Monthly Archives: April 2010

My own two feet

feet - August 2006

These are my feet. Actually, these are my feet a few years ago, as I oddly enough had pictures on my computer of my feet, which didn’t require me to go outside and take current pictures, which is good because I don’t want to, and I’ll get to why in a second.

First, a story. One day in college I was leaving class with my friend Emily, who was distraught over the state of a fellow classmate’s feet. I believe they smelled, were really dry and yucky looking, or hairy, or perhaps they had yellow toenails. Maybe all of those, or a combination. Emily is not a judgmental gal, but she notices people’s feet, and she was, well, grossed out by this guy’s.

That was when it dawned on me that I did not notice feet. At that point in time, you could have had hooves and it probably wouldn’t have fazed me. But the first time I spent a whole day with a group of yogis, I started noticing feet.

And I have decided that people’s feet are not pretty. I have seen a lot of feet since I got into this yoga thing, and let me tell you, they are gross. There are feet with extreme hammertoes, there are black hairy feet, scaly feet, callused feet, fungus-y feet, smelly feet, feet with very long toenails, you name it.

My feet are not cute, either. They are exact replicas of my mom’s. When we were kids, my mom would bribe us to rub her feet while she laid on the couch, and I was a nice kid (right, mom?) so I did a lot of this. This is how I know that my feet are identical to hers. Same calluses in the same places. Same shape of the toes, same weird bony protuberance under the pinky toe that makes many shoes painful to wear.

my feet - 2005

And yoga isn’t like other things where you can just generally ignore your feet. They’re right in your face, you’re grabbing them, holding them, wrapping straps around them, trying to put them over your head, trying to balance on just one, and of course we all know wearing socks only makes all of this harder.

I had a mini twitter conversation about this last weekend with @TommyTadasana and @spoiledyogi. After Tommy described his yoga fashion as “Moth-eaten1989 sleeveless frat T-shirt, stained b-ball shorts with Hanes popping out the top, & ungodly toe nails,” it made me realized that I feel pressured to keep my feet looking somewhat nice for yoga class.

I try to keep them either painted or not painted, not somewhere in the “chipped” stage, and every once and while I attack them with the pumice stone. But other than that, there’s not a lot you can do to improve the looks of your feet. Erica thought maybe there’s a correlation there: lots of time spent in yoga = more calluses, generally yuckier feet. Perhaps she’s on to something.

I am thankful for my feet, for sure. They carry me through my day and allow me to do all sorts of cool asanas in yoga. And they would be a lot prettier if I didn’t insist on being barefoot as much as humanly possible.

What about you? Any good feet stories? How do you feel about your own feet?

Namaste,
Jamie

The evil Bakasana

Crow pose (bakasana, also known as crane) has never been very accessible to me. The first time I had a teacher cue us into it, I honestly thought she was joking. You want me to what?

It’s a pose that makes me feel weak and awkward, so I generally avoid it. I was practicing it pretty regularly around Christmas time and had noticed some progress, then I toppled right on out of it and bruised my poor ego. I tend to shift my weight forward too much, so that my wrists give out and I fall on my face. Once I fell, I took a nice long break from the pose and have just started re-visiting it in the past month or so.

We have been attempting this pose in class lately. Well, I have been attempting it and my fellow yogis have been succeeding in it. Not that that’s hard on the perfectionist in me or anything. Anyway, my teacher has been immensely helpful for two reasons. 1) she keeps reminding us that it’s a lifting motion, not a leaning forward motion, which is something I need to focus on 2) she gave us the option of placing a folded-up blanket in front of our hands. That removed half of the fear from the situation. So what if I fall? Look at this comfty blanket that will cushion my head!

At home the other day, I decided to have a little courage and practice bakasana on my own. With no one around to judge me except for my dogs, I decided it was a good time to push my boundaries. There were no blankets within reaching distance, but I did have my meditation cushion.*

The cushion is much taller and firmer than a blanket. The first time I lifted to bakasana, I had to force myself to try. Turns out once your mind decides it’s scared of something, it’s really hard to talk it out of that. Sure enough, down came my head until it rested on the cushion, so I was in an elevated sort of tripod. From there, I tried to counterbalance myself, and actually managed to find the pose for just a moment.

I sat back into my squat and made a little sound of surprise. The lightbulb went off in my head. Maybe I can use this cushion like I use the wall in headstand. If I can begin to get a good feel of the pose with the aid of the cushion, maybe I can slowly move it farther and farther away until I don’t need it at all.

I’m a little worried that the cushion will become a debilitating crutch of sorts, but for now it’s allowing me to actually feel the pose the way it’s supposed to feel, and that makes me happy.

* I was very upset when I ordered my Yoga for Relaxation kit only to receive it and find that this cushion is inflatable. I didn’t read anything about that in the product description or reviews, and I looked on two different websites. But regardless, it has served me well for as often as I use it.

note: I changed my layout again. I know, I know I just did it a month ago. But I reserve the right to change my mind at any moment, and this one is awesome, so if you’re viewing this post in a reader, click through and check it out : )

Namaste,
Jamie

I’m not a 7 anymore.

I have been working up the courage to post this for weeks now, and it’s finally time. It’s hard to put these things into words, but I have decided to give it a try.

me on what I believe is the first day of 4th grade. wanna confirm that one, mom?

In the past few years, I have made remarkable progress with my body image struggle. I can tell you exactly when this fight began, to the day. I was in fourth grade, on the playground, and for some reason the subject of how much we all weighed came up (why? I don’t know, maybe we had all recently been to the doctor). Looking back, I realize that I was healthy, I was on the mend from having mono the year before, and gaining back some weight I needed. I was not fat. Dorky? Yes. Overweight? No.

I have a crystal clear image of where I was sitting (on a bench, near the playground equipment), what I was wearing (overalls – yes, I already admitted I was a dork), my own weight (86 pounds) and how I was feeling (crushed) when I realized that I outweighed all of my friends.

And nothing was ever the same again.

Later that year, the boys in our class got some sort of wake up call, overnight it seemed, and suddenly noticed that they were surrounded by girls. They started taking an interest in us. I have less clear but still hurtful memories of discovering a list of my female classmates, ranked in order of cuteness. I remember I was number 7. I don’t remember how many girls were in my class, or who was ranked higher or lower than I was. But being number 7 placed me in the bottom half of the group.

You would think that as a grown woman it wouldn’t matter what those 9 year old boys thought, but I’m embarrassed to admit that I still feel a pinprick of hopelessness when I think about being number 7.

Going through puberty wasn’t easy, but I don’t remember any of the middle school years with the clarity that I remember those two moments in fourth grade.

My first two years of high school, I had a hard time with body image. By this time, while not medically overweight, I would consider myself chubby. I ate too much saltwater taffy. By contrast, my two closest friends were naturally smaller and thinner than I was. I remember packing for a trip to Florida with them and their families and sobbing while packing my bathing suit. The idea of being on the beach next to them broke my heart. And I was fortunate, because my friends were compassionate and loving. Many high school girls aren’t so lucky.

My junior year of high school I went on a diet and lost 25 pounds. I started eating healthier and took a big interest in Pilates. Looking back, I know that this opened the door to yoga, and for that I thank you, Mari Winsor. After the weight loss, I looked great and felt even better. But as soon as you lose weight, you become terrified of gaining it back. Just in time to leave for college, and ironically at my thinnest and most healthy, I entered my darkest body image time of my life. My first year of college I felt constant anxiety about “the freshman 15”. I felt guilt when I ate anything, even a small granola bar.

 

me in 2nd grade.

Somewhere during this dark time, yoga found me. Yoga was not an instant cure for my body image, but it was a band-aid. It helped me hide the wounds, stop picking at them, and let them heal on their own.

About three years ago, my practice really took off. While on the mat, I felt strong, capable, beautiful, and confident. But when I stepped off the mat everything returned to the unfortunate level of “normal” that I had learned to live with. This is when I found I could peel off the band-aid, look at the scars, and deal with them.

Yoga has allowed me an entirely new level of self-acceptance. It is okay to acknowledge my own limitations, as long as they’re not self-imposed. It is okay to work towards a goal, and feel proud of myself when I notice success. It is okay to be shaped the way I am shaped.

The other night I was having trouble sleeping. I flipped around and put my legs up on the wall and my butt on my pillow, to try to relax a bit. I was wearing sleep shorts so I was looking straight at my thighs in all their glory.

I started thinking about my body, my muscles, my joints, the strong parts and the not-as-strong parts, the pretty parts and the parts that aren’t as pretty. This was more casual, sleepy observation than deep introspection, mind you.

Uninvited, a thought crept into my head:

“I love my body”.

For years, the one thing I wanted to feel was out of grasp. But now I can feel it without even trying.

And I don’t feel like a 7 anymore.

Thank you, yoga.

Namaste,
Jamie

Eat the Damn Cake

In the past, I have mentioned the topic of women’s body image issues. It’s a subject I feel passionately about and one that every woman deals with in some form, no matter her size.

Well there is a blog out there taking a great new approach to this issue, striking up frank discussions and peeling back the layer of shame that comes with irrational thoughts pertaining to body issues. I found this blog thanks to a twitter post by EcoYogini.

And it is *drumroll please* Eat the Damn Cake.

And they put up a photo of me today.

So I’m famous.

Because you guys? This blog is going to hit it big. It is a breath of fresh air and a space dedicated to a brand new conversation. There are no blogs like it, and like I told my girlfriends, I don’t read every blog on the internet, but I get a wide sampling. And Eat the Damn Cake is unique!

So when they get their book deal, just remember that my face was on their website on April 19, 2010!

Thank you, feel free to send me a photo to autograph. ; )

And go Eat the Damn Cake!

Namaste,
Jamie

Spring Yoga

Among many exciting things we did yesterday, we took a trip to a state park near my parents’ house. It has many beautiful sights to see like these:

And my mom indulged me by taking some guerilla yoga photos for me. Well, the first one is in her backyard, but the other two are at the park.

It always amazes me how much more difficult the asanas can be when you’re not on a level hardwood floor and deliciously grippy mat. Not to mention your feet get much dirtier. There’s something so beautiful about outdoor yoga!

Thanks for letting me show off the beautiful parts of my hometown : )

Namaste,
Jamie

To practice or not to practice…

We all have days that we just don’t feel up to an asana practice. We’re tired, overwhelmed, have a headache, too busy, etc. Sometimes we just need to honor our bodies, respect our busy schedules and spend that time doing something else. On these days, we find our yoga practice in deep breaths, mindfulness, and compassionate thoughts for ourselves and those around us.

I have a hard time determining these days from the regular old “blah” days. I came very close to skipping my yoga class Monday night. I felt bad and wanted to veg out on the couch instead. In fact, the only reason I ended up going is because I don’t have much of a home practice these days, and I didn’t want to wait an entire extra week to get some quality practice in.

On Mondays I only have about 45 minutes between getting home from work and leaving for yoga, and in that time I have to change clothes, make and eat some semblance of a meal, and take out my dogs.

So Monday night, once I resolved that I would not skip class, I carved out 20 minutes of my getting ready time to recline on the couch and close my eyes. It wasn’t extremely relaxing what with the dogs chasing each other around the house and the neighbor mowing his yard. But it was as close to meditation as I get. Amazingly, once the 20 minutes was up, I felt much better. Refreshed, and ready for class.

I was happy that I went to class on Monday, but the night could have just as easily gone the other way. In fact, if it weren’t for my stubborn pride, I might have skipped yoga in favor of the couch and a book. Would I have felt guilty? Perhaps, but maybe not.

I try to avoid practicing out of a sense of “duty”, and I don’t ever want to guilt myself onto the mat. I feel that’s a great way to start resenting yoga. But it’s hard to distinguish between being too tired for a practice and being so tired I need to practice.

Any tips?

Namaste,
Jamie

In which I discuss surgery, spring, and strangers

It has been a rough couple of days, but I can see the light at the end of the tunnel. I wasted away the most beautiful weekend of the year sleeping in bed and icing my aching jaws, growing ever more despondent at the state of things (did you know that even ICE CREAM requires some chewing? I know it now).

But fortunately, I have a sweet and caring husband and two concerned, affectionate dogs to get me through life’s ups and downs and oral surgeries.

I’m coming out the other end, but I wasn’t feeling that great today. I had a headache and felt really foggy-headed, even though I’m off the major painkillers.

So it’s no surprise that tonight my yoga teacher walked into class and looked right at me and asked “are you tired tonight?” I mean, we expect our yoga teachers to be more in tune with our body language than the average bear. But I also had another person who hardly knows me – one of our caterers at work – ask me if I was feeling okay today. Concerned look on his face and all.

I didn’t realize that I was wearing my heart on my sleeve.

Then again, the gorgeous (gorgeous!) spring weather seems to have made people around here extremely open and honest. I had the following conversation with my anesthesiologist on Friday (this is post nitrous oxide, pre sedation, so I’m awake but feeling quite goofy)

Anesthesiologist: How do you feel?
Jamie: I feel great. I wish I could be on this stuff all the time. I wish I could go to work on this stuff.
A: Where do you work?
J: (I tell her)
A: Do you like it?
J: It’s fine.
A: But you don’t love it?
J: No, but I don’t hate it. So that counts for something right? Lots of people hate their jobs.
A: Right, but you should try to find something you love.
J: I’m working on it. I teach yoga!
A: Now that’s a cool job! I want to try yoga sometime.
J: You should! It’s the best.

And that’s about when the doctor came in and said “It’s time to take a little nap!” Maybe it’s just me, but that seems like  a pretty deep conversation to have with your anesthesiologist.

But the best of the bracingly honest conversations I’ve had lately was tonight, when I stopped at the convenience store before class. After I paid, the guy told me to have a great day. I politely said “you too”. He looked right at me and said “I already am!”

Namaste,
Jamie