On teaching and learning

Yesterday I finished the fourth and final session of a girls’ empowerment course that I was teaching every other week for an hour at a local community center.

During the third session I had an eye-opening realization working with these young women (ages 12-14). We got into a discussion of safety and violence, and once again my privilege slapped me in the face. Many of these women had observed or experienced violence in their families or with close loved ones in ways I am unlikely to ever understand.

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I had begun reading the book “My Grandmother’s Hands: Racialized Trauma and the Pathway to Mending Our Hearts and Bodies” by Resmaa Manakem. I wish I had discovered it when I first designed the course. There are many amazing practices that are yoga-like to help both black bodies, white bodies, and police bodies heal the trauma of racism in America.

I managed to teach “legs up the wall” pose first as a calming pose. Then we laid on the floor to do belly breathing for a couple of minutes and to notice where we felt the breath. We tried crocodile (on our bellies) to again notice where we felt the breath. After a few cat/cow transitions, there was silliness and I realized 15 minutes of yoga was the upper limit for this group on this day.

Though this group of women rejected “yoga” when I attempted it on the first class, by starting with legs up the wall, as a way to calm the nervous system, they seemed open to the other poses as well. Less talking, more demonstrating and practice in the future. Good lessons for me.

I thanked this group for being my teachers in this class. They seemed surprised that I would put it like that. But they taught me far more than I could teach them.

On the eve of another 3-day yoga teacher training weekend (#6 of 7), even if I am unable to count those hours toward my practicum requirement as initially planned, I am profoundly grateful.

cristy@meximinnesotana.com

Workplace Wellness – from Gallup

This week I am going a little “light” on the writing. I am preparing for YTT weekend number 5, and trying to get set up for a good experience.

I read an article from Gallup New entitled: Your Boss Could Be Bad — or Good — for your Health. I decided I really must share it, because Gallup is reputable organization that does good and validated research. Someday maybe toxic workplaces will be considered a public health risk.

This article focuses on the value of trust in workplaces. This is something I always want to promote, trust and trust-worthiness among my teams and colleagues. The Gallup article explains why.

boss Gallup article
Straight stolen from the Gallup article

If you are not working in a place that feels safe, and that values your strengths, consider working with a coach to help you find alternatives to your current situation. My own coach (Elizabeth) helped me see how my values need to be represented in my work setting in order to feel fulfilled each day.

Wow, am I ever glad she was there to help me articulate those ideas in a new way. It has helped me see what I need to feel happy and well.

Have a wonderful “hump” day! Enjoy the midweek and mid-summer.

cristy@meximinnesotana.com

 

 

Saturday share – Coming to your nose: Scent playlists that could boost your well-being — ideas.ted.com

A new technology aspires to harness the powerful human sense of smell to enhance our daily lives. Someday this approach might even be used to benefit our health. How is this possible? Step one: Just inhale. We’re living in a playlist world, with many of us curating soundtracks to get us through life’s daily ups…

via Coming to your nose: Scent playlists that could boost your well-being — ideas.ted.com

The videos in this blog are too fascinating not to share. I’m especially interested in the implications for food addiction and diabetes. As someone with a rather acute sense of smell and a love for essential oils, I am super curious about this research. You may find it intriguing as well.

Happy weekend!

cristy@meximinnesotana.com

Belly breathing

The other morning I opted for a home yoga practice using the audio from a Yoga Teacher Training class that had been recorded for our use.

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Let me help you. I can be your sandbag.

The first practice called for a small sandbag to lay across our belly as we lay on our mat, to provide some sensory input to feel our diaphragmatic breath. I had no sandbag at home, so I used a small pillow to simulate at least the shape of a sandbag on my abdomen.

As I was considering whether I should place an order for such a thing, my big sandbag of a cat (Calvin) came up and draped himself across my belly, negating the need for that.

It’s hard to know why my cats find me so appealing when I practice yoga. I often think they like it when I am on the floor, practicing poses that get me closer to them. They also seem to understand that, after I practice yoga, my body seems to emit blissful energy and calm.

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I realize that is probably fairly anthropomorphic for me to interpret their behavior in that way. There is something about those long inhales and exhales, those full belly breaths that get me into a state of ease. So many of us get used to breath-holding in our daily lives, bracing against stress, or simply holding ourselves in with uncomfortable clothing, belts, braces or even neckties.

What if we learned to embrace that full belly breath and to stop “sucking it in”? Our bellies are made to expand during the inhale. When we only allow for chest breathing, we end up with tightness and muscle tension in our shoulders and our neck. Shallowness in our breath can result in confused and disoriented states of mind.

It took me not very long on a therapeutic spinal strip to realize there was a lot of chronically held tension held in my back and shoulders. Indeed I have to consciously bring my shoulders down when I notice the slight scrunch that seems to happen subtly or when I am at a keyboard, mentally focused and working.

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When are you gonna be done, Mom?

I am dismantling some of these patterns, and actively reminding myself in meditation and yoga to breathe fully. At the same I am learning to notice and slow down at more points throughout my day when I find my thoughts racing (and then usually notice the breath has followed). Then I consciously take in a few long inhales and exhales, bring myself back to the present and realize that my mind was caught up in a story about the future, or perhaps a regret about the past.

So simple, and yet so radical. Thank you, Calvin, for helping me sense and feel that breath deep into the belly. I know you do not struggle with this, and I appreciate re-learning this skill that we all master as infants and then forget.

cristy@meximinnesotana.com