All posts by valeriemoselle

We did it! 28 Days!

Tonight was the final meeting, and the end of the 28th and final day of cleansing as a participant in Nourish’s Spring Cleanse. It was fun and inspiring to listen to the hurdles and successes of others in the group. It reminded me how elemental eating is. It also reminded me how eating is one of the things that brings us closer together in the most obvious ways, such as when we sit down to a meal with friends or family. Or when we make choices about the food that we share with our friends and family when we’re hosting a dinner party or filling the family refrigerator with healthy options for everyone. What we don’t often do is come together as a group to casually discuss our experience with food. I found this part of the cleanse process affirming, encouraging, and enriching.

I’m prone to taking issues around healthy dietary choices to the extreme; My husband might call me a food Nazi, insisting on the benefits of this and that, being particular about where we eat dinner out, and insisting my children finish their vegetables. But I also love an indulgence here or there (probably more here than there!) In my opinion the way we eat makes a strong statement about how we feel about ourselves and our precious, oh-so-temporary life. Those of us with a choice (how fortunate we are) are making a statement about how we feel about ourselves, not just physically but psychologically, and in some cases spiritually, every time we take a bite. When we choose to put all of those strange and delicious substances into our mouths we are choosing based on hunger, but also from a place of emotion, desire, and self-esteem, as reward or punishment, out of fatigue or convenience, with mindfulness or without. If our inside and our outside experiences are indeed related, then it would follow that when we choose to take an active role in taking care of our insides with something so foundational as how we eat , our outlook on the world around us will change inevitably. Being a part of a group willing to and interested in exploring the possibility of making such a shift —in some cases a dramatic shift—was absolutely inspiring.

I send thanks to the others in the group who shared their questions and stories with us tonight. Also, thank you Jocelyn for sharing your insight, knowledge, and wisdom. And finally, thanks for reading!

Valerie Moselle

The Final 4 (Days Cleansing)

Well, I’m down to the last few days. I have to say, I feel pretty great. I’m sleeping better (except when the kids wake me up), I’m down a few pounds, my energy is great, and I don’t miss tea. I don’t know how I could possibly not miss tea, but I just don’t. It will be nice to be able to have an espresso every now and again, and to enjoy a cup of tea here and there, but I have no intention of going back to my habit. I feel liberated. It’s nice not to be a slave to caffeine anymore. Also, I’ve replaced that habit with fresh ginger, lemon, and cayenne in hot water with a touch of Agave syrup. So now, when I’m enjoying my hot beverage, I also know I’m supporting my circulation and decreasing inflammation —tending to my various aches and pains. Not that I wasn’t conscious of nutrition and my diet before, it’s just nice to feel like all my food and beverage is…for the absolute lack of a better word….Nourishing me.

I feel like I made it gracefully through all the little humps and hurdles. Today I was at a pizza and cake birthday party for a 3-year-old friend in a park. I had to scramble out of the house in a hurry without much thought as to what I’d eat for lunch. I packed a paleobar (allowed) in my purse in case there was nothing I could eat. I remembered there had been veggies and hummus last year, and thought that would be fine. There was no hummus, which would have been nice; but I ate big plate of salad —sadly I had to skip the dressing because it had gorgonzola— and my bar. I felt plenty satisfied. I’m not saying the pizza didn’t smell incredible…because it did…but not indulging in it felt fine too. There is something about having committed to cleansing that makes all those moments of choice making easier. Eating pizza or cake just wasn’t an option today. I think I might not be so easily satisfied next week.

I’m looking forward to thinking about what I want my diet to look like over the coming months. I really liked the 4-5 small meals rhythm. It felt much more natural than my usual 3 squares and a snack around 3PM…maybe because my snack no longer included a daily indulging in dark chocolate and a cup of black tea, so that just feels better anyway. (Believe me, I have nothing against chocolate. I love it too much!) I’m also interested in reducing wheat and dairy on a more regular basis. I eat mostly whole grains, with the exception of pasta and the occasional french bread with soup or pizza on occasion. I would like to do more research on the more subtle effects of wheat, gluten, and dairy. Research has been coming out on wheat’s inflammatory effects on the joints for example. I’m curious if the studies looked at whole grains vs. refined, etc… I have never been particularly sensitive to any of them, and don’t suffer from any allergies or other sensitivities. Though I haven’t missed wheat, I can’t say I’ve felt much different off of it on the cleanse either. It will be interesting to pow wow with Jocelyn on these subjects Wednesday night: Our final meeting and the last day of the our detox!

Valerie Moselle

Some Info on the Supplements

I am an alternatively inspired skeptic of alternative medicine.  I believe in all sorts of ‘out there’ kinds of things.  I speak of chakras, believe in ghosts, buy organic, and set intentions with a capital ‘I’.  The psycho-spiritual, bio-energetic teachings of yoga are right up my alley.  I used to work in a vegetarian restaurant behind a juice bar and touted the benefits of wheat grass, spirulina, and bee pollen.  I’ve been vegan, vegetarian, and raw.  I’ve fasted, enema-ed and I’ve peeled.

I birthed my babies at home and have stood on my soapbox and preached natural childbirth to anyone who will listen.  At first I was inspired by Western Medicine’s seeming insistence on invading my body with drugs, appalled by staggering C-Section rates.  Later I became  absolutely armed with every evidence-based reason to avoid most things medical around birth (given an healthy pregnancy) and this feels better.  You can see my leanings.

I also feel that we (humans) tend towards adolescence in many things.  We are bright, forward-thinking, creative, beings who are also easily fooled, sloppy, indulgent, and self-centered if given the slightest chance.  I have been on earth long enough now to have watched alternative fads come and go.  I have been one of those who jump on the bandwagon of things recommended by friends who’ve seen ‘results’, only to feel like a fool later.  Now, in my dawning middle age, I am an ever more sophisticated fan of science.  Especially when science supports my leanings.  And I’m no longer willing,  to believe every little study.  These days I’m a skeptic, and I want to see peer reviews analyzed by an expert representing an organization I trust.  You see, I have never been taught to read studies (few have), so I know I need someone to interpret results for me.

I’m tired of being convinced I’m not ‘whole’ or ‘healthy’ by a supplement industry that is now largely owned by pharmaceutical companies.  And I’m not interested in spending my money on the illusion of  ‘wellness’.  I thoroughly enjoyed Ben Goldachere’s book Bad Science.  It’s a touch extreme, but a great read if you appreciate a little sarcasm.  I’m telling you all this so you can get an idea about the healthy skepticism I hold for many things alternative these days.  I know science isn’t perfectly unbiased nor accurate, and I know in general, almost always, ‘more studies need to be done’ about almost everything ‘alternative’.  But as far as I can tell, it’s the best thing we have from which to make decisions.  Especially about what to put in our bodies, and what to avoid.  I tested Jocelyn a lot during my first consultation with her.  I wanted to know that she hadn’t been hoodwinked by the snake-oil salespeople.   And, probably much to her annoyance, I am always asking about the science behind what she’s recommending.

I thought you might appreciate this video about the supplement company that Jocelyn carries at Nourish.  They are the makers of the shakes and pills that have been supporting my poor old liver in this detoxification.  They made the video, so I am not presenting you with an unbiased look at the company by any means.  But I’m optimistic.  I’m happy enough to leave the tough questions to Jocelyn. I know she does her homework.

Valerie Moselle

The Last 10 Days

I have been amazed and impressed at how ‘gentle’ (to use Jocelyn’s word) this cleanse has been.  It has been easy to follow, and with the shakes my daily eating routines have been simplified.  There are, of course, those moments when everyone I’m with wants to go out to eat and I have restrictions, or when I go over to someone’s house for dinner.  Yesterday was the first day I found myself counting down to the last day; and the reason is that I’m starting to enjoy the shakes less.  I’m going to write Jocelyn for suggestions (she encourages contact by email or phone whenever we feel the need, which is a nice service to offer on her part).  For me the thing that’s getting to me is the sweet.  They’re not all that sweet, but they’re mildly sweet, and twice a day.  I’m starting to get the feeling I used to get when I worked at the cookie shop in College.  I stopped wanting to eat cookies.  At all.  Actually, going into the shake (when I’m hungry) feels OK.  But afterwords I’m left feeling a little sweeted out.

I’ll keep you posted.

Valerie Moselle

More than 1/2 Way Through

Cleansing away…I am.  I’m more than 1/2 way through now.  My body seems to have stabilized on the shakes, with a little dietary adjusting from Jocelyn resulting in less general gas.  I was just starting to get into the rhythm of things when I came down with a little GI virus.  It seems to be passing relatively quickly.  But I’ve been feeling pretty crummy the last couple of days.

Some of the others on the cleanse are clients of Jocelyn’s with weight loss as one of their overall nutritional goals.  I started the cleanse at a comfortable weight for me.  So weight loss has not been one of my personal goals, but I thought you might be interested to know it seems like I’ve been losing about 1-2 lbs. per week.  During my consultation with Jocelyn this week we talked about what my caloric intake should be with regards to my particular nutritional needs, level of physical activity, and goals with regard to weight (which are to maintain).  She prescribed the number of calories I should eating in each of my 4-5 small meals/day and it seems in that first week or two of cleansing I was probably under-eating.   That sounds great, because I haven’t been feeling hungry, or like I’m missing out on the foods I love.  But I’m happy to eat more too!  Probably just cutting out the ‘discretionary’ eating I was doing was enough to lower my calorie intake to weight loss levels.  (Eating out of boredom, feeling munchy, after dinner snacking, chocolate…etc…).   And…honestly, I’m happy to let go of a few of those pounds.

As I mentioned in previous posts, the types of food choices I’m making on the cleanse don’t feel that restrictive to me.  I eat a lot of whole grains, meals without bread, cheese or red meat, tons of vegetables, alternatives to sugar, and I restrict alcohol in my diet anyway.  So for me the process of letting go of a different way of eating hasn’t been so dramatic.  I’m not the best example compared to someone who has maintained a very different way of eating.  Shifting to the shakes as meal replacements has been challenging though.  Not because the shakes are gross, or I’m not feeling full or good after I  drink them.  But more because it just feels weird to survive on foods that come in powder form out of plastic tubs.  I am aware of the purpose of them and their role in supporting my body in the cleanse, but they’re sweet enough, and of a texture and flavor (I chose Vanilla and Chocolate…Berry is also available) that psychologically makes me feel like I’m not doing the best thing for my body.

You could surely survive on these things —balanced nutrition in a cup.  They have adequate proportions of protein, carbohydrates, and fat plus omegas-3s, greens, and fiber, as well as the herbs, amino acids, and other complexes that support liver function.  Along with a multivitamin I’m guessing one’s body could function quite happily on little else.  But I have to say, there is something about preparing wholesome food for yourself, and sitting down to savor it that makes me feel happy.  I am blessed to live in a place where I have access to  a variety of organic, mostly local, mostly unprocessed, usually fresh, whole foods.  (I spend a fair amount of money on groceries for this privilege).  These foods look and taste like they came directly and recently from the earth.  They have all the flavors, colors, and textures of nourishment.  And though I still get to eat them twice a day now, I can’t wait until I can let go of the scientific concoctions in my blender, and get back to those other glorious meals.

Valerie Moselle

Cruising Right Along…No Caffeine!

Today is day 8 of the 28 day Cleanse I’ve been doing under the very impressive tutelage of Jocelyn.  Boy, does she know her stuff.  I made it through the first week with very little discomfort.  I haven’t really been missing the sugar or the wheat.  Which is surprising because, though I know it doesn’t make me feel great my very favorite food is probably a pastry…any really good buttery pastry.  I don’t eat them very often, but I would eat them several times a day if I could without any repercussions.

I can’t believe I waited until the second paragraph to brag that I am off caffeine.  The slow weaning was painless after that first day, and yesterday was my first day with 0 caffeine, probably since I was pregnant with my first baby 6 years ago.  (I had a cup of tea each day with my second pregnancy…less paranoid, I guess).  I have to say it feels good.  I even contemplated continuing without the caffeine after the cleanse…which did not sound interesting to me a week ago!  My energy is fine, and I’m not even missing the ritual.  Of course, it’s been replaced with another one.  Tubs of powders to mix together with water or alternative milks into a thick, off greenish sludge resembling a shake.  Twice a day.  They’re a little bit salty and a little bit sweet.  Quite filling.  Satisfying even.  I like eating food better.

One more thing:  I have gas.  It must be the shakes…or maybe I’m detoxing.  My house is aromatic, and my family is giggling a lot.  Sorry everybody.  I hope it resolves before my class tomorrow.  It better not be not too crowded!

Stay tuned!  Valerie Moselle

Cleansing

Cleansing…Ahhhhhhh…  All right…my cleansing diary begins.  Here we go!

I’m participating in Jocelyn’s spring cleanse.  It’s been over 5 years since I’ve been able to do something like this because I was breastfeeding up until last week!  Ha!  So I jumped on board Jocelyn’s program…knowing that if I let this train go I’d be unlikely to hop on another any time soon.  I am ever curious about nutrition and the workings of the body.  I am also a skeptic around ‘wellness lore’ that hasn’t been adequately studied, because I’m wary of the financial motivations of the wellness industry.  So I probably wouldn’t have done this kind of thing through anybody else.  Thanks Jocelyn!

I’ve made it through the weekend.  I have to say I’m making it sound a little more dramatic than it’s actually been.  My first day I ate too little, and drank too little of the 2 cups of black tea I’m extremely attached to.  I wound up with a throbbing headache and that nauseous feeling I get when I eat too little.  In the middle of the night I woke with the headache, and the realization that despite my careful listening, I had failed to follow Jocelyn’s instructions.

I usually eat 3 square meals and a snack (and sometimes dessert).  So even though I heard Jocelyn say we were to eat 4-5 small meals…she held up her hands in the shape of a small bowl…I somehow decided on that first day that she meant 3 small meals and 1-2 snacks.  So my calorie intake on day 1 must have been about 1/2 what I usually eat.  (And I’m an eater!)  I was expecting to feel bad, and I did. That night I asked myself, “why did I think this was a good idea, again?”

The second day was better.  I was more organized, ate as instructed, and allowed a little more caffeine into my tea cup.  Today (day 4) I am headache free and settling into the new rhythm easily.  I think I’m down to a little less than a full cup of tea, and headache free.  I’ll be done with caffeine by the end of our week.  In terms of food I feel satisfied, but I get hungry more often (because of smaller meal portions)…Then again, I get to eat more often.  So that’s not so bad!  I’m not really missing wheat and dairy.  I like soy milk, and I have a healthy habit of alternative grains to bread and pasta already.  I imagine those things might be harder for people who like sandwiches.

I usually drink about 20 ounces of green ‘smoothy’/ day.  I blend up greens, avacado, a little apple juice, and sometimes some fresh herbs like ginger or cilantro in my Vitamix.  Because I’m not sure where to fit that into a ‘meal’ and still keep it small-bowl-sized, I have not been getting in those extra helpings of veggies.  In that way I’m actually eating less vegetables/day than I usually do.  I’ve been feeling more secure with stick-to-the-ribs choices in my meals like beans and grains.  I’ll probably try to change that ratio some in the next weeks.

I purchased a selection of rice crackers, and gluten free breads…packaged foods I don’t usually like to buy, but going off wheat was feeling scary.  It turns out I eat a lot of grains, veggies, and legumes in my diet anyway, so I haven’t been dipping into that supply as much as I thought I would.

So far the cleanse has been (dare I say it) fun.  I’ve only been mildly uncomfortable a few times.  My energy is good, and it’s nice to focus some attention on  taking care of my body by feeding it consciously.  I mean, we eat every single day.  And though I think I’m pretty good at the internal housekeeping, I reach for food for plenty of reasons other than nutrition —reasons like boredom, addiction (to sugar and caffeine), and the ever popular stuffing of emotions!  It’s nice to give those impulses a rest for a while.

I’m not sure if I’ll keep cruising so comfortably…but I’ll keep you posted.

Please feel free to comment!  I’d love to answer any questions you might have about my experience as the days tick on…

Valerie Moselle

Sexual Misconduct Among Yoga Teachers

Posted by Valerie Moselle

I was just reading this week’s article in the GoodTimes Santa Cruz titled Yogis Behaving Badly.  The article is written on the subject of yoga teachers and the specter of sexual harassment that has been known to loom in the shadows of the yoga world between teacher and student, guru and disciple.  The article points out the tenderness of the relationship between a student and  his or her teacher, and how that vulnerability can be, and has been, abused.

Certainly, becoming a successful and inspiring yoga teacher should go hand-in-hand with adhering to the moral foundational principals of yoga (the yamas and niyamas).   But it doesn’t always work out that way.  Yoga teachers are human, tempted by all the same urges as everyone else.  Fear of retribution from an almighty and judgmental God did not make Catholic priests impervious to molesting little boys.  There is no reason to think that all yoga teachers would be immune to the same impulses, especially when worshiped themselves by a roomful of women in spandex routinely in the process of opening up –physically, emotionally, and one would hope, spiritually.

It was obvious to me, as I got deeper into the writing, that one of the author’s purposes in broaching the topic of abuse by yoga teachers was to publicly air the events that brought one of our own local teachers under criminal investigation for the alleged rape of one student, and the sexual harassment of two others.  As far as I know, those claims are still being investigated by the Santa Cruz Police Department.

On one hand I appreciated the explicit (and anonymous, as the names of the victims had been changed) descriptions of what actually happened to these women.  These women felt that they had been violated, and they were willing to reveal the actions that made them feel this way.  For a woman who might be feeling weird or unsure about a suspect interaction with a yoga teacher, reading the description of another woman’s experience might help clarify her reaction.  Women, especially with a history of sexual abuse (1 in 3) sometimes get confused.  Some feel they should give the benefit of the doubt to the abuser, and that they must be misinterpreting the event.  A common pattern is to feel they deserved or even invited the abuse.  And then there is just plain old shame and embarrassment.  To read another woman’s account of harassment spelled out for all to see could (and should) give women courage to confront their own experiences, so that they can make appropriate choices around processing and healing the trauma.

On the other hand this article has caused me a fair amount of discomfort since I first read it the other day.  I’ve been chewing on the ‘facts’ I know about our local situation, as they have been revealed to me over time.  I have no personal history with the accused, but am aware of the scandals under which he left my former professional stomping grounds.  I have heard the rumors that have been floating around the yoga community for years, and have internalized the ‘inside scoops’ from people closer to the source of the ‘troubles’ than I am.  None of this is conclusive evidence of wrongdoing, which is why under the umbrella of news organizations, or even the umbrella of Nourish  the dirty laundry cannot be completely hung out to dry.  We won’t name names, we can’t speak openly about what may have happened, to whom, and because of whom.  But by now I am skeptical enough to steer clear of any involvement with the accused.  It’s frustrating that in most cases of this nature the ‘real’ story is never allowed to come out.  These accusations seem to always exist in the realm of rumor and gossip.  I have to say, though it was nice to finally see at least something in print, it’s frustrating that an article inspired by local events had to be so….generalized.

When we are restricted from talking about rape, sexual harassment, or any other kind of violence the offender is protected, not the victim.  I understand that until someone is convicted of a crime that it violates that person’s rights to speak about them as if they were guilty.  The mechanism for protecting the innocent-wrongly-accused has an important role in our justice system, obviously.  I believe in due process, etc… However, in cases like this I find it unfortunate that a potential threat to women is left vague and yet sensationalized.  Without specifics, we keep the issue at arm’s length, as if it has nothing to do with us.   Or worse, the uninformed assume the yoga world is rife with such problems and allow the fear instilled by the media to color their impression of yoga altogether.

As Judith Lasater so profoundly expressed in the GoodTimes article, this problem is not going to get better when someone gets put behind bars.  This issue won’t get better in any facet of our society until women refuse to be victimized, first by the offender and then later by feeling ashamed to raise her voice about it.  That’s a tall order.  (I know the former statement will have a lot of victims of violence perking up, so give me a moment to elaborate).

A quote came to me through one of my own teachers, Colette Crawford.  It is an ‘ancient Chinese saying’, one of those that has no source that I’ve been able to find.  Please correct me if I’ve got it wrong, or if you know something about it’s origins that I don’t.  It goes like this:

“Mountains will move, wars will cease, when women wake up.”

I’m not saying that we can necessarily end rape and sexual harassment.  With things as they are we have no control of what another brings to the relationship we have with them, whether that is the relationship with a friend,  a date, a teacher, a family member, or stranger on a dark street.  What we do have is the ability to overcome shame, heal, refuse silence, and raise awareness with the purpose of creating an environment where inappropriate sexual advances are never tolerated in any way by anybody.  Ms. Lasater’s fantasy about a woman standing up in the middle of class to announce an indiscretion, and then asking for solidarity in a boycott of the class is now my fantasy too.  My greatest disappointment is the gossipy nature of these discussions, when they come up.  Oh, and the fact that this teacher is still teaching.

My first thought was that there should be an organization for yoga teachers through which complaints can be filed and investigated.  That way, even if there are no prosecutions, at least there is a record of complaints.  You see, there very well may not have been a crime committed here.  Making passes at women, after all, is not illegal (except in the workplace).  But I think we can all agree that yoga teachers should not be making passes at students, any more than college professors, police officers, or therapists should be.  If there were some way to log a complaint, Yogis could be left to make their own judgments about teachers.  They would have a place to go to to look for red flags, or to place a warning for future students.

Then I realized that no governing body can protect us from these teachers, both few and far between, by-the-way.   It’s up to us to refuse to be taken advantage of.  Though I understand the purpose of the article, and the assumptions we have been guided to make.  Though I appreciate the interview with Judith Lasater, and the efforts to give voice to this serious issue–we will not see the end of this, as Ms. Lasater points out, until we, as a community start talking out loud.  We know this is happening.  It’s fine to name names and issue warnings.

My own mother was annoyingly over-protective when I was a kid.  She was constantly reminding me of self-defense techniques, talking with me about abuse and what to do if I feel unsafe with someone.  It was one of my least favorite things about being her child.  “Maaaawwwwwwwmmmm.  Cheeeeeeeez.”  But in my early 20s when I found myself suddenly in a violent situation with a boyfriend of two years, I knew what to do.  I got the hell out of there and pressed charges.  Not because I was angry and wanted to get back at him.  But because I didn’t want anyone else to get hurt.  I knew that whatever the outcome of his proceedings that he would have a blemish on his record reflecting what happened to me.  I knew, even then, that that blemish might in some direct or indirect way, protect another woman from escalating harm.

This is one case where I think we should speak up, even if it feels like gossip.  If you are experiencing, or know someone who is experiencing problems with a yoga teacher, (or anyone else for that matter) you owe it to yourself, and all women everywhere to talk about it.  Share it with your friends, a counselor, or a help line.  Share other incidents in your life that have made you uncomfortable.  Heal your own experiences by bringing them into the light and asking those that you love and who love you to take a look at them, even if it’s the last thing you want to do.

As a student of yoga, tell your fellow yoginis when a teacher crosses the line and disappoints your sense of morality, and by all means stop going to see that teacher.   Share with your fellow practitioners the teachers with whom you feel safe and respected.  As well as the names of the studios in which you feel supported.  The word ‘guru’ refers to a teacher that brings a student from the darkness of ignorance into the light of understanding.  In speaking about this problem out loud, we become gurus by bringing this uncomfortable subject out of the dark closet in which it has lurked, and into the light of our collective awareness.

It is unfortunate that we have to keep our wiles about us as we venture into the yoga world and subject ourselves to our teachers.  But we do.   I for one, have felt relieved to have been nowhere near the teacher that shall remain unnamed in this post, or the studio that supported him despite multiple complaints.  Instead I remain grateful that I am in the fold of an organization that puts the health and well-being of it’s clientele at the forefront of it’s mission (thank you Nourish) and to be teaching among teachers I would recommend to absolutely anyone who asked, male or female, regardless of their history.   Finally, I am grateful to be able to sit with my boss and fellow teacher, Victor, and discuss this serious issue together.  He and Jocelyn have brought this issue out into the light of Nourish by discussing it openly in meetings, and have asked us to share our feelings and insights about it with our students, and anyone who will listen.  Their message is clear.  Sexual misconduct among yoga teachers should not, under any circumstances, be tolerated.  “We want people to know that Nourish is a safe place to practice yoga.”

Chakras

I found myself teaching  mula bandha, the root lock, in class a few weeks ago.   (It hadn’t really been a part of the plan that day.  It just sort of spontaneously emerged.)  I allowed myself to give some very specific physical instructions, which I don’t usually do.  You see, There are some schools of yoga that believe we shouldn’t teach the bandhas or ‘locks’ in the body.  The idea is that as one progresses in the asana practice the bandhas happen automatically, without one having to think about it.  Teaching the bandhas is at best unnecessary, and at worst confusing.   Because of this, I have resisted little more than a mention of  the locks  in an effort to remain true to  my own teachers, especially when I’ve felt I didn’t yet have enough information or experience to warrant making those choices on my own.  Lately I’ve been a little more…well…experimental.

What happened that day was that the class evolved to include the principles  of  muladhara chakra; and we continued work with the root chakra for the remainder of the week.   The following week we focused on the second chakra, and we’ve been climbing up the spine ever since.

A couple of weeks ago, when it became time to move on to vishuddha chakra, the energy center located at the throat,  something changed in me.  In the previous weeks leading up to the heart chakra I was feeling inspired, directed, and clear about what to bring into my chakra classes.  I had been looking forward to the classes, and even wished I had more time to delve more deeply into this work.   But this particular week, when I began thinking about vishuddha, I hit a wall.

The feelings that came up for me were not blaring and loud, in fact it took me a while to notice them.  But they were powerful.  When I thought about teaching, I felt lethargic and bored, as if the sound of my own voice was becoming tiresome…bla, bla, bla.  I was also experiencing a mild sense of dread at the idea of getting ready to teach.  I started to have the ‘Monday Blues’.  And found myself approaching my week with a ‘just make it to Friday’ kind of attitude’.   The feelings were so mild, that I could have easily dismissed them.  But I took notice, and went about preparing to teach about the energetic wheel at the throat anyway.

Later it occurred to me that until that week, I had been teaching about concepts I understood relatively well.  I have infinite work to do in my own practice; and by no means do I see myself as an expert in the subtle energies of the body.  However, up until the 5th chakra I was confident in my philosophical knowledge and experiential understanding.  I had what I felt was more than enough fodder to bring to a few hours of teaching on the subjects.  But the throat chakra...

I see myself knee deep in the mud of vishuddha. My everyday efforts as a teacher, a mother, a wife, a woman, and a human are centered in exploring my voice, living my truth, sharing and moving toward my dreams, trusting in our interconnectedness, and channeling the energy of a passionate heart for the good of my family —and ultimately all beings.  This is my daily work —the very seat of my triumphs and failures.  These are my challenges.  This energetic center is where it gets sticky interesting for me.

Caroline Shola Arewa, the author of Opening to Spirit,  explains, “when energy is allowed to remain in the lower chakras, limitation continues.  The beautiful body temple becomes a prison and we cannot see beyond earthly reality.  As energy ascends through the heart into the throat, our horizons broaden.  Our sense of awe and wonder increases, our path in life is illuminated and our direction becomes clear.”  When I read these words, I feel like she is describing my process.  However, I feel like a babe in the woods, at the very, very beginning of this opening.  Looking up towards the sun through the trees and blinking the sleep out of my eyes.  This is my chakra.

Aaahaaa.  The source of my resistance.  My disinterest.  The doldrums of my spiritual ascension.  I am stalled out!  And then I Remembered (with a capital ‘R’):  Slow down, go in, dig deeper.  Because it’s all in there.  This I really do believe.  The answers are inside of us.  We are whole.  And we are wholly connected to every being that came before.  Even, perhaps especially, the ones who spent their lives sitting in caves contemplating the nature of the universe, mapping the chakras and the nadis, practicing coming into full being-ness.  All this comes from within.

Wednesday morning we slowed down.  I knew it was the right thing.  We began class with three oms, we breathed, we held, we focused, we rested, and we ended with om.  Dear students, I’m not sure what your experience was, but the chanting of om at the end of that class was ethereal (get it? throat chakra?  Ether?).  It was as if we were all vibrating together, like tuning forks resonating to the waves of energy enveloping us.  I can’t know how it was for you, but my own experience was of deep peace and complete wonder at the very extraordinary, almost visible energy in the room.  A palpable sense of connectedness, and a delicious,  deep, lingering shift seemed to be present in all of us.  For me, it was one of those magical moments upon which years of practice and a renewed desire to share yoga can rest.  Another layer fell away.  Inspiration.

The purpose of this post?  It doesn’t really matter what is known, practiced, taught, thought about, learned.  Slow down and bring awareness into your body.  Tune into the sensations there, and all the other things that drift into your awareness.  Allow all thoughts, feelings, and sensations to have relevance.  Let nothing go unnoticed, and the nature of that which is within, the fabric that holds us together: bone, fiber, blood, breath, space, light, light, light…. becomes known.  That knowing, sometimes fleeting, sometimes brief, is…Radiant (with a capital ‘R’).

Keep with the practice.  Practice is good.

In Gratitude, Valerie