The untimely passing of Robin Williams this week, brought home the very real effects of depression. According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), about 9% of Americans have feelings of hopelessness, despondency, and/or guilt that generate a diagnosis of depression. (http://www.everydayhealth.com). About 30,0000 Americans have depression severe enough to result in suicide. Obviously severe depression needs to be treated medically, but there are some preventative poses in yoga known to help depression.
For a type of depression that tends to make people brood or withdraw, vigorous asanas such as Sun Salutation (Surya Namaskar) will help stimulate the breath. The physicality of this asana challenges the body so the mind is focused on completing the poses, rather than the turmoil within. For the types of depression where people are restless, unfocused, and almost manic in their inability to control their thoughts, backbends are more helpful. These people find it very difficult to relax and remain still in Savasana or in a meditation and they might find that closing their eyes actually produces more anxiety. These people need to understand that the eyes do not have to be closed and relaxation can be achieved through a more supported or counter pose.
For more in-depth look at how depression can be helped with yoga, please see Yoga as Medicine by Dr. Timothy McCall.
Depression is a very real and insidious ailment and though it feels helpless, there is help available. In the U.S., call 1-800-273-8255 for National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. Please use social media for good and pass this along.
I consider myself an educated person. I have a Master's Degree in Education and have used technology since the days of the Wang wordprocessor (If you remember that-let me know!) I've successfully integrated technology into my classroom, that is when I had a classroom (see post Your Contract Has Not Been Renewed) and have used technology and social media to get the public educated into the ways of yoga. When it works-it's great! When it doesn't...
Let me begin last Sunday. My old flip phone that I use for business is coming up for renewal. Why not upgrade to a newer phone, I thought. So online I go to research phones, saw one at Walmart for an excellent price, ran it by my son for his opinion ("Looks OK") and off I went to get it. I successfully transferred my minutes and phone number to the new phone and turned it on. Then I started reentering my contact info. (Isn't there an easier way to do that?) Three hours later, I found that I hated this new phone! It was not friendly. It was not easy. I wanted my old phone back. Thus began the NIGHTMARE OF THE OLD FLIP PHONE. I could not transfer it online. I could not reach a live person on the customer service line, no matter how many times I dialed. I even tried the Spanish option, hastily trying to get the translation of my problem while waiting for the next representative (which was a phone prompt again-not a real person). I finally reached a chat line agent who advised me that my phone had a problem(Huh?) and would be out of order until I received a new SIM card.
While I was on hold waiting for the phone teleprompter, I noticed that my website had an error in the footer. Why not just update that while I am on hold? But wait-where is the option to do that? It was there a few months ago. So I began my frantic search for the right menu option, and the internal chatter that accompanies situations like these i.e. "Where is it? Why can't I find it? I know I've done this before. What's wrong with me?" And thus was added the sequel RETURN OF TECHNOLOGY WOES ( see woman flip out when her phone and website both are not working! Hear the anguished screams of frustration! Not for the faint of heart-tune in if you dare!) The upshot of all of this was more time spent in a phone queue waiting for the web host technical support,being disconnected after holding for seven minutes, being sent to the wrong department, finally reaching a person who didn't fix the problem, being on hold again, finally reaching another person who said it was a theme error (i.e. Not our fault). This led to me contacting my web person, who said it was a hosting error ( i.e. Not my fault) but did offer to fix it and suggest I switch hosts. It's still not 100% fixed yet but getting there.
Throughout all this frustrating technology problems, I had to practice the yoga principle of ahimsa, non-harming, both for myself and for thoughts I was having while trying to deal with things beyond my control. I had to practice many calming breathing techniques, even more when I thought the problem was fixed and then it started all over again a few days later. Perhaps I should take my own advice (See post What's Stealing Your Time?), keep sipping my lovely summer alcoholic beverage and thinking calming, cooling, positive thoughts that the technology gods would look favorably upon me soon.
PS. It is now a week later and I'm hold again-seems some application is not working on the phone preventing me from making and receiving phone calls. Breathe in, breathe out...
Summertime and my mind is not easy. For the second time in 19 years I am not filling my summer with professional development courses, curriculum updates, classroom refurbishment, and preparation for the new school year. The first time doesn't count as I was moving cross country from Washington state to Massachusetts. This summer it is because I don't have a classroom to go to. It's unsettling. Suddenly my days are filled with trolling the education job boards, sending out resumes to a faceless electronic abyss, getting the same electronic rejection letters back ( 27 and counting), and finding solace with inspirational pictures and quotes on Facebook. Losing a job is right up there with other major life changes and it's not a comfortable place to be. Random thoughts start to intrude-anger, grief, loss, unworthiness, self-doubt-all of which are normal and should not be ignored. It's when these feelings start to overwhelm and manifest themselves into physical and mental blockages that you need to take action. Here's how yoga can help:
1. Start your day before you even get out of bed, setting an intention. It does not have to be a laundry list of chores, but it should be one thing you wish to accomplish. I like to link my breath with my intention, i.e. as I breathe in say to myself "I am" and as I breathe out state my intention.
2. Be with people-even ones you don't know! I find its when I'm alone that I feel the worst, so I walk or get in the car and get myself to a public place. Talking to a random stranger about anything is better than talking trash about your situation when you are alone! And when that lady at Dunkin Donuts smiles at you or the librarian says, "Have a good day", it can change your mood.
3. Take the high road. It is so easy in this day and age when you can electronically skewer people and institutions you don't like or have a grudge against. Even if it is justified,you might feel vindicated momentarily but what goes around comes around-and that holds true for the people who got you into this situation to begin with.
4. Practice a yoga pose. Promise yourself that you will do it faithfully until you master it or want to move on to another. There are plenty of poses for relaxation, depression, stretching, and calming the mind. (You can find lots of them in my book, YOGAMINUTE)
5. Plan out your job renewal. Make a list for your perfect job and don't hold back! Create everything you want-location, responsibilities, hours, and money. Then list what you can realistically do to get it. Granted, job searches are not fair and there are many things beyond your control, but what can you control? What can you do to make your job manifest itself for you? Once you are certain exactly what you want, don't keep it a secret. Now is a good time to use Facebook and Linkedin and let people know how they can help.
It has been a month since I lost my job but in reality five months since I knew that my last job situation did not serve me, nourish me, or sustain me (except for my colleagues who are fantastic, hardworking, underpaid professionals!)I am using yoga for my job loss . Try it for yourself and let me know what you create!
Have you ever heard these words? Yesterday, I did. And even though I knew they were coming and even though I knew months ago that I did not want to remain in this job (love the work-hate the politics), those words still are hard to hear, witnessed by the fact that I up at 3:30am writing about it.
I love teaching yoga, writing about yoga, giving workshops, and doing community service events but the fact is, job #1 pays the bills. Seeing some of my colleagues whose jobs were also cut or downsized sobbing in the faculty room was also a blow. Just like any breakup, you want to be the one to do it first, you want to be the one to call the shots. Having it forced upon you is not the Hollywood version I pictured. Then an hour later, learning about another job that I thought I had a good shot at was already filled, was also a blow. The reality is that the combination of my age and experience against new graduates makes my chances for getting a new teaching position next to impossible. Even so I have been preparing for this eventuality, brushing off the resume, reconnecting with old colleagues, getting the word out, staying focused, positive, and professional. Hopefully I will remain so.
But -cue Gloria Gaynor-I will survive. Last night after I left work, I taught a yoga class and then had an event at my local library talking about my book. One of the attendees took the time to talk to me about how much she enjoyed reading my blog and posts on Vibrant Nation. Sorry, I didn't get your name but you made my day. Thank you!
It is interesting what the universe will send you when you are open to the possibilities. I am open and ready for the next contract and thanks to yoga, I will keep positive that better opportunities await.
Last year at this time, I was sipping coffee, enjoying my first day of spring vacation, and watching the preparations for the annual Boston Marathon. As I watched all the preparations, I was inspired to write an article for this blog and published it just as the runners were beginning their long trek. Little did I know that just a few hours later, some of those same runners and their spectators would be changed forever with a senseless act of violence. I and countless others watched the news, transfixed on the endless replaying of the bombs exploding on the Boylston Street finish line, the terse comments of the reporters, the pictures of families running in horror, and the spectators who happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. In the days that followed, I was further horrified by the senseless shooting of the MIT security officer, Sean Collier, and then the shoot-em-up and subsequent manhunt in my hometown of Watertown.
Now a year later, the stories of unbelievable courage and sacrifice abound. These stories tell of the people who were injured and endured long months of physical rehabilitation. Then there's the stories of the countless others who happened to be in the right place at the right time. Not just the medical and law enforcement officials, whose jobs demand automatic and unselfish action, but of ordinary people out enjoying an afternoon of fun turned tragically wrong. It great to have a visit by Vice President Biden and good to see the politicians stop fighting long enough to honor these people. It's doubly terrific to celebrate the World Series Champion Boston Red Sox and have them also honor those victims of the Marathon Bombing. But mostly for me, it's a celebration of human goodness, sacrifice, and willingness to be of service to others. We must remember that we share this earth and our actions on it are overreaching.
I am not part of the Boston Marathon race but I am part of the human race. Let's all be racing towards our peaceful coexistence on our beautiful planet as we celebrate both the anniversary of the bombing and Earth Day this week.
Last week I showed up to teach my yoga class and this book was sitting there with a note from a friend. Misadventures of a Garden State Yogi by Brian Leaf, is a laugh out loud account of a young man's search for meaning through yoga. Along the way, he finds he can refocus his ADD, heal his colitis, find the keys to his happiness, and discover a meaningful career. At times he literally stumbles into his misadventures (he thinks a prostitute is a real massage therapist) and other times he is truly enlightened by the people and events in his life.
Besides being a fun read, Brian's search for happiness through yoga also gives the novice yogi some tips for meditation, and intro to ayurveda, a peek into volunteering in an ashram, and eventually his realization as to how to use his gifts tutoring students. As a seeker, teacher and yogi, Brian's path resonated with me and whether you are a novice or expert yogi, I think it would for you as well. Since these adventures, Brian has expanded his life to include a family, and his new book, Misadventures of a Parenting Yogi will be out in May, 2014.
Check out the original and let me know what you think!
When I do workshops and ask people the question, "What is yoga?", many people answer, "Feeling calm." "Relaxation." "Stretching." Since media has brought yoga into the mainstream, thankfully this has been the prevailing view. Unfortunately there are still those who view yoga as a secret sect of lunatics sitting cross legged on a mat, burning incense, chanting, and singing to weird looking, multi-limbed deities.
Yoga is not a religion!
The practice of yoga embodies universal principals. These include non-violence, truthfulness, being of service to others, clean living, non-stealing, cleanliness of mind and body, and ultimately, surrender and union with a higher power. How could anyone of any faith tradition argue with that?
Unfortunately, some do. This week as I was celebrating another store selling my yoga book, school administrators wanted to make sure I wasn't doing "that" in my classroom. Imagine the consequences! Teaching kindness in a classroom! Horrors!!
Oh well. As I write this, even I find it hard to practice the yoga principal of non-judgement sometimes. I'll let you decide.
Read more about the yogic principals and how to incorporate yoga into your busy lives in my book Yogaminute.
This is the time of year when we look within and without and set intentions for the upcoming year. Most people start off January with very good intentions-a new job, a relationship overhaul, new healthy living guidelines, and maybe aspiring to something like a new car or living situation as well. These are all worthwhile goals. But ask most people in March how many of these goals have been started and the hands go down. We all have great intentions-but sticking to them is difficult. Our attention span is naturally shortened by the media blasts around us. If we do not receive immediate results, we go on to the next shiny thing. So then, what can we do when we know we need to change something big in our lives?
Redefine and think small.
That's right, think small. Instead of wishing to lose twenty pounds and being overwhelmed with all the diet and exercise that involves, redefine your goal into small, manageable steps. Further, while some people could handle a daily goal, you might be one of those people who might need to send yourself hourly reminders. What should you remind yourself?
"I am important and in order to be happy, I will be true to myself"
It sounds simple, but in real life, how many of us put ourselves first? If you truly put your happiness first in your life, then everything else will fall into place. This is not being selfish or self absorbed but rather loving yorself enough to want the best for yourself. As the commercial says, "You're worth it!"
For tips on how to incorporate yoga into your life one minute at a time, see my new book, YOGAMINUTE.
― William Woodsworth
Thanksgiving is a day set aside to enjoy our many blessings-family, friends, food, and the things that make us feel happy and content. In yoga contentment is called santosha. Practicing this niyama is not a wimpy settling or being passive about life's circumstances, but rather enjoying what you have and have been given.
I strive to make Thanksgiving a simple family holiday. For many years, my husband, children, and I lived 3,000 miles away from our immediate families. With not much money and little resources, we had to find joy in the little and cheap things like playing cards, eating Annie's macaroni and cheese (a big extravagence for us!), and making construction paper decorations. Even after we moved closer to our families, many years were spent supporting our children in the band by manning the concesson stands at the local football games after which the last thing we wanted to do was eat a big meal. Now a days, it is welcoming them home for a night or two from their busy lives and seeing a movie.
This year as I list my many blessings I count among them the fact that I have a job, a car that works, and students who enjoy learning as much as I enjoy teaching. I am thankful for my husband who endures a stressful job to provide us with financial and medical security. I am thankful that my parents are still alive and still living in their own home and grateful for my sister's help in managing their affairs. I am thankful that my children have jobs and can support themselves. I am thankful that my book is done and published. And I am especially thankful for my dog, who loves me unconditionally and is always happy to see me and be with me no matter what my mood.
What are you thankful for?
YOGAMINUTE-now on sale! Order your today!
It was a lovely fall day. My husband and I took a ride to New Hampshire to visit the Reeds Ferry Shed Company (If you need a shed, check them out!). After our visit, we stopped to fill up the gas tank and while my husband was pumping I went across the street to Dunkin Donuts to get us some coffee. My parents owned and operated Anita's Donuts for over 20 years, and the smell of donuts and coffee brings back so many yummy memories for me. This day's memory may not be in the yummy category.
So anyway, I am in line and placed my order for two black coffees. The girl behind the counter asked the size and thankfully I didn't have to remember the quasi Italian Starbucks jargon and said regular.
"Do you mean medium?" the girl asked.
"Oh," I responded. "Medium, I guess. No large. Definitely two large coffees."
"You want regular coffee?" the girl asked.
"Yes," I responded thinking she meant the regular Dunkin blend rather than the fall inspired pumpkin blends.
But instead of rushing to get my coffee, the girl is now squinting at me. "You want regular coffee? With cream and sugar?" she asked.
"No, black coffee. Two large black coffees!" I said thinking I am speaking English here?
Another squint from the girl, as she announces my total and directs me to stand right where I am and she will bring me my coffees. Why, I am thinking, am I not directed to the pickup window? Obviously, other people are wondering this as well, based on the eye rolling and heavy sighs of the caffeine deprived patrons behind me.
Finally, my two coffees arrive and I exit the store to the gas station where my husband is waiting. It is on the way that I notice my receipt-
The girl gave me a senior discount!!!
Now, I am not opposed to discounts. I've been known to travel out of my way to save a few cents with discount and double coupons. But a senior discount? I admit I do have a few grays in my hair and a few stray whiskers on the chin but thanks to yoga my body has never looked better. Is it because of the conversation at the counter? Does confusion equal senior? Am I having too many senior moments and not realizing it? Am I now labeled a senior?
Not since I was called "Mam" have I been so taken aback. And the Mam thing occured in Texas so I didn't even give that more than a second thought. I'm not even a grandmother yet!
So after my rants and raves and "What did she mean by that?" conversation (mostly to myself) my husband finally said,
"Maybe she hit the wrong key!"
OK. I can live with that. Sometimes I make mistakes and sometimes I forget names. I am active. I am still employed. I'm not losing my mind. I am not senile. And when I do hit that certain age when I could ask for a senior discount I'll take the cents off-but I won't be discounted!
Take that squinty eyed, Dunkin Donuts girl!