Category Archives: Yoga

Just One Pose, Every Day

English: Child's Pose (relaxation) Български: ...

English: Child’s Pose (relaxation) Български: Баласана/Детска поза (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This was my most recent yoga therapy homework: I am to get on the mat and do child’s pose every day. What comes after that is up to me. I HAVE to give myself permission to stop after one pose. Why? Because otherwise I won’t get on the mat. If I have energy for more, great! If I don’t, congratulations me, I’ve done my yoga practice for the day.

I thought this was a perfect, brilliant assignment. Just what I needed to start forming that habit of daily practice. I thought my reason for not being on my mat once a day was that I was being too hard on myself. If I was going to get on my mat, I needed to do my full yoga routine. And that seemed like way too much some days. Child’s pose, however–that I can do no matter how I feel.

It’s been a week and a half, and I’ve hit my daily goal about 50%. That’s kind of awful. I mean, how hard is it to do a restful, bolstered child’s pose every day. I may be hard on myself, but honestly, this shouldn’t be beyond me.

So what’s the problem? I’m not sure. I keep thinking of it, and putting it off, and then it’s late, and I’m tired, and I go to bed. It could be that, since this has been a particularly high-pain couple of weeks, I’ve been so absorbed in my distraction mechanisms I haven’t been able to pull myself into the moment and spend time with my pain. I’ve certainly watched more than my usual share of TV this last couple weeks.

I also have not felt much like taking care of myself lately. There really isn’t anything more important I need my energy for (how could there be?), but to be honest, it feels like a bit of a waste to spend it on myself when I’m in so much pain. That sounds really terrible, doesn’t it?

I don’t know exactly why this brilliant plan isn’t working. I’m clearly, despite logic, choosing not to participate half the time. I feel guilty about this, and yet I continue. I’m not miserable, even with the high pain, but I’m not doing everything I can to feel better, either. Why not?

Sounds like a question for my psych therapist, perhaps. Anybody reading ever go through this? What did you learn about yourself and how did you find your motivation?

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Exercising for Pain Relief


Exercising for Pain Relief. Please, go read this fantastic blog post. The thing that really struck me about this post was the repeated notes about not being judgmental.  I have always struggled with that, even before I had CRPS. But then again, with the health troubles I had as a kid, I was never as athletic as my peers, and I always felt like the exercise we did in school, for me, primarily served to display how I was inferior to the other kids.

Exercising while in pain is especially difficult. It is counter-intuitive to use parts of our body that are very painful, and it’s also the ONLY way to keep CRPS from getting worse.  The few types of exercise I tend to enjoy, if I’m to be completely honest with myself, are the few that I don’t feel terrible at: swimming, dance, martial arts, and (originally)hatha  yoga.

Cardiac yoga sample exercise

With yoga, the joke was on me: I have super-loose joints that allow me to get into poses I have no business in! This gumby-body actually makes yoga extremely difficult for me to do safely. Of course, I had no idea when I did my first yoga class–I felt awesome, because I didn’t have to try to be able to touch my toes or whatever–I could just hang from my bones off of my tendons almost without using any muscles whatsoever.

That is not the right way to do yoga. I was unknowingly setting myself up for injury, and it was sheer luck that I never gave myself an injury through yoga. It wasn’t until a few years ago that I had a teacher who was able to explain to me what I was doing and how to start to use my muscles to protect my joints. Suddenly, I was not good at yoga anymore. It was like going back to pre-school; I was discovering ways to use my body I had never considered before. I was actually understanding my body for the first time in my life.

Cardiac yoga sample exercise

Now, when I stretch, I can feel when I’m stretching a muscle (helpful) or pulling on a joint (harmful).  I’ve been taught how to activate the muscles in my limbs to protect my shoulders, elbows, wrists, hips, knees, and ankles. I still don’t always remember–I’m working against 30 years of self-training. But when everything comes together, and my arms and legs push with stability and strength against my yoga mat, that is one of the best feelings in the world. I don’t take poses as far as I used to–and I get more out of them. I am so grateful to my first yoga teacher, Andrea, and my next, Beverly, for helping me discover how to use my body in ways that are safe and beneficial.

I think it’s also lucky, in a way, that I didn’t understand this right away. I had the chance to get fond of yoga and begin to work against my natural tendency to judge myself and compare myself to others (not very yogic) while I was able to feel like I had a talent for yoga. I don’t know that I would have been able to stick it out past my early attitude if I had known how far I needed to go. Now, it’s much easier to just enjoy what I am doing and how good for me it is. And I now have plenty of practice rerouting stray thoughts of comparison or judgement towards just working on what is best for me and being grateful for the company and energy of other students willing to work alongside me.  Yoga is so much more rewarding (and so much closer to what it is meant to be) this way. I am grateful every day that my winding path brought me here.


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Create Your Yoga Sanctuary


yoga (Photo credit: GO INTERACTIVE WELLNESS)

It can be hard to work up the motivation to stick to one’s home yoga practice. Chronic pain is a giant demotivator, and yet hatha yoga can be irreplaceable as a physical foundation for self-management of pain. One of the ways I keep myself coming back to my yoga practice is my yoga space. I turned a corner of a room in my apartment into a yoga healing sanctuary, and you can too.

My yoga room is also my piano room, my computer room, my recording studio, my crafts and sewing room–it’s the Everything Else Room in our apartment.  When you create your yoga sanctuary, if you have the space for a permanent space solely devoted to yoga and meditation, good for you! If you live in a smaller space where most places need to serve multiple functions, like mine, creating a yoga sanctuary may be easier than you think.

First I selected a room: in the Everything Else room, I can close the doors and my sweetie knows not to open them unless there is an emergency during yoga time. A space where you can be uninterrupted is mandatory. I started with three yoga mats, unrolled on the floor side by side. This is nice because my floor is tile and I don’t have to worry about protecting myself from the hard surface if my pose takes me off the side of my mat. With carpet, this is probably unnecessary, but it feels luxurious and helps define my space. Next, I found a container to keep my yoga and meditation accoutrements in: I have a strap, some books and pose cards, a towel, a foam ball (for extra stretch in certain poses), and I plan to add an eye pillow and an inspirational statuette when I find the right ones. Nearby I keep my bolster and any other large props. With all my tools close at hand, I don’t have to spend time gathering things up, which leaves more time and energy for my practice.

Once the bare necessities were taken care of, it was time to look to the senses to set the space apart. For my eyes, I turn the lights off and light candles around the room. The creates an instant atmosphere that I find calming, and since I only do this for yoga and meditation, the set-apart feeling of a sanctuary settles over the room as, one by one, the candles provide a calming glow. I keep some prayer flags up in the space, and have my current mantra posted where it easily catches my eye. For my nose, I like an essential oils warmer, and I choose oils by their correlation to the chakra I’m currently focused on, or a general calming or meditative blend that I find pleasant (lavender, chamomile, sandalwood, and jasmine are favorites). If you are able to set up a space outdoors, some natural incense could be a nice alternative to oils, which could get lost outdoors. I would not recommend incense inside, because all that smoke could be hard on the lungs while you are breathing deeply. For my ears, I often enjoy the quiet of a room to myself, but sometimes I’ll play some music that doesn’t tend to interrupt my concentration–a friend introduced me to the music of Dr. Jeffrey Thompson, which I find great for yoga and meditation. For my skin, I adjust the temperature of the room to slightly cooler than the rest of my tropical house, so I can stay comfortable while moving. If you get chilled in Savasana, a blanket would be a good addition to your yoga space.

I use my Everything Else room often for all kinds of activities. If I need more room for a project, I just roll up the yoga mats and stand them in the corner, and my stored sanctuary takes up about a 3 foot cube in the room. It takes only a matter of moments to light the candles, add oil to the warmer, and turn on the music. Then, with a flick of the light switch, my yoga sanctuary is complete and I can have a beautiful yoga practice in my lovely, relaxing space.

Anyone else have any special ways to enhance their home practice by altering their yoga or meditation space? How else do you keep yourself coming back to the mat?

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Look What I Got!


I got a cartoon present! Mr Oh from drew me a little inspiration to keep moving. He has a bunch of great cartoons over there, so please go check out his fun and uplifting work.

With CRPS, using your body is probably THE most important thing one can do to keep from getting worse. It can be hard to get moving when we’re already in pain, but we’re really in a use-it-or-lose-it situation. If we protect our hurting limb (which is what comes naturally as a response to pain), those toxins getting produced in the affected area  (because of our haywire sympathetic nervous system that never got turned off after our injury) stick around instead of getting the help they need to get pushed out of there. In the worst-case scenario, our bones literally slowly melt away as the limb curls up into a swollen ball of misery. When you Google CRPS and go to the images tab, that’s the late-stage CRPS that you are seeing, and it’s a very scary picture to discover when you start researching this condition. I find it so unpleasant to think about that happening to me that I’m not even going to link to it. But that late-stage CRPS progression is exactly what I plan to avoid by doing my yoga and walking my dogs. And so far, it’s working–my bones are still in great shape!

How it can hurt to feel less pain.

A great big thanks to for the lovely yoga cartoon!

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The Great Yoga Bag Project

The Great Yoga Bag Project

I may be on temporary hiatus from sewing while my wrist heals (no scissors), but I can still write about sewing. One of my big projects I’m working on is designing a yoga tote bag. It actually started with a surplus of fabric that would work great for a bag to carry my yoga mat in, and the fact that the bags I’m using right now aren’t designed for yoga mats. I’m the kind of person who can think of several personalized improvements to any bag or purse that would work better for me, so I decided, why not make several of these and give them to friends? Because if there is one thing better than making something awesome for yourself, it’s making something awesome for someone you care about.

I began with my requirements. There are basically two types of yoga bags–one where the rolled-up mat lies horizontally, and the other, often called a sling, where the rolled mat is vertical. Since I have a tendency to make quick turns in the near vicinity of others, a vertical bag was a must. But I have some other necessaries I want to take to class too, and for that, I need more room. My bright idea was to put a flat pouch sticking off the side of the tube where the mat goes, attached to the carry strap in some way. I tried to explain this to my sweetie and he requested a drawing around this point. I’m going to do one better, and make a 3D model in Sketchup.

My Bag Design3

Three-dimensional awesomeness.

So what do I need to bring to class? None of the pants I like to wear to yoga have any pockets, so everything I need will have to fit: a water bottle, a towel, ID/money, keys, phone, maybe a book, an ankle brace, and my emergency medications, which include an inhaler, an epipen, and some pills. Could throw a strap in there too. This thing is feeling heavy already!

Thinking about the physics of it, it seemed like a yoga mat, even with a bag of goodies hanging off one side of the bottom, is not going to stay vertical on its own–it’s going to slide, unless you hold the strap at your shoulder in place with one hand, like if you put your backpack on only one shoulder. My heaviest requirement is a bottle of water, and I figure I could use that as a counterweight, at least when it’s full, to keep the mat upright. So to be most effective as a counterweight, it will have to go at the far end of the pouch. I like those water bottle holders made of mesh, with elastic on top, so you can fit a nalgene but a store-bought bottle won’t fall out, thanks to the elastic. And while I have mesh, I should make the tube for the mat breathe so I don’t have to take the mat out when you I home. I looked online and most of the slings that claimed to breathe had this funny ring of mesh around the middle of the tube, so the mat would block most of the air flow.. It makes more sense to me to have it on each end, so there can actually be airflow. I also thought the pouch should have an outside mesh pouch for the towel, so it doesn’t make my book all sweaty. A keyring and a small pocket for money and ID would be great on the inside.

My Bag Design4

Someone got tired of messing with Sketchup and just wanted to get the point across. The tiniest text, left to right, says “Elastic Top” and then “Magnet Pocket Closure”

For closures, I can use drawstring at the top of the tube, and a zipper on top of the pouch and for the inner wallet pocket. I don’t want my towel to fall out of the outside pocket, so I think a magnet would be good there. Add some trim, lining, and zipper pull charms (a trick of my mother’s that I just love) and it sounds like the perfect yoga bag to me! Can’t wait to start actually putting a few together!

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