Monday, September 8, 2008

Rest for the rest of us

Restorative yoga is not just for injuries, illness and beginners. It is for everyone and especially for people with active lives and advanced yoga practices. It is the antidote to living in today's increasingly complex world.

Yoga's popularity came through the fitness door and these essential practices and teachings fell by the wayside. Often overlooked, the yin or restful aspect of yoga seals in the benefits. It is the yin that balances yang. Ha-tha is the traditional name for yoga as a physical practice. We become flexible by putting our bodies in different positions so that life doesn't bend us out of shape. We go upside down to gain new perspectives. Ha and Tha mean sun and moon; Ha-tha is yoga's representation of yin and yang. The more active, forceful, busy our lives, the greater the need for balance with receptivity, rest, letting go.

Restorative yoga creates the conditions for relaxation, rest, and renewal. It allows the body and mind to reset, heal and rejuvenate.  Numerous studies have demonstrated the concrete benefits of relaxation. Relaxation is different from sleep. It is possible to tense the muscles and move fitfully in sleep. When we relax, we remain awake enough to enjoy resting. Stress hormones, which cause harm to the body over the long-term, dissipate.

In Restorative yoga, the body is completely supported by pillows, blankets, blocks and bolsters to aid in letting go. The props shoulder the burden for the practitioner. Poses are held long enough for deep relaxation to unfurl. Many people report having transformative and healing experiences through these practices. 

Many studios now offer restorative yoga. I am excited to be leading these classes at The Mindful Body.

Meaty nation

On NPR today, they announced that while China, with the world's largest population, consumes the most meat, the Unites States still consumes the most meat per capita, that is 3 times the world average. Meat production is one of the biggest contributers to green house emissions. 

Want to make a difference: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, Go Vegetarian.

My favorite Vegetarian Cookbooks:
Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone by Deborah Madison
The Angelica Home Kitchen Recipes and Rable-rousings
Ayurvedic Cooking for Westerners by Amadea Morningstar
How to Cook Everything Vegetarian by Mark Bittman
The Complete Vegetarian Kitchen by Lorna Sass

A lot of taxi rides

I take a lot of taxis, mostly going to and from births at the wee hours of morning. Anyone out at those times usually has a good reason. The taxi drivers, usually men, tend to be curious about where a girl like me is coming from or going. If the location I am going to/coming from is a hospital, they ask if I am a doctor or nurse. Explaining that I am independent but work in hospitals and what a doula does to the non-initiate is always a challenge. Generally, the drivers at this time of night/morning--interesting people themselves--have never heard of doulas; if they have heard of doulas, they ask if it is like a midwife, although they may even believe a midwife is something from the middle ages. 

I often reply that a doula is different from a midwife because we don't catch babies. We are present for the entire labor and birth providing emotional support, physical comfort, perspective, information, suggestions and encouragement to women and their partners. I choose not to talk about the important but intangible holding of the space. And yet, it is that and also so much more.

Even when I am exhausted, I don't want to shrug it off and let an opportunity to share the nature of this work pass by. By talking about it with everyone and anyone, we validate the need for it. We are creating a movement that does not stop with moms and babies. This is the entry point. Birth is the only time when healthy people go into the hospital as 'patients'. If we can make a difference here, think where we can go next.