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Filtering by Category: yoga

108 THINGS

Cindy Maddera

It has happened three times in the last two weeks. I have gotten to work only to realize that I have forgotten to put any of my jewelry onto my body. My hand goes first to my throat to feel for my necklaces. A microsecond of panic sets in when I feel that they are missing. Then I check my ears for my tiny little elephant earrings and my wrist for bracelets. The panic subsides when I discover that all of the rest of the stuff is missing as well. That most likely means that I have not lost the necklaces. The whole point of wearing my necklaces, at least one of them any way, is to not lose some precious items. Chris’s wedding ring. My wedding ring set. My scooter charm from Tiffany’s. The heaviness of those rings disappeared a while ago. It was only after I added the scooter charm that I felt the weight of what that silver chain was carrying again. I was laughing with a yoga student not too long ago. She had taken off her big clunky necklace before class and was struggling to get it back on. She said she took it off because she feared an injury. I told her about my wedding rings and how one time as I was coming into down dog, Chris’s ring hit me in the mouth. I laughed and said something about how I could have chipped a tooth. I take them off now when I’m doing yoga. Usually. But the whole thing has become light as feathers around my neck and half the time I don’t notice them… until it hits me in the face in a forward fold.

On Tuesdays and Thursdays, I walk into the gym and grab a pair of hand weights. Then I get on one of the stationary bikes. While I’m watching something on Netflix or Amazon, I do various arm exercises and peddle on the bike. I started out with the tiny three pound weights. Now I have worked up to a whopping eight pounds. My goal is to just tone up my arms a bit, not build giant Hulk muscles. I am good with the eight pound weights. I can do enough repetitions of curls and tricep extensions to still feel the burn of my muscles working. I might move up to ten pounds weight soon, but I am content with the eight. I do not know how long it took me to recognize the moment when the three pound weight was just too easy or how long I stayed with the five pound weight before moving on to the eight. I did not keep track of time. I have noticed that about myself, lately. I struggle with keeping track of time. Or, at least, it is not something I pay attention to. Michael said something recently about it being June and how we needed to go to Bella Napoli’s. It took me a few minutes to understand what he was talking about. Anniversary thing. It is not that I forgot. It is that I just wasn’t paying attention.

Paying attention.

It is a choice, albeit a subconscious one, to pay attention to some things and not others. When I am doing my morning walk, I am paying attention to my surroundings. I hear the birds chirping and the roar of the water feature and the rush of the cars zipping by. I pay attention to how the sunlight filters down through the trees and hits the water droplets on the grass so that they look like they’re tipped with diamonds. I pay attention to chips in sidewalks because some times they are interesting. I do not pay attention to the passing of time and I no longer pay attention to the weight I carry around with me. Both of those things are just stuff that I have gotten used to. They happen whether I am paying attention or not. I suppose the other stuff does too, but again…choices. The thing is, I do not feel any lighter when that necklace does not end up resting on my collar bone. I feel nothing. That is the thing I notice. The nothingness. Not the heaviness of the chain or how light I feel without it. It is the bare nothingness that I feel. A moment of exposure.

Thursday night, I attended Kelly’s Yoga Mala class where she guided us through 108 rounds of sun salutations. I went into that class doubting my abilities to do 108 rounds of anything. I have refined my practice over the years and every movement I make is deliberate. I step back to plank without making a sound. I move from plank to chatturanga slowely and with control. It has taken me years to be able to do this, but it is one thing to do this ten or twenty times during my usual practice and quite another to do this 108 times. I did not believe I had it in me to maintain that kind of control. Kelly broke the class up into four groups with breaks in between. For each group we faced a different direction with a different intention starting with the East and new beginnings. By the time we were facing West, we were half way through. The intention for that direction was letting go and saying goodbye. I am so practiced at saying goodbye. It is the letting go part that is difficult. Mostly it is the letting go of this idea I have about myself that I am not strong enough for this. I can’t. I do not even know where this idea came from or how that seed ever got planted in my brain, but it is there, sprouting, growing. Telling me that I am weak, worthless. When did this start? From the beginning? I can not remember a time when I did not feel this way about myself. Or I did not pay attention to that time when I did not feel this way about myself.

I faced West, lifted my hands, my face, my heart to the sky before folding forward. I ripped that sprouted seed out of my brain. I let it go. I smashed and crumpled it up. I know my strength. I know the weight I carry. The weight is immeasurable, yet I carry it without even noticing the heaviness of it. That’s how fucking strong I am. I could hear something screaming in my head as we turned to face North for the final 27 rounds. It took me a minute to recognize the roar coming from a voice inside me that has been quiet for far too long, but there it was yelling and cheering. I was sweaty, but I was not exhausted. I moved with my breath, on my time frame and I took the time to carefully set up each pose. I completed all 108 rounds of sun salutation without once sacrificing my form. I did them all with the same deliberate control as I do in my own personal practice.

That is how fucking strong I am.

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.

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.

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. 

 

 

 

 

 

CHATTER

Cindy Maddera

My head space has been really crowded with chatter lately. There are fifty different thoughts and conversation happening loudly all at once in there. The other day it was so bad that I almost stepped off my yoga mat five minutes into my practice, but I stayed put and did my best to make the yoga teacher voice the loudest. There have been moments during my practice while holding a pose for an extended period of time, it has felt as if my brain would explode from the vibration of noise in there. There is a screaming voice yelling at me to get up, move, stop being still. 

Buddha said that the human mind is full of drunken monkeys. What an amazingly accurate description and such a visual one. I can easily see a wild pack of monkeys in various states of drunkenness with all the drunk personalities represented. It's like the party scene from Breakfast at Tiffany's except all the actors are played by monkeys. There's even one laughing hysterically one minute at it's reflection and then sobbing the next minute. Buddha taught that you should not try to fight these monkeys (because monkeys can bite), but instead learn to tame them by sitting quietly in daily meditation. The Yoga Sutras refer to these monkeys as chitta vritti. Sutra 1.2, "yoga chitta vritti nirodha" translates to "yoga is the silencing of the modifications of the mind." For years and years and years, yoga has been taught as a way to prepare the body for meditation and can even be a moving meditation in of itself. 

There are loads of scientific papers that validate the importance of meditation. It reduces anxiety. It lowers blood pressure. It down regulates inflammatory genes and up regulates immune system genes. Researchers even believe that meditation could aid in the prevention of Alzheimer's disease. So I really should be meditating. My meditation practice fell apart years ago though and every attempt I've made to revive that practice has failed. I have settled into the idea that my meditation practice is a moving meditation practice. It happens when I am flowing through rounds of sun salutations and when I take my walks. Yet, I recognize that I really need to practice the art of stillness. Those evenings around the campfire when I sat and journaled our day and then drew cartoons in the margins were the closest to stillness that I have come in a long time. That is why I have signed up for a meditation and journaling workshop on Sunday at Sunshine Studio. We all need a little nudge and I am hoping to gain some momentum from this workshop rebuild my meditation practice.

Because those drunk monkeys are starting to look like an out of control Frat party. 

KEEPING HOUSE

Cindy Maddera

We leave Friday morning for our grand camping adventure. Today is Wednesday. Sometime between now and Friday, I need to have my things packed, help make sure the others have their things packed, and the dog needs a bath. These are things that need to be done along with my regular daily things like work (I have a stack of papers to read) and teaching yoga. I probably should do a load of laundry as well just to be sure I have enough underwear. Oh...and clean the blood off the rug where the cat murdered a rabbit last night. The things that I need to do are pulling me away from keeping up with my regular scheduled programming. 

Today I should be telling you about something yoga related. I recently made a purchase that I should have made years ago. I finally broke down and bought a travel yoga mat. I have resisted doing this for years for a number of reasons. First of all, I love love love my Manduka eKO yoga mat. The top layer is firm and I have never had a problem with slipping while on this mat. The bottom layer is squishy and provides a nice cushiony support. Some of you may have looked at the price tag for this yoga mat and gulped. Trust me. I did the same thing the first time I bought this mat. I am now on my second eKO. The first one lasted me almost eight years and is still actually a good mat. It has one spot where the top layer started separating from the bottom layer and I decided that I just needed a new mat. That first mat saw me through yoga teacher training, teaching six hours of yoga a week, a daily personal practice and the death of a husband. I still have this mat. Michael uses it. 

Another reason why I have resisted the purchase of a travel mat is because I am cheap. I see no need to purchase something else when I already have something that performs and works well for me. Except, and this took me some time to figure this out, my eKO mat does not work well for me when traveling. It is big, bulky and heavy. It does not fit in a suitcase, or it does, but it takes up too much space in the suitcase. It barely fits in some overhead compartments. As a result, I end up leaving my yoga mat at home and then I don't do yoga while I'm traveling. Yes, I know I just did a post about not needing your own mat to do yoga, but this is a skill I have only recently acquired. When I saw that I could get a Manduka eKO Light on sale at REI, I snatched it up. I thought "You know Cindy? You have been practice yoga for twenty years. It's time you treated yourself." and this is what I did. The eKO light is basically just the top layer of the eKO. It rolls up skinny and is already shoved under the dinette in the camper. I can't wait roll it out during this camping trip. 

People frequently ask me about yoga mats. How much money they should spend? Who makes the best mat? If you are the kind of person who only steps onto a yoga mat two to three times a week while you are at the gym, then one of those $20 Gaiam mats are perfect. These mats are easy to clean. I used to just throw mine in with towels in the washer and then hang it on the clothes line to dry. These mats, when clean, also grip well and provide some cushion from the hard floor. The more you use a mat, of course, the more you see wear and tear. When you find yourself wearing out the $20 mat more frequently than usual, then you should consider upgrading. I don't know who makes the best mat. Like I said, I really love my Manduka, but I read a lot of reviews before I purchased that mat. Just do your research. If you spend $100 on a mat, you want to be sure that it is going to be durable and last you. I found reading reviews helped me choose a mat that is all of the above. 

There's my unsolicited advice on yoga mats and I am not being paid by Manduka or Gaiam to write this entry. We will be on the road Friday, so I'm just going to say. I am thankful for the reminder to treat myself. I am thankful for new adventures. And I am thankful for you. 

See ya in a week or so. 

 

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. 

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. 

YIN

Cindy Maddera

I received a supplemental Yoga Journal last month that was all about building a daily yoga practice. It included a chart for a six week program with different poses and plans and then told you what pages of the journal you could find those routines. One of the classes they recommended was a series of nine poses done in a Yin style of yoga. Yin yoga is a passive style of yoga that uses seated or supine posses to stretch the muscles and connective tissue in the hips and legs in order for you to sit longer and more comfortably in meditation. The idea is to hold each pose for 3-5 minutes. It is also the kind of practice that aids in lowering cortisol levels, a stress hormone that messes with your immune system and encourages the body to hang onto fat. 

My yoga practice has never been Yin. That doesn't mean I have a hard core Ashtanga practice either. I'd like to think my practice is a nice balance of difficult and relaxing. I start off with several rounds of surya namaskar, followed up with a focus on a few key poses. I try to throw in poses I generally do not like to do because one day they will become poses that I love to do. I finish off with some twists and a nice fifteen minute savasana. You see, a long time ago, way back when I learned about doshas, I read the part about how Kaphas tend to be overweight and sluggish and just went right ahead and declared that I was predominantly kapha. It is not true and I know that now, but it's still there in the back of my head whenever I get on my mat or the treadmill or find myself in a step aerobics class. That little kapha voice in my head says "Cindy, you are fat and slow so you better push yourself or you're going to stay fat and slow." Isn't that little kapha voice mean?

The other day, I rolled out my yoga mat and told that little kapha voice to be quite. I sat down on my mat and then proceeded through the nine poses in the magazine, holding each for five minutes. It was torture. You know how Professor X can hear thoughts from every person in the world and it's just a constant noise of chatter in his head? It was like that in my brain except all of the thoughts were my own. When the inside of my brain wasn't screaming in a million voices, I was the little kid in the back seat of a car saying "are we there yet?" over and over. And it was not like I was forcing myself to stay in the most difficult of yoga poses. They were the kind of poses that I typically do to cool down and prepare for savasana. They were the kind of poses that are yummy for the brief amount of time I had been usually holding them. Five minutes is a really long time. It's a life time. I wouldn't have been surprised to discover that years had passed while I had been on my mat in that practice. 

Yet I persisted, holding each pose until the timer dinged to move to the next pose. I took note of what the mind chatter was saying. Most of the chatter is me writing up entries in my head. How to write the story? Maybe that chatter wouldn't be so loud if I actually sat down and wrote the damn story. Eventually, I reached a moment when I was able to reel in all the mind chatter and settle into savasana. I got up from my mat knowing full well that I am more pitta/vata than kapha and feeling a little lighter. 

I got up from my mat knowing that I need to write the damn story. 

 

YOGA FAIL

Cindy Maddera

This is not a post about not getting on my yoga mat or feeling guilty for not getting on my mat. In fact, I've been really good about doing my practice. You can find me in the middle of a sun salutation around lunch time about five days out the week and I'm not just doing the easy stuff. I always put in at least one or two poses that I don't really like do. Those poses eventually become poses I don't mind doing, so I add in a few other poses I don't like doing. I'm not just laying down in savasana, though that wouldn't really be all that bad of thing every now and then. My yoga practice has been really really good. Except for one thing.

The last three times I've sat down on my yoga mat to do marichyasana (as pictured above), I have not been unable to bind and clasp my hands. I haven't even been able to brush my finger tips together. The first time, I kind of just brushed it off because I hadn't done a lot of the preparation poses that makes marichyasana easy. I say 'kind of' because I never really needed to do the prep to easily bind, but what ever. The second time I was on my mat, I did some of those prep poses like twists and hip openers and I still couldn't grasp my fingers. This time, my ego became inflamed with rage. This is a pose I normally like to do! This is a pose that looks impressive in a carnival freak-show kind of way and I've always been able to do it well. I've always been able to do this pose with out effort. What was wrong with me?!?!

Yesterday I got on my mat with marichyasana on my mind. I thought maybe this time I needed to do something more than twists and hip openers. Maybe it was my shoulders causing the problem. This time I threw in a bunch of shoulder opening poses. I thought for sure that this time I'd bind myself up into marichyasana like I'd always been able to do. Nope. My finger tips were a little bit closer, but no where near close enough to clasp. This time my ego wasn't just mad. This time my ego got in there and started yelling inside my brain like a middle school gym coach yelling at the scrawny pre-teen to climb that rope. My favorite, easy pose has now become a pose that I don't like to do. What. Is. Happening?

I can't quite figure out what's different. I thought maybe it was a weight issue, but this body I have now is the same as that body up there in the picture. The other day, I got a notification that someone had recently 'faved' a photo I'd taken for my thirtieth birthday. It was an artfully nude photo and as I looked at it, I had to admit that I didn't really see any differences between that body and this body. All of this makes not being able to do this pose even more frustrating. It's a showy, trick of a pose. Like balancing on the palms of your hands in crow pose. I can easily do crow pose now. It used to be one of the poses I didn't really like to practice. It looks like I might have traded one marichyasana for one crow pose. Hello Ego! I see you've come to take me down a peg. 

That's the thing about yoga. One day you think you've made it to guru cave level yogini. The next day you're reminded that you still have lots and lots to learn. Today, I'm going to get on my mat. I'm going to do those hip openers and twists. I'm going to do those shoulder openers. I'm going to throw in some chest openers and maybe even do a little self massage of the muscles in between the ribs. I'm going to sit down and make another attempt at marichyasana and if my fingers still don't reach to bind, I am not giving up. I will make marichyasana my pose of the month if I have to. 

That's how you get to guru cave level yogini. 

WHAT'S YOUR MILK CRATE

Cindy Maddera

Years ago, Chris and I visited New Orleans together with Todd. We noticed that most all of the street performers had their own milk crate. That crate acted as a stage or a seat or even as part of the act as one performer balanced a milk crate on his head. If you had a milk crate, you had a job. The milk crate made Chris come up with an idea for a self help book called "What's Your Milk Crate?" The basic concept of the book was discovering the base for the job you wanted to do. It was really a great idea, one of the many on Chris's list of ideas, but nothing ever really came out of it. What's Your Milk Crate was a self help book for the creative type; at least that's what I believed for many years. It took me awhile to figure out that everyone needs a milk crate. It took me even longer to realize that I have many milk crates. Like a milk crate for science and a milk crate for yoga. Sometimes a crate wears out and needs to be replaced with a new one of a different color. Sometimes you have too many milk crates and you need to dump a few. 

Our kayaking tour group were all standing around on a beach eating lunch and chit-chatting. One of our guides, Katie, and another woman were talking about combining kayaking with yoga. Katie said that she'd love to take a group over to one of the islands to camp and do yoga, but she needed a teacher. Michael chimed in at this and said "Cindy could teach for you!" Suddenly, all eyes turned towards me like they expected me to start leading vinyasa right then and there. I stood there with my eyebrows raised and sort of stammered for a minute before I finally spit out that I used to teach. Meaning, I don't teach anymore. Though, I had to admit that it would be really great to be part of a kayaking yoga retreat. Then words starting falling from mouth in an effort to explain myself and why I don't teach any more. I feel like I've told this story a lot lately and it needs a rewrite. I talk about taking time off from teaching to get used to a new job and a new city. I talk about volunteering a little and then I say "my husband got sick and died and I just kind of stopped teaching all together at that point." Then I scramble back around and say something like "I didn't stop teaching because of Chris. I just stopped teaching."

My milk crate changed colors. 

That should be my answer when someone asks me why I don't teach any more. My milk crate changed colors. I am not opposed to teaching. I loved teaching yoga. Loved it! When I moved from a job that brought me joy to a job that was just a job, I taught lots of yoga. Teaching made feel good and balanced out the job that made me feel awful, but it made sense for me to take a break from teaching once we moved to Kansas City. Moving is stressful. Moving to completely unknown territory is a different level of stress and exhilaration. There was a whole lot of new happening around me with a new job, a new home, a new city. Adding to all of that with new classes and new students didn't seem like the smartest thing or the most economical. I spent more money maintaining my teaching certification than I did making money as a teacher. But these are not all of the reasons for stepping away from teaching. 

My yoga teacher once told me that people who really get yoga and the concept of yoga, don't teach. Those old gurus that hang out in Yogaville teach a workshop about once year just to help pay for their living, but they don't teach daily classes. I don't know if I "get" yoga, but I understand what happens to your personal practice when you are a teacher and I understand what can happen to your personal practice when you stop teaching.  I understand why those old gurus don't teach daily classes. When I stopped teaching, my yoga practice shifted. Before, my practice was one sided plus a savasana. I did all the poses on the left because I usually demonstrated by doing poses on the right and I never got a savasana. The shift in my practice was more than just one sided poses and savasana though. I've noticed this more lately. I find that being alone on my mat brings me the same kind of joy that teaching yoga did. There are times when being on my mat is so sweet, so juicy, that I don't want to leave. 

Up until this very moment, I struggled with what I guess I could call guilt over not teaching. To go through all that training and work and then not use it seems wasteful or worse, it seems like a failure. I was good at teaching. It is not often I am going to admit at being good at anything, but this? I was good at teaching yoga. My students loved me. I still get the occasional "I sure do miss you" message from an old student. And there are times when I hear something and my inner yoga teacher wants to blurt out an alternative way of doing things, but most of the time I keep my mouth shut. I do occasionally toy with the idea of starting a yoga podcast or putting together a workshop and that may or may not happen. Who knows. Right now though, I'm going to stop making excuses for not teaching. I'm going to stop making my decision for not teaching any more sound so negative. I'm going to stop apologizing for putting my practice first. 

I'm going to stop apologizing for putting me first. 

HOW TO TAME A TIGER

Cindy Maddera

This is how our night time ritual with the Cabbage used to go: bedtime story followed by goodnight hugs, kisses, animal kisses, and butterfly kisses. We'd turn on her pillow pal night light, turn off the light and say "goodnight" while shutting the door behind us. Then the Cabbage would get up and come out  of her room like twenty times yelling "I'm not tired!" as she rubbed her tiny fists in her eyes. It was sort of like trying to negotiate with an angry meerkat. Not to mention that the Cabbage has a way of walking around the house as if she weighs six tons instead of 43 lbs. Her bedtime is supposed to me 8:30. My bedtime during the week is around 9:00. I'd just about be drifting off when I'd hear a heard of elephants crash thought the house and shout "I'm not tired!". Since I don't believe that Joan Crawford was right in tying children to the bed at night, I knew I needed to try some other bedtime rituals. 

I started talking her through a final relaxation as if she was a grown up in one of my yoga classes. Sometimes I add in fun kid friendly things like floating on clouds, but usually the script goes like this:

      Gently closing the eyes. Find the coolness of the breath as it hits the back of the throat on the inhale following it into the lungs and out as you exhale. Starting with the top of the head. As you inhale, imagine drawing the breath in through the top of the head and feeling it travel down the face. As the breath travels down the face, feel the eyes relax and become heavy. Feel the face relax, the mouth relax. Continuing to feel the breath travel down the neck, feel the head completely relax and release into your pillow (or cloud). Let the breath move into the shoulders and feel your shoulders relax at it travels down the arms, into the hands and then out the fingertips. Releasing the shoulders and arms into the bed (or cloud). Breath into the heart and feel the chest open and expand and then draw that breath into the belly. Feel the belly soften as the breath continues to travel down the body into the thighs, into the knees, down the shins and the calves and into the feet. Let the breath spread from the heal of the foot all the way to the base of the toes, through the toes and out the tips. Relaxing and releasing and completely surrendering to the sweetest dreams.

This has become part of our bedtime ritual. In fact, she asks for it and as soon as I say "gently close your eyes" she shuts her eyes and puts her arms down by her side. Now this doesn't mean that she doesn't interrupt me twenty times or that she goes right to sleep at the end. That's the ideal. She does interrupt, but I just gently remind her to close her eyes and we move on. Instead of getting up a dozen times, she gets up maybe once. Some times twice. Usually Michael bribes her with jelly beans on the second "I'm not tired!" and that's it. She's down for the count. 

Here's my theory on why this final relaxation thing helps. I talk to her with my soft soothing yoga teacher voice. I call it my hypnotizing voice. I take her from oh-my-god-its-play-time mode to a calmer more relaxed, more conducive to the idea of sleep stage. I'm also spending a few extra minutes with her. In truth she gets up because she just wants some company. Maybe hanging out with her just a few minutes longer eases that need for another human being. Any way, it's not a sure thing. It helps. At least I've noticed a difference. 

Next thing, I'll teach her how to do alternate nostril breathing. 

 

GHEE-DY

Cindy Maddera

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OK, I think it's finally time to tell you about ghee. Ghee is clarified butter, which sounds terrible. At least, I never thought that it sounded like a good idea. It's kind of a big deal in Ayurvedic medicine and is encouraged by the tablespoon as a cure-all miracle oil. The research varies on the benefits and the downside to consuming clarified butter. I mean, it's fat, but it's good fat that has been shown to reduce LDL cholesterol and is high in omega-3:omega-6. Ghee can be heated to extremely high temps without breaking down and reduces the glycemic index of anything cooked in it. It is a saturated fat, but one with short-chained fatty acids. So it's easily metabolized. Of course, it's still saturated fat. Moderation and common sense people. Use it. You can buy ghee at your local health food store or make your own. I think I prefer making my own because it's believed that the good energy you put into the ghee while making it, increases the benefits. The more love and happy energy you put into it the better. While the butter is on a slow boil, you turn up the music and dance. You sing to it. You whisper words of love and happiness into the pan. Then you strain it through cheese cloth to remove the milk fats and bask in the glow of the delicious ghee that you have made. And your house will smell like buttered croisants.

When I went on antibiotics at Christmas time, my skin broke out with hives and pimples. It was really bad and ugly. After the round of antibiotics, the acne got better but never really went away. One week of replacing my olive oil and butter with ghee and my skin is practically clear. I don't use it every day. Coconut oil has become my other choice for cooking oils. But many of my meals contain ghee. Rice and mung beans would taste like gruel without it. I know it sounds silly, but ghee has brought a richness to my life. I have seriously become enamored with ghee. Ghee, ghee, ghee. I love ghee.

Sorry. But I did warn you that there was an entry coming about the wonderfulness of ghee.

I'M A PITTA WITH A KAPHA KITCHEN

Cindy Maddera

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I've always thought of myself as a Kapha girl. I mean, I've never taken a dosha quiz, but just from the things I know about doshas I just pegged myself as a Kapha. Well it turns out I was all wrong. I finally took a dosha quiz and I'm a Pitta. Pitta, Pitta, Pitta. I know none of this makes sense to many of you, but stay with me here. In Ayurveda you are always more of one dosha than the others, but ideally you'd like to be kind of close to balanced in all three. The thing about these kinds of workshops is that you have a tendency to go into them assuming that you have some sort of major dosha imbalance. In other words you go into them thinking there's something wrong with you. Well, I learned this weekend that there's nothing wrong with me. I'm fairly balanced in all three doshas, but I'm strongest in the Pitta. I eat a diet that suits my dosha and do activities appropriate for my dosha. I'm doing most every thing right. You know what is wrong? My kitchen. My kitchen is all wrong for an Ayurvedic kitchen. See the evidence below.

Notes on an Ayurvedic kitchen

That top square is how the layout of an Ayurvedic kitchen should be. That bottom square is a diagram of my kitchen. See the the problem here? I've got fire where I should have water and earth where I should have air. My kitchen walls are yellow which is a Kapha balancing color and the color swatch I've had taped to that wall for over a year is orange which is a Vata balancing color. Maybe I won't be painting that kitchen orange after all. In fact, from where I'm sitting, all I can think to do is gut it entirely and start over from scratch. I mean how hard could it be to move plumbing and gas lines?

OK, maybe that's a bit of an over reaction. That top diagram is the ideal Ayurvedic kitchen, but nobody lives in ideal conditions. There are ways I can fix my kitchen without calling in the construction crew. The first thing I can do is paint my kitchen a Pitta soothing color like green, blue or purple. Next I need to put something inspiring along with a small water feature in the north east corner. The water feature can be something as simple as a plant or a vase of flowers. Since I can't move my stove into the "fire" corner, I can put things that get hot in that corner. This is something I already do. My coffee maker sits there and also the rice cooker. Now, let's move to the earth corner. That's a good place to store things from your past. I'm doing OK here too. This is the area I store my dishes. My dishes are special, made by my mother, and spent three years packed away in storage. They represent something from my past. The air corner is where you should keep the things that you don't use too much. I use the fridge every day, but I store baking pans and muffin tins in the cabinet above.

So... nothing a little paint and inspiration won't fix. The first thing I need to do is figure out a paint color. I've been set on the idea of orange for a kitchen for a long time. Now I'm leaning towards eggplant. And maybe open up the cabinet above the stove to put cookbooks and something inspirational to look at while I cook. Easy, simple fixes and I'll have my very own Ayurvedic kitchen. Om shanti.

LOVE THURSDAY

Cindy Maddera

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My sister left a comment on fb about my guilt entry stating that I was never the fat kid. That's not entirely true. Sure, I would never had made it onto the Biggest Loser, but I was the fat kid of the family or had the tendency to be on the chunky side. I have had a couple of women in my life (actually still do, she will probably go to her grave before she will willingly say anything complimentary about my body) who have gone out of their way to point out my chunkiness. They started this when I was reaching those formative teenager years when I was already struggling with body image. I was still trying to figure out how to get my bangs to stand up (never figured that out) and how to put on eyeliner (never figured that out either). One of those women even helped me cultivate a fear of eating. In fact, I can still hear her voice in my head when ever I go to eat anything bread related. "You eat that roll and you're gonna get fat". Things got worse when I continued to put on weight in college and grad school. I just kept buying bigger pants and making horrible food choices. This is also when I started to obsess about exercise. I was convinced that I just needed to exercise more. I lost a pants size and figured that I just needed to exercise even more, but I stayed at that size and weight. So I thought this was the size and weight I was supposed to be. I continued to exercise like crazy because I was terrified of going back up a size. The one good thing to come out of all of that was my introduction to yoga. Yoga was the thing that I could consistently do without dread or seeing it as a chore. Eventually something clicked. I learned about food (there's no such thing as "diet" foods) and I learned to work smarter, not harder in exercise.

One of the most important things I've done in dealing with my body insecurities is to surround myself with women who encourage each other. Instead of hearing "you're looking a bit pudgy today", I hear "you look fantastic in those jeans". I've surrounded myself with women who recognize that even though we have flaws, we are beautiful. Isn't that the way it should be? Women make up a little over 50% of the population in the U.S. We hold high powered jobs, run households, and other general awesomeness. Yet as women, we are bombarded with advertisements that tell us we are not awesome. As women, we are assailed with music and images that tell us we are less. So the last place discouragement should ever come from is a woman. I've been blessed with the women in my life. They're response to "you eat that roll and you're gonna get fat" is "here, let me pass you the butter". They have helped me see that I am beautiful and I hope that I do my part in letting them know that they are just as beautiful if not more.

Happy Love Thursday!

FEEL JUST LIKE I'M WALKING

Cindy Maddera

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People talk about seasonal depression and how Fall seems to be a trigger. I've never thought of myself as one of those people that fall victim to seasonal depression, but I do get antsy with season changes. This week it seems that the antsiness is beginning to get to me.

Walking on Broken Glass

I've been easily frustrated with breaks in my routine but at the same time apathetic. Tonight is dust and vacuum night and I wasn't really into the idea of dusting. Chris caught me touching the dust rag to a spot on the shelf. I was testing it to see just how dusty it was. He let me off the hook by saying that he planned to take the air-conditioning unit out of the window this weekend and re-install the screen. He said I could wait to dust until then. I shrugged and moved onto the vacuum.

Ouch

My sleep has been off. Last night I struggled to get to sleep. I was hot. I was cold. I itched. When I finally did fall asleep, I dreamed. I dreamed that for "science purposes" we were going to shoot my foot at point blank and study the exit wound and repeat with the second foot (we've been watching a lot of Fringe lately). We did both feet and I have no comparisons, but if gun shots hurt as badly as they do in dreams, then I pray to the Gods that I never get shot. So I woke up and in pain, which didn't make sense because there was nothing physically wrong with me.

Rubber Feet

But then, I'll do something simple like ride the scooter home or dance like a fool in Zumba and I'll become lighter, happier. The frustrations and the struggles melt away. The guy in these pictures walks on glass as his performance art. Well, I think we are all performance artists. We all walk on glass every day. There are days where walking on glass is just not as easy as this guy makes it look. We may cut our feet. But then there are days where we prance around on that glass as if it were a pile of feathers. Monday and Tuesday were my days to practice walking on glass. There have been a few cuts, but nothing that requires stitches or even a band-aid. The rest of this week, I'll be walking on feathers.

LOVE THURSDAY

Cindy Maddera

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I still have plenty of pictures from my San Diego trip that I have yet to upload and edit. Part of me is disappointed in myself for not doing anything with these and just leaving them on my card. But then I realize that I need an image for a blog entry and I haven't taken anything that day worth showing. It's like finding a surprise in the bottom of your cereal box. I wasn't sure where today's entry would go (still not sure really). I started browsing through my old images, the ones still on the card, and I came across this one of the seagull. I remember taking this picture. I remember the sun beating down and the cool breeze. I remember how I tested the bird by getting as close as I possibly could. I remember getting so close and then he fluttered his wings a bit and I backed off. There was something to all of that. There was moment of stillness and calm. It was like both of us were holding our breaths. The fluttering of the wings reminded me to breathe and I took this picture.

Some times I realize I'm holding my breath. There's this road I sometimes take home from work. It's a pretty straight road except for one section that has a very hard curve. I struggled with this curve. I'd come to it and stop breathing and try to make the turn. I'd have to slow way down and then I'd get wobbly. One day I decided I was going to get this curve. I shifted my focus from the severity of the turn to all the things around it and to my breath. It was a perfect turn.

The power of the breath is an amazing thing. So today, for Love Thursday, I'll ask of you one simple thing. Remember to breathe.

Happy Love Thursday.

LOVE THURSDAY

Cindy Maddera

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Every day we are bombarded with things that tell us we are not enough. We are not skinny enough, smooth enough, happy enough. Just turn on the TV and it will hit you with every commercial. You want to be happy, skinny, perfect, then buy this. It used to be I only noticed drug commercials with the promises of perfection. Now I see it every where. I started thinking about it while reading this entry from Shauna of Gluten Free Girl. She says something in there about finally being happy in her own skin and how long it's taken her to get to that place. Raise your hand if you can relate. I have fought with my body my entire life and if it were not for my yoga practice, I would still be fighting with my body. But when I'm doing yoga, like really into my practice, I feel beautiful. My waist feel long and lean. My legs and arms are strong. I am graceful and gorgeous. And it has taught me the most valuable lesson of all. It has taught me to work with my body. I am not a size zero and there are some poses I'm just not good at (yet), but none of that matters when I am on my mat. The only thing that irritates me is that it took me 30 something years to figure this out.

We all have our strengths and weaknesses. We all have something in our lives that make us feel our absolute best when we are doing it. It's just that some us may not even realize what that thing is yet. But those people closest to you know. They've seen it. They've seen you in your practice, whatever that may be yoga, art, performing, and they've seen you at your absolute best smiling and shining like the sun. And deep down, you know what that practice is too. Maybe it's time to reacquaint yourself with that practice.

Happy Love Thursday!