I can save that money and structure my career planning like a syllabus, focusing on one or two areas a week.  I'll train myself in all of these areas that I have only a basic knowledge of thus far- but I'll be serious about it and treat it like school, give myself deadlines and goals for each week.   Maybe I work on social media/marketing myself one week: business cards/flyers/webpage/blogging/emails--- and setting all of that up so that it's easy and organized.  (yes, I know all of that will probably take more than a week to teach myself how to build a web page, but I'm going to keep going with this idea)  Maybe the next week's focus is on Money- personal, business, stuff like learning about investing and saving and retirement (yah, that should definitely be longer than one week) Maybe one week I focus on insurance (health and liability) and legal stuff...And the next I research yoga studios and teachers that I want to practice and teach with... all the while I continue to teach at least one class a week, and maintain my own practice...oh yah and work at my job...and continue healing my shoulder...and maybe try to have a bit of a social life so I'm not totally depressed
OK, it's still overwhelming...but that's OK because it's less overwhelming than it was 6 hours ago.

  Mainly because I've already gotten a good start on said list.  I think I may have found a health insurance option that actually looks promising. Considering all of the (thankfully minor) health issues I've had lately, that was a pretty high priority point. I reached out to friends via facebook and got an amazingly helpful email from one of my awesome costume design grad-school classmates. Not only did she tell me what she knew about an insurance option, but offered more advice on starting your own business.   Thanks Rebecca Frey, owner of Seek New York, I'm sure I'll be asking you for advice again once I get through some of these items on my giant 2 page todo list!

Thursday, July 11, 2013

relaxing and restoring

For the past two weeks I have been happily teaching restorative yoga classes on Mondays at Shambhala Yoga and Dance Studio in their Blossoming Teachers program, where new teachers are given the opportunity to teach and find their voice in a supportive environment.  The Blossoming Teachers classes are donation based and all of the money goes to support cancer research.  I'm happy to be connected with this program not only because it gives me the chance to hold classes in a studio and reach out to new students, but also because I can help fight the beast that is cancer.  Having lost not only my father but also my uncle and young cousin to cancer, it touches a nerve deep in my soul.  This is a way for me to help.  I have often considered the idea of teaching yoga to cancer survivors in a place like Gilda's Club, but currently just thinking about it makes me weepy, so I don't think I'm ready for that yet...maybe some day.

So far I have lead two restorative classes smack dab in the middle of the day on Monday.  The classes have been small, 2-4 students, but I don't mind that, I'm just happy to have new students!  I have been interested in sharing restorative yoga for a while, and have studied it independently and trained in it, but because the practice requires a good amount of props, I haven't been able to teach it in my tiny home because I don't own enough bolsters or blankets.  It's exciting to be able to use the props and have the space to spread out in the studio.

At first, I was very nervous to teach a new style in a new space to people I don't know.  But in order to get through it in a way that I would be happy with myself and the class, I had to bury my insecurities and just dive in.  As I did with conquering my initial fears of teaching kids yoga, I just pretended that I have been doing this forever.  Again this approach worked...(maybe I should apply this to my dating life and I will find success?)  After leading the students in our warm up and getting into the first pose, I became more comfortable and just rode the wave that was me...being a restorative yoga teacher.  I noticed that it felt natural.  I felt confident that people were enjoying it, I could tell that they were.  I could see it in their bodies.  As I talked them down to a more relaxed state, I could see them loosening up and sinking into the mats.  I observed their posture and breathing and took cues from what their bodies were telling me, then guided them into letting was working!  It was awesome!
After class, I encouraged the students to give me feedback and explained that I was new to teaching in a studio.  One (cute) guy said "that was exactly what I needed today" (yay!!) another woman said how nice it was to be able to do restorative yoga in the middle of the day (yay again!) and there were several appreciative "thank you"s...One of my goals in my second class was to try to help them cool down their systems, because it had been a particularly hot day.  I asked if they felt cooler and they said yes, enthusiastically...I believed them and didn't feel like they were just flattering me.
So far, this has been a very rewarding experience for me.  One of my goals in being a yoga teacher is to help people feel better, and I can say that I have been successful in that, at least in a tiny way.
Good stuff

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Kids yoga...diving right in!

A few months ago, my chiropractor asked me if I would come teach yoga to kids in his summer wellness camp, Camp Rhythmo. I had no experience in teaching kids yoga, but I was immediately on board- what a great opportunity!
I started doing my own research to try to figure out how to effectively teach yoga to kids.  I googled stuff, bought some flash cards, read some Yoga Journal articles and reached out to people in my yoga community through Shambhala to get some advice.  One thing lead to another and I was able to participate in one day of a teacher-training workshop through Asana Alphabet.  I credit this workshop with much of my success thus far...I went from being completely ignorant of where to start, to actually being these kids' yoga teacher... at least for a few weeks!

Fast forward to my first day at camp.  I'm not a teacher and haven't been around that many kids at once in years!  I was petrified!  I didn't have too much of a lesson plan worked out- more of just a list of ideas- because I really didn't know what to expect at all.  A friend told me the trick is to pretend I've been teaching kids yoga forever, so I did that.  They had no idea.

I was hoping to make it through about 35minutes of class, and to my delight, I made it all the way through to almost an hour without having a freak-out.
The first 40 minutes of class we learned asanas and breath and had a lot of fun with it.  I didn't worry about alignment or very much beyond just getting them interested.  I encouraged them to move around in the space and make noise, I kept it light and playful.   We made cat meowing sounds and mooed like cows.  We hissed as cobras and stood tall like mountains then grew into trees. They were rowdy but it didn't bother me, there was excitement in the room and I loved it!  I was overwhelmed with the adorableness that was surrounding me...those tiny little fingers and toes...their sweet little voices and laughter...a few of them wanted to be right next to me and hold my was too sweet! 
 Some of the kids were trying to impress me by showing me that they meditate- or at least they sit in a meditation pose complete with a hand mudra and OM.  sooo cute! I was impressed.

After introductions to asanas (poses) we spent some time being creative and made some collages/flash cards/art.  I brought in some pictures of poses from magazines plus some glue and crayons and construction paper and let them go to town.  I didn't give much instruction but was pleased when some of the kids asked how to spell certain poses, or wrote things like "yoga is fun" and "I love yoga".  I was hooked on their enthusiasm.

Overall, my first class (my very first experience teaching real live children in the art of yoga) went pretty well!  I felt good and nobody cried, so I considered it a success.  I had a short check in with Dr. Grant and Michael and we agreed that it was a good class, but might be more manageable for me if we split the kids into two groups and just do 2 smaller back to back classes. That way, the class size would be closer to about 10 kids, resulting in more personal attention and less distractions from other kids...good idea!
I left the school with a huge smile on my face and a lightness in my heart, already planning my next class. What a wonderful way to start a morning!

Friday, June 28, 2013

Chair yoga made me cry

chair yoga?
I've been on a quest for gentle yoga classes that I can take while respecting my shoulder injury.  I'd heard about Chair Yoga and just recently noticed that Shambhala offers a couple of chair yoga classes each week, so I decided to give it a shot.  The description states that it is a good option for those seeking a gentle practice or for those with injuries. I am both of those people right now.
In the studio, several folding chairs were set up in a circle, draped with blankets on the backs and seats for cushioning.  Mara was subbing the class for the first time and just stepped right in and lead us beautifully.  She asked us to grab a bolster and two blocks each. 
We started the intimate class by going around the circle and saying our names, and then reversing.  It felt kind of silly, but I also liked it.  The crowd of students was mixed in age range, race and level of yoga experience.  We were all women.  The common thread was that we all had some sort of limitation due to pain, either chronic or temporary.
Though the class was mostly seated, I still felt like I got some really deep muscular work done, particularly in the abdominal region- which is great! At one point, we squeezed a block between our thighs as hard as we could, maintaining a straight back...that was where the deep core work came in.  (It's funny because it doesn't look like you are doing anything at all, but really you are activating a lot of those core muscles)  We did some warm ups working up from the feet to the shoulders, using the bolster as a support to help open up our backs and side bodies. There seemed to be a strong Iyengar based component to the class- lots of precise alignment and deep muscular work.
Next we used the wall as a prop and played with tree pose and some plank/dolphin/chataranga type of variations.  This was a great upper body strength building focus and really opened up my upper thoracic area (the area between the shoulder blades), which is where I have been holding most of my tension lately.   It also created a nice stretch in the calves and hamstrings.  I felt strong and felt a deep release in that area around the spine between my shoulders, it felt like I was somehow massaging all of those extra large knots that have been plaguing me for the last couple of weeks.  I was happy to feel strong and stretchy.
After the wall, we returned to our chairs and, using the bolsters, did some chest openers using our arms to reach above our heads in a flowing motion.  It was in this asana that I was confronted with the reality of my loss of mobility in my right shoulder.  It seemed that I could barely open out and lift my poor arm.  I used to be able to make huge circles and move any way I want to, but not any more.  It made me sad, I felt defeated, and tears started to well up in my eyes.  I just sat there, doing the flow of the pose as much as I could, and closed my eyes and let the tears gently fall. 
So, I don't know, but I suspect that the opening and deep release that I got from the wall poses tapped into something, and then following that up with actually seeing my limited mobility was a bit emotionally overwhelming.  It's not the first time I've cried in yoga, and probably won't be the last.  That is one of the things I love about yoga so much, is that connection with mind/body/spirit.  Throughout this process of dealing with my injury, I've been strong, fearful, eager to learn and earnest about trying to heal myself.  (okay and sometimes careless and defiant)  But, I haven't really allowed myself to be sad about it, and I needed to let that emotion play itself out.  As I told my students in my kids camp yesterday, sometimes it's the quiet, gentle poses that are the most difficult.  Quieting the monkey mind and connecting with your body, turning off the mind chatter to focus inward is tough work, but necessary for us to grow, heal, and learn and to ultimately truly connect with ourselves and others. 

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Restorative Yoga: doing it/teaching it, even with my injury!

Since I have been nursing my poor sad shoulder for the past few months, I haven't been able to go to a yoga class in ages.  I've been avoiding them because I'm not able to comfortably do Downward Facing Dog or to raise both of my arms above my head without pain.  While I am content to respect my injury and avoid any excess physical exertion, the rest of my body (and soul) is suffering because of the lack of yoga.  My back is in knots and I long to feel a good deep stretch in all of my muscles.  While I am certainly immersed in many areas of yoga right now by way of teaching, reading, studying and blogging, I miss my practice!
Lately, since I've been doing acupuncture and really lightening up on the usage of my right arm/shoulder, I have had some pain-free days and I see a light at the end of the tunnel in terms of recovery.  Last night I went to a restorative yoga class at Shambhala, taught by Alex Phelan.  I went partially to experience the yummy goodness that is restorative yoga for myself, and partially to refresh myself since that is the style of class I will be teaching starting next week.
If you aren't familiar with restorative yoga, it is a gentle, relaxing style of practice that uses props such as bolsters, blankets and blocks for support in passive stretching and release of muscles and tension.  It calms the nervous system and results in very deep relaxation.  Most of the poses are supine (laying down) or seated, and they are held for much longer than in most typical yoga classes of any style.  Basically, when you do restorative asanas, you are letting gravity do the work for you, allowing your muscles to sink into the props, instead of using effort working against gravity to maintain a pose.  It's extremely calming and beneficial for your nervous system (and all of your systems) to counteract all of the effort and stimulation we encounter on a day to day basis, buzzing around in a hyper-aroused state...and not in a good sexy way!
So, Sunday night restorative class...I was so ready for this!  I arrived early for the class and grabbed my props and lay on the mat, easing myself into yoga mode.  We started class seated and closed our eyes,  focusing on the breath for what felt like about 10 minutes.  Then, moving to a supine pose, we rested on our backs with a block placed below the shoulder blades and one supporting the back of the head. You know that feeling you sometimes get at the end of a yoga class, while resting in savasana, ...where you feel so relaxed and calm that you're kind of asleep, but you're not asleep, but you're not thinking about anything and you're perhaps kind of dreaming a little bit but you don't realize it until you hear the teacher's voice bringing you back out?  (yah, I love that feeling) I got to that place in our first pose, and contentedly rode that wave for every pose in the class.  75 minutes flew by in a flash as I melted away.  If the class would have been 5 hours long, you wouldn't have heard me complain.  It was dreamy.
The Art of Teaching Restorative Yoga with Minimal Props with Jillian Pransky

I was familiar with all of the poses that Alex had set up for us.  I wondered if she had trained with Jillian Pransky, who teaches restorative yoga teacher trainings in the city and at Kripalu.  I had the pleasure of taking one of her teacher training workshops at Kripalu in the spring- (The Art of Teaching Restorative Yoga with Minimal Props) and was planning on applying what I'd learned in my own restorative classes coming up in July and August.  My hunch was right, and Alex had studied with's funny that I could tell that...and is probably one of the reasons why I enjoyed it so much.  We had that connection.
Anyway, the moral of the story is: I highly recommend restorative yoga!  If you find yourself in Crown Heights, Brooklyn on Mondays and you're seeking tranquility, please come to my class at Shambhala Yoga and Dance Center.  I promise you'll leave feeling more relaxed than you were when you walked through the door.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Farm Yoga- it happened!

So last weekend I taught a yoga class out under a beautiful tree at The Youth Farm at The High School for Public Service.  Initially I was nervous, but it ended up being awesome! I expected to teach to some kids, which would have given me a sneak preview of teaching yoga to kids, but the students were all adults- which is totally fine! I had never even taken a yoga class outside before, not to mention taught one, so it was probably a blessing in disguise!
I tried to think of every possible aspect that might effect a yogi-gardener doing a practice outside, but naturally there were elements that came up that I didn't anticipate. It was a bit of a challenge to lead and demonstrate without raising my arm above my head, but I explained my (injured shoulder) situation and the students were understanding, of course. Nothing was a major problem at all, and overall the class was a very pleasant experience.
Five of us came together on this hot day to practice under an old beautiful Sycamore tree.  Above us was a view of craggy branches and abundant leaves and beyond that a clear open sky.  Below was soft grass and some hidden little Sycamore tree fruit balls, which are kind of hard and spiky, and really cool looking.  We just moved the spiky balls away and let ourselves really connect with the earth, it was pretty easy to feel grounded. 

spiky balls!
The sky was perfect and though temperatures were high, the shade from the tree kept us cool.  My favorite part was hearing the sound of the wind blowing through the leaves above us.  There were plenty of other city sounds to distract our focus such as the usual police car sirens and screaming teenagers, but I noticed the peaceful sound from the wind and leaves dancing together and challenged the yogis to see if they could find a place within themselves where they heard only that noise. I don't know if it worked for them, but I enjoyed it.  
When prepping for the class, I was very interested in trying to specialize the structure so that I could address specific needs of the farmers such as back pain or stretching the hamstrings.  However, the group was mainly volunteers who had only worked that day so they did not have chronic pain that developed from working the land over time.  Also, they seemed to be in their early 20's and I guess I've forgotten that feeling of invincibility that flows through you as an early's been a while since I've been that age!  Still, they seemed to appreciate the class and what I gleaned from our chat post-class, was that the most fulfilling part of the experience was the combination of working on the farm, getting dirty...being part of that cycle, AND then finishing up the day with a very grounding, gentle yoga practice to end the day.  The two seemed to fit together well. 
After my class I took a little more time to explore the rows and check out everything that was growing.  I cursed my aching shoulder and wished that I could have been out there that morning, weeding and watering, smelling the soil, touching the dirt...but, it wouldn't have been safe.  I vowed to myself to go back once my shoulder is healed, I owe it to myself to spend time caring for a garden- it's so rewarding for me even if its not my own. After a moment, I stopped being irritated at myself and my shoulder and just appreciated the fact that I was there and breathed in all of the loveliness that surrounded me.  The poppies, sunflowers and squash plants seemed to smile up at me and invite me back whenever I am ready to return.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

shoulder pain management: acupuncture

I have been dealing with a dysfunctional shoulder issue for several months now, and throughout this process things have gone from bad to better to worse to really worse to a little bit better.  This past week I experienced the most pain and discomfort to date, and I was feeling pretty sad and scared about the impact of this injury on my life. 
living with shoulder pain
At my last appointment, my chiropractor recommended that I get an MRI because he thinks I may have re-injured it and that I may have a small tear deep in the rotator cuff.  Once he mouthed the letters MRI, I pretty much spaced out and most certainly blocked the word "surgery".  I promised myself to take this experience step by step and (try to) remain calm and not think about horrific things like surgery (and the associated pain, boredom, inability to work, financial burden and loneliness) until that option is formally presented to me as a necessary treatment.  At this point, it is quite possible that it's not as bad as it seems, which is why we are doing the testing. So let us not speak of surgery again.
Dr. Grant told me that one reason why he is concerned is that I am so active. He's fairly in tune with the kind of work I do as a costumer.  He treats tailors, drapers, stitchers and other costumers that work in my field. He's familiar with the various ways that we use our bodies when we work.  He's also well aware of my yoga path, and is supportive of it- so much that he's asked me to teach yoga to kids in his summer wellness camp.  And he's right, I'm a super active person. Though I haven't done a yoga practice in over a month, and I try to avoid carrying heavy things with my right arm, etc., it's really the way that I use my arm in day-to-day activities that are preventing me from healing fully. I just started noticing how much of a strain it is for me to reach into the fridge to grab milk.  Making my bed in the morning hurts my shoulder, even lifting my laptop with one hand is uncomfortable.  And I won't even get into tasks like ironing, sweeping and mopping the yoga studio, cleaning windows or gardening.  I never realized how much I rely on my dear shoulder to do daily activities, and just how often, as in constantly, I use it...until I realized how much it hurts just to get through a normal day.

So again I have been easing up and retraining myself to be ambidextrous...ironing with my left hand, opening doors with my left hand, and of course, leaving my bed unmade! Obviously I'm still avoiding practicing yoga, and I've stopped digging in the dirt.  I'm functioning cautiously and taking time out to ice and heat almost obsessively. Yesterday I went to my first acupuncture session at Brooklyn Open Acupuncture.
After filling out extensive health history forms and discussing them with the practitioner Liz, I climbed onto the table.  I was looking forward to this experience even just for the opportunity to lay on a massage table in a quiet room for an hour! She took my pulse and looked at my tongue, then explained that I might feel a slight pinching sensation like a mosquito bite as some of the needles were inserted. Nothing about it was painful, but because of the severity of the tightness of the muscles around my rotator cuff, I felt some strange sensations.  Liz sort of pinched my skin in order to place the needle in the right spot, but because I had such huge, dense knots, it was clearly difficult for her to insert some of them.  The knots and/or the muscle kept sort of moving around and seizing up (?) it's hard to explain what was happening, but it was crazy!  It was as if the knots were moving to avoid the needles.  Liz explained that I had particularly tense muscles and seemed to have a surprised/shocked look on her compassionate face.  Finally she was finished left me to lay there for a very long time. 
Once all the needles were in, I tried to stay relaxed but was so aware of the minute movements in my muscles and the degrees of tension/release within them individually that I didn't fully drift into a tranquil state.  I wasn't nervous or anything, just aware.  It was really neat to notice the different sensations related to each point where there was a needle.  Some places tingled a little, like a mosquito bite that I wanted to scratch, while other places, like my back muscles-specifically my Teres Minor (maybe?)- seemed to actively tense up and then release then feel light like air.  This tension/release action repeated several times until either it stopped, or I drifted into a less self-aware state and no longer noticed it.
After a while, I felt that I was ready to get off of the table.  Liz came to check on me and remove the needles.  She told me to take my time getting up and I heeded her wisdom.  After laying face down on a table for over an hour and having the treatment, I was O U T of it! I felt so heavy, yet light headed, I didn't dare to stand up for a while. (I'm used to getting dizzy and light headed, so I wasn't overly concerned, but this one was a bit of a doozie) She could see that I was feeling funky, and was very attentive, getting me some water and reminding me to take it easy.  After what felt like 5 minutes of sitting, I decided I was ready to stand.  I slowly gathered my things and thanked Liz and wandered out to the street.  I was floating, and I kind of liked it. 
At this point, I was so floaty, feeling like I was on drugs or something, that I couldn't even tell if my shoulder felt better.  Plus, I wasn't concerned with that.  I just wanted to make sure I could walk down the street without getting run over or having my acupuncture-buzz killed. Was it just me, or was everyone looking at me?  Yes, I did have a super-cute outfit on and my hair looked great, but I also felt like maybe I even had a special glow, a supernatural aura that came out from the acupuncture, and that's why it felt like people were looking at me- they could see it!  Ahhh it's silly, I know, but that is actually what I was thinking at the time. 
So, eventually the heady weirdness wore off and I noticed that indeed my shoulder felt better, it was lighter, it hurt less.  At the end of the day I reflected upon how I had felt physically when I entered the acupuncture clinic that morning compared to how I felt now.  There was a remarkable difference and a great reduction in my discomfort.  I'm not saying that this will cure me, but it seems to have helped and I surely plan to follow up with more treatments.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Yoga on the Farm

Things are starting to happen with me and my yoga-teaching journey.  Next Saturday I will be teaching a class on a farm- at The Youth Farm at The High School for Public Service.  I found out about this opportunity through my friend Melissa, who is the manager at Shambhala, the yoga and dance studio that I currently work at as a karmi.  I loved the idea of doing yoga in a farm setting, and felt honored that she asked me to be a part of this! The students will be the farmers and volunteers, adults and probably some kids, and in exchange for teaching, I will take home a veggie share.  I love it!
I will admit that I am a little nervous, for a few reasons...but I am excited to challenge myself and show up and help to share in a positive experience for everyone.  I will be stepping outside of my comfort zone in terms of location and class setting, but also because I am nursing a shoulder injury which seems to be getting worse... so that is tricky, but I am excited to do it!

 one of last weekend's gardening projects
Luckily, part of my escape to the country last weekend involved me working outside doing gardening/landscaping projects, and I tried to make note of the atmosphere around me, how I used my body, and how my body felt.  One thing I noticed was that my friend and I would repeatedly get dizzy when standing up after weeding or digging.  We both got blisters on our hands from the tools...we both got a lot of sun!  So there are some things I need to consider as I structure the class:

First off, we will be outside, in the hot sun, with the dirt and the bugs, amongst the rows of flowers or veggies, and most likely without a yoga mat.  That means that I need to think about things like- sunshine getting in our eyes as we raise our gazes to the sky...the potential for insects to want to fly into our noses/mouths when we inhale...the likelihood that we will have pollen/dust/stuff in our noses due to breathing in the blooming garden all day and kicking up soil.  Also, the volunteers will probably be a bit tired from working all morning- so the class should be more on the mellow side. It will probably be helpful to do some alternate nostril breathing to help clear out the sinuses and calm us down a bit to start off.

Second, people will not necessarily be dressed for yoga- they'll still be dressed for a day of working on the farm.  I'm expecting to see jeans, sneakers, and tee shirts or tank tops, possibly a long-sleeved button up shirt. People could likely even have a sun hat on and sunglasses.  Things like denim waistbands and laced up shoes can reduce the range of motion that is usually available to us in a yoga class when we are appropriately dressed...usually we are barefoot!  How will those factors change the way I structure the class? 

Third, the yogis will have just finished up with a shift of working in the garden, pulling weeds, digging with tools, bending and contorting their bodies in ways that are particular to gardening.  They will have aches and pains (hopefully not too much pain) specific to doing this type of work.  I imagine it will be useful to focus on the hands, wrists, all parts of the back, some hip openers  and shoulder openers and hamstring stretches.  I imagine they will have been squatting, bending over, reaching and pulling with their arms, and gripping tools tightly...they may even have developed some blisters on their hands. I would like to offer some ways that they can move and work that will help them to avoid injury and to protect themselves while they work in the garden in the future. I think a restorative, gentle approach is definitely in order for this class. 

I will need to balance the class so that it is not too active, yet I will likely need to structure the class with mostly standing poses, since we will not have mats underfoot.  And since my shoulder is not feeling good and I don't want to injure myself further, I need to modify my teaching accordingly.  I am indeed up for a challenge- but I do feel like I have a good sense of what the atmosphere will be like and some idea of the special needs of my population.  Hooray!