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Filtering by Tag: mindfulness


Cindy Maddera

My period started today, so I'm thinking about what to do in my yoga practice this week. I used to never think about this. Back in the days when I had yet to establish a daily practice on my own, I went to yoga classes at the gym and did it all. I didn't even think about it. It was only later that I discovered there are views about menstruation and your yoga practice. Some teachers are adamant about NO YOGA during this time. I sort of regarded this view as dumb. I threw it on the ridiculous pile of things women have been told not to do while on their periods, like swimming in the ocean because you will attract sharks or hiking because you will attract bears. I am amazed that our species has survived with all of us women attracting predators all the time. The raging feminist yogini in me wants to shout "you can't tell me what I can and can't do!" Women have been fighting the stigma of menstruation since the dawn of time. 

Though in the defense of yoga, the reasons some teachers believe that you should not do yoga during your period is not because you are considered to be 'unclean' or you will attract wild animals to the studio. That time of the month is considered to be a time of cleansing and renewal and you should just take it easy. That's a nice thought and my kapha side tells my pitta side that this is exactly what we should do. Except my pitta side is a jerk and I end up trying to do all of the things on my yoga mat because I feel better when I get off my mat. A study in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health of sixty four women found that practicing breathing exercises, cat-cow, down dog, cobra, plank and child's pose reduced the effects of premenstrual stress. Of course this is a small study that took place in Taiwan, but the data is sound. [A different rant is the complete lack of research in reducing PMS, at all] 

There are many yoga poses that are beneficial to relieving cramping and bloating. Twists and supported fish pose are great. Bow pose is good for belly bloat. There are also poses that I just won't do during that time. I avoid certain inversions like headstand and shoulder stand, but there's no definitive scientific evidence that inversions cause problems if performed during menstruation. Really it just comes down to how you choose to interpret the word yoga. Yoga means 'to yoke'. I hear 'yoke' and I think of two large oxen yoked together and pulling a plow. One ox is your brain and the other ox is your body. They are forced to work together. The brain listens to the body and the body respects the brain's choices. Sometimes my body does not want to take the stairs, but my brain says "Come on! It's good for us!" and I take the stairs. Sometimes when my brain is saying that, my body goes "no, really. My knee hurts." I take the elevator. Practicing yoga doesn't just take place on your mat.

That time of the month is a good time to remember that lesson and really listen to what our bodies are telling us to do or not do. You know how on some days during your period, you feel just fine and other days you feel like a truck is rolling back and forth over your fat bloated body? On the days you feel just fine, have a regular asana practice, but on those other days when you feel achy and gross, take care of yourself. Choose a restorative practice with cushions and blankets. Sometimes I do a little bit of both by mixing in an asana practice at the beginning and finishing up with restorative poses like supported supta baddha konasana and supported twists. Sometimes, I just don't do anything but rest in final relaxation. I will it admit that it has taken me years of practice in order to be okay with doing less, but this is true self care.  



Cindy Maddera

There’s a sticky note on my desk where I’ve written “shooting with a mindful eye”. I jotted it down while watching an online tutorial on black and white street photography. It wasn’t a new tidbit of wisdom for me. It was just a reminder. I wrote it down on a sticky note and slapped it to my desk as a reminder to be vigilant to look through my camera lens with intention and mindfulness. I like to think I practice this kind of mindfulness whenever I head out on a photo walk. I did have someone tell me this week just how much they enjoy seeing my posted images and that I take really great pictures. I am grateful for that bit of praise. It’s nice to hear those kinds of things on occasion, particularly when you feel like for the most part you take mediocre pictures. 

Recently, I replaced the word “shooting” with “looking”. Look with a mindful eye. There are times when I can’t pause long enough to take a picture. Like, when we are driving down the road or Josephine’s taking me for a walk. I will notice something and instead of trying to get to my camera, I will simply hold my hands up and form a camera shaped box with my fingers. Then move my index finger as if to click a button and say “click”. It's my way of taking a mental photograph of something I want to remember, but it is also my way of remembering to notice my surroundings. When I walk outside, I remind myself to look up. There's so much more to see than the sidewalk under my feet. Some mornings, this means turning my face right into the sun and then immediately closing my eyes at the glaring rays. I want to look at the world as if I am going to photograph it, even if I am not. I am thankful for this mindfulness practice as well.

We all have that thing that keeps us sane. I know a woman who runs. She was still running on the treadmill as if bears were chasing her up to two weeks before giving birth. She did not run for physical health as much as she was running for her mental health. She would lose her mind if she couldn't run. Some of us knit. Some of us cook. Some of us shut off social media (something I should do more often). I suspect that many of us have a Mary Poppins sized bag filled with an arsenal of things that we keep for our sanity. Mine includes a yoga mat with all the yoga props, a hammock, a bowl of always hot potato soup and some cheese, good tunes and my cameras. I am thankful for all of those things but today I am particularly grateful for the mindfulness practice that I get from using my cameras. 

What's something in your Mary Poppins bag that you are grateful for this week?

This week, I am honoring my gratitude by donating to Puerto Rico's recovery. Talaura posted a very useful link on her Facebook timeline this week for the Empire State Relief and Recovery Effort for Puerto Rico. They have information on ways you can help.