Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Let the Sun Shine! Summer Solstice Energies

Happy Summer Solstice!

This is the longest day of the year, when we have the glorious opportunity to enjoy the sun for the longest period of time in a 24 hour period for those of us living north of the equator. This occurs every year around June 21st. In our area the sun will be present for over 16 hours on this day, which lends to a lot of solar energy out there!

Sun energies are aligned to:
     * Fire
     * Heat
     * Expansion
     * Transformation
     * Purification
     * Fertility
     * Abundance

So during this time of year usually folks experience more energy - be it physical or mental. Add in the moon phase (time of the full moon especially when the moon is the most "solar" that it can be) and we can really be feeling it.

So there are two theories with this time of year:
1. Use the added solar energy as an impetus to finish up or start goals.
2. Cultivate more lunar energy to balance out the overwhelming amount of solar.

The key to knowing which one of these energies to work with is to be truthful and listen to your body. Some folks need more cooling, nurturing lunar energy, while others can fire it up. And then there is the idea of cultivating balance by working with both. In the end, use it however you must.

I've started a new tradition at the yoga studio for the Solstices (there are two: Summer & Winter) called "108 Sun Salutations." This is not a new event that I created. Many yoga studios around the world perform this on the Solstices. Solstice literally means "stopping or standing still of the sun." In Hatha Yoga, or the physical practices of postures and breathing, is a cultivating of or balancing of opposites - "Ha" meaning Sun and "tha" meaning Moon. So Hatha Yoga teachers work with these energies to help students create balance in their practice and their lives all the time.

Winter Solstice 2014 108 Sun Salutation Class
This year's Winter Solstice 108's was the first time that I officially taught this class. I had done it one other time at a retreat at my house with 4 students, but this was the first time at these studio open to anyone. There are many variations to do so that any level student can do the salutations, however, you are kicking up a lot of energy and it is a hot, sweaty, fiery, and fierce practice no matter how you look at it. So, I tell everyone to bring a towel!

Lots of people ask why 108. We can start by simply saying that 108 is known as the "auspicious number." You can google it, there are so many interesting insights about the number 108 including the fact that there are exactly 108 beads on a mala meditation necklace and that the distance between the Earth and Sun is 108 times the diameter of the goes on and on. It will really blow your mind. Here is a quick link to some of the more important facts:
                                                                Mystic Meaning of 108

For this year's Summer Solstice Celebration class I hooked up a camera and recorded the class. It took us just over an hour to do the entire class, stopping at each group of 12 salutations to turn over a card revealing the next number (12, 24, 26, 48, 60, 72, 84, 96, 108) and discuss the numerological meaning of each number and what energy to hold as your intention for the next round of 12. When I got home I condensed the film into a 5 minute video and posted it on Youtube. The results are fabulous! If you haven't seen it, please check it out:
                                         OYC 108 Sun Salutation Class - Summer Solstice 2014

I hope to make this an annual tradition for both the Winter & Summer Solstices and hope that more folks will join us each time. I know it sounds a little intimidating, but the energy that we create together is tremendous and you can use it to establish new or reconnect with intentions that you set in the earlier part of the year to move you forward.

If you cannot attend our Solstice Celebrations, maybe you can have your own. Light a fire pit, throw in any items from the first half of the year that you need to release (this can be something you write down or actual objects). Dance, sing & celebrate the sun. I've also included a Youtube video that I made last year of a Summer Solstice meditation. You can listen to it first, then do it, or try to follow along. Either way, here it is for you:
                                                             Summer Solstice Meditation

So Happy Summer Solstice everyone! May you enjoy the summer, repeat the rewards of abundance from all of the energy that you have been putting out this first half of the year!

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Pt. 3 My Septoplasty Operation: Observations 1 Week Post Op

Yesterday was the one week mark after my septoplasty. It also marked the first day without any tylenol or pain medicine and the first day that I felt I could breathe fairly clear all day and night with minimal issues. This is not a bad thing, this is a good thing. Only one week after the operation, and I am definitely feeling that it was a success.

Several interesting things have come out of this whole awareness about my deviated septum. Years of living with many issues, just became a habit, a normal way of life for me. Even as a yoga teacher, who you would think would be more self aware (insert laughter track here), the observations and connections have been life-changing.

For as long as I can remember of my adult life, I have clenched my jaw tightly at night. At one point, I had TMJ and my jaw would lock shut. That was a little scary. When I started to learn about yoga, I learned to relax more and the TMJ went away. However, the jaw clenching at night never stopped. My dentist advised a bite-guard to wear at night, which I paid for out of pocket as I have no dental insurance. It doesn't fit right and has been modified twice, and just doesn't fit into my mouth so I do not wear it. By the way, the little gem cost me $500. Flash forward nearly 10 years later and to a new dentist, who's chair I sat in the day before my septoplasty operation. He asked if I was wearing my bite guard at night, to which I answered spontaneously, "No, but tomorrow I have surgery to correct my deviated septum and I think that after that I may not need it." I honestly had never thought about it before that. He responded, "Yes, often people clench down at night when they are struggling to breath." Why had this not come up before? How had I come up with it then? Mysteries of the Universe aside, guess what?

It worked! I do not clench my jaw anymore at night. Hallelujah!

For the past week, I have not clenched down on my jaw at night. I can feel the dramatic influx of air through my left nostril that it almost feels like extreme breathing at night when I am lying down relaxed. Now when I awake, my jaw and neck are not tight. I have noticed the difference throughout my body as well, less tension on a whole from a better night sleep now that my body is receiving more oxygen.

I have noticed a greater sense of being awake in the morning as well. It doesn't seem to take me as long to truly "wake up." And I also appear to be needing a little less sleep at night than I used to. Wonderful, as this additional time I've acquired gives me more waking hours. I've decided to use them towards reading (This week I read two books and started a third).

I was wondering if the tension was also related to renewed issues with my vision and a need for progressive lenses. While the lenses still seem to be needed (damn aging process), I find that I do not need the glasses as much for everyday things, and do not feel an overtaxing on my eyes as before. So while my vision seems to be the same, the tension that I may have also attributed to my eyes, may have actually been connected to the breath as well.

The other benefit to this surgery was to be the release of fluid pooling in my right ear, causing painful decants when flying due to the inability to properly pressurize. I will know for sure in July when we go on our family vacation and I fly for the first time. I have felt some fluid popping in my ear this past week, but that is usual for me. In the past few days since I have felt mostly clear, however, I have not heard any popping. A visit to the doctor today for a check-up should confirm any fluid in the ear.

My yoga practice has not yet resumed in full. I feel generally bloated, but not as stiff as I would normally without a week or practice. I am looking forward to the full blessings of the doctor today to resume as well as I am interested to see how the increased volume of airflow changes my yogic breathing and hence overall sensation of the yoga practice.

You know, everything is connected. Connective tissue supports and binds all the different types of tissue and organs together in the body. So if there is a lack of flexibility in one area, it will affect the other. A clenched jaw can create a lot of tension that will obviously affect other areas of the body. Of course I knew this, however, the source of the jaw clenching has just been revealed to me. Who knew it was as simple as trying to breath? I've been pouring over my 5th Chakra for years trying to figure out why it is blocked!

I hope that this blog is helping anyone else who may have similar issues. At least to go to the doctor and inquire further. Perhaps there is a simple procedure that can fix things for you too, but you are just not connecting the dots. The eyes, ears, nose and mouth are pretty close together. Anything that is occurring in any one of them could very well be causing issues in other areas. In yoga, everything starts with the breath. It is where we become still, relax and know our truth. Breath reveals everything, and yet, some things remain hidden to our limited understanding of the mind, masked by the distractions of referred pains and other symptoms.

So, Hi-ho, Hi-ho, it's off to the doctor I go. Let's see what he has to say about my progress.

Me, 1 week Post Op


Doctor's Visit:
Doctor said my operation could not have gone any better. He was very pleased with the operation and my progress. He answered the few questions that I had and asked me to just call him in two weeks to let me know how I was doing. He said I didn't need a follow-up visit, but he just wanted to know that everything was okay. I really like this doctor!


To Be Continued...

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Pt. 2 My Septoplasty Operation: Day of Procedure

Yesterday I awoke at 3:33 am. I needed to be up at 5 to shower and head to the hospital. Anxiously I paced, lied in bed thinking, and awaited for the alarm to go off. When it did, I suddenly felt very sleepy. After my shower, the dogs and I sat on the front porch smelling the morning dew and watching the sun rising higher in the sky. The energy was clear and calm. So was I. But it was time to go.

I arrived for my check-in at 6:30 am and was finally taken in at 7. Not a long wait, I guess. The woman at the out-patient desk confirmed my birthday and said, "I'm the 22nd! Happy Birthday." Later on the anesthesiologist would also ask to confirm my birthday and say, "Mine is the 23rd, Happy Belated Birthday!" I took these as good signs that I was in the hands of competent, multi-tasking Gemini folk like myself. In fact, the entire staff at Aria Hospital, Torresdale were very nice people on top of their game. My entire experience with the staff was very good. They seemed to be people who enjoyed their job, each other and cared about their patients. BONUS!

My step-daughter, Alexis, came in with me for the procedure. She doesn't like the sight of blood. When they stuck me for the IV she had to walk away. Later when I spit out blood she nearly fell over. I was grateful to have her there with me. She is another Gemini, of course, so she is also quite trustworthy and caring. I packed her a snack bag to which she ate most of before 7:30 am. She's an athlete, so she eats a lot, thankfully all healthy. In fact, the only thing she didn't eat was the chocolate chip cookie. All the fruit and granola were gone. Good kid.

My doctor, William Henry, is a great guy too. I didn't ask his sign, but he is very approachable and interested in making sure that you understand what is going to happen, and open to any questions. I particularly like when he presses his nose down with his index finger and squishes it around while explaining things. It's goofy and funny and it puts you at ease right away. I asked him if I was having any cuts or sutures, to which he explained that in the process of moving the septum, he would have to put in a stitch that would dissolve on it's own. Other than that, shouldn't be a big deal, 20 minute procedure, and there could be a possibility to have to add a stint if the septum doesn't stay in place, but that I wouldn't feel it if he had to.

I should show you the drawings he made for me:

As you can see, a normal septum goes straight down the middle of the nose. Mine deviated to the left quite a bit causing about 90-95% blockage in that nostril. The effects were that the right side took on more fluid and that drained into my ear, causing constant issues as well. You can also note that the septum in my picture is not sitting in the little troth at the bottom, but completely missing it. So in the procedure he had to move that over too.

My daughter said that I was only gone a total of 30 minutes so the procedure was quick. The only real problem coming out is always the swallowing - or not being able to - because the numbing agent in the nose drains down the throat. I'll spare you the details, but let's just say that first 20 minutes was rough. Once that was over, I felt pretty good. Well, they had me on numbing agents and pain killers, so who wouldn't really?

Like to booties? How about that groovy cap?
(Ignore the little snowy cabin and trees on the bottom right, I didn't realize that was there when I made this last night in my Vicodin induced state of relaxation).
By the way, I did not have to have a stint put in.

As soon as I could eat the ice cubes and swallow some ginger ale, they released me to go home, gave me instructions to rest, take the nasal medicine to reduce swelling and stop the bleeding, and wrap gauze around the bottom of my nose to catch any blood. With my scripts I headed home, stopping right at the CVS to fulfill them.

Now, I am not a fan of having to take proscription pain medicine, so my plan of action was, if at all possible, to go with extra strength tylenol instead. I also didn't want to have to pay a ton of $ for the prescribed Vicodin either. This was my brief conversation about that with the pharmacist:

       Me to Pharmacist: I want to get some extra strength tylenol in case I don't want to take the Vicodin.

       Pharmacist: Oh, you're gonna want to take that Vicodin, cause it's gonna hurt.

For the extra $20, I got the Vicodin.

By the time I got home and ate my first food of the day it was about 1pm. Not too bad, really. My nose was bleeding enough to get caught in the gauze but not needing to be changed very often. That is, until I caught a sneezing fit. This was the one thing the doc warned me about: not to sneeze hard out of my nose. And here it was, a full on uncontrollable sneezing fit. I must have sneezed 20 times, trying my best to direct it out of my mouth instead of my nose. I thought I did ok, but the bleeding started to get worse, going through the gauze. I changed it 3 times in 10 minutes and called the doctor. I was starting to freak out a little...Lexi may say a lot.

He said it was ok. He calmed me right down and said the bleeding was normal. By the time he called it did seem to slow down again, although not entirely. I used the nasal spray and tried to lay back and relax. Once that passed, about 2:30, I think I finally started to rest...well, I watched a few episodes of Ellen, which is rest to me. About then I realized that the pain was starting to come back. I guess things were wearing off. I sat with it for about a half an hour, going over in my head and listening to my body about which drug to take...the over the counter, or the Vicodin. In the end, I chose the prescription meds.

It really doesn't make me feel loopy, but I thought the picture was funny.
By 10pm I was falling asleep watching TV with my husband. When we went to bed, the bleeding seemed to have almost stopped. I propped my head up on the pillows, as instructed, and feel fast asleep...

To Be Continued...

Monday, June 2, 2014

Pt. 1 My Septoplasy Operation: Day Before

Pre-op Day.

The doctor told me NOT to watch Septoplasty operations on YouTube so last night, of course, I did. Today I am wishing I had listened to him.

Doc said the operation would be simple: 20 minutes tops. They go in and grab the septum, plunk it back in the little holder, and it springs back up. Yes, that is how he described it to me. He said they no longer pack it, which is what caused so much bruising and swelling in the past. Now the operation is simple, a little swelling, but an initial 50% more breathing capacity.

I guess the first question would be, "how come a yoga teacher didn't know that she had only 90-95 % breathing in her left nostril?"

This would be a good question, too. Well, the truth is that I always knew there was a problem, I just figured I had to live with it. This is my usual M.O.: having to just live with things. This year, however, I turned over a new leaf and decided to get things checked out and potentially fixed that I have been just "living with" my whole life. So a little visit to my primary doctor indicated that in addition to my crooked nose (which my parents debate whether I always had or somewhere in life it went crooked by accident or otherwise), that the septum appeared to deviate in the opposite direct that my external nose did. Hmm, curious and curiouser!

The ear, nose and throat specialist confirmed this, and another tidbit: when I fly (which is at least twice a year), I usually lose hearing in my right ear after a painful decent. Specialist said, "of course, fluid is filling into the opposite sinus and into your ear canal. You can never pressurize." To which I said, "Good thing I DID NOT go scuba diving in Hawaii!"

So, tomorrow is the day of the surgery. It came up rather quickly because I want to just get it done and see what it is like to breathe like a normal person does. I have no idea what that means. But I have taken much of the past couple of weeks to really be present with my breathing - especially when I am NOT doing yoga. I say that because when I am doing yoga, it seems to be fine. In fact, before I did yoga, I had chronic sinus infections and was sick more often than not. Since I started doing yoga, I get the yearly cold - always in the sinuses. So obviously yoga has been helping push air (or prana, if you want to be all yogic), through the nadis (ok, more yoga talk, invisible energy lines) and thus giving me the feel of more vitality. Well, thank Goddess for yoga, but the true excitement lies ahead.

I expect to be swollen, bleeding and unhappy for a couple of days. But, if the doc is on the up and up and keeping it real, then I should be healed up in no time. Once that happens, I cannot wait to feel my breath.

Every night I get congested in my left nostril. I wake up congested and it takes me a while to work out the fluid. I've never been able to work a neti pot - and guess why? Darn deviated septum! I am anxious to wake up clear. I told the dentist today when he asked me why I wasn't wearing my bite guard (let me name the reasons...) that I think once I am able to breathe normally, I won't be biting down at night either. He concurred. I should have been a doctor!

So here is my pre-op picture for today:

Good thing I had a teeth cleaning today, huh?

So the doc says that the surgery will not significantly change the outward appearance of my nose, but some other intel says that it could change it slightly. Who knows. I suppose that I will be finding out very shortly though.

So, tomorrow morning I will awake at 5 am, to shower, and head to the hospital. Tomorrow night I hope to post about my experience if I am feeling up to it. Maybe I will share a picture too. Why not!

As I sit here breathing, I can feel that left nostril struggling to push air through, and I could kick myself for waiting until I was 46 to have it looked into. When I was about 30 an Indian doctor had told me (without looking into my nose) that I did not have a deviated septum, I had allergies and he gave me Allegra. It never worked and I never believed him, but felt defeated. So at least 15 years later I finally listened to myself and am taking care of it. At this moment I am excited, nervous, and after watching those YouTube videos, quite nauseous.

So here's to good luck, speedy recovery, a lifetime of breathing free, easy descents on vacations, and no jaw clenching at night!

To Be Continued...

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Yogi Corner - The Sutras of Patanjali: Pranayama

Yogi Corner: The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali (Pranayama)

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 June we will move past the asanas and into the realm of the breath, or what we yogis call "pranayama.".

"Tasmin Sati Svasa Prasvasayor Gati Vicchedah Pranayamah." 
B.2, V.49
Translation: That (firm posture) being acquired, the movements of inhalation and exhalation should be controlled. This is pranayama.

Unlike the sections on the asanaspranayama practices fare a little better in the Sutras. Patanjali first discusses them here in the 49th verse of book two. Interesting, he says that after doing the asanas properly, one may progress to the breathing exercises. Go to any yoga class as a newcomer and you will most definitely be learning pranayama. In fact in my classes and teachings I emphasize it. So does this make me or any other yoga teacher that teaches pranayama to students before they master asana wrong? This is a question that I have often pondered since I read in B.K.S. Iyengar's book Light on Pranayama the importance of not teaching pranayama techniques to students who have not mastered their physical practice first. In my opinion, from further studies with other teachers as well as in my own practice and with students, I have come to the humble conclusion that the benefits of a pranayama practice on people in current-day society far outweighs the idea of withholding the information. In fact, my practice and teachings could not exist without the breath/movement synchronization (vinyasa) style that I teach. 
The breath should be gentle, slow and fully controlled, without any agitation. When performing postures, I find this to be particularly helpful. For without the breath's notification, how else would we really know that we may be stressing the body too much? And after a stressful day at the office, school or home, how else do we settle our mind and become still? No, to me and many other yoga teachers, the breathe is too key to leave out of the teachings now-a-days, and so, we share them.
Of course there are certain breathing techniques that have contra-indications attached to them. Perhaps this is where some of this old logic stemmed from? For instance, the kapalbhati breath, or what we know as the "breath of fire," is a very difficult breath to perform for most healthy people at first. However, if you are pregnant, menstruating, have had recent surgery, inflammation of the thoracic region, suffer from emphysema or hypertension, this breathing completely contraindicated. Maybe you did not know this. It is not a breath that we practice with great frequency in our studio, but many other studios emphasize it a great deal, especially in the kundalini yoga practice. 
Most of the breathing techniques that we instruct at ONE are good to do under most normal conditions or with certain modifications. The "Surrender" breath is good for everyone to do any time! The ujjayi (ocean sounding) breath and the counted breath (we call it the 4,4,8) are both very calming to the nervous system and fairly simple to achieve for most people. The nostril breathing technique called Nadi Shodhana has various benefits, however if you are congested, have a fever or cold, it is contraindicated to perform it. That advise is probably very easily understood as you would have trouble breathing anyway and remember, the breath in the practice should at all times be gentle, slow and controlled. If you cannot control it, then practice a different pranayama until it is mastered and then you can move on to another one.
Prana is the cosmic force that moves everything. When we perform pranayama practices, we are directing and controlling the flow of prana. There are different types of prana, but for now rely on the knowledge of your teacher to guide you. And as always, keep your teacher abreast of any issues that you are experiencing so that we can assist you in making your yoga practice the best suited for you - even in a group setting.
Let's all practice now together: take a big inhale through the nose, open the mouth and sigh out the exhale: "Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh." Come on, yoga class without pranayama? That's like chocolate chip cookies without the chocolate chips!
Inhale = puraka
Retention = Kumbhaka
Exhale = Rechaka
Lather, rinse, repeat.