There is no such thing as “not flexible enough for yoga”

Screen Shot 2013-12-21 at 6.30.30 PMIf you can walk, you can do yoga.

And even if you can’t walk, you can do yoga.

I love this time of year because of all the holiday parties. My husband and I make the rounds to see friends and family, and an extended network of neighbors and acquaintances we’ve developed in our many years of living in Memphis.

There are some people that I see only at this time of year. It’s great to catch up and hear what people have been up to, and swap stories about the previous year.

Sometimes people want to talk about yoga.

There are several refrains that I commonly hear when I am out and about.

  • I wish I could do yoga but I’m not flexible at all.
  • I can’t even touch my toes.
  • I could never touch my toes.
  • My hands (or wrists) can’t bear weight so I can’t do yoga.
  • I went to a yoga class once and it was too hard.
  • Yoga is not enough of a workout for me. I like an intense workout where I sweat.
  • My doctor says I’m too flexible (or stiff or old or injured or blah blah blah) for yoga.
  • My mother told me I’d never have good posture.

None of these things have anything to do with your ability to do yoga.

If you want to practice yoga, you will find a way.

You will try teacher after teacher until you find the one who is the right fit for you.

When people talk to me about yoga when we are just hanging out, I take that to mean that they are interested in it.  Even when what they are saying is why they can’t do it.

If you have heard yourself (or a friend) saying any of the above, let’s talk.

Sometimes you have to overcome your “can’ts,” “nots,” and “never haves,” before you can find your “will, your “want to,” and your “must do.”

I’d love to help you find your way.

Email me.

A creative girl & her bookkeeping

The coaching continues…

I’m sometimes a little too honest on facebook.  Mind you, I’m not the type to post TMI about deeply personal issues and I don’t blast friends who post political opinions on their status updates.

But I do procrastinate.  And last week I got “caught” on facebook.

My post was innocent enough.

Need a way to learn to enjoy my bookkeeping duties. I would rather be doing ANYTHING other than sitting here with a spreadsheet! : (

Ten friends commented.

One suggested rewarding myself with a margarita after I finished the work. Another offered to trade desk work for yoga classes.

Two friends said they love bookkeeping (not fair!).

But leave it to my mother’s comment to spur me to action.  When she suggested hiring my dad as bookkeeper and them moving into my guest room, I knew I had to do something fast!

I went for my coaching session with Bill Burtch.  I didn’t even have to bring up the bookkeeping brouhaha.  He did.

“I saw your post on facebook about the bookkeeping,” he said.

“Can we talk about something uplifting?” I asked.

We had a productive time together, mostly talking about the things I like:  my most valuable relationships, core values, how money enables my life.  We worked on my core purpose and my vision.

Then that budget thing came up again.  I brought it up this time.

After several coaching sessions I have learned a lot about myself. I learned that I’m motivated by social experiences and altruism.  I like to be with people and I like to feel like I’m doing good in the world.

I’m a creative type.  Boxes, charts, and spreadsheets make my eyes cross.

It’s amazing how fiscally responsible I have been my whole adult life – considering this aversion to logs, charts and graphs.

It’s not that I mind paying for things; I’m just not a line item kind of girl. Why sit around logging things into Quicken when I have people to meet, yoga classes to teach, and the beautiful old growth forest just footsteps from my door?

Bill challenged me to reframe my paradigm about managing finances. So I’m wondering.  What if I call my line items something compelling? Something, well, more fun. More meaningful. Maybe something that doesn’t sound so accountant-like.

Mortgage, rent, homeowners insurance sound so droll. What do these line items really mean to me?

They mean home.

What are some other names for home?

Sanctuary, Midtown Bungalow, Court Avenue Cocoon, Chez Nichols

Then someone suggested making each line item sound completely lovely.

So, I’ve set up a new category in my Quicken expense item list.

I just can’t wait for the accountant’s call when she reads my next expense report and discovers I’m paying $900 a month for something called “Love Shack.”

Looking forward to seeing Bill again next week to continue my coaching odyssey.  Who knows what we’ll come up with as we forge ahead? What do you struggle with that might be reframed into something more enjoyable?

How massage transformed my pain

massagepublicity1In 1999, I enrolled as an adult student at The University of Memphis to complete my undergraduate degree in journalism.  I had visions of righting the world’s wrongs through investigative reporting.

But first, I had deadlines to meet. Not just school deadlines — family deadlines, work deadlines, personal deadlines.

Trying to do it all at once came with a price. The constant anxiety led to shortness of breath and a recurring pain in my neck, shoulders and arm. I was irritable during the day and sleepless at night.

That’s when I began studying yoga, a practice that eventually led me to open Evergreen Yoga Center.

While yoga has numerous medical and spiritual benefits, and has changed the lives of many, it is not a magic bullet for  anyone. Not even yoga teachers.

The neck pain continued to spread down my right arm and into my hand. I was sure that the more yoga I did, the faster the pain would dissipate.

But relief did not come. Finally, after complaining to enough friends about my stress and pain, one friend slipped his massage therapist’s card into my backpack.

I lied when I told him I’d call. Massage was not for me.  I considered it the realm of ladies who lunch, the rich and famous; those with too much time on their hands and who need fragrant soap and pampering.  I was tougher than that.  The thought of spending money to have someone rub me for an hour seemed extravagant.

Another pain-filled, sleep-deprived night made me reconsider, however.  The therapist said she could see me that afternoon. I might have cancelled if I had more time to think about it.

As it turns out, massage was exactly what I needed.

At the time I was clueless that my lifestyle could have anything to do with the problem. But I was so knotted up that the therapist said it would take at least three sessions to completely address my current condition.

While I had neither the time nor the money for three sessions, I had a good feeling about this therapist. She seemed professional, knowledgeable and clear about my problem. I was definitely tired of the pain.

Skeptically, I scheduled the remaining two appointments. That night after my first massage, I went home and slept.

It was hard to tell if I felt better because there was less pain or because I got  a full-night’s sleep.  Either way, I looked forward to my next massage and the possibility of feeling even better.

After the initial three appointments, I was pain-free. A month later the pain was back.  I scheduled another massage session and immediately felt relief.  A month after that, same thing.

The therapist suggested I schedule monthly “tune-ups.”  She said I needed regular massages to break that pattern of stress and tension in my body.  It was a substantial time investment for me, as a student.  And it had to be worked into my budget. But it seemed worth it.

Yoga changed my life, and regular massage therapy makes it more comfortable.

According to a recent article in Yoga Journal, many people need extra help releasing contracted muscles due to their habits, physical patterns, emotional traumas, and stressors.

Yoga therapist Leslie Kaminoff says if you’re a beginning yoga student and are experiencing difficulty, you should try having a private yoga lesson so the teacher can help you address the issue through yoga.

“But,” Kaminoff says, “also know that there is a range of limitations that might be neuro-muscular.  And with those things, bodywork can really help.”

If you feel that massage might help you, look for a therapist who is knowledgeable and professional, and who understands your problem. A good therapist will encourage you to think for yourself and help you learn skills that will empower you to deal with your concerns. As with any other health care professional, you may want to try a few of massage therapists until you find the right person for you.

If you practice yoga, it’s helpful to see a massage therapist who has an understanding of yoga and which asanas you are practicing.

At Evergreen, our in-house massage therapist, Lorrie Garcia, is a longtime yoga practitioner and is skilled at helping people with patterns of pain, gripping and holding in the body. She is also on the faculty of the Memphis Institute of Massage where she teaches theory and technique to student massage therapists.

lorrie

Lorrie Garcia, LMT

“Therapeutic massage may seem too simple to be so transformative,” Lorrie says.  “If you have a yoga practice, you’ve undoubtedly encountered those who are skeptical about the power of yoga.  But of course you’ve experienced some simple-looking  (like learning to stand in Tadasana) yoga poses that have turned out to be profound. Massage is similar in this way.”

When asked about what keeps yogis from trying massage, Lorrie says, “It  surprises me when yoga students hit-a-wall in their practice or continue to have pain, and they don’t seek massage.

“I want people to know therapeutic massage is much more than rubbing and petting, just as yoga is much more than sitting and standing. Massage and yoga are parallel paths on the way to self-healing.”

“It can take various approaches for a person to discover what works for best for him or her. Ultimately, the path we follow on the journey of transformation is rarely a straight line.”

To reach Lorrie Garcia, email her at lorrie@evergreenyogamemphis.com. To schedule an appointment, contact her via text or cellphone at 901-496-2881.

Yoga & Women

Simone & Ari

Simone & Ari

Yoga is useful for all women…not just the super-bendy or the super trendy. And, if you think yoga is just a physical thing, think again.

From puberty to menopause, throughout monthly ups and monthly downs, yoga is a powerful tool. It helps us blend our awareness of our body with our emotions and thoughts and it can uplift and strengthen a woman through all phases of her life.

When I set out to interview women who practice Iyengar yoga for this article, I thought I would hear the usual reasons for their dedication to yoga. I expected to hear about stress relief, the importance of making time for yourself, and relaxation.

But what I found from the two women featured here was much different than what I expected. You might be surprised to hear what makes them show up for yoga.

Simone Wilson, 35, has been practicing yoga for 10 years and doesn’t think she could live without it. She first started practicing while working on her graduate thesis to relieve stress.

Wilson who has worked in a fitness center and taught spinning, especially likes the way that Iyengar yoga encourages a specific kind of practice during the monthly menstrual cycle. “During my cycle. I used to do what I usually did and pretend that nothing different is happening”, she says. “I think that’s how women go through life. I used to have the attitude that unless I really couldn’t move, I should push on! But since I started doing yoga, strength means something completely different than it used to, which was to ignore how I really felt. In my practice, I learned to support my own body weight. That’s mental strength as well”.

Post-thesis, she continued practicing yoga, taking classes throughout both of her pregnancies. She noticed that even while pregnant, she continued to grow stronger in the poses. “I was more aware of my body”, she says. “ I was able to do headstand, and had the strength to stay up even longer than I could before”.

becca2

Becca, 26

Becca Franklin, 26, emphasized how yoga can help young women become more comfortable with their bodies. She cites the pressure on young women in our society to be shaped a certain way and to look a certain way. “Yoga helped me not to look at my body as an object – but to have a more internal experience of myself. My experience of my body has now expanded to include what I can do and what my body is capable of,” she says.

“During our twenties, we are looking to find our place in the world – to find a job, make friends and perhaps, find a partner,” she says. “Yoga is something that can take you from feelings of anxiety and uncertainty to helping you understand who you are and what your values are.”

Both Wilson and Franklin agree that the benefits of practicing yoga has helped them better deal with their emotions.

Wilson explains she is very good at multi-tasking. But yoga has helped her let go of the idea of having to do fifteen things at the same time. Now she concentrates on five! One of the major benefits of doing yoga she says is that it helps her connect with her husband at the end of the day. “ In everyday life situations, I now will often reflect on something before I just react.”

This attention to how our physical and emotional lives are inextricably linked is another reason why yoga is a boon for women. Iyengar yoga expert, Bobby Clennell, author of The Woman’s Yoga Book: Asana and Pranayama for All Phases of The Menstrual Cycle teaches women to watch how their hormonal rhythms play out in the body and the emotions.

Franklin says yoga has helped her take responsibility for her emotions and where they lead. “ I would get all caught up in my emotions,” she says. “Yoga helped me with this. There is a different level of awareness when, say, I am in the middle of a discussion with a friend or family member. I notice now that I have a couple of seconds to check in with what I’m feeling and think before I speak. I think, okay….this is something I have control over. I now have a few seconds to choose. I can make a decision to have an emotional outburst, or I can choose to respond another way. Now, because of my yoga practice, I have control of how my emotions affect what I do, and I have power over this. For me, that was huge.”

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