Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Mental Yoga

My yoga teacher, of 1.5 years, is taking a hiatus.  Jeanie is 60+ years old and she is much more flexible than I.  She looks like a white version of Tina Turner - lithe body and blond spiky hair.  She and her husband are going to Russia for 18 months on a mission trip.  Last Tuesday was her last night teaching my class before she left.  While we were in corpse pose at the end, she told her favorite parable, one about an eagle raised with chickens - who finally learned to fly with the coach of a naturalist.  As her soothing voice and wisdom flowed through my ears, silent tears streamed uncontrollably down the side of my face.  "We are all eagles, constrained in one way or another by our surroundings, but we all have the capacity to fly."  She gave me a big hug as I rushed out the door to pick up my kids from their dad and stepmom's house.  I told her I would miss her, but I'll bet I'm not nearly as sad as her family.  She told us when she leaves she has 22 grandchildren, and when she returns she will have 25 or maybe 26.  Much of her stories and experiences are family centered, she is one of the most grounded and knowledgable individuals I have ever met in my life.  Russia doesn't know how lucky they are.

The other night I was e-mailing my friend.  She was discussing an issue she was having with her daughter - stomachaches.  They seemed to be school related, so she was worried they were stress, but also not wanting to miss something medical - she was researching reflux.  I told her that my daughter was having some big time stomach issues around the time of my separation and divorce.  While the pain was certainly real to her, I could see that it might be an outward manifestation of inward turmoil.  My stress has always gone to my stomach, ever since I was a little girl.

I told my friend that I had taught Cecelia a relaxation technique that I picked up somewhere along the way, in high school I think.  One night at bedtime, I told her to lay down and practice breathing in through her nose and out through her mouth, like a type of yoga breathing.  As you breathe in through your nose, imagine a healing color filling your body, focusing in on the area of pain.  I use bright white light.  As you breathe out through your mouth, imagine you are expelling the pain as a color of your choosing - I use red.  I think the slow breathing is the key, and giving a concrete aspect to it, the color, helps you feel that you are in control of your body and have the power to soothe yourself.  I told Cecelia to take it with her and use it throughout the day if she needed it.  It helped her.  I still use it on occasion - my stress continues to go to my stomach.  If my friend uses it, I hope it helps her eight year old daughter.  If it doesn't, she can continue to problem solve medically.

There are many things I use these days as mental yoga - blogging right now, for instance - this is a busy, stressful week and writing is therapeutic for me.  Yoga and exercise also help.  Listening to music.  Reading.  A glass of red wine.  I pass these onto my daughter and son (except the wine, ha ha), and hope that they can learn to relax and soothe their body and mind in a healthy way.

Last night I went to yoga for the first time to meet the new teacher.  After a three mile run and watching a recent Colbert re-run, I had to fight my inner two year old who was throwing a tantrum telling me to stay home, Jeanie's leaving sucks, no one can replace her.  I quieted the tantrum (Jeanie's voice in my head helping me), grabbed my yoga mat, and met Matt, the new guy.  He is young and is very different, with his masculine energy.  A clipped voice and a different style.  I am going to be sore today in a whole new way, and was more tired than usual after yoga.  I'm still sad that Jeanie is gone, but I'm also excited to explore new heights and stretch new limits on my body and mind with my new teacher.  After all, yoga is a process, not perfection or competition.  Who knows, this guy could teach me a thing or two.  

As I am writing this, I am wondering what other techniques people use to calm their children and themselves, especially along the lines of relaxation.  I would be curious to hear suggestions in the comments if anyone has any.  While Cecelia's stomachaches around school abated a couple of years ago, every new age and stage of life brings frustration and anxiety; we problem solve pressures from school and society on a weekly basis.  Jack is a more laid back fellow, but he has unfulfilled wishes and desires, as we all do, that weigh silently on his mind.  We have lots of fun too - we are not all seriousness here, but we could all use more mental yoga.


  1. This is probably the kid equivalent of blogging, but my seven-year-old always works through her stresses by drawing and writing stories. We have stacks of papers with titles like, "The Time Daddy Lost Me at Home Depot" and "When I Threw Up", complete with very funny pictures. Now we're dealing with nightmares, which she refuses to talk about. I suggested that maybe she can draw a picture and then crumple it up.

  2. Oh, thank you for making me laugh out loud while enjoying my dessert (Take 5). That is a good idea. Cecelia recently wrote about a nightmare for creative writing. Pics of puking and getting lost among the paint isles is genius. Your daughter is a budding satirist.

    Sometimes, to prompt my kids when they aren't talking, I'll tell about when that happened to me (or another family member) and what it was like; then they are more comfortable sharing. The stuff inside their head that isn't getting out is the scariest for me, but usually it comes around. I find that as they grow older they confide in different people (stepmom, teachers) and am pleased to have those relationships so they can have some things separate from me, but we are all still problem solving together.

  3. Interesting post and comments!

    I remember reading about getting your kids to breathe during stress, and me trying to get my 3 y.o. son to breathe with me, because it sounded so good, and him choking out between sobs, "I! Don't! Want! To! Breathe!" I laughed and gave up. Distracting them seems to work better right now.

    For me, just like Gizabeth and myblog's daughter, I write out my stress. I also like yoga and reading, but I also have to admit to complaining to my husband and surfing the Internet.

    Jeanie sounds like an inspiring yoga teacher and person. I would also like the new guy. I totally understand not wanting to, though. People seem to get very attached to yoga teachers. We got a new yoga teacher at our studio, and lots of people resisted, even though I've learned so much from her.

  4. Hey Melissa! I've got your book and can't wait to take it on my Spring Break trip next week. My FIRST EVER Spring Break off (since I had kids anyway). Currently finishing an acclaimed book of poems and short stories I recently discovered an acquaintance from college wrote when I friended him on facebook. Clint Catalyst (nee Green). He now lives in LA and Anthony Kiedis (!!! I was such a RHCP fan) wrote a blurb on the back.

    I forwarded Jeanie my blog and she loved it. Some knit scarves, some give gear, I just have my writing as going away gift.

    I didn't try the breathe thing until 5. Maybe give it another try later? Very funny.

    Due to Interviewing candidates this week, singing lessons, and going skiing for S.B. I will not get yoga for two weeks! Hopefully I can settle in with new guy in April.

    Can't wait to let you know how I liked your book. I love having access via e-mail to (WOW) novel authors.


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