Downward Facing Ow

My wrists have been really bugging me lately, and in looking for a yoga practice that takes weight off my hands/wrists, I found this article about why downward facing dog is bad.

Disclaimer: I am not a yoga teacher, nor do I think that my yoga teachers are wrong.  I’m not critiquing them (or any of my past instructors) in any way, and I’m certainly not trying to tell them what to do.  I’m just saying that downward facing dog is my least favorite pose, and the one that I’ve never felt comfortable in. It ALWAYS makes me feel like my wrists are about to break and that circulation is getting cut off in my hands.  My increased upper body strength has helped me shift my weight during this pose, but some days DFD just doesn’t happen for me.  This article about why my wrists hurt during DFD helped me focus on a few things to begin correcting it, but spending more than a few moments each day in this pose is not something I look forward to.  (Which is funny, considering that pigeon pose is one of my favorite ways to open up.)

In a recent class focusing on healthy backs, I learned about the joy of getting hauled up by your hips using two straps, and the immediate relief of stress in my hands, wrists, and lower back was epic.  For a brief moment it reminded me of how someday I will do aerial yoga, but then I sunk back into the relaxation of my hands not hurting.
 
The thing with downward facing dog (DFD), sometimes called Adho Mukha Svanasana, sometimes called down dog, sometimes called ugh, is that there are many tiny adjustments you can make to build strength and gain comfort, but also to learn the pose better.  I can’t find the reference right now, but I once read that when you feel totally comfortable in DFD, you’re able to begin practicing it.

I want to have a better time in DFD – it’s a major part of a sequence for so many other enjoyable poses, and it makes me feel strong.  But man, it is ROUGH.  (I almost said ‘ruff’. You’re welcome.)

There’s an interesting comment on the article I mentioned earlier that has a type of checklist to prepare you for downward facing dog.  To summarize in what appears to be order of difficulty:
– Can you hold a forearm plank for 50 seconds?
– In pushup position, can you lift a hand from the floor without twisting or flexing your trunk?
– Can you do 3 pushups with your feet on a higher surface than your hands?
– While standing, can you lift a knee toward your belly without flexing your lower back?

 

So many poses, so little time.  I’m curious as to how others feel about this pose, and how they’ve adjusted their practice to accommodate or remove it.

Meanwhile, the animal kingdom continues to kick our butts.

Photo Credit: Ben Grantham/Thinkstock

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Thoughts on the State of Things

I skipped yoga class today to give my body a bit of a break.  My body was asking nicely but persistently, like a polite six-year-old wanting ice cream, so I took the path of least resistance and opted for a day off from the studio.

I’m instead spending the morning doing domestic things and sipping chamomile tea to calm my anxiety so that I can have coffee and remind myself of the difference between caffeinated energy and a panic attack.

My anxiety has been growing since I read an article about Donald Trump’s ghostwriter.  I don’t make a habit of reading the New York/er/Times/Post, but I started because of this astoundingly hipster marriage announcement that was just … a delight to read.  A true delight.  I am at a loss for words, but not at a loss for ALL the available side eye to provide to that couple.

But the article about the ghostwriter …it’s given me nightmares.  Actual nightmares.  I want to inform myself by looking up the platforms of both candidates, but I cannot do it.  I feel this awful loathing toward informing myself on The Real State of Things, because if I see something that I don’t like, I alone do not have the power to change it immediately.  For those of you who have an irrational fear of something like…checking voicemails, or your bank account, it’s that same feeling.

Everyone I’ve talked to, or read (their tweets / posts / etc) are in some state of mixed terror-ennui, with a healthy dose of WTF.  I thought about Pokemon Go (and its inane fun to collect small things that remind me of how much I loved Tamagotchi), and then thought about how people are disgruntled and saying it’s a distraction from what’s really going on.  I thought about #BLM and #ALM and how people of any color are just killing people for no reason other than hating the color of the other person’s skin.  I thought about how things like this have happened for so long but only recently (in the scope of humanity’s timeline) that it’s been so widely publicized.  I thought of how I may only hear the same sentiment because I – like so many others – am friends with, or follow, people with similar interests.  It makes sense in some scale: you don’t associate with people who are adamantly not like you, or against things that you enjoy.  Excuse the broad brush, but if you’re a recovering alcoholic, you aren’t going to hang with your college buddies that only play beer pong or do bar crawls.

I started wondering… how can we mix everyone’s ideas?  How can someone Uber-Right talk with someone Uber-Left, and keep it to an intelligent roar?   How can someone, trained from childhood that the right thing to do is kill someone with different religious beliefs, have a discussion with someone who has different religious beliefs?  How can someone of one color who hates someone of another color have a discussion about why they feel that way?  Not a fight, not a riot, a discussion.  I’m not saying change the beliefs, I’m saying let’s change the approach.  Ask questions.  Why do you feel like this?  It’s not everyone …who feels this way, against your beliefs.  I just want to help.  I just want it to not be so awful.

I thought about starting a thing of just talking to people with vastly different opinions of mine, with a goal of having a discussion.  It might change their perspective, it might change mine, but we’d both come away with different points of view.  We could agree to disagree, if we really couldn’t find anything in common.  I think I’m open to that.  If one person, for example, a person of one race that really hates people of another race, wanted to talk about why they felt that way, I’d be interested in talking with them as long as they attempted to have a discussion and not a shouting match.  One by one.  We can do this.

I thought of the lifestyle changes I’ve made recently and how they’ve helped me, and then I read an article about how wellness and self-care are bullshit to help us not pay attention to large-scale issues.  Which might be true, and which did not a single bit of good for my anxiety, but I’m trying to think of it this way:  I know how I feel when I take time for myself, and that INCLUDES reading cheesy motivational stuff.  I tell people about it because I feel great, and I want them to experience the same feelings.  And I know how I felt before, which was not great.  My new positive-ish outlook then gives me more energy and more motivation to help others, and if I can put just ONE person in a positive mood, maybe they’ll help or motivate someone else.  Maybe that ONE person will be nicer, and someone else will notice.  Maybe someone will be in a good enough mood to discuss tough issues and change someone else’s ideas on bad things.  It might start a chain.  It might not, but you never know.  All I know for certain is how I feel.

Here, have some background music.  And hopefully a good day.

 

 

 

Oh Five Hundred

It’s o-dark-thirty, I have my morning tea, and the cats are pleading for my attention.

Today’s 0600 yoga class is one of my favorites, and so despite very little sleep last night (due to terrifying thoughts of The Election, which is akin to thinking cantsleepclownswilleatme in terms of lulling yourself to dreamland), I find myself up at 0500.  I think I may have actually created… a habit?

It seems completely wrong to be doing anything else right now other than getting ready for class, though when my brain discovers (halfway through some forearm work) that we are no longer in bed, I’m sure things will feel much less pleasant.

Here’s my current background noise.  Call me Stuart Smalley.

 

Mostly Harmless

I skipped yoga class this past Sunday and Monday in favor of nurturing my muscles – apparently my hammies didn’t get the notice about my new schedule – and caught up on some domestic items. There is this growing inner guilt about skipping a day at the studio, because if I’m not going every day then clearly I am not trying hard enough, but there’s a fine line between hobby and obsession.

Part of my therapy is remembering, actively, the differences between “need to do” and “want to do”. Do you need to go to the studio every day? No. Do you want to do yoga every day? Yes. Do you need to? No. But there’s no reason a day of meditation can’t be found throughout cleaning your home and grocery shopping. (Thank you, Apartment Therapy and Pinterest.) Add in a few conscious stretches and it’ll be okay. You don’t need to watch a half-hour long video. You don’t need to do a 28-day challenge.  Moving furniture around and vacuuming will certainly burn off some calories, as will taking a walk. (This is not where we talk about Pokemon Go.) Lighter days like that will also probably help that deep-seated ache in your glutes, which was self-inflicted by taking a 2-hour bheemashakti class on Monday, then a 1-hour vinyasa level 1-2 class on Tuesday, followed a few hours later by a 75-minute healing class. So, that’s my gentle reminder to myself to take it a little easy today, so that I don’t spend the rest of this week in a sedentary fashion.

Speaking of vinyasa, I finally got to take a class from Miss Heather Stants, whom I’ve always found to be inspiring. Considering how long she’s been in the dance-and-bodywork game, it wasn’t surprising to find that she’s a good yoga teacher as well.

I am even enjoying – yes, really and truly enjoying – the 6AM start time. For real.

But the reason for this post today is because COCONUTS.

Oil, water, chopped, shredded, om nom nom.

I hate the taste (mouthfeel? texture?) of coconut in solid form, but I love the smell. And then I discovered Dr. Bronner’s coconut oil.

This was after using what I did not realise was inferior refined oil from Vons.  The oil was inferior because I say so, but also because I’ve done research that I am too lazy to link back to right this moment.. A bit further along there came a day I was out on Errands and got thirsty, as you do. Stopped by Trader Joe’s for a little produce and noticed Harmless Coconut Water.

The coconut water was cold, delicious, and …pink. So I did some research and after several tests, ice-cold Harmless Harvest is my favorite and makes me feel the best.

In closing, a non-haiku:

I tried it, it was delicious, I was hooked
Then found out about Dr. Bronner’s
Now it is in all the things
Please try it
Because yum.

That’s all. Have a nice day.

My Descent Into All the Things

Some time ago I was diagnosed with anxiety, PTSD, and (more recently) cyclothymia. This means that a lot of my life has been spent trying to do everything all at once, occasionally succeeding, but mostly overloading myself so as not to pay any attention to my increasingly unstable emotions.

On top of a standard 40-hour workweek at Fulltime Paid Office Job (FPOJ), my social calendar with friends had a minimum of three items per week, my freelance work clocked in at about an hour a day, I was helping a non-profit/social organization with three to five events per week, and somewhere in there I needed to make art, read a bunch of books, crochet everything, re-brand my business, do domestic things, go to therapy, work out, and every so often I’d get to schedule in sleep.  This has gone on for …about two years.  We’ll exclude some very negative incidents that occurred between late 2011 and mid 2015, but they also contributed to my current state of life.

Things fluctuated between feeling fabulous and overwhelming, until my workload at FPOJ became a constant source of looming fear in the form of paperwork. I’m not going to list specifics of exactly how much work I had to do, but let’s just say that it involved a solid 6 to 7 hours five days a week of straight working. When I say that, I mean that a minimum of 6 hours out of my 8 hour shift were spent doing actual work. Near Memorial Day I would have people arriving as I got there, waiting for me specifically, and the last customer would leave either at the end of my shift or within an hour of my shift ending.

I process a LOT of paperwork per individual/company, and I consider myself both organized and efficient, but there is only so much that one person can do in an hour.

The work stacked up.  I began utilizing my ten minute breaks for the first time in years, still feeling guilty about leaving my desk during even that time period.  I can’t remember the last time I felt like anyone appreciated the work, only that if it wasn’t done, there would be reprimanding or belittling.  There is always reprimanding and belittling, but at least if the work gets done, then there is …less?  I’m not sure.  It’s not the healthiest atmosphere.  You just work, and you get your check, and you should be thankful to even have a job.

I started at my current job in March of 2007, in Department 1.  In January of 2010 I was moved to Department 2 (amidst much chaos) as a replacement for a coworker with medical issues.  In July of 2010, that coworker passed away.  In December 2010, our GM passed away.

We’ve always had an office staff of less than 10 people.  It’s very, very close.  Things got…strained.  The Ops Manager (who was also head of HR) picked up the title of GM, to replace our coworker who had passed away.

To date, I am still in Department 2.  Here are some things that have happened over the past couple of years.  We got a new corporate office and now the GM has an assistant from Department 1.

In May of 2015 I was told that I would be promoted to management, and what my title would be.  I was sent to a manager’s workshop/intensive in October of 2015.  In November of 2015 I asked outright as a followup (what my position/salary would be).  I was told there would be an answer after the budget was adjusted in January of 2016.  In Feb 2016 I asked outright again and did not get a solid answer.  At this time no concrete date, amount, or specific title have been given.  (The GM is retiring, they say, at the end of next year.)

I was also told…
…..that I would be sent to Florida for a week-long intensive that would end with me getting an industry certificate, and when I followed up on that I was told that it wasn’t happening.
…..at the end of 2015 that I would be going to manager’s meetings every other month.  So far this year I’ve been to 2.
…..that I would have carte blanche on internal paperwork/digital/filing systems. I still have to get three different approvals from one person before a single file can be put away.

All of this clearly makes me feel very secure, confident, and appreciated.

In February of 2015 we hired an employee to train under my coworker who would be retiring the following year. Retiring Coworker (RC1) worked directly with me since January of 2010, was my only coworker (excluding the manager), and we had a good system going for what it was. RC1 was extremely helpful and we were a solid team. Our job descriptions were different but our individual duties formed a circle – she needed my completed work to finish her job, and vice versa.  I would help her when I could, and she would help me when she could.  Usually once a week or so, one of us would ask the other if help was needed on any specific project, and both of us felt comfortable asking the other to complete a task.  It went smoothly and I miss her very much.

In January of 2016, Retiring Coworker retired, Replacement (trained-for-a-year) Coworker (RC2) moved into her spot, and Replacement Coworker’s sister (RCS) was hired for the specific reasons of “in case one of us has to go on vacation/be out”.  RCS had a primary function of being an assistant to RC2, however I was told specifically by management that RCS would be helping me with basic things (phones, copies, filing, etc).  This meant that there were now TWO full time people doing the work that ONE person had done for years, and I was getting no help with my workload from anyone. This included having to answer all the calls, all the time and help all the walk-ins, all the time.  In the span of one shift where I had an off-site meeting, I came back to 24 voicemails.  I’ve been frequently told by customers that if I personally am not available or not in the office, they are told to call back when I am.

The very short version is that when I have asked for help, I have been told that 1) that’s not (my coworkers’ job) and 2) that (my coworkers) cannot be taken away from their tasks of handling finances.  While we have different job titles and my job description doesn’t include utilizing our bank/billing software, or in-depth AP/AR, that doesn’t remove my responsibility to still handle certain billing issues on top of my normal tasks.

Regardless, there’s no reason that everyone in my department can’t handle SOME standard customer/vendor receiving.  Our office crew is not a large one.  If employees in a very small, open-office, walk-in-friendly environment are not on an immediate project, it is unreasonable for me to be the only one handling all phone calls, walk-ins, and inbound paperwork.  This is especially true when A) Department 1 – right on the other side of the office, in the same room – runs on an “everyone helps everyone / just get the cycle done” basis, and B) Retired Coworker and I used that same basis.  I do not understand, and thinking about it makes my entire body tense up.

As we moved forward to our busiest season (Memorial Day to Labor Day), with 4th of July being our peak, the thought of having to do all that work myself, after the massive overload during Memorial Day Week, made me have nightmares and crying fits. I was about two breaths away from a breakdown.  I absolutely could not detach myself from work.

And so, after therapy and hard work and medication and asking for help and TELLING people I needed help and then EMAILING requests for help and the only thing changing was my pile of work getting larger, my stress leave for 6/28/16 – 8/9/16 was approved.

At first I considered sleeping for a week straight. Then I considered going on a very long solo road trip. Then I started thinking about how much I miss dance, but after some price checks and general reviews, Ginseng Yoga has once again earned my business on a daily basis. The studio is a delightful place of healing, and it’s helping me regain health and strength. It’s calming, it’s quiet, it’s what I needed.  I’m going to incorporate a Barre class into my schedule (my main plan, thwarted by gas prices, was to go to Xtend Barre) – and maybe once all of my fitness routines have turned into daily routines, I can go back to dancing again.  Presently?  Yoga feels right.

It’s been just about a week, and I feel like I can breathe a little now.

My nightmares aren’t every night, and don’t always involve work.

I take one to two yoga classes every day, and have been working hard at readjusting my diet. No daily fast food, no unplanned trips to Del Taco. More produce, more homemade food.  Less sugar, less caffeine.  Not much less, but less.

This time off is also helping me to adjust to my new medication; the side effects are a little troublesome.

I’m going to make efforts at posting regularly, in attempts to track my symptoms and side effects, but more in an attempt to remind myself that there really is life outside of paperwork. There really are good things out there, things that I enjoy that are healthy for me to do.

I just need to start somewhere.