Yoga Vita

Musings on Yoga, Life, and the Yoga Life


Media Fast

Ever since my landlady inadvertently canceled our house’s internet connection at the end of April, I have had the unexpected, um, opportunity to go on a bit of a fast from news media, blogging, and compulsive email-checking for a number of weeks (yes, weeks!). It hasn’t been a total restriction of internet access, because I can attend to my most pressing online needs and habits while holed up in my windowless office after work, but because of my distaste for spending extra time in said office, it has been a significant restriction. I won’t say I particularly welcomed this partial media fast, but now that I’m back online (wow, “I’m” online–total cyborg thinking here), I have a feeling it was good for me. I feel a bit more relaxed, less of a sense of needless urgency pacing around in my head. I’ve read a few novels and had time to myself to think.

It’s been nice.

10% Useful, 90% Brain-Garbage

At one time in my past, however, a strict total media fast of a month or so was not just nice, but critical to circumventing a total mental breakdown. This was around the time of the 2004 elections. I was in a challenging period in college, working through lingering PTSD from a violent relationship, working on too many projects at once as usual, hardly doing any yoga, and utterly despairing of the fact that Americans were in the process of reelecting the inarguably worst president the (supposedly) democratic world has ever seen. A scary panic attack let me to make an emergency appointment with a school counselor, who introduced me to the idea of a media fast. Brilliant!

Is the world going to fall apart if I don’t know what’s happening in it for one month? No. Is there anything the media the might tell me in the next month that’s going to make me change the way I live my life? No. Is the media telling me anything about all the positive things that are happening in the world right now? Again, no. Maybe 10% of what I read, hear, see in the media is useful to me in some way, but the other 90% is just noise! Absolute brain-garbage!

My First Media Fast

So I decided to stop picking up the free copies of the New York Times on campus, stop reading news online, stop listening to Democracy Now and FSRN on the radio, and stop seeking out any kind of news or unnecessary information for one month. (TV was never an issue–I haven’t had one for years.) This was the only change I made and I believe it radically changed the quality of my brainwaves. More authentic thought and emotion, less noise. And when I did start reading newspapers again, I did so less often, and with more of a focus on the things that were important to me. I became better at keeping some emotional distance between myself and the events of the world. Tragedies and stupidities in the world still made me sad, but it was a cleaner quality of sad–less despairing-of-the-world sad, and easier to get past. I could listen to the news without letting it have such a powerful influence on my worldview. Looking back, I think this particular media fast was an important step in developing my emotional maturity. Before, it was as if I had no defenses, and would just be swept about by the information coming at me from all sides. A strict media fast required me to solidify my own views based on my own actual observations and experiences, to become more of the subject of my own life. It helped to teach me about the practice of mental freedom.

I think the counselor’s name was Dana–I will always be grateful for her and this little piece of timely advice that had such a big impact on me.


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Ride the Wave

Practice was crazy this morning in a lot of different ways. A few examples:

1) The shala was as full today as I’ve ever seen it. My glasses steamed up as soon as I entered the changing room, and the studio floor itself was quite thoroughly covered in bodies, which I had to pick my way through to wriggle into a spot D created by moving people around a bit. I often feel overwhelmed being in a space with a bunch of people, but this morning I just let that wash over me and pass. I think I’ve inadvertently learned how to do that by exposure therapy- – crowded bus sides six+ times a week, busy office, school events, etc. Hm. I’m becoming less jumpy.

2) I kept having this strange sensation- – and now that I’m trying to grasp at it, I realize I really have no way of explaining it- – but it was like. . . let’s say my practice normally feels like a little clarinet doodling away at it’s little clarinet melody, and today it felt like a symphony. Ok, not a symphony, but maybe a pit orchestra. But at any rate, polyphonic. On the physical level, I wasn’t really doing anything different, but I felt so much more flow, so much more dimension. Out of the blue.

3) In kapo, with assistance and with much effort, I made it to about 85% of my best version. Yet something crazy happened- – I feel like something in my chest and throat ripped open, not literally, thank god, but the feeling of a cord being broken was there. Pop! Very interesting. I wonder what comes of this. Maybe nothing.

Trying not to feel too graspy. I’d like to ride this little wave of woooaaaah as long as I can, but chances are I’ll feel strangely shitty starting sometime this afternoon and then I’ll feel kind of bummed out for feeling so shitty after such a great morning. Yoga highs are so mysterious. All I can do is feel it while it lasts.


Two-Month Recap

In yoga: Somehow, I’m up to Kapotasana in intermediate and doing fine. For a while, I was under the impression that D was waiting for something to happen in my primary practice–some kind of benchmark or gateway accomplishment–before he would start moving me through secondary, but I’m pretty sure nothing of the sort happened at all, yet here I am at Kapo. I still can’t wrist-bind in the twisty Marichys, I can’t bind at all in Supta K, I struggle through Navasana like a novice, and I drag my feet in jump-backs. I also stay in bed as long as I possibly can, timing the start of my practice so that I am the second-to-last person out of the shala every day. I can’t be the last person. That would just be sloppy.

In work: Work went from hard to harder. I just recruited, interviewed and hired two new student employees which is great, because now we have more coverage in the office with a total of six staff, but it means I have to train these people without the aid of the usual orientations, training workshops, etc. at a time when I can barely keep up with deleting garbage emails. I’m coordinating a community health and wellness fair that comes up in less than a month, I’m going back and forth with workshop instructors to try to put on a workshop in two weeks, I have an advisory board to answer to, volunteers to coordinate, a budget to balance, ridiculous bureaucratic paperwork to complete, and a general student survey to distribute, track, and bring on home, hopefully sometime before our annual budget begins in, um, March. And that’s the easy part. The hard part is this: part of my job is to confidentially provide a listening ear and helpful resource referrals to students who are in tough situations, and we’ve had a lot of tears and anxiety in the office lately. I want to HELP, but I know that all I can do is listen, offer a tissue, and give out a few phone numbers and say come back to talk anytime. I can’t fix America’s health insurance disaster, I can’t make abusers stop raping and beating their girlfriends, I can’t stop INS (or “Citizenship Services” or whatever the fuck euphemism they’re using) from terrorizing immigrants, I can’t stop employers (hospitals and schools come to mind) from being racist, self-interested monsters, and I can’t force privileged co-workers to open up their eyes and see how good they have it, much less to use that privilege for social change. And apparently I can’t qualify for health insurance or retirement either, and there’s little prospect here for career laddering. Which brings us to. . .

In education: Looking at master’s and doctorate entry programs in nursing. GRE’s, prerequisites, recommendation letters, scholarly writing samples, personal statements, interviews (if I’m lucky), loans. . . oh my. Or maybe I should just skip all that, go to Seattle Central, and become an RN. Same job, after all. Oh, but the lure of higher education and a self-directed career.

In life: Z started a blog about what else but FOOD–read it! The days are becoming just perceptibly longer and I’m becoming just perceptibly less S.A.D.-ish, hence my renewed motivation to write. A person was shot to death at a corner I pass most every day on my walk between home and the shala. There’s flowers and candles there now. I’ve been fantastically forgetful this week: it started out with losing my keys, progressed to misplacing my glasses, and culminated yesterday with me forgetting my car at work and taking the bus home. Seriously, something is very wrong here. I need my mind back. I need my car back too. Oh, and I forgot to do Navasana today, but that doesn’t really count, because I dislike that pose immensely, and probably subconsciously edited it out on purpose. And we’re hosting a big game night at our apartment this weekend, which means I need to start cleaning. . . right now. Before I forget.


Back to Bitch

I haven’t written in a while, but now I’m back to bitch. Nothing is more inspirational than a bad mood. Today’s edition shall address the following: (1) a big eff-off to those who came up with the “mommy job,” and (2) boo-hiss to the big gray raincloud that is my ex-partner.

(1) Gag. A plastic surgery combo platter of a boob lift/enlargement, a tummy tuck, and liposuction. . . the “mommy job“? As if women’s bodies weren’t attacked enough, now the simple state of being a mother is beginning to be viewed as a pathology. At least among those in a position to “correct” it through expensive, health-threatening surgery. If a woman elects to get some plastic surgery after she’s had kids or some other life change, fine, but the fact that certain surgeries are being marketed to mothers as if there was inherently something wrong with them really gets to me. I think this excerpt sums up the issue nicely:

“The message is that, after having children, women’s bodies change for the worse,” said Diana Zuckerman, the president of the National Research Center for Women and Families, a nonprofit group in Washington. If marketing could turn the postpregnancy body “into a socially unacceptable thing, think of how big your audience would be and how many surgeries you could sell them,” she said. [My italics.]

Hate your bodies, ladies. It’s good for business.

Moving along. . .

(2) About a week ago, I made the stupid, stupid mistake of opening up my home to an ex-partner who seemed to be in crisis and needed a place to stay. BAD idea. No sane person would do this- – what was I thinking? Well, I was thinking I could help, I could do the compassionate thing, etc, etc. But the thing is, it is ALWAYS A BAD IDEA to invite someone with messed-up energy into your home. And it is ten times worse if you invite them for several days. And it is one hundred times worse if that person is an ex. And it is a thousand times worse if that ex is still “not over you.” Therefore, according to my advanced calculations, I did something that is one million times worse than a very bad idea. What a catastrophe.

Well, now I know.

She left two days ago and I still have this big cloud over my head. I’m tired all the time, my body feels like a bag of gravel in yoga, and I can barely focus on my work. My co-worker said I should do a complete spiritual cleansing of my home now, and I’m not normally into such mystical stuff, but I think he’s absolutely right. I feel as if I’ve bathed in week-old garbage and it’s still sticking to me, and there’s just no good reason to feel that way. Go away, bad BAD energy, go away!

Or maybe instead of a spiritual cleansing I should do something more concrete, like tell the jerk to fuck off because she’s a total energy vampire and I can’t be around her, for example.  Maybe both.

Oh yeah, and one last bitch: our landlady just changed our internet service and it never works!  Sigh.

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Mindbody Meltdown

Oh, my body aches, but this isn’t the usual Ashtanga-induced soreness here and there. I’m having a whole bodymind shift. I think it’s largely related to having a new job–new routine, new stimulation, new questions, new people, new environment. So naturally, my body and my mind have reacted. I have the classic shoulder tension, but I’m having tons of other pains and sensations as well. I’m having sudden little fireworks–more like sparklers–in my lower back that are gone in an instant; I’m having wrist pain in one wrist and then another; I’m having MAJOR sensations in my hips any time I do ANYTHING with them; my knees are feeling stressed out and sometimes have sharp, tiny pains just under the patella; my digestive system is all wonky; and there’s probably other stuff too that I’m not recalling or not noticing.

In summary, it feels like: pain2.gif

As far as what’s in my head, well, I’m often feeling very scatterbrained and occasionally anxious, which is to be expected, but I’m often feeling very in love with the world and very absorbed in the moment, curious and content.  Strange.  And the whole mindbody mess began, starting with the hips, about four weeks ago, or in other words, when I started this job. And of course just after I started the job, Teacher Training began, which added to the craziness.

What a strange combination of thoughts, sensations, and experiences. What exactly is going on here? What’s next? Where will I go with this?

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To sleep, perchance to dream. . .

I absolutely could not drag myself out of bed this morning. My body felt. . . well, kind of dead, like when you have a bad flu. Just heavy, heavy all over. So I slept in for another hour and a half, really needing the extra rest, but then I just had awful, stressful dreams the whole time. Not very restful at all. Sigh. And I had to skip yoga entirely to make it to work.

No yoga, shitty dreams, my body aches. . . and my schedule is pretty much full until bedtime tonight. Maybe right before bed, I’ll do some meditation. Or restorative asana. Something.  I need time to clean all the garbage out of my head.