Health and Wellness: Moving past hype

In this newsletter:
Intro: Health and Wellness
Practice: 3-part breath, intro to relaxation as a baseline

Health and Wellness:
the hype and hypocrisy

The hype of modern medicine is largely encountered in the newspapers for most of us. The disconnect is in the level of care we receive, especially in this day and age when many have no regular doctor, one who knows us. The wise patient knows that no one could care about their health as much as they do. With so many other resources among books, grassroots education by nonprofit clinics, and just talking to other women, I've learned much more about reproductive health, for example, than from any doctor.

Not only that, but that general attitude among the medical community of pathologizing normal processes like menstruation, pregnancy, and menopause gives me great pause. What power are we relinquishing in that narrative?

So, putting the onus back on ourselves for our health is paramount.

And the first step of health is self-assessment.

Yes, the doctor can help you, but the doctor has no real agency over you. You alone can keep close contact with your physiological and emotional responses in order to know what's going on with the body in order to articulate it.

Further, once armed with a broader awareness of self, subtle shifts and realignments are more perceptible, allowing us to release the root causes of pain.

Cultivating wellness is largely a case of getting rid of the obstacles to wellness.

Yoga, as a functional body alignment strategy, has its roots in the postures of animals, and of our own childhood posture, before the slings and arrows of life have taken their due. If as children we learned the fundamentals of alignment, we’d never have to un-learn the unhelpful habits of adulthood.

It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men. (Frederick Douglass)

But it is not only bad habits we get into, but our resistance to feeling their consequences fully, and our frustration from not being able to stop our cul-de-sac behaviors, that leads us into hypocrisy.

It is our abandonment of our body, because it pains us, that we’re combatting here. Or more accurately, unlearning our abandoning, and find surrender instead.

Our brilliant minds, so sure they are capable of going off on their own so completely, do so abstractly. But we do not live in the abstract. Our bodies are left behind, so to speak, though the effect our state of our body has on our mind and emotions as well as our enjoyment of life, is second to none.

Our distancing from the body makes us figuratively “brain-dead,” for the fewer signals the brain recognizes from the body, the less the brain actually has to work with of reality.

In this concept is the key to yoga.

Yogis hold that it’s a fallacy even to speak of body and mind as separate, and represents a fundamental disconnect that must be healed, and in healing, strengthens the whole organism.

It makes common sense. But of course it is in practice that it really gets "down to the bone."



The Daily Practice

Starting on Progressive Muscle Relaxation: train the muscles to come to a baseline of softness when not in use. This starts in the face in meditation. 

In the beginning of class, I do rely on somewhat of a routine to train the mind to do the same thing each time you sit. I repeat the same words to myself and others to induce light trace. If you do one thing daily, do this short centering.

If you proceed before centering to any kind of conscious body work, it will take twice as long and be half as effective. So don't go off half-cocked. Center first. Inculcate it now so it'll be there later.

Yoga drawings_38.jpg

3-part breath

Read through first, and listen below. It gets easier to do this on your own after some practice.

Sit in a neutral position on a chair or floor.
Get your last little wiggles out.
Let the body grow still.
Be aware of the breath.
Become aware of the whole field of awareness with the eyes open, but soft.
Notice what you hear, the feeling of air on skin.
Relax the jaw.
Soften the tongue away from the roof of the mouth, letting the air flow freely through the throat.
Soften the eyes and skin around the eyes.
Let the face grow slack and with your awareness “step back” from the front of your mind. Lean back.
Lift and rest back slightly through the torso, shoulders over hips.
The breath soft.
Soften the inner body so that the breath naturally deepens, all the way into the belly.
Take 3 to 5 deep belly breaths.
Let the following breath move into the belly and the back, for 3 to 5.
The following breaths express in the belly, back, and chest. 3 to 5.
3-part breath.

Release all your efforts with the breath and return to a state of natural breathing again.


Breath as Optimal Tool for Self-Regulation

We are learning about the breath, because it is the optimal meditation tool, and because it is intimately connected with the nervous system.

One amazing and practical benefit of the breath is that it can be totally automatic, or consciously controlled.

Here we are learning to pay attention to the totally automatic movement of breath, in process to starting to work with the breath to change states of mind.

In deeper yogic and meditative states the breath will become an anchor that you can always come back to.

So we first see what is with active non-judgement. Reality tuning.

Then we introduce one small technique. Adjustment.

And see the result. Assessment.

Little by little, awareness grows and automatic patterns soften, supporting change.

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Moon Phase: Waxing gibbous

Full Moon is March 2 AKA the Full Worm Moon as American Indians have it, for the time of year when the frozen earth begins to thaw, bringing earth worms to the surface.

I’m starting to think about planning the garden. This year is all about basic healing plants and herbs. I want to use the plants for making medicinal tinctures and salves. So, planting-wise, nothing fancy. Tomatoes of course, and greens.

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Emily Johnson