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Sunday, October 30, 2011

Planting Seeds

I just finished reading a book called The Noticer.  I couldn't put it down even though I was super tired, and I can't go to bed until I blog about it because it was so good.  The book is about a traveler named Jones who goes about and helps people change their perspectives.  I thought it was relevant to blog about the book because at the end Jones notes that he has planted seeds in everyone and gives seeds to all of them to plant in other people.  The idea of seeds is not limited to just the sutras!  I have had a really hard keeping a positive perspective on situations in my life.  Right now I do have a great hope and determination to change my perspective.  Usually I will always revert back to my more negative thoughts, but I hope that something will remind me about being positive whenever I reach that point.  This book was read at the perfect moment for me because I was having alot of negative thoughts and needed to gain a better perspective.  I also did yoga while reading the book!

The Three Paths

In the Bhagavad Gita, Krishna tells Arjuna about the three paths of yoga.  These paths are...
1. karma yoga: the way of action
2. jnana yoga: the yoga of wisdom and realization
3. the royal path

Karma yoga is the way of action and may even be defined as selfless service.  Therefore, Krishna is trying to teach Arjuna that all individuals are expected to work towards the well-being of others, not for personal motives.  This path seems like the practical path.

Jnana yoga denotes a type of wisdom that connects the individual to God.  This path is about spirituality and the relationship with the Divine.

Lastly, the third path is the royal path.  The royal path involves a pure devotion to God.  Krishna teaches Arjuna that he will receive complete unity with Krishna if he follows the royal path.  To do this, he must do everything as an offering to God.

I believe that I am currently doing karma yoga.  I am very practical in the way that I show my devotion to God.  I pray certain prayers, go to certain ministries, and believe in certain things that have been written down.  As stated above, karma yoga also involves doing things for other people.  I do many things for other people, but I have not yet accomplished the goal of doing everything for other people without any self-interest.  There are times when I look out for my own well-being, knowing that it might hurt someone else...that sounds so selfish.  =(

I think I am also doing jnana yoga because I am focusing on creating a personal relationship with God.  Oftentimes I do get sidetracked and find my focus has drifted from God.  I believe this will always be a growing process for me.

The royal path is the ideal path though.  I would love to do everything as an offering to God, to always have my focus on God.  I would love every part of me to be glorifying God and doing His will.  I do not know if I will ever reach this point though.

** I hope I got all the paths right.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

More Practice

I showed my friend some yoga poses today.  I don't remember what it is called, but I showed him the pose in which we are lying down and reach behind our heads to get our big toes.  He did not think that it would be possible for me to reach my big toes.  He was impressed that it is possible.  I also told him how I wanted to do a headstand and then lotus pose while doing a headstand.  I couldn't show him that one at that moment though.  I tried to show him crane pose, but I couldn't get up off the floor.  He said that he has already seen crane pose though.  My roommate showed me a variation of the crane pose; she saw it online.  It involves crane pose with one leg stretched out straight behind the yoga practitioner.  Maybe one day I will be able to do that pose.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011


I thought crane was a super fun pose even though it was super frustrating.  I could only get both of my feet up for a few seconds and then would fall down.  That's ok though because I could tell my progress even in the few minutes that we practiced this pose.  At the beginning of the practice, I could not even get my feet up, but the adjustments that we made (the block + me actually putting my knees into my arms) helped me get my feet off the floor for a little bit.  Dr. Schultz said that inversions are probably the most frustrating poses because it does not come easily all the time.  They are also the most fun though.  It's an interesting group of poses.  I still cannot do a handstand, but hopefully with enough practice I will one day be able to get my legs all the way up and will be able to support myself.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Bhagavad Gita

At the beginning, Arjuna raises the question of why he should kill his relatives.  What good would come out of killing them?  This leads Arjuna to question more of his spirituality such as how he views the world.  Krishna attempts to explain to Arjuna how the living are meant to die while the living are meant to be reborn.  It is just a cycle.  Krishna also introduces the idea of karma. Karma reminds me of an idea from How Yoga Works when it was said that the bad an individual did would be reflected in the individual's life by bad things happening to the individual (equal to each other).  I agree with this idea - maybe not exactly as stated - but I think that life is essentially fair.  Everyone will go through difficult trials but at the same time have moments of joy.

Arjuna, like myself, is very practical.  He asks about how an ideal person should live.  Krishna responds that individuals should live without personal desire.  I have a difficult time with this one.  I always want something.  I always want to be better, to have better things, for even more happiness, etc.  Krishna would not promote my way of thinking.  Instead, Krishna would say that I need to let go of my personal desires.

Like Arjuna, I have begun to question more about how I should live - especially with my thoughts and outlook on life.  I am eager to see what else the Bhagavad Gita will say about it.

Monday, October 17, 2011


Something I noticed in the book was how people viewed Matthew and reacted to him.  As a social worker, I believe in ideas like client self-determination.  This means that the client has the right to make his/her own decisions on services and on what the client feels he or she needs.  This can also be translated in Matthew's situation that Matthew's feelings should have been respected.  The doctors should have listened to him when he said that he was in pain; they should have at least considered what he was saying.  Instead, the doctors disregarded his feelings as normal and him complaining about nothing.  I was so upset after reading that.  They also suggested that he would only feel whole again if his body was restored back to normal, making it seem as if he would never be able to be whole.  I understand that doctors probably have had more experience with patients in those situations and what patients usually feel, but I also hate the mentality that many professionals have when they think they know better and will not listen to anything anyone else says.  I might be a little extreme in my opinion because the doctor did not mean to disregard Matthew's feelings and felt bad that he did not listen to Matthew.  The doctors also did not want him to have expectations or dreams and then have them not be fulfilled, which is why they did not want him to be concerned with the small movements he could make.  At the same time, I think that the doctors needed to acknowledge those small things and should not be so quick to decide what is best for their patients.  I think that not acknowledging those small things can also cause great harm to the patients – maybe even more so than giving the patients a little hope.  For example, the patients could begin questioning their own judgment and feel like they have nothing to work towards if they are given no hope.  Patients in these situations need a strong desire to overcome the mental stigma that they will be burdens to others and that there is a chance for things to get better even if it is not exactly what the patients have in mind.
Another thing I noticed in the book was that Matthew discussed how yoga helped him reconnect with his body.  (This is actually probably one of the main points in the book.)  I can also say that I think yoga has helped me connect more so with my body.  As an example, I can really tell how I have become more aware of parts of my body.  I never thought I could really pull my quads upwards or that I could move the skins between my shoulders back.  I have tested my capabilities such as by even attempting to do inversions.  I would never have imagined that I could do a head stand all by myself by kicking my legs all the way up onto a wall.  I still cannot do a handstand, but one step at a time right?  It does not even need to be a drastic pose such as doing an inversion.  Yoga has even shown me my capabilities in “simple” poses like cow pose, eagle pose, and tree pose.  Cow pose and eagle pose have helped me see how my limbs can twist around each other while tree pose has helped me see how much I can balance or not balance.  I am excited to see how much more I can challenge my body and do things I would never have thought imaginable before taking this yoga class.

Waking by Matthew Sanford greatly impacted me not because of the yoga aspects of the story though I still loved reading about how yoga transformed Matthew's life through its ability to help him heal and reconnect with his body.  The main reason why I loved reading Waking was because I can relate to Matthew's story or at least with his family's part in his story.

A little more than two years ago, my sister was in an accident that broke her neck and left her paralyzed from the chest down and without mobility or sensation in her fingers.  I can relate to how Matthew's family felt as he lay in the hospital right after the accident.  I remember standing in my sister's ICU room, not knowing the outcome of the accident.  I remember fearing that I would lose my sister.  I remember how my family reacted to the accident.  My mom was always at the hospital and only went home a few times the few months my sister was in the hospital just like Matthew's mom was constantly by his side.  My dad, brother, and I tried to keep things together at our house and kept going to work/school during those months just like Matthew's brother tried to resume his "normal" life.  My family also began the journey not knowing much about everything that happens during a patient's stay at the hospital and all the needs of someone who has suffered from a spinal cord injury.  We did not know the jargon.  We were completely lost.  We quickly learned that many medications would be needed, and my sister would need someone to give her baths and catheterize her as well as do her bowel movement.  That would be a huge adjustment for both my mom, myself, and especially my sister.  It would take us a year and a half before we could better regulate all of this.

I do not completely know how my sister has felt about the changes in her body.  I know that it has been an adjustment.  I know that she would prefer being able to do whatever she wants rather than being confined to her bed and her wheelchair.  However, I am not sure if she has accepted what has happened.  She has been much more positive about the accidents and its aftermath than I expected; she does not blame anyone for what happened and is grateful that she is still alive.  She never complains about the lack of mobility, for she seems content with her life as it has played out these past two years.  Does that mean she is actually happy though?

What makes someone happy?  Matthew was happy going to college, discovering how to connect his mind and body, and raising a family.  He did not plan for these exact things to happen, but his happiness came from striving towards healing.  I do not know if my sister is striving towards healing though.  After accidents, patients usually go to physical and/or occupational therapy.  These services will help them regain function or to adjust to new changes, and my sister did benefit from therapy.  However, she has not kept up with what they had taught her, and Matthew's story suggests that individuals need to practice if they want to improve.  I would love for my sister to learn how to become more independent by practicing more of these moves, but I know that she is in charge of her progress.  She must be motivated on her own account to want change, to want to become more independent.  Even though I want her to do these practices and become more independent, that may not be what my sister needs or wants.  I am not her.  I cannot say that a certain service is what she needs.  I can only tell her of ways that she can learn and especially of methods that I think she will enjoy.  Therefore, I want to tell her about the yoga methods catered to those with disabilities.  I love how yoga can be adapted to everyone's situation no matter what that situation may be.  I think she will enjoy the poses, and I can do the poses with her.  I need to do more research on how I can access resources to learn more about these poses and programs.

As stated above, I love how yoga can be adapted for anyone.  I would love to see how Matthew has adapted the yoga poses for those who have limited mobility.  Yoga is so great at using what individuals are capable of doing.  Even in our class, I can see how yoga has been adapted to each of our individual’s capabilities and needs.  Dr. Schultz always comments on how we execute the poses and will help us to adapt the poses to make us more comfortable.  She is very receptive to what we say.  For example, if we say a pose is not comfortable or look like we are not comfortable in a pose, she will adjust the pose to make the pose more enjoyable.  Yoga is not easy, but it should not be painful in a way that will not lead to better executed poses.  I think it is so inspirational that Matthew felt the desire to spread the healing he has experienced through yoga.  I cannot imagine how he has impacted other people’s lives not only as he teaches yoga but also through this book, for the book provides testimony that those who are disabled can find healing.

The end of the book definitely sparked a hopefulness for the future at least in my hopes for anybody who has a physical disability especially a paralysis of the lower body.  Matthew’s story showed that those with physical disabilities can still have families.  I know that many people with physical disabilities do not believe that they will be able to foster children, but Matthew’s story shows that it is possible.  These individuals do not necessarily need to go the same route Matthew did.  They do not need to go through in vitro fertilization.  There is another option: adoption.  I understand that there will probably be some difficulties with adoption since physical limitations might come into consideration when adoption agencies decide on whether a client is suitable for adopting a child, but I do also believe that God will always provide opportunities for individuals to get to where He plans.  If a person with a physical limitation is called to be a parent, God will lead him/her to that and provide ways for that individual to be a parent.  We do not always get what we want I realize.  I know that individuals with physical disabilities most likely did not want to have a physical limitation.  Things will work out though.  I think that when we look back on life, we will see that life worked out in the best way for us.  I think that Matthew will look back and see that maybe he did not want to be in that accident and become paralyzed, but at the end of his life he will be happy for how it turned out.  He will find that he was happy.  He married someone who accepted him for all of him and greatly loved him.  (Side note: I think that his story also is hopeful because it means that it is possible for someone disabled to find love.  It is possible for him/her to be loved even though there is a limitation.  Limitations do not prevent anyone from love.  I think that many disabled individuals believe they will always be alone and that there is not hope for love, but Awakening is an example of how love transcends anything physical.)  Matthew also will be happy because he is father to two sons.  Even though one son has passed away, I think that Matthew will still always be grateful that he could have known William for even that short amount of time.  I think the relationship that we form are ultimately what we will determine how we judge the quality of our lives.  Matthew demonstrated great relationships to his family, to all the friends he gained through his journey, and also to all those he has and will help.  According to me, I think he has already lived a magnificent life that is worth living over and over again

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Yoga From The Inside Out (Chapters 7 & 8)

As usual, many of the author's writings spoke to me.  One particular thing included her thoughts on  the importance of "good company."  I believe I had found "good company" in our yoga class.  Even though we did not choose who would be in the class, I would choose the same students and professor for our class.  Does this mean it is my kula?  Each individual in our class has been super supportive and encouraging whether in class or through the blog, so the class feels like a safe haven.  I love how Dr. Schultz compliments us whenever we have improved and at the same will give us constructive criticism in a gentle manner.  I also love how students in the class help each other out and will compliment each others' progress.  I love this environment in which students are not competing with each other but instead only want to see classmates succeed and become more confident in their abilities.  Because of the loving community I have found in this yoga class, I have become more comfortable telling little bits of my struggles to the class.  I am not yet comfortable divulging everything, but little steps are still something.

Another aspect of these chapters that interested me was the author's statement about how practicing yoga and negative thoughts could not coincide.  If individuals want to truly practice yoga, they must also cultivate positive thoughts and become more comfortable with their bodies.  I am still at the point that I am negative about my abilities and unsure about how well I can execute the yoga poses, but I want to overcome those negative thoughts at some point. I desire to become perfect in as many aspects as possible, but the author makes a great point that God does not want us to be perfect.  God accepts us no matter who we are or what we have done.  He wants us to come to Him as we are and know that we are not perfect but that God is greater than we are.  He can love us as humans - as fallen individuals.  I am slowly accepting that I do not need to be perfect but instead only need to accept who I am and embrace all of me.

I wonder about all my reasons for deciding to practice yoga and desiring to continue as long as I can.  I have noticed that my body feels better, stronger in some aspects.  I love how yoga encourages practice and continued growth because nobody will ever be perfect at everything in yoga.  One of my strengths according to the Strengths Finder test is that I am a learner; therefore, I love how there are so many yoga poses and poses can always be altered.  Individuals can always learn new ways to do poses and better those methods.  Practicing yoga has also been very fun and mentally/emotionally helpful.  Yoga is definitely my favorite class of the semester for how much it relaxes me and helps me in altering my perception of life.  I have not completely changed how I think, but the seeds have been planted.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Yoga From The Inside Out (Chapters 5 & 6)

These two chapters of the book really impacted me today.  It could be because I had a bad day yesterday, and the reasons stemmed from things that the author was addressing in these chapters.  Maybe I have always had trouble with my self-image, with accepting the good in me.

These past two months I have had a really tough time seeing the good in me, seeing what I have to offer the world.  All my friends keep telling me to stay positive and that I have alot to offer, but I just cannot seem to accept their view of me.  I see what the author says about Christianity teaching that humans have original sin and are fallen, but I do not think that necessarily is the reason people have a difficult time seeing the good in themselves.  I think that this song really illustrates the view of Christianity in that Christ came to save us.  We are definitely more than what we do.  Christ will still love us no matter what mistakes we make.  I think that is the true message of Christianity, so knowing that we are fallen should not mean that we only see the negative.  Instead, we should see what God has given us and what He sees in us.

From my experience, poor self-image comes from society - what the media portrays of individuals as the ideal.  In addition, poor self-image might also come from personal experiences like being teased or being rejected.  I believe that it is ok at times to doubt yourself in those cases because it is your first instinct, but individuals should not dwell in those insecurities.  I say all this knowing that I am dealing with these insecurities.  I say all of it in hopes that what I am saying is true, that eventually everyone can overcome these insecurities and be confident in themselves, to see the good in them.

I completely agree with the author when she writes that we must open our hearts and suffer before we can be truly compassionate.  Last semester my friend was going through a really tough experience.  I had no idea how it felt for her; I could just tell her encouraging words that seemed pretty generic.  This year I have had to go through the same pain that she went through.  She has been there for me through all of this, telling me things that really do apply.  She knows how I'm feeling and what I need.  Now I know what it was like for her, so now I can be truly compassionate to anyone else who has to go through the same kind of pain.

I am still dealing with this pain.  The author writes that we must face suffering with an open heart.  That we cannot receive grace until we have that broken heart that only God can heal.  I have been praying and begging God to heal me.  All of me just wants this pain to go away, but I know that sometimes God gives you things to make you stronger.  Being in pain is just part of the process.  God has been my rock through all of this.  He has blessed me so much especially in the past 2 months.  I can see how I am receiving grace with this broken heart that only He can fix.  I have realized over the past 2 months that I need to turn to God because He knows best for me and will always take care of me.

Love and Hate Relationship with Inversions

I am so glad that we will be practicing inversions at every class.  I definitely need more work on these and would definitely benefit from corrections.  Practicing inversions at home have proved fruitful.  I am using the wall in my living room rather than in my room since I do not want my neighbors to hear thudding as I kick up onto the wall.

Headstands have become easier in two aspects.  1) I can kick myself up alot easier now.  That makes me more confident in my abilities.  One thing I discovered that helps me get into headstand is being a few inches from the wall, so I won't automatically fall back if I kick off too hard.  Usually pushing too hard when I'm a few inches from the wall is ok because my butt will just rest on the wall.  2) I do not need to rest my feet on the wall anymore.  I can be completely off the wall for a few minutes now.

Shoulderstands are probably the easiest out of the three for me.  However, I still need to work on getting my back more straight.  I feel like my back is pretty curved in shoulderstand.  I think my goal should be to get my hands as high up my back as possible.

Handstands are definitely my least favorite type of inversion.  I just cannot seem to get up the wall.  I still have reservations on whether I can support myself.  Walking up the wall is still hard for me, so I do not know if I can do a full handstand.  That is something I really need to work on.