Saturday, April 12, 2014

Communal beyond time and space

Camp Lipizzan is a writer's camp. Writers and their friends come out to the desert to hang with plants and critters wild and tame (mostly) and polish up their writing with the assistance of their hostess, author and keeper of the Dancing Desert Horses, Judith Tarr.

In true camp fashion, it's not just about the main activity of writing. There are, after all, horses to feed, sunrises and sunsets to soak in, strolls in the desert, the chance to take a balancing riding lesson with my friend Stacey Kollman, and the opportunity to yoga play with the herd.

I am blessed to be the one who gets to integrate the language of the herd with our human language, the yoga teacher. Sure, we practice our tadasana (mountain pose), we practice our chakra power walk, we practice our breathing, and being with our breath as we are with the herd. The horses expect nothing less from me, and sometimes require a little more. It all depends on who is showing up, and how.

Yesterday's class was a little bit different. (If I am honest, I would say that about each and every time we meet with the horses in this way).  Judith had a fresh injury, clearly painful, but Judith is one in whom the warrior blood runs ancient and deep. So, although she was more than prepared to stuff the pain and carry on, as her yoga teacher, I wanted her to consider a different way for the day. It was Ro, her young dog, who suggested the modification; a place to rest, grounding deeply, his leash under her foot to support his own practice of self-management around horse energy, and outside the fenced paddock area where we do our practice.

We circled up, outside the paddock, Khephera on the other side of the boundary presenting his bum for scratching (a sure sign that Summer Is Coming). Most of the horses circled in. Even Little Zeus, who typically opts out, contributed his energy. The one who was keeping his energy under the radar was the Pooka, the stallion. Now that was different.

We enter. The horses can be almost devilishly entrancing, but I round up the humans anyway, remind them of the 3 Rules: Breathe, Eyes Open, Don't Lock Your Knees.  We ground, we walk, we connect deeply into our sacrum, our sacred bone heart, and we feel our feet. You might be surprised at how tightly we contain the prana, the energy, of our feet. And when we are around horses milling around, we can have a tendency to draw that energy more inward, (because, yes, it does hurt mightily should that foot get stepped on).

I look back to Judith and Ro. They are deeply connected to all of our actions, observing keenly, the energy of, dare I call it love? palpable, pulsing. Truly, I did not have to look, because I could feel it. The Pooka is still maintaining his lower energetic profile, and I realize then that it isn't less or hidden at all, he has drawn to that place of deep subtlety, where a loud stallion voice would interfere, would break the spell.

I could go on, and on, and on. I'll stop here for now. Words, even at Camp Lipizzan, where words are the very coin of the realm, words can only convey what words can convey.  But those words continue to journey into those deep and subtle places, find nourishment in community with one another, reveal themselves later through story, song, and poem.

Om shanti

Monday, March 24, 2014

New normal: diabetes, yoga, and me (the yoga teacher)

It's been a little over a week since I was sitting in the Urgent Care office for a follow-up to what was at first thought to be two different infections and the doctor told me he suspected I had Type II Diabetes.

"What the fuck?!?!"

But I'm a yoga teacher.

So? Maybe my moderately active exercise and mostly reasonable diet held off the decline in the intricacies of my body's internal insulin management for longer than what otherwise be imagined.  Maybe.

I can tell you that I know that my practice of yoga and yoga teaching literally saved my life when I faced some serious health challenges 20 years ago (giant fibroids and chronic back pain and, and, and).

But I did not see this coming.

I was flooded with feelings. I was pissed. I was sad. I was probably in a bit of shock. I felt a sense of betrayal in myself, by myself. I felt a sense of shame; if only I had followed my own advice to tweak my diet, be more regular in my meals.  And as my analytical mind kicked into gear, this young doctor said, "Stop. You didn't do anything wrong. I look at you and see a healthy and fit 62 year old. Sometimes things happen. And, you may have some grief to deal with. And here is what we need to do to stabilize you…"

That old adage, hindsight is 20-20, has some merit. I WAS receiving information from my body over the last few months (prior to that I'd felt GREAT), but was not interpreting it correctly. As once-was-statistician - my assumptions were incorrect.

I had been experiencing drowsiness at unexpected times, and I started to note (before the diagnosis) that they were cyclical in nature. I told myself that I needed to get my meals to be more regular, a challenge in the yoga teacher world of erratic personal schedules. I was having brain-fog moments, sometimes a difficulty in concentrating. I studied harder. Signs were there.

Then, in mid-February,  I got hit with a 24-hour flu bug, that seemed to keep returning, knocking me lower each time, until I went into a kind of fugue state, not eating (nothing at all) for 5 days, yet still getting myself to my teaching commitments. Finally, I went to Urgent Care, got on antibiotics (some pneumonia was detected in one lung). I was a compliant patient, and after the course of treatment was complete and I'd begun replenishing my gut with probiotics, wondered that I wasn't at 100%, felt maybe at 80% at best. I went back to Urgent Care, requested the same doctor.

Hello to the unexpected. Looking back, I understand now that my glucose levels were rising, rising, rising, and then into an acute situation, triggered by a flu bug.  Thank you, little virus. Without your catalyst, those levels might have just kept on rising, I wouldn't have taken the action I did, and who knows?

I am intrigued that I had been setting up the vinyasa karma sequencing for asana that I am conservative in teaching (halaasana, gomukhaasana) that address the pancreas. I had some cyclical food cravings, from salads with certain ingredients (I'm not really a salad fan), to foods from my childhood (grilled cheese on white bread with american cheese).   Signs were there.


Things have changed, and I adjust to my new normal.  Sharing my journey with diabetes with my yoga students (but mindfully, not obsessively) is part of that.   And I feel good.

Om. Shanti shanti shantih: