Pathway to Stillness


The Opening Circle for the Pathway to Stillness Immersion will take place this Sunday the 27th of April at Samyama Yoga Center from 1:30 to 3:30 pm.

I am extremely honored that I was asked to join in this beautiful program. For four weeks participants will dive into an experience that will burnish the hard edges and soften the soul. We’ll be introduced to new ideas about meditation and how we can live our meditation moment to moment. We’ll enjoy sound and energetic healing. We’ll deepen our practice through pure yin and yin flow. Breath work, yoga nidra and journaling exercises will open our hearts and minds.

But I’m just a very small part of Pathway to Stillness. Leading our journey is John Berg, founder and director of Samyama Yoga Center. Also guiding us are teachers Natalie Donofrio and Lindsay Amrein, sound healer Devin Begley and vibrational healer Joanne Brohmer.

It’s not too late to enroll. If you would like to know more visit the Samyama website or stop by the studio at 2995 Middlefield Road.

Samyama Open House

To celebrate the beginning of our second Pathway immersion Samyama is hosting a Therapeutic Open House. Massage practitioner Paul Crowl, Sound Healer Devin Begley, Cranio-Sacral and Reiki specialist Joanne Brohmer and little ol’ me, the house reflexologist, are providing free (yes, FREE) sample treatments from 10:30 to 3:30 on Saturday 26th April and from 10:30 to 12:30 on Sunday 27th April.

Spaces are limited and appointments are filling up fast. Visit the website or stop by Samyama to book your time. Each treatment is twenty minutes long.

Class Update and Exciting News

I’m headed to Norfolk, Virginia at the end of the week. Please note the following changes to my teaching schedule:

Thursday, 29 August

  • Palo Alto Community Child Care: My 6:30 class is canceled this week. I will see you in September 5th.

Friday, 30 August

  • California Yoga Center: The incandescent Lisa will be teaching our 9:00 AM class.
  • Avenidas: The 10:30 class is canceled this week but we will have a make-up class on September 6th.
  • Samyama Yoga Center: Warm and wonderful Carla will teach our 1:30 Yin class.

Saturday, 31 August

  • Samyama Yoga Center: Vinyasa-loving Bethany will teach at 4:00. We’ll be back to our regularly scheduled slow flow on September 7th.

Monday, 2 September (Labor Day)

  • California Yoga Center: Our 7:30 Yin Class will be canceled on Labor Day. We’ll meet again on the 9th.

IMG_0156More Great News From Samyama Yoga Center….

A few posts back I introduced Devin Begley and Joanne Brohmer as Samyama Yoga Center’s new body therapists. We have two more to add to the team: Paul Crowl and….drum roll please….ME!

If you attend classes at Samyama then you’ll recognize Paul as the male energy behind the front desk. He provided this brief bio:

Paul Crowl is a certified massage therapist with more than twenty year’s experience. He was formally trained at Cypress Health Institute in Santa Cruz in Swedish massage and reflexology. He later studied the are of deep tissue bodywork with Michael DiBenedetto. His dedication to refining his craft and background in yoga and the healing arts lead him to being one of the more notable therapists in the Bay Area. With an intuitive touch and ability to read your breath, Paul will help you melt away tension and relieve unnecessary stress.

In addition to the classes I teach at Samyama, I now offer foot reflexology:

Mimm brings the ‘sole-ful’ healing of foot reflexology to Samyama. Her work – a combination of massage, warm stones, Reiki energy and modern reflexology techniques creates an unparalleled sense of balanced calm that supports health and wellness.

Mimm’s initial training was in sports massage and neuromuscular therapy from the National Institute in Dublin, Ireland. Although she enjoyed the intellectual challenge of clinical massage Mimm felt something lacking. She decided to explore body-energy modalities that not only soothed the body but settled the spirit.

“Reflexology has a quality to it that is soft and subtle. That’s why I love it. A profound change can take place in the most quiet of moments.”

In addition to her work in reflexology and the yoga classes she teaches at Samyama, Mimm is an artist and writer. She is currently completing her master’s degree in transpersonal psychology and will begin work toward her certificate in yoga therapy at Niroga Institute in Berkeley early next year.

Inner Space

The body is a holy and wondrous thing. Broken or healthy, it is a miracle. I know this to be true – but my belief is something I’ve cobbled together from books and good teachers – not from first hand experience.

In a few hours I’m boarding a train for San Francisco and will spend the week with fifteen or so other somanauts exploring the body’s inner space with Gil Hedley of the popular Fuzz Speech.  Tomorrow we’ll begin with the dermis and superficial fascia.

I will confess to being apprehensive.  Even this morning I ran through excuses that would keep me home. For a moment I convinced myself to head for the City, hide in the apartment I’m borrowing from clients, skip the workshop and treat myself to a week of isolation and stillness.  A silent retreat.  No one would know.

And then I came to my senses.  I would know.

Earlier today I wrote this to a friend:

Taking train to City today for cadaver week…to be able at last to see it all in front of me – to cut into it (which still seems to me such a violation)…I may be making too big a deal of this but I feel as though I’m stepping though a portal and will emerge in six days a different woman.

People ask me why I want to do this.  Some are incredulous.  Those who have worked with the cadaver are excited for me.  To answer their question “why?” I tell them about being a kid and flipping through the volume of Encyclopedia Britannia that had the transparencies of the human body.  Remember those?  You could flip from the circulatory system to the nervous system; you could see all the muscles and count all the bones.  I got lost for entire afternoons just looking, looking, looking. I was so curious.  I’m still curious.

And curiosity trumps apprehension any day.  I’ll see you in a week.

To Sleep, Perchance to Dream

Good Question…

I was introducing a group of Spanish-speaking clients at the pain clinic where I teach yoga to the power of Yin.  A young man dressed in baggy jeans and a baseball jacket gingerly attempted to find a twist that challenged him yet did not aggravate the injury to his lower back.  He positioned a small bolster under his left thigh, relaxed and closed his eyes.  A moment later, through his interpreter, he asked me,

“Where is the mind supposed to go in these poses?”

The question, considering his lifetime practice of yoga amounted to approximately sixty-two minutes, was remarkable.

How was I going to answer without delving too deep, too soon, into all the possibilities?

I told him that in some practices we focus on the breath, or gaze toward a particular point, but in Yin we can close our eyes and free the mind to travel, and that each new position might bring up a different set of emotions or memories.

And then I confessed that there have been times during my Yin practice when I’ve entered the trance state I like to call “napping”.  Seriously.  While Yin’s startlingly challenging stretches are percolating into my connective tissue, I’m dozing.  Sometimes I can even fit in a thirty-second dream.

Speaking of Dreams…

Shortly before I woke this morning I had one of those weird “what does it all mean” sort of dreams.  Listening to someone tell the story of a dream is a bit like having to sit through four hundred photographs of Uncle Mort’s week in the Poconos.  But stick with me.  This gets good.

It was the sort of dream our subconscious constructs to help us find answers.

I’m teaching yoga to a group of people dressed for Carnivale. Every one is wearing a mask.  I can only identify one or two people and even then only based on their ‘energy’.  The scene is disordered and chaotic but not upsetting.

I am told I’ve been diagnosed with a serious illness.  To be healed, I must take the medicine handed to me in an ornate bottle. But I don’t want anyone to discover that I am ill so I hide the bottle.  Meanwhile, we’re all going on a journey and all my students are packing suitcases and gathering tickets and it’s happy mayhem.  In the excitement, the medicine gets lost in my baggage.

And then Max, one of the felines I’m currently taking care of, jumped on my chest, woke me up and I never discover if I take the medicine or if I’m able to leave on the journey.  The last thing I remember in the dream is accidentally handing over a fifty-dollar bill as a tip, realizing my mistake, taking it back and replacing it with ten dollars.  Odd.  I’m usually more generous.

That dream is going to settle over me for the rest of the day like a satisfying film.  I can still feel the mood of the dream – the tiny moments and the colors – all dark shimmering blues and silver.

I’m open to your interpretations, but I think the one thing that can heal me becoming lost in my baggage is pretty telling…

On that note, just to tie some loose ends from previous posts and to take a few tentative steps into the future:

  • No, I still haven’t canceled my cable.  Yet.  I will.
  • I’m no longer vibrating.  My beating heart has stilled. I feel more grounded than I have in months (although you might disagree when you read further).
  • I enjoyed my last day with the critique group.  I read a personal essay about how difficult it has been to process the reunion I had with my mother in September and how, when my heart was finally open to needing a mother, she wanted to talk about the weather.  Pete cried.  Terry and Henry said, “That’s the best thing you’ve ever written.” Terry added, “Submit it.  Now.”   I came home, cleaned up the formatting, wished it well and sent it off to a few magazines.  Fingers crossed.
  • I’m looking forward to the Thai Massage I’ve scheduled for Friday.  Thai Massage is a bit like having yoga given to you.  I’m pretty desperate for some bodywork.  Can’t wait.
  • And now, for the  You’re Doing WHAT? moment.  In the pursuit of new experiences, to satisfy my curiosity and to venture outside my normal comfort zone, I’m having my Tarot Cards read today.  Yep. It’s all right.  Go ahead.  Even I’m rolling my eyes.

Follow Up: The Menopause Report

The truth? There’s nothing to report.  A few posts back I was in a bad way.  The hormones were taking me for a mad ride and I didn’t know which way to turn.  But then, in a rare, bright, lucid moment, I decided on a three-pronged attack:  acupuncture, exercise and massage.

The good news?

It worked.  I’m back to my normal, well-balanced, chronically optimistic self.  It’s a great feeling.

Was there one therapy that seemed most effective, or did they work symbiotically?

The acupuncture in combination with the herbs my acupuncturist prescribed and increased cardiovascular exercise were great co-captains.  Body therapy in the form of a few Rolfing sessions and one perfect chair massage became important team players and helped to reduce stress.  I also improved my diet by reducing sugar, caffeine and alcohol in favor of whole grains, fish and vegetables.

My advice?

I wish there was an easy answer that didn’t involve manipulating our body chemistry with Big Pharma.  But the bottom line is, we’re all different.  As we go through this transition the most important thing we can do is stay in touch – with our bodies, our emotions and with each other.  For every woman who claims she “sailed through” menopause there will be one who believes she is lost and alone.  In my case, I felt silly admitting how bad I was feeling.  I’m a yoga teacher.  Shouldn’t I be the poster child for well-balanced good health?  Once I realized that even yoga teachers lose their equilibrium from time to time I became proactive and sought advice from friends and medical professionals.

Be Practical

Acupuncture and massage can stretch the pocketbook but a brisk walk around the block is free.  My symptoms – the raging mood swings and the frightening emotional plummets scared me into taking action.  But I had the time and the freedom to explore options.  I asked for advice and then chose the approach.

Exercise is easy; looking at what you’re eating and then making subtle dietary changes towards wholesome, living food is doable.  We should all be exercising and eating well whether we’re moving toward menopause or not.

But as a peri-menopausal woman, deciding if our symptoms are severe enough to require ‘chemical intervention’ – whether it’s in the form of Chinese herbs or artificial hormones – is difficult.  I must admit to feelings of failure when I finally admitted I couldn’t navigate this passage on my own.  But those feelings disappeared the moment I began to feel better (which was almost immediate following the first acupuncture treatment and the start of the herbs).

The bottom line is, we want to feel our best – for ourselves and for the friends and family we love. I’ve chosen a path that has put me back in touch with the person I’ve always been inside.  What solutions have you tried for relief of symptoms associated with menopause?

Thirty-Six Days

Previously on “Peri-menopause is Not for the Faint of Heart”…Threatened by a raging hormonal surge of epic proportions our heroine Mimm was doomed to a mid-life of surly retorts and bitter regrets.

Trapped in a manic nightmare, could her moods stop swinging long enough for Mimm to find her way back from the edge of reason?

Thirty-six days is about right. My cycle is more or less consistent. Women at my age typically experience the opposite as their cycles become increasingly erratic.  But I’ve always been contrary. So while I was all over the calendar in my twenties, now I can count on a dramatic shift in my view of the world every six weeks or so.

Shortly before Thanksgiving the shift destabilized me to the extent that I sought help through yoga and acupuncture with herbs.  Reminding myself that I am in control of my changing body and my hormones – not the other way around – makes me stronger, and I believed that finding help was taking a proactive step towards health.

One cycle later, how am I doing?

Yoga: There’s no doubt about it.  Yoga makes me feel better.  With the first down dog of the day I experience a dynamic change in energy.  I can step on my mat in the most foul mood and step off the mat with a smile on my face.  My Yoga for Peri-menopause emphasizes supported back bends to open the heart, a slow flow of standing postures for strength with emotional stability and long held Yin floor work to settle the nervous system.

Acupuncture: I knew that in order for my acupuncturist to do her best healing work, I had to be honest about the symptoms I was experiencing. I knew that if I tried to tell her in person, on the day of my appointment, I would gloss over their severity.  We’re all guilty of it.  The symptom that feels catastrophic as it happens suddenly seems silly as described to a healthcare professional.  So instead of telling her in person and risking diminishing their importance, I sent an email. Having a concise list of my symptoms before our appointment supported my practitioner’s instincts and helped her diagnosis and treatment. She suggested herbal formulations and in the past six weeks I’ve had two ‘needle sessions’.  It would be wrong of me, however, to expect an immediate change.  Acupuncture – in fact most Eastern medicine and complementary therapies – is subtle and paced.  And I feel this is how it should be.  Acupuncture is gently encouraging me to move toward balance.

I know what you’re thinking.

So what about Rolfing? Those of you who keep track may remember that I began seeing Rolfer Michael Murphy – an innovative leader in the field for thirty years.  I have one more appointment with Michael and then an appointment booked in February with a ‘classic’ Rolfer who also happens to be a woman.  I intend to keep these appointments but my instinct is telling me that structural integration is not what I need now.  I also must confess that Rolfing is simply cost prohibitive.  Besides, treating symptoms with a variety of approaches makes it impossible to determine which of those approaches is most effective.  And so, after my appointment mid-way through my next six-week cycle, I’ll let go of Rolfing – although my belief in the importance and efficacy of body therapy is not diminished.  It’s just not the right time for me.

The bottom line is we all have a different set of symptoms and different constitutions.  If follows, then, that complementary therapies will resonate at different frequencies for each individual.  So while a combination of yoga with acupuncture keeps me at a somewhat even keel, it may not be the correct combination for you.

Besides, there are other considerations.  If moods were charted on a bell curve mine would still be considered ‘left of happy’.  While I’ve improved and have gained control, I’m still miles away from my usual perky self.  And so, I have to ask myself:

What am I missing?

Diet and exercise. Why haven’t I worked harder to consider nutrition and fitness?  The answer is simple:  it requires too much personal investment. It requires motivation.  Self-belief.  Faith.   If I want to affect permanent change I need to make a daily commitment to my health.  But am I strong enough?

I won’t deny that the choices I’ve made these past thirty-six days have improved my outlook.  But the next thirty-six days will require a stronger personal commitment. Am I worth the hard work?  I think so.

The First Step:

When I began writing this post at six this morning, I believed asking other people to heal me spoke to my being proactive.  Fourteen hours later and I realize it’s not up to other people to make me well.  They can contribute and guide me, but the only person who can fully commit to my health is me.  And so, with a full day between that first sentence and this last one, I took the first step.  I made a commitment to myself…but more on that in a few days.