Thursday, June 28, 2012

Dry Brushing

So I've got this knee thing going on. It's not as bad as I was afraid of, but we'll see how long I feel that way. My mom, who knows me pretty well,* says that I will be fine for about a month and then will be impatient. She used the word impatient; we both know that means irritable, verging on pissed-off. 

As for now, I am basking in a glow that makes me wonder if I could become a hypochondriac. 

I have gotten an inpouring of messages from teachers concerned about my physical and mental well-being. One teacher in particular, (Love you, lady!) wrote me despite being thousands of miles away and not having taught me for a year. She's not the only out-of-state sympathizer with a wealth of knowledge either. Captain obvious, I know, but yoga people are really friggin' warmhearted. 

Through this outpouring I have learned about this neat thing, "dry brushing." It sounds ridiculously benign, and it is.  You can not possibly imagine results from this, which is when I usually label things, "new-age foof," try it for a week, and then forget about it. 

Par for the course, I made my investment in the $10 brush, figured, "screw it, can't hurt" (I learn a lot of great stuff with that attitude) and brushed the bare skin on my leg. Officially a dry-brusher, I started casually discussing my new 'foofy' habit with some of my friends. Surprisingly, I discovered my 'foof' is mainstream! 

One friend (not a yogi) has pretty bum knees and has been dry-brushing for ages post knee-surgery. The fact that traditional doctors recommended this gave it major points for me. I share this story with another friend and she compares it to treatments she got when she was in high-school for her injuries related to softball. I share the story again and The Boy (the most scientifically critical person I know) tells me that he knew someone who used dry-brushing on developmentally challenged youngsters with amazing results. Now I'm so excited about it that I'm about to buy a dry-brush for a friend with a seriously effed up arm. 

I have become a dry-brush pusher.

I had asked the original suggester of the dry-brush how one goes about this task. He said, "Buy a dry-brush. Brush." Nice one, smart-ass. But yeah, he's right. If you want to stop reading here and run out to get your brush to start -- you have been given the green light. 

My beloved and I share a moment.

For those of you as detail-oriented (read: anal-retentive) as I am, here are some further details. 
  1. Go to the Whole Foods aisle with all the pills and supplements. 
  2. Request a "dry brush." They will hand you a long-handled brush that resembles a bath brush. The bristles are stiff, made from the roots of the agave plant. Some of you might be familiar with the plant because of its sugar-alternative that doesn't spike blood glucose the way cane-sugar does. I prefer to tip my hat to this plant for its gift of tequila. 
  3. Preferably before a shower,** stroke the bare skin on your arms, legs, then torso, gently with the brush. Use long strokes. I have heard it said that you should go away from your heart. I have also heard it doesn't matter. I choose to believe that it doesn't matter. 

And there you have it. Don't get over-zealous with it and brush till you bleed. I always feel a little tingly afterward, which makes sense because the intent is to encourage circulation. Circulation is good because oxygen, yada-yada, flushing out scar tissue, yada-yada, white blood cells, yada-yada. You get the idea. Good stuff. 

For more experienced dry-brushers (anyone who has done this for more than a week qualifies) I do have a few questions that I would love answers to in comments or email. 
  1. Is there an amount of time, or number of strokes that is optimal. I usually go for roughly 15 strokes or so. Too many more and I think it would hurt rather than soothe. 
  2. What is the heart-direction thing? Why would it matter?
  3. Anything to add?

* Massive understatement. She can probably tell you what color socks Im wearing right now. From two states away. 
** I don't know why, but I have been told this repeatedly, even by the friend coached by traditional doctors. I take my showers at yoga most days so I ignore this and just do it before bed. 

Thursday, June 21, 2012

AFO. Already.

I have the supreme privilege of writing you today with new insight. I can now tell you what it feels like to tear/sprain/strain your meniscus. Frankly, Im not sure which of the adjectives are appropriate because I, like many freelancers, have no insurance and, therefore, go into the doctor only when I fear something may fall off. My doctor is very flexible with me and so understanding that I am not sure how he is not practicing out of a cardboard box.* Still, I try to keep the visits to a minimum. 

On Monday, not at my usual studio, I was shifting my weight around in lotus and I heard a 'pop' in my knee. Knees are notorious for being fickle. I know this because at my studio the teachers watch the knees like hawks. In fact, as if they were hawks and your little round knee-caps were their eggs. I had heard of the 'dreaded pop' before and knew this might be an issue. I unfolded myself and became hyper-aware of my knee. Oddly, there was no pain. I figured maybe I was okay and wrote my home-base studio owner when I got home (this is why being at a knowledgeable studio is important). I told her precisely what had happened, what sensations I was getting and at what points. It was like car-talk for the human body. She responded right away with, "meniscus," a list of things to watch out for, modifications to poses, and how we would determine the severity of the injury. Eff Allstate, Im in good hands already. 

For those of you about to scream, "she's not a doctor," (Hi, mom!) chill. As I said, I wouldn't have gone to the doctor anyway. Plus, there isn't any pain, just a 'loose' sensation in my knee so, had it not been for my involvement in the yoga world, I wouldn't even acknowledge this as an issue; I would be skipping merrily to the club having no inkling. If it starts to hurt or immobilize me I will dutifully call in the standard medicine-men.

'Tis only a flesh wound!

Two points I would like to make: 
  1. I did not hurt myself in the beginers' Bikram Yoga series, so don't freak out and go all "New York Times" on me. The designated postures are as safe as walking.** The chosen inversions don't have you balancing on your neck, arms extended, for a reason. There is no lotus in the series.
  2. I was not going into the pose with aggression or ego. I know that the running theory is that if you don't go in with ego you will be fine. This brings me to the point I want to make regarding my new Exercise in Patience.***

Given #2 shouldn't I have been safe? Yes and no. The posture I was doing isn't in the beginner's series for a reason. Aside from that though, The yoga room is not magic. You do not get wrapped in a bubble of anti-wound the minute you step on whatever foam has been designated a yoga-mat by Lululemon. I take issue with people who get defensive about yoga injuries. Injuries are most-often caused by aggression or ego but sometimes they happen without it. You can choke eating. That does not mean that you should declare eating dangerous and stop. 

The Boy said it beautifully when I came home, head bowed in shame afraid of being chastised for hurting myself. His response to my Exercise in Patience? He told me matter-of-factly, "Welcome to the world of physical activity." He is absolutely right. I can (and have) hurt myself walking. That does not mean it is better for my health to do my grocery-shopping in a hover-round. Although, what a lovely excuse for one!

I have long road ahead of me. One that promises to be graced with many hard lessons. I anticipate learning about sympathy, patience, perseverance and limitations. None of those sound pleasant but I can already pin-point a few I could use. My instructors are amazingly sympathetic and are helping me both emotionally and physically -- I am only on day two and I have already gone from laughing at myself to crying over my lost competition poses to anger. This is going to be a riot. I'll share the lessons I can articulate as they come. Those that I can't articulate we can assume come from a pain-induced delirium. Haha, just kidding...I hope.

* I have even, on his suggestion, sent photos of horrid looking skin conditions while he is on vacation. All this free of charge. I owe the man my left kidney, also, my right, but he won't take them.  

** I don't have stats to back this up; just go with it.

*** That's what I've decided to call my injury. You like it? Evidently, this may take a year or so to heal. Hence AFO (Another Fucking Opportunity). I am starting over again in tree pose, which will be especially emotionally trying considering I was working on full bow-legged. I am an instant-gratification sort of person. This is going to be a hard lesson.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Entertainment News is Neither

How come we all know Macaulay Culkin did blow but none of us were privy to the knowledge that Blossom is a Neuroscientist?* Our media sucks.

* Mayim Bialik, the actress who played Blossom, got her doctorate in neuroscience at UCLA (she was accepted to Harvard and Yale but wanted to stay close to family). As if that's not enough, she's vegan too. I only learned this stuff because she was the keynote speaker at a fellow yogi's Texas Instruments conference.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Crap, AFO.

While working on slowly opening my hips, I was getting uncharacteristically argumentative with my teacher.* She was compassionately explaining that I had to feel where the stretch was coming from. I was requesting, instead,  a fool-proof, "sit like this, your body will fall where it needs to." 

In the particular position we are using to stretch my hips my hips will naturally slide to an angle in order to hit the floor. What I need to do instead is flex a little butt, pushing my hips parallel. I hate it. It is not comfortable. 

I can be a very lazy yogi. I had a beautiful picture in my head of how hip-openers would work. I would sit in the designated position, set my timer, open a book and read until the timer went, "ding," my cue to switch to the other side. Faced with the prospect of actually PAYING ATTENTION to my body, I was getting moody. Hrumph. "What if I forget exactly what muscle to move? I could be doing this for weeks flexing the wrong muscles and doing nothing," I complained to her.

Of course, warning bells should be going off. Weeks? Weeks in the yoga world is nothing. It doesn't even count as wasted time. Not to mention the fact that I would be working something, even if it weren't the area I meant to. Most importantly, I was miffed that my yoga would involve paying attention to my body? Really? 

My always-patient teacher replied to my whine, "You are going to need to trust yourself." 

And there it was, that familiar feeling of being punched in the gut; one gets used to it after a while of yoga. I am pretty sure yoga students would make excellent kick-boxers, if for nothing else than our familiarity with the gut-kick sensation when one is confronted by another personal demon. 

This is what I've been actually getting all juvenile about. UGH! Trust myself? I trust my teachers, I trust my fellow yogi. I've even, despite a severe childhood authority-figure issue, learned to trust my parents, but myself? Oh, heck no! So, here we go again, another epiphany moment (like I needed one more in my practice). I have problems trusting myself. Crap. Now I will be stretching my hips and learning to trust myself inside the yoga room so I can do so outside the yoga room. 

Alright, me, let's do this. I trust you. Okay, I don't now, but I'm totally working on it.

"Effing path to enlightenment," I grumbled under my breath.

As I complained to my teacher that I did not want another soul-searching issue to deal with, I had quite enough right now, thank you, she introduced me to what is now my very favorite not-yoga-yoga phrase, "AFO." 
"What?" I asked.
"AFO'" she said, "Another Fucking Opportunity."

Whenever I sit in my dreaded hip opener, feeling every muscle, not reading my book, about ready to give up because I'm not sure I'm feeling the correct stretch and I am doubting myself and my knowledge of the pose, just before coming out I think, "AFO" and take another breath. 

*Bless her for understanding that the 40 backbends we just did, compiled with the frustration of realizing that my hips will take years to open were making me emotional.