My mother is a nurse. Because there is diabetes in my family history, she always stressed the importance of eating a balanced meal. The balanced meal was meat and 2 vegetables with a glass of milk. Growing up in the in the 60's, exercise was playing outdoors with neighborhood friends. I never really became a gym member until I first joined the Y, to have someplace to swim. My intent of course was to exercise to keep a slimmer figure. Availability of time always seemed to get in the way. So as you may know, the best of intentions may not yield the results that you desire. However, I try not to give up totally. When my daughter's health became an issue that needed more attention and my job in Syracuse lead me to find yoga. Honestly yoga was cheap. There was no fancy equipment and it could be practiced at home. Now that was my kind of activity.
Remember, life always gets in the way. My yoga practice fell away when my foot broke. That was a long healing process for me. My foot fractured again and it was then put in a caste. Coming out of the caste and seeing a foot with no muscle, just skin and bones, was scary. This broken foot forced me to change careers. It was in massage school that I again began my practice of yoga. That was in 1993 and yes, I was very stiff and tight. Funny, yesterday I taught 3 yoga classes. Yoga has been and continues to be an evolving process in my life. I can do asana today that I was completely unable to do when at the Desert Institute of the Healing Arts.
I know the frustration of pain. I know the desire to make it go away. I know it is a process and not a pill, although at times a pill may help. For me, yoga and regular massage has been so beneficial in my path to wellness. I know that I still get stressed out but I have the many aspects of yoga to fall back upon to maintain my health. Finding my breath has been so helpful. Looking at where I strain in my daily life, be that in movement, relationships, work or even play, has been so helpful. I am so grateful for learning this skill. I have to remember that at times less is more when you are having a rough time. Learning to be focused in life helps to prevent problems. Practice, patience and perseverance are some of the hallmarks of yoga.
As I tell my massage clients and yoga students, it's not a matter of age but of usage.
You can never under estimate the power of the ego or our desire for perfection in our lives. Those of us how watch television have become programmed to want things faster and faster. Now we have added the layer of computer technology to our vocabulary of expectations on all levels of problem solving. The American way of living has continued to push greater and greater levels of personal distraction in our daily lives. And when we are the problem, how blind do we become?
In teaching a class on stress management, I begin to think of a box with no corners. The job to which someone is employed comes with certain expectations. The social environment of the workplace comes with complexities. The overall health of the employee may come into play with the stress he or she experiences. The life outside of work also plays a part in perceived stress. So what is stress? Can't live without it and living with too much of it is detrimental to the well being of one's existence.
So we may have another fruit smoothy, a chocolate bar, a cookie, french fries and a burger or a coke or coffee and a cigarette. We may go to the gym and push our selves real hard and then offer a reward for beating ourselves up. Yikes! The older I get, the more I question what is beneficial for living a long life in good health and with happiness. So where do you start?
As a massage therapist, I've worked on tight necks, backs and shoulders. As a yoga teacher, I usually have a broad spectrum of people in my classes. But now I really appreciate the difficulty with individuals who work in an office environment. Their's is no easy job. Now I have seen what I'll call office back syndrome....catchy little phrase. When you ask someone how much they sit, honesty becomes blurred. I sit to eat. I sit when I drive, I sit(hopefully)to eat my meals maybe 3 times a day. I sit when I get home to rest or dabble with facebook. My favorite response from office workers as to how much they sit is usually colored with shades of grey.
The month is flying by quickly again. And what did this month bring to my attention? The impact of stress on the body. When pain begins in the body, how easy it is to steel the body against life's stress. If life becomes holding one's self up against the strain of day to day living, a funny thing begins to happen. Our body becomes tighter and harder. As this process builds, the mind becomes angry and loses hope. Today we call this depression. Remember all the television ads selling the latest in medications to bring balance back into life. And if that doesn't work there is deep tissue massage or physical therapy or yoga or even meditation or prayer.
Of course, what came first, the overwhelming stress of a situation or the stiff neck? If the stress comes with your job which also defines who you are in the world, what do you do? If in these times of economic uncertainty, leaving that job may not be a solution for eliminating the stress from your life where do you turn? Do you recognize the symptoms of stress in your life? How do you sleep at night? What are your energy levels like? How does your body deal with the food that you consume? Is there loose stool or constipation? Does eating follow with a stomach ache? Is fatigue or headaches a normal state of being for you? And now let us talk about pain. Is it diffuse or concise?
Okay, let's also throw in actual illness. Can you can you begin to see how complicated figuring out what you pain is caused by. I want to know that I'm not dying. If I'm not dying how long will it take for the problem to go away? TV and the movies make everything look so simple. A solution can be found in the length of one hour or maybe a couple of episodes. But we are not simple one celled organisms. We come with pecking order around injuries that we have experienced throughout or lives. Injuries can also be hurt feelings of a broken heart or the anguish of being bullied. Self worth can also creep in to complicate or sense of well being. Another injury can be anger without resolve or chronic lingering fear.
All of these issues affect our breathing, which in turn affects our pain threshold. When tired a baby has very little tolerance of a changing schedule. Are we so different from that infant? So what level of control can we place in our lives to maintain balance? I turned to yoga and massage, which also includes self massage. Is there another way to look at things in your life so that you can be happier? Is there a place in your life for gratitude for simply being alive? Even if you are in pain, can you help another who may also be in pain? Can you laugh out loud at least once every day? Can you let go of the serious nature of your life for one moment and just be with yourself? Can you talk with someone?
Food for thought!
Do you remember "bend and stretch,reach for the stars! There goes Mercury. Here comes Mars." In preschool,we just couldn't sit still.As our school life continued, we were asked to sit more and more. Today,we hear constant reports as to the health status of American both young and old being overweight and in pain. What are we to do? The cost of health care continues to rise and more folks just can't afford it.
After having both of my feet run over by a passing car, my left inner leg taking the full force of the revolving tire; I didn't realize what such an injury would do to me throughout my life. It was this injury process that sent me down this very interesting path. I found out that pushing hard to do a task didn't help. In fact, it increased my pain. If I sat for extended amounts of time, I could barely move ,let alone walk. Finding answers to help with my pain and health became a full time project.
The recovery process from this injury has been both an adventure and a far longer project than I could ever have imagined. Physical therapy was only the beginning. When I did not regain my strength or flexibility, I turned to what I knew best,massage and yoga. I found that I didn't know enough about massage. My introduction to neuromuscular massage therapy via visceral massage changed my life. Gentle focused touch can open the body, where restrictions have occurred. In fact, deep tissue work aggravated my problems, instead of improving them.
Yoga was one of my classes in massage school. I had also taken a Kundalini yoga class back in the 80's, so I felt comfortable with yoga to help with my healing process. Compared to other options, a home practice was cheap. Of course because I was so weak from my injury, I strained to do what I could. My healing process, really began to change when I found Gary Kraftsow as my teacher. Putting my various massage trainings together with Patanjali's Yoga Sutras and American Viniyoga Institute teachings, I gained a stronger constitution.
Yoga is not just exercise by the way. Massage is more than rubbing the body. We all need tools of empowerment.