Monthly Archives: March 2008

Doshas and Gunas and Chakras… Oh MY!

Warning: yogic voodoo mumbo-jumbo ahead. Proceed with caution (and a big cup of coffee).

A typical Yoga National Guard weekend consists of checking in, a yoga practice, and a test on Friday night; a workshop that zeros in on a particular discipline or theory on Saturday; and anatomy, hands-on adjustments and yoga practice on Sunday. This YNG Saturday was focused primarily on the ancient Indian healing paradigm of ayurveda.

Essentially (and keep in mind that I’m getting this from one 8-hour workshop), the idea behind ayurvedic medicine is that everyone is composed of three basic constitutions, or doshas: vata, pitta, and kapha. At various times of the day – and at various times in our lives – we are more of one than the others. The trick is to be able to recognize when one has an imbalance – an excess of one dosha over the others that can cause sickness or other irregularities – and be able to counter that imbalance with food, rest, and behaivor.

While I wasn’t willing to pony up the $85 bucks it would have taken to have a full ayurvedic assessment from the woman who came to speak to us (nice work if you can get it, huh? Her going rate somewhere in the $135/hr neighborhood; we got a discount), the assessments that we did on ourselves as a group with questionnaires (and the follow-up assessments I did online at various sites that offer that sort of thing) told me that I came up kapha dominant with some pitta and literally no vata. A quick-and-dirty profile of my type under this paradigm would indicate that I’m an easy-going, slow to change person whose primary personality traits are compassion and gentleness. That’s my kapha. The pitta in me is responsible for my ability to see a project through to the end, to always put out my best self, and to have the personality qualities necessary to be a teacher and a leader. Vata dominant personalities are most comfortable with change – I imagine they’re the kind of people who don’t mind moving a lot (or who feel the need to move a lot) and who are most excited by travel (especially, my impressions tell me, if that travel is out of a backpack). SO not me.

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All in all, I’d say that the assessments that I came up with are pretty accurate, though they’re also general enough that one can fit literally anyone into a combination of doshas. While I’m skeptical about a lot of this sort of stuff, I do have to say that I absolutely agree that the root of disease and illness and poor functioning is energetic.  Yes, I believe in germs and viruses and fungi – I’m not saying that modern science is false.  What I AM saying is that I believe that our default condition is health, and that chinks in the armor of our immune systems come when we’re out of whack energetically and we allow ourselves (whether consciously or not) to experience malfunction.

What I like most about the idea of ayurveda is the concept of balance.  As a kapha-dominant type, I tend toward low-stress situations.  I don’t get worked up often (though, when I do, it’s usually fun to watch).  I dislike frenetic activity.  I don’t often like to over-exert myself.  As a kapha-dominant, though, I ought to move a bit more than I currently do.  I dislike power yoga classes, and am finding that I’m less enamoured of my step classes than I used to be, but those kinds of activities are precisely what I need to balance the low-and-slow effects of the kapha part of my constitution.  I need to feed my pitta a bit more and work on movement and determination.

I take a buffet approach to all of this yoga voodoo stuff.  I keep what feels right and true to me at the moment and leave behind whatever doesn’t quite fit.  I try to come at it with a fair bit of respect and admiration; I mean, really – this stuff has been going strong for CENTURIES; there must be some truth in there somewhere for it to have gone on this long – but I also recognize that this (and any other philosophy or paradigm) may well be just a piece of the bigger puzzle.  I’m not a believer in any ONE way.  Still, if being able to think about my body and my attitude in a new way helps me to get closer to the reality of what and who I am, then how can that be bad?

If you’re still hanging in there with me, I’ll go over gunas (which, as best I can tell, are doshas of the mind, whereas doshas refer to the physical body) and chakras (which are traditional energy centers in the body) a little later in the week.  Right now, my pitta is telling me to get off my kaphic ass and clean the house!

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What’s Your Dosha?

Yesterdays YNG workshop was about ayurvedic philosophy. All the information that the lecturer handed out indicated that I’m kapha dominant – this silly little internet quiz said the same.


Your Dosha is Kapha


Calm and grounded, you are not prone to mood swings or anger.
However, once you do get angry, it takes a lot to cool you down.
You tend to think a little slower than most people, but your logic is astounding.
Overall, you very loyal and trustworthy. You’re not scared of being who you really are.

With friends: You enjoy their company, but often listen more than talk

In love: You crave connection and affection. It’s hard for you to be single.

To achieve more balance: Exercise vigorously (especially in the sun) and let go of attachments.

What’s Your Dosha?

I’ll write more about this when I’ve got time – I’ve got to leave for YNG right now if I have any HOPE of finding decent parking…

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THEY Find Me…

I was coming out of the ladies’ room last night at Yoga National Guard. The short hallway was dark – the only light came from the studio, and all those lights were dimmed.

Out of the corner of my eye, I spotted a dragonfly against a purple background. Leaning against the wall, almost completely covered by a sweater and in a section reserved for lost and found, was this mat:

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I went to Cicely and asked her about the mat and about how long something had to be in lost and found before it could be given a new home. She asked one of her employees how long the mat had been there – a while, it seems – so she told me to go ahead and take it. I brought it home, washed it, and now it’s mine.

I’m going to be interested to see how different my practice will be on a mat that makes me happy when I look at it.

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Yoga, Snow, and More Yoga

Today begins tour of duty number 7 of 10 (unless, of course, we’re going to get a snow day tonight. More on that later). I’m not overly confident that I know all the muscles of the hip and thigh, but at this point I think I know as much as I’m going to. I’ll bring my book with me this evening (if we have class) and cram before the test. I feel far more confident going into this test than I have so far – I like posting lessons; I find that I learn best what I teach – but it’s still an awful lot of information that I may or may not actually use in my practice.

The last few muscles that I need to go over are the piriformus muscle (which is the little guy that’s responsible for most cases of sciatica), the sartorius muscle (which is the longest muscle in our bodies – I did not know that before I took this class) and the gracilis muscle. I’m supposed to know the iliopsoas and a bunch of others, too, by my brain is full…

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The gracilis is one of five of the adductor group of the inner thigh and is the only adductor that crosses the knee. The gracilis flexes and medially rotates the flexed knee.

The sartorius muscle stretches from the anterior superior iliac spine to the medial knee. It’s the muscle that helps us put one foot on the other knee – its name refers to its ability to bring the thigh and leg into the position a tailor would use when sewing (sartor is Latin for tailor – so sayeth my Trail Guide to the Body, Third Edition).

sartorius.png

The piriformis is one of the “deep six” hip muscles that allow for lateral rotation of the hip (you can see it in the first image on the right hand side). Because all of the other lateral rotators lie under the sciatic nerve, it’s the piriformis, when over-tight, that puts pressure on that nerve and causes such discomfort.

Now, on to the snow. Yes, it’s snowing again in Chili’s neighborhood. We’re expecting anywhere from 3-7 inches before it’s all over. I’m pretty sure we’ve got no money left in the plowing budget as evidenced by this photo of my street (taken from a dead stop – no, I wasn’t driving and taking pictures at the same time).

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When I dropped Beanie off at school today (I had to speak to someone in the office, so we decided to skip the bus and go in together), nearly everyone in the place was amazed that there wasn’t at least a 2 hour delay – the roads really are awful and I’ve been hearing the sounds of sirens off and on since around six this morning. I’m really not looking foward to picking my way to the health club to teach my 10:15 yoga class later this morning.

It does make for some cute pictures, though – observe; Beanie trying to work a shovel that’s literally taller than she is:

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It makes me a little sad, though – I feel like we went one step forward and two steps back. I’ve been looking forward to our tree being covered in frothy white blossoms, not frosty white flakes:

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Finally, I attended a yoga class yesterday at Local U. My boss had asked me to take the class; she wanted to get my opinion of the man she’d hired to replace me when my TCC classes started up again. Let’s call him Steve.

I was not impressed.

For starters, Steve is VERY hands-on. That in itself isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it does make a LOT of people profoundly uncomfortable. We don’t live in a society where touching is generally accepted, and to have a complete stranger come up and put his hands on you can be really unnerving; Mike found this out the hard way – it totally freaked him out; I’m actually surprised he stayed for the whole session (I went to him after class to ask if he was okay). My suggestion to Steve would be to ASK participants if they don’t mind being touched and not wait until a participant tells you not to touch them, as Mike had to do. I have everyone close their eyes (so no one feels singled out) and ask who wouldn’t mind being touched rather than who DOESN’T want it (I prefer to accentuate the “yes” rather than the “no”). I take my count, then ask people to put their hands down and open their eyes. Only THEN do I even THINK about adjusting someone, and even THEN I am very cautious about how I approach them. I felt that Steve’s approach was jarring and intrusive and bordered on rude.

He came to me in bridge pose, for example, and essentially grabbed my hips while suggesting, in a way that didn’t make me feel very honored, that I wasn’t doing enough in the pose. I got that feeling from him a lot, and I don’t think it was just me being sensitive – he actually said “I can’t feel you pushing against me, Chili, you need to work a little harder in this pose.” I’m sorry, but I’m NOT down with that. If I were a beginner or someone who was unsure about myself or my abilities in class, I’d never come back.

I got a cyst removed from my forehead on Tuesday, right? I’ve got four stitches in my head and am still in a fair bit of pain. Being in downward facing positions is uncomfortable for me. I told Steve this when I introduced myself before the class began, but he repeatedly singled me out – by name – and told me to “relax your neck.” Relaxing my neck would have put my head in a downward orientation, and it felt as though my brains were going to fall out onto the mat in that position. It finally got to the point where I actually had to tell him, “Steve, I’m taking care of an injury – I’m not going to do downward facing poses today,” It took that to get him to back off.

He didn’t offer any kind of modifications for any of the movements. I’ve found that it’s important to give a lot of different options for different body types and abilities, but Steve didn’t make that accommodation. I wished to put my hands together under my body in bridge, and he actually told me not to – I felt scolded. I personally believe that the point of yoga class is to find one’s own expression of the pose, whatever that happens to be today – it could be different tomorrow. I offer a lot of different suggestions – even different poses that work the same muscles in different ways – but none of those options was offered.

All in all, I didn’t feel that it was a very welcoming session. I’m pretty sure it would have scared off anyone new to yoga – the poses weren’t HARD, but they were held for what even I considered a long time, and, like I said, there were no modifications. While Steve’s voice is lovely and soothing, he didn’t give off a very accepting or welcoming energy. He didn’t use music in the class, either, which I think might make some people uncomfortable; a lot of people feel awkward in silence. I think that Steve would be GREAT in a studio setting, where the participants are expecting the sort of class he led; I think they expect something very different in a fitness environment.

As I was thinking of my assessment of Steve’s class, it’s made me much more sensitive to how I teach. I know I’m not perfect, but I walk into class each and every time with the mindful intention of making everyone feel welcomed and capable and comfortable. I hope like crazy that I never come off the way Steve did, and I’m going to be even more careful going forward to make sure that I don’t inadvertently put someone off. It’s too easy to scare people away, and I don’t want to be responsible for someone’s bad experience with yoga.

Happy Friday, Everyone!

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HEY! How’s Yer Head?

Better, thanks!

I slept through last night and my first thought this morning WASN’T that I felt like I’d been whacked with an aluminum bat during the night, so I’d say we’re looking up!

I managed to peel the band-aid off of it yesterday.  I had steeled myself for Night of the Living Dead under there, but it really wasn’t so bad.  I was absolutely right about the number of stitches, though – four, and I felt Every.  Single.  One.

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I took a shower this morning and found that, as long as I didn’t let the water pound directly on the site, I could tolerate its being rinsed.  I had to be very careful wrapping a towel around my hair, though, and I ended up doing the gentle, blotting drying thing all around the gash.

I left the band-aid off for the first part of the morning and, while I was standing with the neighbor waiting for Beanie’s bus (her little boy goes to kindergarten at Bean’s school), she had a look at it.  She’s an EMT and was profoundly impressed by how good it looked, and assured me that I’m going to have, quote, a “teeny-tiny scar.”  Works for me!

I’m putting a band-aid back on to go out this afternoon.  My hair gets tangled up in the knots of the stitches and it bugs me.  Besides, I’ve got all these cute little Hello Kitty band-aids!

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Happy Thursday!

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Butt, Booty, Bucket…

… ass, trunk (as in “junk in”), caboose, bottom, derrière, fanny … how many euphemisms are there for one’s backside? Leave a comment.

Today’s anatomy lesson is on the muscles of the aforementioned backside. Observe:

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The most external muscle is called the gluteus maximus. Its fibers run diagonally across the buttock, it originates around the inner rim of the hip (the coccyx, the edge of the sacrum, the posterior iliac crest) and inserts at the gluteal tuberosity. These muscles are responsible for extending and laterally rotating the hip.

Beneath the maximus muscles and with different sets of fibers running nearly up and down, the gluteus medius muscles are responsible for a variety of movement; abduction, flexion and extension, and lateral and medial rotation of the hip, depending on which portion of the muscle is in question. The medius is considered the deltoid of the hip. It originates at the hip between the ilium and the iliac crest and inserts at the greater trochanter (remember that?) of the femur.

Finally, the gluteus minimus, the deepest of the gluteal muscles, is responsible for abducting, flexing, and medially rotating the hip. It also originates at the hip and inserts on the side toward the front of the greater trochanter. If you want to feel the medius and minimus muscles working, lie on your side, put your hand on your hip, and slowly lift your top leg. The muscles that make that happen are the gluteus medius and minimus.

Some yoga poses that work the glutes are locust pose (salambhasana), wheel pose (urdvha dhanurasana) and warrior I (virabhadrasana). I like to stretch my glutes in pigeon pose (eka pada rajakapotasana) and a pose I call turtle pose. I can’t find it exactly at the yogajournal.com site, but this – called easy pose or sukhasana – is close. When I teach the pose, I have the participants sit so nothing is crossing and both their ankles are on the floor. I then ask them to lean forward and imagine that their hips are a bowl they’re trying to pour into their laps, then come up, switch the leg that’s in front, and try again. I can get my forehead to the floor most days (though I doubt I’ll be doing THAT for a while!).

Finally, I get my participants into a lying twist. I can’t find that at yogajournal, either, but here’s how to do it: lie on the floor with your feet on the mat. Put one ankle – let’s say the right one – on the other knee. Scoot your bottom (there are those glutes again!) an inch or so toward the direction of the the leg you just lifted – in this case, to the right). Take a deep breath in, then exhale and lower both knees to the left, keeping as much of your back and shoulders on the mat as you can. It’s a lovely stretch – my favorite, I think. Really – try it.

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all links courtesy of yogajournal.com

image credit, muscles

image credit, lying twist

(come back later and I’ll update about my head. Be forewarned (foreheaded?); I’m posting pictures…)

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Is That a Hole in Your Head…

Or are you just happy to see me?

Okay, here’s the whole story.

Xena, a wise and wonderful friend who insisted on driving me to my appointment, showed up at my place at three yesterday afternoon. After a quick trip to TCC – I to drop off final grades and she to deliver her contracts for next term – we hit the road for the doctor’s office.

Of course, we end up sitting in traffic MILES away from the hospital because of an accident on the ONLY bridge between here and there. The accident was in the other direction, but did that matter to the bozos in our lanes? NO! Traffic was backed up for a good long way and I ended up calling the doctor’s office to let them know that I was still coming, but that I’d likely be late. Once we cleared the accident (it was a doozie, too – three cars, one facing the wrong way and one wedged under another with the airbag obviously deployed), it was pretty easy sailing the rest of the way.

I arrived at the office, filled out a small book’s worth of paperwork, and was taken directly in to an office. The doctor showed up pretty much right away, introduced herself as Molly – she looked more like a Katherine to me, but whatever – and had a look at my head. She said that this was certainly something she could do in the office right now; in fact, she said, mine would be the third sebaceous cyst she’d excised today. I asked her to please make sure that none of my grad school fell out – that shit was expensive and I’d like to not have to go back to restock. She laughed at that and said that she couldn’t promise I wouldn’t forget a phone number or two, but that she was pretty sure my grad school was safe. That she had a sense of humor actually made me feel a little bit better, but not much.

I warned the doctor before she started that I don’t respond well to anything with “caine” in its name – lidocaine, novacaine, that sort of thing. I stump my dentist every time he has to give me a quadruple-dose of novacaine before he can get any work started (and that’s on top of the tranquilizers he gives me, which I was really jonesing for at that moment). Molly said that was fine, that she’d give me a good dose of the stuff, and we’d get started.

I managed to numb up enough for the procedure to begin, but about five minutes into it, I was feeling a lot of pain. “Really?” the doctor said. Clearly she thought I was exaggerating when I told her of my tolerance for numbing drugs. She shot me up again – ouch! – and started back at it. This happened a total of four times – FOUR times – before the nearly hour-long procedure was through. I likely had enough lidocaine in me to fell a St. Bernard, but I felt every single one of the four stitches when we were all done.

The nurse told me, when I called yesterday afternoon, that the lidocaine would be the worst part of the procedure. She was wrong. The lidocaine wasn’t fun, certainly, but the 38img3.jpgworst part by far was that I was able to hear, both internally and externally, all the snipping and cutting. I still shudder to think of it. I would have been much happier to have plugged in my iPod and had that to focus on, rather than hearing what sounded not unlike chicken being split with kitchen shears for the better part of half an hour. It seems that, at some point in its history, the cyst had ruptured (whatever that means), so it didn’t come out as one clean lump but rather had to be cut and removed in pieces. This required lots of tugging and snipping, and I felt – and heard – ever single bit of it. I tried very hard to focus on breathing around all 108 of my mala beads, and that helped, certainly, but it wasn’t quite enough. Bleah.

Molly finished, slathered me up with antibacterial ointment and slapped a band-aid on me (though, sadly, not the cute little Hello Kitty band-aids I bought for the purpose. I should have thought to bring one with me). I’m under orders to keep the band-aid on for 24 hours, but that I can remove it tonight and clean the wound, re-goop it with anti-bac. and put my cute band-aids on. I get to shower tomorrow.

The doctor usually sends patients home with orders to ice the area and take plenty of ibuprofen to reduce swelling (Michael commented that I shouldn’t let them kiss me off with just Tylenol – how wise my friends are!), but she sent me home with a prescription for Darvocet. I took one on the way home (yet another reason I was grateful to Xena for driving) and one before bed, and I still woke up at three in the morning in pain. I’ve got some pretty significant swelling (at least, *I* think it’s significant), and I feel like crap. At least I look a whole hell of a lot better than I feel.

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This sucks.

The mass was sent for pathology, but I’m not even a tiny bit concerned that it’s going to come back bad. I go back to the office on Tuesday to have the stitches out and to be reassessed, but I’m sure that everything is going to be fine. I’m so profoundly glad that it’s over.  I’m going to be spending a significant portion of today doing absolutely nothing that doesn’t involve the couch and the t.v. and a good part of the next few days trying to purge the memory of the sound of all that snipping.

Thank you all so much for your love and good vibes. I’m keeping my reception channel open.

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