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

Conscious evolution

Happy Wednesday, friends!

I usually write my midweek blog on a Tuesday night and schedule it to pre-post at a specific time each day. But this week, with my “Embody the Leader” course (session 3 of 4 tonight) for my group of young women, I wanted to spend time on that instead. So I gave myself a pass to not post a blog at the usual time.

Then I realized it was a full moon, and I also had a lot of other things to do.  Since my husband is gone for a 10-day motorcycle adventure with his friend Ben, I opted for some meditation in the moonlight. Last Thursday I had meditated outside to get my feet on the earth and I was visited by a deer, not 100 feet away from me.

Doe a deer

This gentle presence seemed curious about me, sitting quite still in a small park just outside our town home. She kept edging closer. Twilight was approaching, so the mosquitoes were making themselves known. But I kept fairly still, watching her as a focal point of my meditation.

She seemed to have a subtle message for me, and I am interpreting the feeling that washed over me in that experience. She seemed to hold me and regard me as just a part of her world. And in that moment, I saw myself as both just a tiny part of the world, and the whole world at once.

It occurred to me that we all evolve constantly. Sometimes I feel I have to strive toward that evolution. Other times I realize that it is bound to happen, this internal evolution, if we pay attention. All we need to do is be present to our lives, be present to the wonder and the beauty all around us, and yes, also to the pain.

It is not about efforting or striving to get somewhere. It is about fully knowing ourselves, and knowing our humanity. It is about fully accepting ourselves as we are in whatever part of our journey we are in. There is no hurry. This is the most important work of our lives. When we know ourselves, we begin to sense and feel our true purpose in the world. And in that process, we feel a joy and lightness that is like no other feeling.

I am so grateful for the experiences of YTT and other circles of women especially, that have brought me to this wisdom.

cristy@meximinnesotana.com

 

Saturday Share – World Meditation Day, Munch Style — thesecretblind

Some have suggested that Munch the Dogi has yoga and meditation down to a fine art. If you celebrated World Mediation Day on 21st May with some Zen and blissed out way of being by meditating, you will appreciate Munch’s take on his favourite past time. If you are new to meditation, Munch has kindly […]

via World Meditation Day, Munch Style — thesecretblind

Oh my goodness I love this so much. Many of you know I like to write about meditation and yoga. Here’s a fresh and original take on the theme. Hope you enjoy. Happy Memorial Day 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.

Calvin bored now.jpg
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