Monday, March 31, 2014

Sometimes You Just Need to Call a Spade a Spade

My mom was fond of using the phrase "Calling a spade a spade." I didn't know where it arose from, but I understood it to mean owning up to something by speaking honestly about it. I guess the tricky part is knowing what is the truth, isn't it?

This came up for me this past week. My husband and I had started juicing and eating clean and whole. We had both been commenting how good we were feeling, how much more energy we had, and how much less snacking we were doing. I remember being in my home office on Tuesday and thinking, "I feel amazing!" I couldn't really remember the last time I had felt so good. I have always struggled with my eating habits and I thought to myself that I had finally taken a turn by actually enjoying eating better.

That was Tuesday.

Wednesday morning I woke up stuffy and a little congested. This confused me. I had just come off of an amazing yoga retreat weekend, I was eating healthy and juicing every morning and feeling great. "What is this about?" I thought. I thought that because that's what we yogis do. We believe that everything happens as a result of something and thus search for the deeper meaning in it.

After talking with another friend I decided I was "cleansing." With all the healthy eating I was going through a cleanse. That's what it is. My sister had come in to the studio to use the steam tent due to nagging cold she had. I decided while I had the tent going I'd jump in after her. So, infused with eucalyptus, I took a beautiful aromatherapeutic steam bath before heading home for the night, figuring that any lingering congestion would definitely be kicked out of me with that!

Wednesday night I didn't sleep a wink. I couldn't breathe at all. My head ached and I couldn't get comfortable. I awoke Thursday completely congested, eyes watering, nose leaking, and feeling like utter crap. I went in to teach my morning yoga class knowing that I had a Reiki session scheduled for afterwards. "Great," I thought, "Reiki should kick this energy right out of me!"

During the Reiki session my friend agreed I was "detoxing." We decided I should go home, relax, drink tea and let it pass through. She suggested that I do some chanting to help move the energy through as I seem to have a consistent block in some of my upper chakras. So I went home Thursday feeling utterly crappy but knowing that I had the next day off to relax and recuperate!

I didn't sleep a wink Thursday night. I even got up and took a Sudafed out of frustration. It was old, probably expired, but it was in the drawer and I needed something so I took it. But it did nothing. I spent all of Friday completely miserable at home. I took a picture of myself because my eyes were so puffy and watering I hardly looked like myself. I could only open my eyes a fraction of the way. I sent said picture to my husband who responded by commenting that I looked like a "drug addict."

I decided to hop into a hot bath. That had always helped knock congestion out of me in the past. I dropped some Thai herbs and sea salt in tub and soaked for a while until I was sweating. I decided to chant while I was in there as well. So I lie in the bath chanting and meditating on opening up the energy in my 5th & 6th chakras where it felt blocked. I pressed on my acupressure points along the sinus passages. They were very sore, but I did it while I took deep breaths - sometimes through my mouth, but the steam of the water helped me to breathe more easily through my nose too.

After the bath and once I cooled off I felt absolutely no better. I text my husband and asked him to pick up a new package of Sudafed. Maybe the old expired one just wasn't doing the job. In the meantime I figured I'd do some yoga postures that might help. I tried but had little energy and no ability to do yogic breathing. So I decided to just relax and await the medicine that was coming home with my husband. I took the Sudafed immediately. It did help the puffiness and watery eyes go down a bit, but I basically felt the same.

Friday night I barely slept, spending most of the night pressing into the acupressure points around my eyes, cheeks and nose - taking deep breaths as I could. I got up at one point putting on the liquid camphor I'd gotten from Thailand a few years ago. I rub it on my temples, chest, and a few other acupressure points and it usually helps too. Not this time.

I had tried to get subs for my Saturday classes, but everyone was busy so I had to go in. I decided to stop at CVS on the way in to ask the pharmacist what the best decongestant was for watery eyes and stuffy nose congestion. She told me it was most likely allergies and to take Allegra. Now, I never want to believe in allergies or that I could have any, but I bought it anyway. I needed something to help me through the day, after all.

After my first morning class a student of mine generously offered to Reiki me. Second Reiki session in a few days - I couldn't pass it up. I lied down in between classes and received some wonderful healing energy, but it didn't help to open my sinuses. Saturday afternoon, completely congested, sipping my 4th cup of tea and finishing up my last yoga class, I admitted to a student and fellow teacher of mine that I think it was time to own up to the fact that I had a head cold. She laughed, admitting that it was most likely so.

I took a lovely Restorative Yoga with Yoga Nidra class at the studio before going home. I feel asleep at some point during Yoga Nidra, moving back and forth between consciousness. It felt great to sleep and I knew that was just what I truly needed.

I got home and with my tail between my legs announced to my husband that I had a head cold. The first sign of any head cold my husband takes Nyquil before bed and usually feels better in a couple of days. I told him Nyquil makes my heart race and I can't use it because that had happened once before. Truth of the matter was, when I used to get really sick in college I lived off Nyquil and I just didn't want to have to take it again.

Saturday night I messaged a friend of ours who is a pharmacist and asked what he recommended I do for a head cold. He explained to me what Sudafed does (constricting the capillary beds in the nasal mucosa, decreasing inflammation and thereby slightly increasing the amount of room that the existing mucous has to spread out). He suggested taking an antihistamine and decongestant together and pushing fluids. It was about 7:30 at night when I went upstairs to look in the medicine drawer to see what we had. I usually go right to my holistic drawer of tricks, but I had already tried all of those and at this point I was desperate. I found my husband's box of Nyquil and read the ingredients. Wouldn't you know it? It had what my friend had suggested. I took it and went downstairs to tell my husband who happened to be reading a passage on my birth date from The Elemental Book of Birthdays.

"Hey," he said enthusiastically, "I just read for your birthdate that one of your health issues will be common colds that keep reoccurring. So maybe that's just who you are and you have to deal with it," he said with a smile.

I told him about the Nyquil, lied down and that was it. I awoke at some point to go up to bed, then again at what he said was 10:30 am. Wow, a full night of sleep where I could breathe! I took a shower, blew out some stuff from my nose and then did the same thing Sunday night and Monday morning. I am far from 100% but at least I am breathing again and things are moving out!

Hallelujah!

What is the lesson? I've spent so many years learning the deeper meaning of things, understanding what is toxic and how to move energy. I practice holistic remedies whenever possible and earnestly believe in them. But you know what I forget? I often forget that I'm human and that I'm susceptible to catching a common cold just like everyone else. So, am I detoxing or cleansing? Is it stuck energy that needs to move up and out? Maybe...sure. But at the end of the day, let's call a spade a spade: I caught a common head cold. And when that happens, sometimes western medicine is the way to go for a road to recovery.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Yogi Corner - The Sutras of Patanjali: Yama

Yogi Corner: The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali (Yama)

The most famous part of the Yoga Sutras is called the "eight limbs." Sometimes referred to as branches, these limbs are to be worked on until the impurities are dwindled away in order to achieve yoga. For March, let's discuss the first limb, also known as the "yamas."

"AHIMSA SATYASTEYA BRAHMACARYAPARIGRAHA YAMAH." B.2, V.30
Translation: Yama consists of non-violence (ahimsa), truthfulness (satya), non-stealing (asteya), continence (brahmacharya) and non-greed (aparigraha). 
So before postures are learned, before breath control is achieved, before meditation is attempted, one is to adhere strictly to these moral codes. The first five are the yamas or abstinences listed above. At first glance they appear to be fairly easy to recognize. Ahimsa, non-violence. This is good. Do not hurt another living being. Most of us can adhere to this code. How about when someone cuts you off on Rt. 1 and you curse them out? What about the mean thoughts that you have about your difficult in-laws or neighbors? Or what about the chicken parm you enjoyed last night for dinner? Yes, all words and thoughts are energy and vibration. You think something hurtful, it sends hurtful thoughts out into the Universe. Practicing non-violence is actually more challenging than your first thought.
Next up is Satya, truthfulness. Do not tell a lie. Sounds good. So your best friend tells you something in confidence and asks you not to tell another soul, but you figure your spouse doesn't count. How about creativity on your tax returns? Or what about not listening to your inner truth and living a life that is a lie by working at an unsatisfying job or being in a relationship that does not lift your Spirit? Ask yourself if there are any blurry lines in your life with respect to being truthful.
Non-stealing, Asteya, is the third yama. Maybe as youngster you had a run-in with petty theft, but haven't taken anything that wasn't yours since. What about a child's opportunity to learn something on their own? What about taking the spotlight from someone else when it's their turn to shine or talking over someone else to grab all the attention? All types of stealing...just saying.
Brahmacharya is the most confused of all the yamas mostly because it has often been translated to celibacy, which does not work for our way of householder living. Upon a deeper study of bramacharya we uncover the concepts of moderation and respect. Yogis understand that seminal fluid is energy that when stored properly turns into prana. So there is a period of study where the yogi adheres strictly to the points of continence. There are other house-holder stages when procreation takes place for having children. In later stages, more Spiritual practice is undertaken and celibacy restored. In a less strict sense, consider moderation when it comes to sex, always creating boundaries and respect with your partner.
Aparigrapha, non-greed, is the final yama. Some of you just gave up with bramacharya, but for those of you hanging in there with me, let's talk about simplicity. The idea is to only consume that which we need to survive, only own the clothing on our back, and live minimally, with no hoarding or waste. We are consumers, however. We have closets full of clothes and food. We decorate our homes to reflect our personality and we shower loved-ones with gifts all the time. Has it gotten out of hand? Do you have rooms filled with items that you have never used? When was the last time you went through your closet and donated clothing to a local women's shelter or another charity? First start with the excessiveness in your living and cut back. Give away a little at a time. Unloading excess frees up energy in our lives and it feels good to help others in need. Start small and work your way up, deciding what you can eliminate. Live simply and you have less problems. It's true because it's less "stuff" to worry about. 
And so the yamas are the very first limb of the eight limbs of yoga. Already there seems to be a lot of work that we can do to clear up some energy in our lives and focus on our Spiritual practice of yoga. Next month we will discuss the niyamas or observances. So use March to focus on the abstinences of the yamas. Good luck!