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Filtering by Tag: yoga

THANKFUL FRIDAY

Cindy Maddera

When yoga is accomplished, you will have insight of our true nature.

I am re-reading The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali and taking notes on the things that stand out in the notebook my mother gave me for my birthday. It is a lovely notebook, with fake leather cover and a spiral binding. The cover has three decorative hand drawn cactuses at the top and under them it reads “you’re looking sharp today.” I am not sure if this is meant to inspire me to write or dress better, but the lines are a perfect spacing. Because of this, I have been hesitant to put words on the paper. I have a hard time with these kinds of things. I could stare at a new box of crayons for years before pulling one free from the box to use. The Cabbage had a tupperware box full of crayons and they were all broken or missing the paper wrapper around the outside. I would grimace as I held one of those grimy waxy broken crayons between my fingers to color something, but I would rather put up with the discomfort of the broken crayon than wreck a brand new crayon. So this notebook has been sitting on my desk since January.

The version of the sutras that I am reading is an app I downloaded to my iPad. The format makes it more intuitive for study in the way it breaks down the sanskrit and the definition of the sanskrit, but then there is a separate section of discussion. I thought I could just use my Apple pencil to highlight things that jumped out at me, but the Apple pencil does not work in this app. I was two days into my readings before I gave in and grabbed that new notebook. Research has found that handwriting notes versus typing them allows for more efficient learning and retention. I have come across certain phrases in the discussions of the sutras that I want my brain to hold onto for longer than a minute. It turns out that I don’t want to read the Yoga Sutras so much as I want to study them. I want to dig in deep and take my time with them. I read them way back when I did my teacher training because it was required reading, but I didn’t really study the book the way I did my science and anatomy books. I didn’t treat my yoga teacher training as schooling. I treated it as a training and taking it in with that mentality taught me the foundation of the poses and the benefits and disadvantages of each pose. I ignored the spiritual benefits to the practice. This is fine because I don’t want to teach the spiritual side of yoga. As I get deeper and deeper into my own personal practice though, I find that I am becoming curious about that side of things.

Stay curious.

Being a curious child is what lead me to my scientific career. I take my curiosity for granted, not really noticing it as being curious as much as I am just doing my job. I am solving puzzles every day and seeing what happens if I do this or that. It has become so routine that I forget that I am actually curious to know what the answers are going to be at the end of it all. I do really want to know the answers! Staying curious keeps me moving forward and digging deeper to find answers to gather all of knowledge my brain will allow. I forget to acknowledge my curiosity and the impact it has on my daily life or how my curiosity is part of what makes me who I am. Usually I am encouraging my students to take their practice off their mats and out into their everyday life. Today, I am reminded that sometimes I need to take my daily life into my yoga practice.

Curiosity may have killed the cat, but satisfaction (or learning the answer) brought him back. Curiosity might just be part of my true nature.

HITTING THE PELVIC FLOOR

Cindy Maddera

I attended an anatomy of yoga workshop over the weekend. Really, it turned out to be mostly a review for me. The studio that hosted the workshop also has a yoga teacher training. I was more or less just crashing one of these teacher training sessions. It was kind of cute to see all these new, fresh faced, yoga students who were just learning that psoas starts with the letter ‘p’. It was nice to hear someone teaching about applying anatomy to yoga to benefit the yoga student without causing injury. I feel like the concept of adapting the yoga pose to the individual body as opposed to forcing a body into the yoga pose, a concept I learned in teacher training years ago, is just now becoming a more popular idea in mainstream yoga. I did walk away from this workshop with two insights.

One? I undervalue myself as a yoga teacher.

The second insight was about the pelvic floor.

Raise your hand if know what the pelvic floor is and how to engage that pelvic floor.

I have known the anatomy of the pelvic floor since Anatomy and Physiology class in undergrad. If you think about your pelvis as a bowl, the pelvic floor consists of muscles that line the bottom of that bowl. They keep your guts from falling out when you stand up. They also give us control over the bladder and bowls. A weak or too tight pelvic floor can lead to incontinence. This group of muscles is part of the core muscles, which help the diaphragm expand and contract while breathing. I cannot tell you how many yoga classes I have been in where a teacher has said “engage your pelvic floor”. Another phrase I have heard from a teacher is “zip it all up!” None of these phrases have been helpful. I just shrug and squeeze all the holes between my legs as tight as I can muster. Jess once told me a story about a girl she went skiing with. They were on the ski lift and the girl looked down and then quickly back up and said “That made my tootie draw up!” That’s what I do when ever I am cued to ‘zip it all up’ or ‘engage the pelvic floor’. I draw up my tootie.

This is not engaging the pelvic floor. I mean, it kind of is, but not really, but this was the only thing I knew to do because I had no idea what my pelvic floor muscles even felt like when engaged. There’s an exercise I learned in training that builds arches in the feet. It’s basically lifting the toes, but part of it is to leave the big toe and the pinky toe down and just lift the three middle toes. I can almost picture some your faces while reading that because I made the same face when I was asked to do it. I had no idea what muscles to engage to just lift the three middle toes. I had to reach down and physically lift those toes with my hand so I could create a muscle memory for the action. I can’t really do that with the pelvic floor. Well, I can’t really do that in public any way.

The teacher on Saturday had us do an exercise that was meant to teach us about our pelvic floor muscles. She had us all press back into a wide legged child’s pose and on the inhale she told us to “feel the space between our legs expand and feel it contract” on the exhale. All the lights came on inside my brain at that same time. The pelvic floor and the diaphragm work together. The pelvic floor pulls down on the inhale (that expanding feeling) and then moves back up with the exhale. That’s an involuntary movement, but once you are aware of that movement you can do it voluntarily.

Try it.

You might be wondering why you would want to be aware of these muscles. What’s the point of voluntarily contracting the pelvic floor? In yoga, the pelvic floor is what helps give you lift. Any time you hear a teacher say something like “lift the body up” it is the pelvic floor that helps you do this. Those seated poses where you lift your whole body up off the mat? Engaging the pelvic floor helps you do that. But also, being aware of how those muscles feel allows you to have better knowledge of how to stretch those muscles. We want strong pelvic floors that can also relax a little at times so we don’t end up needing diapers.

This anatomy workshop was worth the money just for the way she cued us to breathe in child’s pose.

THANKFUL FRIDAY

Cindy Maddera

We are expecting around five and half inches of snow over the weekend. It is snowing as I type this. And all I can think about is how this is going to mess up my routine. Do I go fight the traffic and people after work to do our grocery shopping? Or do I wait until the morning and have to unbury my car and dig my way out of the driveway? Do I just force us all to eat rice and beans all weekend? What about that yoga workshop I’ve already paid money to attend? Will they cancel it? School closings started to scroll across the TV last night way before the storm even hit. I am this close to hanging up a “Closed for February” sign and curling into a ball in my bed. Writing about gratitude is a struggle today, but here goes.

I made twenty four hour miso eggs for our ramen bowls last night and I’ve decided on two things. First, there should be eggs marinating in miso in our refrigerator at all times. Second, I’m going to have to start making my own miso. I made broth for our ramen with smoked bonito and the miso I scraped off the eggs and it is official. I make the best ramen in the city. Speaking of eggs, I went to feed the chickens on Wednesday and found four eggs in the chicken coop. I leaped for joy at the sight of them because for me, those eggs bring more hope than any shadow viewing groundhog. Actually, I kind of thought we’d seen the last of the eggs in October and that our chickens’ laying days were over. So when I saw all four different colored eggs sitting the coop, I was thrilled.

I am up to holding forearm plank for two and half minutes. I still don’t like it, but I’m feeling the benefits. Yesterday in my yoga practice, I pretzeled my legs into a full seated lotus, pressed my palms down into my mat and lifted my butt off the mat. I could swing my body freely back and forth. The lift comes from core strength. I have not done full lotus in years because it’s really not a safe pose for your knees. So I was pretty surprised that I could still do that pose, but even more surprised by how easily I lifted my body from the floor. I am always surprised that I am actually stronger than I think I am. Which is why I know that groceries will get purchased this weekend. I will survive this snow storm just like I survived all the other ones. I will not scrotum out and close myself off for the whole month of February.

I don’t have to like it but I can tolerate it.

THANKFUL FRIDAY

Cindy Maddera

Freezing mist and drizzle set in around here on Wednesday. Schools closed early and stayed closed through Thursday. The Y has a no close policy. They stay open for people who need to be someplace warm. This meant that the yoga class I teach on Wednesday evenings would not be cancelled unless I called it in. I cancelled my class the week before because of work and weather. I did not feel like I could get away with this two Wednesdays in a row. So, I bundled up and with warnings from Michael to drive very very safely, I went to teach my Wednesday night yoga class.

I arrived early and when I went to lay out my mat and set up my things, one of the Y trainers was set up in that space with one of his clients. I chatted with the trainer about yoga. I did a few rounds of surya namaskar. I reviewed my notes for the class I had prepared for the evening and I eyed the clock. I was starting to think that no one was going to show up for class. A minute before my class was supposed to start, a woman came rushing in and said “Oh My GOD! I’m so glad you’re here.” She turned out to be my only student for the evening and it was probably the best class I’ve taught in a while. I was able to take the class I had planned and tweak it specifically for her needs. We flowed through a series of poses and then did a few exercises to prepare for headstand. She mentioned having problems with tightness in her shoulders and I showed her a few exercises she could do at home relieve some of that tension. When the class ended, the woman expressed her gratitude to me several times. She thanked me for staying and teaching the class even though she was my only student. She thanked me for class and the work we had done together in this practice. She thanked me for how good her body felt after the practice. She was so grateful.

This gratitude, of course, made me feel good but what I did not express to her was how grateful I was for her being present in our class that evening. For one thing, I was grateful to be able to share my practice and knowledge to this woman in a way that will help her beyond the yoga mat. At the same time, being able to give the gift of easing one’s physical pain is a soothing balm for my soul. Wednesday would have been Chris’s 48th birthday and I spent the day with this knowledge ping ponging it’s way around my brain. I remember that he was in good spirits for that last one. We’d had friends visiting and there had been laughter. Always laughter. Then Chris immediately started to decline. He went from being able to communicate effectively to making absolutely no sense in one day. The worst of it though, was the pain. Chris was in so much pain and there was nothing I could do to ease it. I could give him pills that would barely manage his pain, but managing pain is not the same as being pain free.

It was horrifying to have to watch him suffer and debilitating to not have any control over the amount of his suffering.

I did not do anything monumental for this woman. I simply helped her to ease tension in her shoulders so she would sleep better that night. There are things within my control and abilities and there are things that are not. Controlling Chris’s pain was not in my control or abilities. At one point while working on headstand, the women said “this is hard! and it shows me that I lack strength.” I said to her “You have the strength to do the things you need to do. No where in our daily lives do we need to do headstands. Sure, it’s fun and feels empowering to be able to do these kinds of poses, but don’t forget that you are strong in other ways.” I did not realize at the time that I was saying those words to myself.

I have the strength to do the things I need to do. I am strong in other ways.

THANKFUL FRIDAY

Cindy Maddera

Every week, at the end of the yoga class that I teach at the Y, I tell my students to take a moment to have gratitude for themselves and their devotion to their mats. I mean, one doesn’t just magically appear in a yoga class. There’s getting dressing in proper bending clothes. Right now, temperatures here are freezing. So there’s multiple layers of coats, gloves and scarves that have to be pulled on. There’s driving to the studio or gym. Then all of those layers have to be pulled off. The truth is, the easy thing to do is to stay home, wrapped up in a blanket with a mug of cream of tomato soup. Except the students in my class did not do the easy thing. There is something to be said about being grateful for making the effort. There is something to be said for taking a moment to pat yourself on the back and say “good job! look at you doing something good for your body!”

I am quick to forget to take a moment to have gratitude for myself.

Recently, I overheard a guy say that his goal for the year was to show up. He said this while in an exercise class and was referring to just showing up to class, but I thought his goal is a really great one in general. What if we all made a goal to just show up? Over the last two weeks, my time in the gym or even on my mat has been sketchy and inconsistent. I have taught my Wednesday night yoga classes and I have attended a class or two. I have gotten on the elliptical once and the bike once, but that has been it. I am used to doing at least thirty minutes of cardio five days a week. Wednesday I jumped right back in where I’d left off and Thursday morning, my body struggled to get out of bed. The alarm went off and I toyed with the idea of staying put. My throat was itchy and I was slightly congested. I could have easily made the argument that I didn’t feel well even though I knew a hot shower and my Neti pot would get rid of the congestion. Then Josephine jumped off the bed and scratched at the door to be let out, so I got up. I got up. I participated. I got back into my routine. I showed up. Then I patted myself on the back and said “good job! look at you doing something good for your body!” But I don’t just want to show up to the gym. I want to show up to life.

I’m going take that guy’s goal to just show up. Then I’m going to take a moment to be grateful to myself for just showing up.

YOGAVERSARY

Cindy Maddera

I went to a yoga class at work on Tuesday. Usually I just go on Wednesdays, but I was feeling the need for some discipline. I snuck into Amie’s yoga flow class knowing that I could easily disappear into a corner. The previous week, she had been teaching the class the basics of Ashtanga yoga and for today’s class she wanted to continue with that theme but incorporate more of the seated postures. If you are not familiar with an Ashtanga practice, you will hear the words “seated postures” and feel some comfort in knowing that you will be just sitting around on your mat. ‘Seated’ sounds easy and yes, once your butt is on the mat, the pose that follows is simple. It’s the getting there and getting out parts that are hard. It starts in down dog and involves bringing the weight into your hands and shoulders as you hop up and swing your legs through. Then you do all of this in reverse to get out.

Give me the fundamental standing asanas any day. The sweep through thing has never been my strong suit.

From the grumblings of some of the other students in the class, I take it it is not their favorite thing either. But the occasional Ashtanga practice is good for you. It’s simple, yet challenging and for certain personalities (or doshas) it is a practice that can take you out of a comfort zone. The full Ashtanga practice is not my yoga practice though. I prefer a more body balanced practice then what Ashtanga provides, but often modify an Ashtanga series to my own needs. I was thinking about my yoga needs while trying to fling my body forward into a seated position and doing some math in Tuesday’s class and I figured out that 2019 is my 20 year yoga anniversary. It will be twenty years since I walked in and attended my very first yoga class, which happened to be an Ashtanga class.

I hated it.

I’m not kidding.

I hated that first class, but I went back for more because I am prideful and refuse to accept failure. I recognize that hating my first yoga class is not a failure. It just seemed like a failure to me at the time because I thought (had set myself up for it) I would love yoga. And I do love yoga. Just not Ashtanga yoga. Twenty years later and I don’t hate Ashtanga any more either. That one class opened me up to the giant world of yoga and a yoga practice that brings me joy and comfort. It also gave me something that I have not found in any other format and that is body confidence. Being on my mat is the one place where I am not just comfortable in my skin, but where I truly feel like this body is beautiful. Yoga has also given me a community of women who are all strong, beautiful and so ridiculously supportive. Karen, my yoga teacher, continues to be a source of reference and knowledge in all things yoga and life. Then there’s Shannon, who talked me into teaching again. She set me up with Kelli Austin at Sunshine Yoga who promoted my strap workshop without really even knowing me. Now I have Kelly, who’s joy of life radiates out of her like an atom bomb.

Kelly made me realize something today. She teaches the Wednesday lunch time class that I normally attend and today I was her only student. I had stepped back to plank and suddenly I hear her exclaim “Oh my gosh! Look at how you’re on the tips of your toes! I’ve never seen anybody do that. It’s like you’re floating!” First, I had no idea that I was doing this in plank pose. Secondly, it makes me laugh because if she only knew how much I struggled with plank in those early years of yoga. Now I was making it look effortless, like I was floating. For my next trick, Rocky, watch me pull a rabbit out of my hat. No really, what is my next trick? I’ve been thinking a lot about what I want for 2019 and one of those things is to celebrate my yoga anniversary. I’ve already signed up for an anatomy of yoga workshop in February, but I’d like to speckle the year with attending yoga workshops. Maybe this is the year I finally take a Kundalini yoga class or I find a teaching gig at one of the studios near me.

I do know that I want to spend more time in the vicinity of the kind of women who constantly cheer each other on.

THINGS I'M DOING DIFFERENTLY

Cindy Maddera

Michael and I had a short side hustle going charging Bird scooters. These are little electric razor type scooters. The company was paying $5 to $15 a scooter to charge them and then drop them off at a designated ‘nest’. Michael would go out around 9:00 PM and hunt up three scooters and then I would get up at 5:00 AM to return them to a nest. We had a really nice system going and made almost $100 our first week. Then the company decided to lower the prices to $3 a scooter and the scooters were harder to find. Most of them ended up in the Plaza area or downtown, which seemed to far for us to drive for $9. Hunting the scooters at night is not the easiest thing to do either. Michael noticed on his last few runs that he seemed to be in competition with another person driving around in a van. They were racing each other to scooters.

So we stopped our side hustle, but I’m still waking up at 5:00 AM. To be honest, I had kind of been waking up around that time any way. I’d roll over and look at the clock and the think “oh! I can sleep for another hour!” I’d close my eyes and snooze until my alarm went off. I would wake up groggy and contemplating the prospect of staying put. Getting out of bed was hard. That’s because I was resetting my sleep rhythm. Circadian rhythm is complicated, but here’s the gist of the sleeping part. About two hours before you wake up, your body starts to prepare, like increases body temperature. When you disrupt this process by hitting the snooze button your body gets confused. It goes back to sleepy time mode and then when you do finally get up, you’re left with a fuzzy headed groggy feeling.

I noticed that I felt better on days I got up early to drop off Birds. I was up and doing things with more enthusiasm for being up and doing things. I know it sounds crazy. Most people think that 5:00 AM is an ungodly time to be up and about. The sun isn’t even up at this time. The chickens aren’t even out of the coop at this time in the morning. But this seems to be how my body works. I’m an early to bed, early to rise kind of girl. When the scooter hustle stopped, I started getting up and getting on my mat. Now I do about fifty minutes of yoga before getting into the shower. It is not always easy. There are many morning when my body is up, but not willing to move. I am bit stiff and creaky. It take two rounds of sun salutation to get the blood moving in my extremities. Then there are moments when I have to slide Josephine off the end of the mat because she’s decided she’s going to lay there or the cat decides to walk under me while I’m in down dog, his tail tickling my nose.

Distractions.

I stopped doing yoga at home when J died. Not completely. There were times I tried to get on my mat at home, but there were always too many distractions. At first it was the phone. I just kept expecting it to ring with bad news and then I’d remember the sound of my mother’s voice when she called me that day. There was/is trauma connected to my yoga practice or at least my home yoga practice. It took me a while to even look at my yoga mat after that day. In time I found that I could handle the distractions of a gym setting better than I could the distractions that came with being at home. Ask any one who as ever spent time with me in my house and they will all tell you that I am not still. I am always up taking care of something. Laundry, dishes, cooking, picking up a bit of lint off the floor. There is always a slightly unsettling thought lingering in the back of my brain. Something bad, life changing bad, is going to happen, particularly if I am being still on my mat.

Turns out that I can also handle the distractions from a dog and a cat. The morning routine is working. It makes my body feel better and it makes my brain feel better. I believe it has even helped me to contain the rage that I am feeling about certain things (cough, cough, Kavanaugh, cough). This new routine settles me into my space and that is a feeling I haven’t had in a really long time.

THANKFUL FRIDAY

Cindy Maddera

Last night I taught my last Thursday night yoga class at the Y. I have been teaching a Wednesday and Thursday evening class there for almost six months and for the most part things have been going well. My Wednesday class has a decent sized group of regulars. Thursday's class never really took off. Some nights, I would have six and some nights I would have one. I never knew what to expect with class size or students. I was always modifying and improvising the class. There were other issues with that class besides attendance that had to do with timing and scheduling. Also, by the time I reached Thursday, this body was tired. This brain was tired. So I made a choice to drop this class. 

I was talking about this class with a new friend not too long ago. She used to own her own studio and understands the work/life imbalance that starts to happen with yoga teachers. I talked with her about the idea of letting that Thursday night class go for all the reason I listed above. I also mentioned that I have something scheduled for every night of the week except for Mondays and that it would be nice to have an evening with no obligations. She urged me to honor those thoughts and her words really gave me pause. At first I agonized over the decision. Should drop I it? Should I just stick it out? Guilt would settle in about letting people down, about giving up. I would start berating myself about just being lazy. Even when I finally sent out the email detailing the end of that class, I felt like I had done something wrong, that people were going to be mad at me. But honestly, I didn't feel like I was making any kind of impact with this class.

When I finished teaching last night's class to three students, two of which had showed up ten minutes late, I felt relieved. A weight I didn't even realize I was carrying floated up and away. In that moment I knew that I had made the right decision. I am not so good at honoring my own thoughts and feelings. It is one of the reasons I end up doing things that I don't really want to do.  I am thankful for her words and I am thankful I took pause to honer my feelings towards this class.

Saying "no" to the things in my life that no longer serve me well is a continuing practice.

 

GUILTY

Cindy Maddera

Someone recently posted this blog post by Rumya Putcha at Namaste Nation on a yoga teacher Facebook group I am part of. It is a very eye opening read and I have not been able to stop thinking about it. Rumya Putcha discussed the mis-appropriation of 'namaste' and cultural appropriation of upper class white women and yoga. Yoga is thought of and marketed as a white woman's domain. I have become hyper aware of the lack of diversity of people in yoga studio classes. I will be sitting on my mat, waiting for the class to begin and I'll look around the room. We all look alike and this makes me very uncomfortable. I don't tell you that to garnish some kind of sympathy or "Oh, no Cindy. You don't need to feel uncomfortable." I DO need to feel uncomfortable. This should make me feel out of place. 

“When you’re white in this country, you’re taught that everything belongs to you. You think you have a right to everything. … You’re conditioned this way. It’s not because your hair is a texture or your skin is light. It’s the fact that the laws and the culture tell you this. You have a right to go where you want to go, do what you want to do, be however—and people just got to accommodate themselves to you.” Ta-Nehisi Coates

My first exposure to yoga was in a gym setting. In fact, I did not attend yoga classes in yoga studios until yoga teacher training. Yoga was/is a workout option. There was no talk of the spiritual side of yoga or stories of the Gods who inspired these poses. The teacher said 'namaste' at the end of every class and we just nodded our heads in response. I didn't know the meaning of that word. I just assumed it was some sort of goodbye/thank you/blessing. Like ending a prayer with 'amen'. I have a giant Ganesh tattoo on my back, not because I am Hindu, but because I like elephants and was attracted to this Hindu God because of his elephant head. I did do my research before having him permanently placed on my body and I love this tattoo. But I do question what right I have to put Ganesh on my body in such a way. It is hard to admit because no one wants to admit to being part of the problem, but I am part of the problem. 

I see my mistakes and I'm working on being part of the solution. My roommate in college was full blood Cherokee. She used to invite me to her home in Stilwell Oklahoma mostly because she didn't have a car and missed her family so much. She would say "Drive me home this weekend and we'll have Mom make Indian tacos and we'll go to a stomp dance." I always agreed because her family was so nice and I loved going to the stomp dances. The dances would run late into the night and into early morning and I watched for hours as Cherokee men and women danced in a circle. I would help my college roommate tie on her tortoise shell shakers that fit the length of her shin and was always surprised by the weight of them. The dances were beautiful and mesmerizing but I never participated unless my roommate specifically dragged me into the circle. I was very aware that I was an outsider and that I had no claim to this culture.  This is how I should also approach yoga. I do not lay any cultural rights on yoga. It is a gift that has been brought to our Western society, a gift that should be treated with more respect. 

I chose to teach yoga at the Y because I thought it would be the best way to bring the benefits of yoga to a more diverse group of people. I teach my students how to move safely into yoga poses and to challenge themselves physically. I teach my students to focus on their breath and how linking your breath with your movement aids in calming the mind. I encourage my students to find joy in their practice. I do not teach the spiritual side of yoga. We do not chant or "om". I still say 'namaste' at the end of class. I don't know if it is the right thing to do any more. I say it, fully meaning the sentiment behind the word: that which is beautiful in me salutes that which is beautiful in you. But my students don't know that this is the meaning of namaste. This is another mistake on my part. When you know the meaning and reverence of something, you are more likely to be more reverent with that something. You are less likely to toss around a sacred word like namaste.

This is true for all languages and cultures. 

 

 

 

 

 

ATTACHMENT AND THANKFUL FRIDAY

Cindy Maddera

It seems lazy of me to turn a yoga post into a Thankful Friday post, but sometimes those two things are so easily linked together. Monday morning, I was rushed to get out the door and I was halfway to work before I realized that I left my yoga mat behind. There used to be a time that if I didn't have my mat handy, I'd just shrug my shoulders and say "Guess I'm not doing yoga today." Now the idea of not doing my practice just because I don't have my mat seems really silly. There are plenty of mats in the gym for me to grab up, unroll and hop onto. Which is exactly what I did. 

This was a gentle reminder of how attachments can cause suffering, but also how attachments can be used as an excuse to not do the things that serve us best. Attachment comes in so many different ways. I tend to be not as attached to things as I am attached to specific actions or inactions. In this case, I am more attached to my yoga practice than I am to the props required for my practice. The other day I was taking a yoga class. We were using straps and the woman next to me did not have one, so I just handed over mine. I did it without thinking even though I kind of needed the strap for the pose we were working on. I grabbed my towel and improvised, but the action of giving my strap away was an easy thing to do. When do we decide to release a specific attachment? At what point is the attachment itself the thing that is causing the suffering, instead of just the loss of the object of our attachment? These questions have become important questions that I ask myself daily. Are my attachments serving any kind of purpose? 

I have an attachment to always trying to do the right thing, say the right thing. Sometimes this attachment is so strong that it cripples me. I end up doing nothing. I have an attachment to guilt. I can make my stomach turn upside with guilt that usually centers around not being enough or doing enough. My attachment to my pride is something I need to let go of.  This week I found myself telling the story of me and Chris to two different people, at completely different times. I did not start either of these conversations and both times I ended up crying as I finished the story. Both times I felt shameful and embarrassed for crying. Both times I ended up berating myself for those feelings because I truly believe that living my life the way I live it, openly and honestly, is one of the best things I can do to honor those I have lost. 

I am thankful for the reminder to let go of attachments that do not serve me. 

 

 

YOGA AND SCIENCE

Cindy Maddera

Yoga Journal recently ran an article on the safety of jumping back to plank or chaturanga. What I loved so much about this article is not just how it discusses the anatomy involved in performing jump backs, but how they visited an Applied Biomechanics lab to take actual scientific measurements of the impact on joints when jumping back to plank and chaturanga. Their data showed that there was no more force placed onto the joints than as if you were walking. The article goes on to say that hopping back is perfectly safe if you can hold plank properly without sagging in the belly. The same goes for hopping back to chaturanga. I stand with the quiet rule on this. If you can't hop back without making a sound, then you should work on your core strength and skip the hopping.As a research scientist, I want to see this experiment done with non-seasoned yogis because this is the side of yoga that I can totally relate too. What's the impact of hopping back if you don't have proper form? How can teach my students to stay safe in hope backs? 

Yoga has some stigmas and one of those is the whole hippy dippiness of it. I mean, Yoga Journal followed the anatomy article with an article on crystals and their healing powers. You guys know me and know how hard I rolled my eyes at this. The only time I was not fully engaged during my yoga teacher training was when we got to the not scientific lulu stuff like auras and energy bodies. I was all in on those lessons that focused on the anatomy of the human body because I could see it in action. I could place my hand on the body part that was working and feel the muscle working. I could also look at the scientific studies and publications about yoga. There are many many NIH funded research programs that involve studying the effects of yoga on health. There is published data that shows both the pros and cons of a daily yoga practice. For instance, studies have shown that yoga is a great exercise for relieving low back pain. Pranayama or breathing practices yoga was taught to relieve asthma when in fact there is no evidence that yoga improves asthma. Pro. Con. All scientifically based research.

The yoga we see today is not the original yoga. It has and continues to be modified to make poses safer and more accessible and even to fit trends. Yoga battles with preconceived ideas from non-yogis. There are people who believe yoga is a religion. There are many who think you have to be flexible to do yoga. There are people who think yoga is sitting in lotus with your eyes closed while chanting. Linking actual scientific research with yoga is a pretty powerful tool for battling those preconceived ideas. When I tell my students that chanting "Om" can be good for them I can point to a scientific study in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care that shows that humming increases the production of nitric oxide in the nasal passages. You end up humming as you chant "Om". The extra nitric oxide helps you fight of sinus pain and infections. 

I like have scientific evidence to back up some of the lulu sounding things I say.

MOON ZAP

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.  

Namaste. 

BODY CONFIDENCE AND YOGA

Cindy Maddera

I skimmed through an article the other day about how yoga fosters body confidence. I say 'skimmed' because the article wasn't giving me any new information. Nothing profound jumped off the page. Yoga teaches you to let go of perfection and to focus on your inner self. Ideally...this is what yoga teaches, but letting go of the idea of perfection in yoga is not so easy to see visually. Not until recently, like in maybe in the last two years, has yoga magazines like Yoga Journal graced their covers with models who are not super thin and wirey with muscles. Iyengar and Brikram yoga practices put an emphasis on alignment and perfection in poses and I have heard stories of serious Ashtanga teachers sending students away until they have mastered a pose in the ashtanga sequence. 

It is not just the yoga media and some forms of practices that seem counter intuitive to promoting body confidence though. There have been many times when I have walked into a yoga studio, looked around me and thought "I do not belong here." I have looked at the other students, I have met the teacher and I have immediately started listing all the ways I am not enough for this class. I am not fit enough, strong enough, young enough, skinny enough, enlightened enough. All of those not enoughs dissipate once I am moving on my mat, but to someone new to yoga, that whole experience can be very intimidating. Though Yoga Journal has gotten a lot better at showing a more diverse group of yogis throughout their pages, many yoga studios feel a little less diverse. It can be difficult to cultivate body confidence in that sort of environment. 

There have been many psychological studies on the effects yoga has women's body confidence. A study released in the September 2016 issue of Body Image handed out questionnaires to a hundred and something yoga practitioners and a hundred and something non-yoga practitioners and found that people who practice yoga scored higher on body confidence than those who do not practice yoga. They also found that the people who practice yoga scored lower on self-objectification. A study released in Psychology of Sports and Exercise in March of this year focused on the effects of mirrors on yoga students in a yoga practice and found that women in yoga classes with mirrors had greater body image anxiety. It is clear that yoga is good for us, but it is also clear that it has it's own set of complicated pros and cons.

One reason I choose to teach at the Y is because it is a way to expose people who normally would not go to a studio to yoga. My classes at the Y are a diversity of age, size, color and fitness and it is beautiful. I try every week to put an emphasis on safety over so called perfection. I purposefully set my class up in a way that they are facing away from the mirrors. I tell them to find the joy in their practice and I have started to see my students grow in their own confidence. These lessons are all well and good and something any yoga teacher worth their salt teaches. Something I feel I could do better as a teacher is pushing my students to create their own personal practice. Because this is where true self confidence blooms into the sweetest flower. Those times I practice on my own are moments when I feel the most beautiful. 

I know that cultivating a personal yoga practice hard. There are days I unroll my mat and think "I don't want to do anything." but I do something. It may be simply sitting back in child's pose and counting my breaths to ten, but it is something. There are no hard set rules of how long you should be on your mat or what you even need to be doing. That's the joy of making it your own. If you are a teacher, I encourage you to impress the importance of a yoga practice outside of a class. If you are a student, I challenge you to spend just five minutes every day this week on your mat, on your own.

Namaste. 

THANKFUL FRIDAY

Cindy Maddera

I noticed a white powder drifting down to my yoga mat as I moved through my sun salutations. My skin was so dry that it was flaking off of my body with each movement. I was disgusting. The next day, I took a long steamy shower and scrubbed my body with oily bath salts and then coated myself in lotion. This is something I have to do every day or I am just a walking flake. This is called self maintenance. This is something I have gotten better at over the years. I schedule regular doctor visits for all of the doctors. I take time to visit my favorite massage therapist every so often. I keep my toenails trimmed so I can't use my toes as weapons. These teeth get flossed every day. Look at me, being a grown up and self maintaining. 

Once week, I sit in my therapist's office talking about my week which inevitably circles around to how I am not enough. I could write you the longest list of ways that I am not enough. I am not fill-in-the-blank enough. The biggest not enough of them all is the hardest one for me to say out loud, but sometimes I do so I can hear just how ridiculous it sounds. Because I know that biggest one is ridiculous, but still...that's the one that sits with me day in and day out. Dr. Mary doesn't really ever say much when I talk about not being enough. Whatever she says it tends to prompt me into talking about the things I do that are enough. I talk about the money I can spare every month for charity and how teaching yoga at the Y is giving back to my community. This is self care. This is something that I have not gotten better at over the years. 

Whenever the weather is remotely nice outside, all the people in Kansas City get outside. This means that the Y is practically empty. Wednesday night, I set up to teach my yoga class and then ended up sitting around for about half an hour. I was just about to pack it in and call it a night when a woman stumbled into the class. She looked around, slightly confused and then said "Am I the only one? I thought I was only just late." Then we had a short discussion about whether or not to have class at all. I told her that I didn't mind teaching a short thirty minute class with her, so she grabbed a mat and a block and I taught class. And it was a good class. It was the kind of class where I could see the student making those mental connections to the cues I was giving her and see the lightbulb of understanding light up above her head. It was the kind of class that could make me believe that I was making a difference and doing something good

This is self care. 

This week, I am thankful for that one student. I am thankful for the opportunity to share my practice and knowledge. I am thankful for that moment where I was enough. I am thankful for self care. 

I am thankful for you.

 

THANKFUL FRIDAY

Cindy Maddera

I've had to shift my own yoga practice around since I've started teaching yoga again. Instead of attending the evening yoga class on Wednesdays, I am now going to the noon yoga class. Not a big deal, it's just that the teachers are different between the two classes. Again, not a big deal because I'm super fortunate to have access to some awesome teachers. The lunch time yoga teacher is wonderful and funny. She seems to share my philosophy on yoga and how it should be a joyful practice. The down side is that I don't get to see Shannon, the evening yoga teacher as much as I used to. Shannon is the first yoga teacher I met when we moved here and I have been attending her Wednesday evening classes on and off for over five years. In that time, she encouraged me to volunteer at a private high school for underprivileged teens, seen me struggle with grief, and she nudged me back into teaching. We have both learned knew techniques in teaching from each other and I never in a million years would have done a yoga workshop without her insistence and support. You should read the letter of recommendation she wrote for me when I applied to teach at the Y. It says the most amazing and kind things about me and she wrote them with such sincerity that the Y believed her.

Scheduling has made it so our paths don't cross too often anymore and it had been some time since I had seen her face. So, I sent her a text asking her to meet me for lunch because I missed her face. We met for lunch yesterday at Eden Alley, a vegetarian/vegan restaurant that I love but hardly ever get to go to. Then afterwards, we went for a nice long walk outside. We talked about everything from relationships to yoga schedules to how to make the world a better place through yoga. It was so good and so easy. It would be a no brainer to say that I am grateful to have a friend like Shannon, but what I am really grateful for is the time we took for each other yesterday. It is really easy for me to let things (people) slide away. I'm not usually the one to instigate meetings and events. I guess, in a very passive aggressive way, I tend to assume that everyone has more important things to do than meet me for lunch.

I am thankful I took the initiative to cultivate this friendship. It also reminds me how difficult it is to make friends after you've reached a certain age. It is easy with busy work schedules and maintaining old relationships to not notice the need for new friendships until you move to a new state and a new town where you don't know anyone. Yesterday's lunch reminds me that I need to reach out and cultivate new friendships. Cultivating friendships is not my strong suit. I feel like I do a poor job of cultivating current relationships. It is a weakness I recognize and I want to work on this. Since I'm about to turn my garden into a patio, I need to grow something. It might as well be friends.  

I am thankful for my one day of scooter riding this week. I am thankful for beets and beats. I am thankful for my twenty minutes of meditation in the mornings. I am thankful for simple pleasures. I am thankful for you. 

NEW THINGS

Cindy Maddera

I decided to use the coupons that I had recently received from Victoria Secret and buy some new bras over the weekend. I don't really remember the last time I bought a new bra, but I think it was about four or five years ago. I've been wearing the same two bras for five years. It had been so long since the last brazier purchase that I couldn't even remember what size to get. When I mentioned this to one of the sales ladies, she got super excited and clapped her hands together while saying "Oh! let's do a bra fitting!" I responded with zero enthusiasm and a "okay." Turns out I've gone up one whole cup size which really leads me to wonder how that is when the scale at home keeps telling me that I have lost weight. Am I living the boob dream where all of my fat migrates to my chest? Are boobs like noses and ears and just continue to grow as we age? What is happening to my body?!?! I don't understand bra sizes any more than I understand the sizing of pants or children's shoes. 

I spent the next twenty minutes trying on different styles of the right sized bra before narrowing it down to two different styles. Then I added five pairs of cotton panties to my pile, because why not? I spent enough money to earn a 'free' tote! (Any one want a VS tote?) One of those styles has more padding and push up power than what I'm used to, so I'm waiting for a more confident day to wear that one. When I tried it on at home, Michael said "People are going to be looking at your boobs and wondering if you got a boob job." I'm not ready for that. I put the other one on the next day and was really surprised at how nice the new bra felt. Nothing was pinching or poking. The straps weren't slicing into my shoulders like a cheese slicer. I mentioned this to Michael who then asked me about the last time I bought a new bra. I mumbled something about the five year old bra and he said "Maybe you should buy new underwear every year." Sure, this is probably true but buying new bras is like shopping for pants or children's shoes. I'd rather poke myself under a finger nail with a toothpick. 

Then, I took my newly clad boobs to an intermediate AlReal yoga class (yoga in a hammock) at Midtown Yoga KC where I felt like maybe I was the oldest person in the class and definitely the least fit. I knew this class would be challenging, but I also new that as a teacher, I would not have any problems modifying. I was a little concerned about hanging myself in the hammock, but I ended up surprising myself and everyone else in the class with how easily I managed to get myself into wheel and shoulder stand. My body hurts a little bit today. There was a whole lot of core work and I have bruises on my hips and kidneys from hanging upside down in the hammock, but I kind of loved the class. I kind of loved the whole studio and I will probably be going back. I need to be pushed out of my comfort zone sometimes in my yoga practice. This class does that. 

So I did two things that I am normally resistant to this weekend: bra shopping and challenging yoga. And I liked both of those things. Well, maybe not the shopping part as much as the having a bra that fits me well part, but you get the idea. I just also realized that I tend to put myself in situations where I am either the oldest person in the class or the youngest. I guess I have a hard time hanging out with people my own age. I prefer to think that I have just grasped onto the concept that age means nothing and we could all use some time suspended in a hammock. 

 

THANKFUL FRIDAY

Cindy Maddera

Someone recently asked me how 2018 was treating me. I replied that I kind of felt like I was failing at all the things I had set out to do this year. That person then said "Cindy! It's only January!", except I heard "It's already January!" And I fell over with anxiety. I know this is just my brain playing tricks on me. My brain is an asshole. Yesterday, I read an article about a woman with sudden onset depression. It turned out that she had ovarian cancer. They removed it and everything turned out okay, but as I read the article I thought "I HAVE ALL OF THESE SYMPTOMS! I HAVE OVARIAN CANCER!" I do not have ovarian cancer.

Really, I didn't set any specific goals for 2018. So it is pretty silly to think that I am already failing at goals that were not set. I started another 365 day project on Flickr, taking a picture of myself every day and the project is becoming my morning meditation. It seems that I am more creative and more apt to take a selfie at seven in the morning. Those days (weekends really) where I don't get going in the mornings and I end up putting the picture off until later in the day are days where I just basically point the camera at my face and click. I started this project because for a while now, I've been looking in the mirror and seeing a sad saggy fat face on top of a lumpy sack of potatoes with arms and legs. Almost a whole month into this project and I still see that face and body. It's just a little less saggy, fat and potato like. I captured a picture of myself in Warrior II and when I looked back at the picture I thought "Wow! Look at that ninety degree angle of that front leg!" Side note: I still cannot get myself into Marichyasana. It is as if the yoga gods looked at me one day and decided that after years of doing this pose that I was done with it. Move on. 

What has pleased me so far about this project is that I have not gone out of my way to set up some elaborate shot. I've kept things simple and when I edit the images, I use the same filters and edits. As a result, my 365 day album is acquiring a clean, glowing look. The photo album is inspired by a series of photos that were on display at the Nelson some time ago. I forget the artist, but she had photographed herself daily. All of the images used the same backdrop and it was rare to see a picture of her face. You only saw pieces of her. There was something so honest about this idea and I thought about how we only see pieces of each other. An Instagram picture. A blog post. A status update on Facebook. We infer so much about others from these snippets and these snippets are part of who we are, what we believe and think. But those pieces do not tell the full story or show the whole picture of us. It reminds me to use those snippets wisely. I learn something or gain some kind of insight every time I participate in one of these 365 day projects. I am thankful for the lessons I am already learning from this year's project. I am thankful that I am not already failing at 2018. 

I am thankful for the warmer temperatures. I am thankful for the two students who consistently show up to my evening yoga classes. I am thankful for my own daily practice on the mat. I am thankful for those moments when Josephine spends a whole bunch of time digging around and building a nest in the blanket next to me on the couch. Then she abandons it before even trying to lay down in her nest so that she can come curl up in my lap instead. Those are sweet moments. 

I am thankful for you.

THANKFUL FRIDAY

Cindy Maddera

A couple of weeks ago, I was asked to sub a Saturday morning yoga class at the same place I'm teaching during the week. I've taken to setting up my mat in what has become obviously opposite of where all the other teachers set up. It's a strategic move. The space has mirrors on most of the two walls of the room. If I set up opposite of those mirrors, then the student are facing away from them. Mirrors are distracting and they pull your focus off your mat and away from just feeling what is going on with your body. That Saturday morning, I walked into the room and started setting up my spot for teaching. There were already a few mats down on the floor where some people had set up their space. My position put these mats on the front row. 

One older gentleman stood over to the side doing some light stretches. He looked at me and asked "Are you subbing for Gina?" I smiled and replied "Yes. I'm your sub for the day." The man made a face and then started to grumble as he walked over to his mat. Then he dragged his mat away from the front of the room. He stayed though. It was a big class and consisted of mostly the Silver Sneakers crowd. After class was over, several students came up to me to tell me just how much they enjoyed my teaching. One woman even asked if I was teaching any where else. I watched that older gentleman out of the corner of my eye as he rolled up his mat and then left. I hoped that I hadn't made the class too unpleasant for him. He had been so displeased that I was there instead of the teacher he was used to. So you can image how surprised I was to see him show up for my Wednesday class and then again for this last Wednesday evening class. In fact he was my only student on Wednesday and we had a great class together. 

Even though I only had one student in my class that night, I left there giving myself a little fist pump and a "YES!" because I had won over this older gentleman enough to keep him coming to my classes. These classes I'm teaching have had some pretty variable attendance from thirty students one day to one student the next. It's new to the schedule and the weather has been terrible. Getting a class established takes time. I am not upset when I end up with only one student. I am also getting used to this new schedule and getting back into a habit of writing down a class that can be adapted depending on the kind of students that show up. I am getting used to the pacing of a class and at times I feel at a loss of descriptive words. I'm a bit rusty or at least I feel a bit rusty at all of this. I am grateful for the validation that I'm doing this well. I am grateful for those moments while I'm teaching when I feel strong and confident. At some point during the class something will just shift into place and suddenly I will be all "Yeah...I totally know what I'm doing." Which is something I can't always say with confidence in other parts of my life.

I am thankful for above freezing temperatures. I am thankful for small but mighty dogs. I am thankful for my yoga practice. I am thankful for you.

CHUGGA CHUGGA

Cindy Maddera

Yesterday morning, I went out to start my car and the engine went "whir whir whir.....clickety clickety...ugh ugh ugh." I had a moment of panic before turning the key in the ignition again. Finally, on the third try, the engine puttered to life. My car is paid off in March (or April...something like that). My plan is to drive this car until the wheels fall off, but my plans and Murphy's Law don't always match up. So when there's a moment of starting hesitation, I get a little bit nauseous. Really, the only reason the engine struggled is because it is so awfully horribly cold outside. It really is the worst and I just go on and on about how one day I will retire to some place warm. I don't even care if it ends up being Florida. 

Once the car warmed up to a drivable temperature, I headed off to teach my first yoga class of the new year. I've been dreaming about teaching yoga. Really...not figuratively. I told you about the dream where I was teaching yoga in a room that had a potato bar (I still think Yogatado would be a great studio/restaurant idea). A few nights later I dreamed that I was teaching yoga in a space that was also hosting a birthday party. It was very loud and I had to shout. There were kids running around in between yoga mats. This dream turned out to be not too far off of reality. The space where I am teaching is an open space that also holds the free weights. A partial wall separates the room from the rest of the gym. You can hear everything from the work out area and people walk into the class area to get weights or just wander around. I totally had to yell to my students. 

When I first started teaching yoga to my coworkers at my old job, we had a hard time finding a class space. We ended up in stairwell. You opened the door and immediately to your left was a staircase but to the right of that staircase there was a closet/storage space. It mostly held a stack of folding chairs that fit under the stairs, leaving the rest of the floor area open for yoga mats. It was drafty or steamy depending on outside temperatures and occasionally someone would walk in to actually use the stairs or more likely hoping to use that space to make a personal phone call. I made a little sign to place on the doorknob outside whenever we were having class to warn people that yoga was happening in that room. Later on, I would end up teaching in real classrooms and yoga studios, but I never gave up the stairwell space for my coworker classes. 

I've been nervous and apprehensive about teaching yoga again after all this time of not teaching. The new teaching environment to most yoga teachers does not sound ideal, but to me, it's perfectly normal. In fact it was almost comforting to teach my first class of the new year after a five year hiatus in this noisy open space. It is familiar, which I know sounds crazy. One doesn't really link noisy open spaces with yoga. I see it as the perfect environment for teaching a student to be fully present on their mat and to guard their senses for relaxation. Because outside, in our every day lives, our environment is not ideal. I don't just mean the temperature, though saying the current temps are not ideal is being polite. Our world is busy with sights and sounds and things that make us uncomfortable. I don't necessarily want to teach people how to ignore all of this. Some times we need to be uncomfortable. I do want to teach people how to approach all of it with calmness though. This is a lesson that I needed to be reminded of, the practice of taking our yoga off the mat and into our daily life.

It is one thing to do yoga, but quite another to be yoga. 

THANKFUL

Cindy Maddera

In a few weeks, I will start teaching two yoga classes a week at the Red Bridge YMCA. After I talked to the director and left the facility with this news, I realized that I was elated with the prospects of teaching again. The feeling surprised me. It was almost like something inside me had been slightly misaligned and the prospect of teaching again set it all back into place. I didn't even know there was something off kilter until it clicked back into place. I had just assumed all this time that I was content with just my own practice and I believe that I was... for awhile. But I was made to teach yoga. It is part of who I am.

When Chris died, I lost my bearings. I started to question everything about myself and who I was. Who am I without Chris? This was the question that I was continuously asking myself. For so many years I had only seen myself as Cindy and Chris, Chris and Cindy. We were a unit and when he was gone, I fell to pieces. I was left with putting pieces of me back together and oh so often, I wound up putting those pieces back in the wrong way. Through trial and error, I have been working to set those pieces as straight as can be straight. Along the way I started to find the pieces of myself that make me who I am. The question is no longer 'who am I without Chris?'. The question is 'who am I?'. I didn't become me the day I met Chris. I have always been this girl. Brave, yet insecure. Creative and practical and at times philosophical. Chris just enhanced all of that. He pushed back those insecurities that might have kept me from being my best self. The pieces of my best self are still there. They've just been stuck in the wrong orientation.

Things are falling back into place. 

My therapist left me with this for Thanksgiving. It's a quote from Immanuel Kant.

Rules for happiness: something to do, someone to love, and something to hope for. 

It sounds very simple and funny really considering the length we all go through to find happiness, all the self help books we've read and projects we've started. I have all of the pieces required to fulfill those rules for happiness. My job fulfills my brainy side. Teaching yoga fills me with joy. Michael has been around through some of my trials and errors in fitting those broken pieces back in place and surprisingly, he's stuck around. He sticks around. We're making plans for our future, working together on finances so that we can pick a day to gut our kitchen. Michael's been using the IKEA kitchen planner to build our new kitchen and we futz and tweak it just about every night. We have many things to hope for. This makes me very grateful.

I am thankful for all of those pieces. I am thankful for my friends and family and the time we will have together over the next few days. I am thankful for you.