Friday, April 27, 2007

Coincidence or Fate?

There are 315 of us trainees. Among the multitude, I found a friend--who turned out to be Frank's student! Her name is Wancy. Then I practiced beside another of his students this morning--Natalie from White Rock? She in turn introduced me to two other students of his--Elena and Gena. OhmyGod, Frank, you brought us together.

Back from the book signing. What a circus. Waited for 4 hours. It's a good thing I had the good sense to eat beforehand--but not eat right: tomato florentine (with cheese-filled ravioli) soup, my beloved chai soy latté and a triple chocolate cookie. OhmyGoddelicious cookie, but I think it proved too much; that and 300+ people= headache. But finally got my books signed (might sell/give one away), my postcards sent, my (Aloha) sushi wish fulfilled, my chocolate & chai latté cravings fulfilled, my david+goliath fixation satisfied, and my Shirokiya curiosity appeased, which was also steps away from the Apple store, so that hit two birds with one stone! Even found the exact copy of Bhagavad Gita I was looking for! Now I am dreaming about a Tokidoki Le Sport Sac bag, but $$$$. Aiiyayay. Maybe for my birthday? Eek. But seriously, I think I should explore the mall beyond Barnes and Noble, haha, aside from a lunch with a family friend on Sunday, and the study session on Saturday for the Anatomy test on Monday.

Looking forward to the weekend!

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Training: Weeks One and Two, So Far.

I have only taken a few pictures so far, but you can check them at this site:

The first 2 days, I was quite homesick, but after talking to the staff teacher Kyoko, it felt good to get it out. Now, even with laundry-both washing (machines on every floor but a bit $) AND drying, food prep/management, living with a stranger, and what-have-you, or maybe moreso because of them, I'm getting better at keeping home away from my mind. It comes every now and then of course, but at this point, I think I can handle it.

Attire in Hawaii, as an FYI, is pretty casual. Long-sleeved polos are pretty rare, if seen at all; jeans are ok (Craig wears 'em), but Bikram says he hates them besides anything green 'coz they remind him of filthy American hippies. Outside, I still see people wearing jeans, and short-sleeved polos (more or Hawaiiana floral shirts); shorts and shirts are cool, too. And Crocs are like the biggest thing here, ohmyGOD everyone's wearing them, I kid you not.

Roomie and I were off to a bit of a cold-war start. We keep to our own respective space, even while in a bed together (king-sized; pillow-wall in between), and we're both neat and conscientious (I think), but there's that feeling of awkwardness and trying-not-to-step-on-each-other's-toes, you know? But lately, things have been looking up. And I hope that trend continues--in posture clinic and with my roomie, especially.

There's also been a sale here of Bikram merchandise, care of Barbara. She's nice, and we've become a bit close, wahaha. I call her Miss Barbara (Filipino sense of propriety?), and that endeared me to her.

Let's see: We had our first 1 yoga class with Bikram on April 16 in the evening. Most of us, myself included, dropped like flies. I swear. I soon realized I have to have a little sugar/fiber/healthy carb in my system before I go to class, preferably about half a banana an hour before. The next day April 17, class with Bikram again in the afternoon (morning class with Rajashree canceled because of a maintenance issue). April 18-25 we have been having doubles. The first morning with Rajashree, I ignored a twinge in my left ankle when I did toe stand. That night, in Bikram's class, it manifested itself starting with awkward pose, then garurasana, dandayamana janushirasana, and dandayamana dhanurasana. The next day, my other ankle started hurting as well. Tiger Balm has become my best friend, plus the clove smell does make me happy, too. Asked Luke about it, and he said just to do the postures as correctly and as much as I can, and what do you know, he's right, I'm getting better, slowly.

We've had Antonia, Craig, Bikram, Rajashree, Luke and Emmy as teachers so far. Antonia I didn't get much energy from, plus it seemed she was just throwing her voice out. Craig teaches a truly tough class. Bikram is a one-man show: an awesome guy so far. Rajashree's mystic healing love personified. Luke is surfer-cool, and then without us knowing it, is already pushing us to our limits. And Emmy is...Emmy is classy, elegant, gentle, but firm, the proverbial iron will within a silk glove. She's so cool.

As for posture clinic, it helped to see others going with similar issues I've been having. I finally plucked up the courage and delivered mine last Friday. Ever since I introduced myself, Bikram has commended me on my English and for posture clinic, he said it again. "You sure you not born here?" or something like that. I've made some friends, as well. It's the 2nd week, so that may change, but I am grateful to some who were open enough to practice the dialog with me. Plus seeing people recite it and reciting it with them from the back, eventually doing so from memory, as Craig told us to do (aside from doing it with bodies in sight and mind), as well as the if-they-can-do-it-so-can-I mentality helped a lot. I think I did pretty well. But thank God that's done; now to practice Pada-Hastasana and Backward Bend. With Ardha Chandrasana over and done with yesterday, postcards done, and this post underway, then laundry, dishes, food and sleep management and dealing with all kinds of people daily issues, I think I can finally move on to daily Anatomy review and Dialog momorization. Gotta do it soon! Book signing for Bikram's new book tonight, which means earlier night for us and more time to do stuff. I have every intent to use it. So signing off for now!

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Hawai'i Day 4, pre-Bikram

This is my first post from Hawai'i. The past days I've just been up at crazy hours, sleeping in the wee hours of the morning and waking up at the middle of the day. Yesterday and the day before that, however, I went on tours of the island and city, and watched Cirque Hawaii. I couldn't take pictures while Cirque Hawaii was going on, but I did take pictures of the island, and of city landmarks.

Other than that, I also met new friends in a nearby bookstore, when I asked what the minimum wage is here (I'm trying to get a job working as a temp). R and L: They're a nice couple, retired (i.e. older), and multi-racial, which in Hawaii is nothing new, but refreshing to me, anyway. Seeing I'm a student, they bought me soup, tea, I felt I had to buy them food the next day, as well. But they're nice and helpful: they even took me to the grocery, let me use their discount card, showed me Sears, then brought me home via the bus, invariably teaching me how to ride it! We talk about the Asian language, more often than not--which takes up the whole afternoon, 'til evening. I might give them a call, see how they're doing, 'coz at this rate, I won't make it to the Bikram Yoga Class, which is kinda far away, anyway. Plus I still have to launder my clothes (and figure out how to do it). Indeed, it's different being alone--there's no one to take care of my needs, be it food (nutritious meals and NOT heavy snacks!), hygiene, laundry, even fixing the bed--housekeeping apparently won't come over unless I'm here, argh.

However, it's been a good experience so far. Like on my 2nd day, I was squinting against the sun on my way to the shopping center, and this [black] guy said, "Don't look so mean! Smile!" And when I did, he said, "That's better!" and smiled too. O_o Or yesterday, on my way (supposedly, but in the end, I didn't find it, eating at a -pricey!- Thai restaurant instead) to Coconut Café and Ruffage Natural Foods, these vegan-friendly, organic eateries, I helped this nearly-blind old man up to a bench ('coz nobody was helping him and he was struggling to get on his hands and knees a distance away, on the grass, even). Then I got a bit lost getting back to my hotel, but as my 1st tour guide said, "You can't get lost; it's an island!" And I guess he's right: I did find my way back, after all.

In a way, this is a test of my ability to be independent and self-reliant. Agh. It's hard, and I admit I tend to like staying in for the better part of the day, but I'm sure I'll learn. Along a similar vein, I have to believe in myself, have conviction, otherwise how will I be able to get others to listen to me, moreso as I've signed up to become a yoga (especially Bikram yoga) teacher?! As Baron (of Studio Ghibli's The Cat Returns) said, "Always believe in yourself. Do this and no matter where you are, you will have nothing to fear."

Thanks to the bookstore people (while I was looking for Spirited Away for a friend but watched it and ended up loving it!), I am now fascinated with Hayao Miyazaki's work! I've watched Spirited Away and The Cat Returns; now I want to watch/buy (but $$$!) Kiki's Delivery Service, Howl's Moving Castle (especially this one), Nausicäa, and Princess Mononoke (Neil Gaiman is supposedly a collaborator in this). I also want to get the soundtracks of Spirited Away and possibly Princess Mononoke. I should try to get a job first, though.

But back to quotes. The first one is from another manga/anime cross-over addiction, Bleach, as recited by Abarai Renji. The second quote was sent to me by a friend at Easter. The first one I feel is one for times when I'd be low, while the second is to remind me why I chose my path.

We! are about to head to the battlefield!
Believe our blades will not shatter.
Believe our souls will not be cut!
Even if our steps separate,
our iron will remains solid!
Promise! Even if the ground may split,
We will come back alive to this place!

-Gotei 13 chant

"If you do follow your bliss, you put yourself on a kind of track that has been there all the while, waiting for you, and the life that you ought to be living is the one you are living. When you can see that, you begin to meet people who are in your field of bliss, and they open doors to you. I say, follow your bliss and don't be afraid, and the doors will open where you didn't know they were going to be." -Joseph Campbell

Monday, April 09, 2007

This is It (Pancit)

Today's the day. I'm really leaving; no kidding. Who am I trying to convince, though: myself or the ones around me? Maybe both.

The past month, give or take, has seen me dissolve into a bundle of nerves, frayed enough this past week to have back pain, constant body cramps, loss of appetite but flatulence, nonetheless, acne, fatigue, and God knows what else--this is what I can remember. I've been so nervous, so afraid, despite being asked, "What is there to be afraid of?" and being unable to give a coherent reply. Fear's just...there, a ready companion, to warp my reasoning and judgment, to wrap its tendrils and squeeze all pleasure, all serenity out of me. I've been afraid of so many things for so long. And more often than not, I still am.

But last night, a small light of excitement has found its way, tried to beam up out of the dark knot of fear. Fear has not been quashed, but hope has found a way in. And that's always a good thing.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

A Good Good Read

"It was the last day of August -- an achingly beautiful, golden day when the air throbbed with cricket song and buzzed with dragonfly wings and smelled like ripening apples.
This was the sort of day you ought to be outside....To me, days like this one were holidays -- the word owes its origin to 'holy days', and I felt it a sacred duty to honour them. Even if it meant having to work till nine every night all the rest of the week, and both days of the weekend, on these brilliant, extraordinary days, we'd try to take an afternoon hike with Tess, or steal a few hours watching the birds at our favourite pond. Our friend David Carroll, a turtle expert, artist and author..., called this practice 'keeping an appointment with the season'. When the salamanders woke for their mass mating on the first warm rainy night in April, when the spotted turtles emerged from hibernation in March, on the moonlit nights when the wood turtles nest in June -- well, he just had to be there, no matter what."

"Blessings, all. In each case, I hadn't found what I had hoped for or expected. Instead, I'd discovered something far more exciting or profound -- an unexpected insight, a surprise gift. And that's a pretty good working definition of a blessing. So go out into the world where your heart calls you. The blessings will come, I promise you that....I wish for you the insight to recognise the blessings as such, and sometimes this is hard. But you'll know it's a blessing if you are enriched and transformed by the experience. So be ready. There are great souls and teachers everywhere. It is your job to recognise them." --pp. 223-224

"Thank you for your great soul -- for that gaze into our hearts....Thank you for for showing us your heart -- for inviting us into such a happy heart."
--p. 234

"Good, good pig. Big, good pig. Fine, fine swine. Good...good...good." --p. 183

"Christopher Hogwood knew how to relish the juicy savour of this fragrant, abundant, sweet, green world. To show us this would have been gift enough. But he showed us another truth as well. That a pig did not become bacon but lived fourteen years, pampered and adored till the day he died peacefully in his sleep -- that's proof that we need not 'be practical' all the time. We need not accept the rules that our society or species, family or fate seem to have written for us. We can choose a new way. We have the power to transform a story of sorrow into a story of healing. We can choose life over death. We can let love lead us thing I know for sure: a great soul can appear among us at any time, in the form of any creature. I'm keeping my eyes open." --p. 241

All quotes are from the book "The Good Good Pig", written by Sy Montgomery. I obviously loved the book to pieces, most probably because I am an animal lover (and a fellow vegetarian!). However, for those who aren't as animal-friendly but are open to it, maybe those who like inspirational books, I highly recommend this book. As seen from the above quotes, as much as "The Good Good Pig" calls to our animal-loving compassionate hearts, it also calls to the inner child in us, never to cease being amazed, always to find something new, to be open to greatness, whether it be in an animal, a fellow human, a holy day, and so on.

To end, I leave with another quote, from p. 183:
"Some say happiness lands lightly on
you, like a butterfly. Sometimes this is so. But sometimes happiness
comes lumbering toward you, like a fat, satisfied pig -- and then
thuds, grunting, by your side."


Wednesday, April 04, 2007

On Bleach and Bikram

Lately, I have been impossibly addicted to the anime series called Bleach. I have watched 13 episodes in 1 day out of sheer addiction. I love love love it. At the currently subbed episode which I've stopped at (because there hasn't been any more yet), Episode 120, the ending is still left hanging. I've downloaded both OVAs available for download, as well as all the music. Most people start young with anime, or at least, younger than my current age. I'm not into anime per se--not yet at least--but this particular one had me hooked from the start. And it still kinda boggles my mind why I'm so into it. I mean, I really am--even the music....I love the music, when I was never into J-Pop and would scoff at my cousin when she'd watch anime. I even loved the ending credits of the Sealed Sword Frenzy OVA, where the shinigami are in Western civilian attire, and Byakuya, in particular, came up in a horse-drawn carriage! Still oh so hot! Whut. Oh well: welcome to the club, I guess. But there has to be a hook in this somewhere; I mean, how'd I just get into it so deeply, just like that? When I think about it, though, it may have to do with the main theme of the story: the neverending battle between life and death. I like that. I remember getting so caught up in the battle to save Rukia, on the edge of my seat watching every battle. I also remember getting caught in the personal battles of Kuchiki Byakuya. I was hooked. The way I see it, Bleach reminds me that life is short, and transient, so live to my fullest, do everything I want when and while I can.

Then we come to Bikram yoga. I've only been doing it for about a year, but before Bleach came, it was my end all and be all. I wanted to live and breath it. I didn't want to think of a life without it, precisely why I desired so strongly to teach it: I also wanted others to live "fuller", healthier lives. I see walking a yogi path as self-realization. Echoing what I feel is Bleach's theme, I feel that I am so blessed to be able to follow my dream already.

As my departure for training is steadily approaching, however, I am filled with dread. I think it is also through my own fault: I've been pushed to start memorizing the dialog (particularly by T), but most particularly, build up my confidence (especially by F and seconded by H). With encouragement, I was able to practice reciting one -full- posture (Half Moon!) with F. After that, even with some helpful equipment (a mike!) at home, I've resisted, instead setting it aside in lieu of preparations like medicine, toiletries, medical insurance--things that are also important. But my Dad once said, "if preparing takes you longer to do the actual thing itself, then it's useless." Indeed that it what it has seemed to become. In truth, I am merely sidestepping from the matter at hand, which is truly to prepare to teach. I am scared shitless. Truly. This manifests physically in T, whom I "empowered" against my self to make me deathly afraid of him right now, so much so I don't even want to see him or talk to him. I hem and haw and make excuses, but that's what it boils down to. Now what to do about it. I can't make excuses forever. I can't be a perennial walking excuse. Damn me (as it's not good to damn God). It's Holy Week now, which should be a perfect time to start preparing for real, start memorizing seriously, dammit. There should be no excuses, nor is there time: I'm already leaving next week, after all.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

38 Ways

Count on Yoga: 38 Ways Yoga Keeps You Fit
By Timothy McCall, M.D.

...Western science is starting to provide some concrete clues as to how yoga works to improve health, heal aches and pains, and keep sickness at bay. Once you understand them, you'll have even more motivation to step onto your mat, and you probably won't feel so tongue-tied the next time someone wants Western proof....

Flex Time
1 Improved flexibility is one of the first and most obvious benefits of yoga. During your first class, you probably won't be able to touch your toes, never mind do a backbend. But if you stick with it, you'll notice a gradual loosening, and eventually, seemingly impossible poses will become possible. You'll also probably notice that aches and pains start to disappear. That's no coincidence. Tight hips can strain the knee joint due to improper alignment of the thigh and shinbones. Tight hamstrings can lead to a flattening of the lumbar spine, which can cause back pain. And inflexibility in muscles and connective tissue, such as fascia and ligaments, can cause poor posture.

Strength Test
2 Strong muscles do more than look good. They also protect us from conditions like arthritis and back pain, and help prevent falls in elderly people. And when you build strength through yoga, you balance it with flexibility. If you just went to the gym and lifted weights, you might build strength at the expense of flexibility.

Standing Orders
3 Your head is like a bowling ball—big, round, and heavy. When it’s balanced directly over an erect spine, it takes much less work for your neck and back muscles to support it. Move it several inches forward, however, and you start to strain those muscles. Hold up that forward-leaning bowling ball for eight or 12 hours a day and it’s no wonder you’re tired. And fatigue might not be your only problem. Poor posture can cause back, neck, and other muscle and joint problems. As you slump, your body may compensate by flattening the normal inward curves in your neck and lower back. This can cause pain and degenerative arthritis of the spine.

Joint Account
4 Each time you practice yoga, you take your joints through their full range of motion. This can help prevent degenerative arthritis or mitigate disability by "squeezing and soaking" areas of cartilage that normally aren't used. Joint cartilage is like a sponge; it receives fresh nutrients only when its fluid is squeezed out and a new supply can be soaked up. Without proper sustenance, neglected areas of cartilage can eventually wear out, exposing the underlying bone like worn-out brake pads.

Spinal Rap
5 Spinal disks—the shock absorbers between the vertebrae that can herniate and compress nerves—crave movement. That's the only way they get their nutrients. If you've got a well-balanced asana practice with plenty of backbends, forward bends, and twists, you'll help keep your disks supple.

Bone Zone
6 It's well documented that weight-bearing exercise strengthens bones and helps ward off osteoporosis. Many postures in yoga require that you lift your own weight. And some, like Downward- and Upward-Facing Dog, help strengthen the arm bones, which are particularly vulnerable to osteoporotic fractures. In an unpublished study conducted at California State University, Los Angeles, yoga practice increased bone density in the vertebrae. Yoga's ability to lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol (see Number 11) may help keep calcium in the bones.

Flow Chart
7 Yoga gets your blood flowing. More specifically, the relaxation exercises you learn in yoga can help your circulation, especially in your hands and feet. Yoga also gets more oxygen to your cells, which function better as a result. Twisting poses are thought to wring out venous blood from internal organs and allow oxygenated blood to flow in once the twist is released. Inverted poses, such as Headstand, Handstand, and Shoulderstand, encourage venous blood from the legs and pelvis to flow back to the heart, where it can be pumped to the lungs to be freshly oxygenated. This can help if you have swelling in your legs from heart or kidney problems. Yoga also boosts levels of hemoglobin and red blood cells, which carry oxygen to the tissues. And it thins the blood by making platelets less sticky and by cutting the level of clot-promoting proteins in the blood. This can lead to a decrease in heart attacks and strokes since blood clots are often the cause of these killers.

Lymph Lesson
8 When you contract and stretch muscles, move organs around, and come in and out of yoga postures, you increase the drainage of lymph (a viscous fluid rich in immune cells). This helps the lymphatic system fight infection, destroy cancerous cells, and dispose of the toxic waste products of cellular functioning.

Heart Start
9 When you regularly get your heart rate into the aerobic range, you lower your risk of heart attack and can relieve depression. While not all yoga is aerobic, if you do it vigorously or take flow or Ashtanga classes, it can boost your heart rate into the aerobic range. But even yoga exercises that don't get your heart rate up that high can improve cardiovascular conditioning. Studies have found that yoga practice lowers the resting heart rate, increases endurance, and can improve your maximum uptake of oxygen during exercise—all reflections of improved aerobic conditioning. One study found that subjects who were taught only pranayama could do more exercise with less oxygen.

Pressure Drop
10 If you've got high blood pressure, you might benefit from yoga. Two studies of people with hypertension, published in the British medical journal The Lancet, compared the effects of Savasana (Corpse Pose) with simply lying on a couch. After three months, Savasana was associated with a 26-point drop in systolic blood pressure (the top number) and a 15-point drop in diastolic blood pressure (the bottom number)—and the higher the initial blood pressure, the bigger the drop.

Worry Thwarts
11 Yoga lowers cortisol levels. If that doesn't sound like much, consider this. Normally, the adrenal glands secrete cortisol in response to an acute crisis, which temporarily boosts immune function. If your cortisol levels stay high even after the crisis, they can compromise the immune system. Temporary boosts of cortisol help with long-term memory, but chronically high levels undermine memory and may lead to permanent changes in the brain. Additionally, excessive cortisol has been linked with major depression, osteoporosis (it extracts calcium and other minerals from bones and interferes with the laying down of new bone), high blood pressure, and insulin resistance. In rats, high cortisol levels lead to what researchers call "food-seeking behavior" (the kind that drives you to eat when you're upset, angry, or stressed). The body takes those extra calories and distributes them as fat in the abdomen, contributing to weight gain and the risk of diabetes and heart attack.

Happy Hour
12 Feeling sad? Sit in Lotus. Better yet, rise up into a backbend or soar royally into King Dancer Pose. While it’s not as simple as that, one study found that a consistent yoga practice improved depression and led to a significant increase in serotonin levels and a decrease in the levels of monoamine oxidase (an enzyme that breaks down neurotransmitters) and cortisol. At the University of Wisconsin, Richard Davidson, Ph.D., found that the left prefrontal cortex showed heightened activity in meditators, a finding that has been correlated with greater levels of happiness and better immune function. More dramatic left-sided activation was found in dedicated, long-term practitioners.

Weighty Matters
13 Move more, eat less—that's the adage of many a dieter. Yoga can help on both fronts. A regular practice gets you moving and burns calories, and the spiritual and emotional dimensions of your practice may encourage you to address any eating and weight problems on a deeper level. Yoga may also inspire you to become a more conscious eater.

Low Show
14 Yoga lowers blood sugar and LDL ("bad") cholesterol and boosts HDL ("good") cholesterol. In people with diabetes, yoga has been found to lower blood sugar in several ways: by lowering cortisol and adrenaline levels, encouraging weight loss, and improving sensitivity to the effects of insulin. Get your blood sugar levels down, and you decrease your risk of diabetic complications such as heart attack, kidney failure, and blindness.

Brain Waves
15 An important component of yoga is focusing on the present. Studies have found that regular yoga practice improves coordination, reaction time, memory, and even IQ scores. People who practice Transcendental Meditation demonstrate the ability to solve problems and acquire and recall information better—probably because they’re less distracted by their thoughts, which can play over and over like an endless tape loop.

Nerve Center
16 Yoga encourages you to relax, slow your breath, and focus on the present, shifting the balance from the sympathetic nervous system (or the fight-or-flight response) to the parasympathetic nervous system. The latter is calming and restorative; it lowers breathing and heart rates, decreases blood pressure, and increases blood flow to the intestines and reproductive organs—comprising what Herbert Benson, M.D., calls the relaxation response.

Space Place
17 Regularly practicing yoga increases proprioception (the ability to feel what your body is doing and where it is in space) and improves balance. People with bad posture or dysfunctional movement patterns usually have poor proprioception, which has been linked to knee problems and back pain. Better balance could mean fewer falls. For the elderly, this translates into more independence and delayed admission to a nursing home or never entering one at all. For the rest of us, postures like Tree Pose can make us feel less wobbly on and off the mat.

Control Center
18 Some advanced yogis can control their bodies in extraordinary ways, many of which are mediated by the nervous system. Scientists have monitored yogis who could induce unusual heart rhythms, generate specific brain-wave patterns, and, using a meditation technique, raise the temperature of their hands by 15 degrees Fahrenheit. If they can use yoga to do that, perhaps you could learn to improve blood flow to your pelvis if you're trying to get pregnant or induce relaxation when you're having trouble falling asleep.

Loose Limbs
19 Do you ever notice yourself holding the telephone or a steering wheel with a death grip or scrunching your face when staring at a computer screen? These unconscious habits can lead to chronic tension, muscle fatigue, and soreness in the wrists, arms, shoulders, neck, and face, which can increase stress and worsen your mood. As you practice yoga, you begin to notice where you hold tension: It might be in your tongue, your eyes, or the muscles of your face and neck. If you simply tune in, you may be able to release some tension in the tongue and eyes. With bigger muscles like the quadriceps, trapezius, and buttocks, it may take years of practice to learn how to relax them.

Chill Pill
20 Stimulation is good, but too much of it taxes the nervous system. Yoga can provide relief from the hustle and bustle of modern life. Restorative asana, yoga nidra (a form of guided relaxation), Savasana, pranayama, and meditation encourage pratyahara, a turning inward of the senses, which provides downtime for the nervous system. Another by-product of a regular yoga practice, studies suggest, is better sleep—which means you'll be less tired and stressed and less likely to have accidents.

Immune Boon
21 Asana and pranayama probably improve immune function, but, so far, meditation has the strongest scientific support in this area. It appears to have a beneficial effect on the functioning of the immune system, boosting it when needed (for example, raising antibody levels in response to a vaccine) and lowering it when needed (for instance, mitigating an inappropriately aggressive immune function in an autoimmune disease like psoriasis).

Breathing Room
22 Yogis tend to take fewer breaths of greater volume, which is both calming and more efficient. A 1998 study published in The Lancet taught a yogic technique known as "complete breathing" to people with lung problems due to congestive heart failure. After one month, their average respiratory rate decreased from 13.4 breaths per minute to 7.6. Meanwhile, their exercise capacity increased significantly, as did the oxygen saturation of their blood. In addition, yoga has been shown to improve various measures of lung function, including the maximum volume of the breath and the efficiency of the exhalation. Yoga also promotes breathing through the nose, which filters the air, warms it (cold, dry air is more likely to trigger an asthma attack in people who are sensitive), and humidifies it, removing pollen and dirt and other things you'd rather not take into your lungs.

Poop Scoop
23 Ulcers, irritable bowel syndrome, constipation—all of these can be exacerbated by stress. So if you stress less, you'll suffer less. Yoga, like any physical exercise, can ease constipation—and theoretically lower the risk of colon cancer—because moving the body facilitates more rapid transport of food and waste products through the bowels. And, although it has not been studied scientifically, yogis suspect that twisting poses may be beneficial in getting waste to move through the system.

Peace of Mind
24 Yoga quells the fluctuations of the mind, according to Patanjali's Yoga Sutra. In other words, it slows down the mental loops of frustration, regret, anger, fear, and desire that can cause stress. And since stress is implicated in so many health problems—from migraines and insomnia to lupus, MS, eczema, high blood pressure, and heart attacks—if you learn to quiet your mind, you'll be likely to live longer and healthier.

Divine Sign
25 Many of us suffer from chronic low self-esteem. If you handle this negatively—take drugs, overeat, work too hard, sleep around—you may pay the price in poorer health physically, mentally, and spiritually. If you take a positive approach and practice yoga, you'll sense, initially in brief glimpses and later in more sustained views, that you're worthwhile or, as yogic philosophy teaches, that you are a manifestation of the Divine. If you practice regularly with an intention of self-examination and betterment—not just as a substitute for an aerobics class—you can access a different side of yourself. You'll experience feelings of gratitude, empathy, and forgiveness, as well as a sense that you're part of something bigger. While better health is not the goal of spirituality, it's often a by-product, as documented by repeated scientific studies.

Pain Drain
26 Yoga can ease your pain. According to several studies, asana, meditation, or a combination of the two, reduced pain in people with arthritis, back pain, fibromyalgia, carpal tunnel syndrome, and other chronic conditions. When you relieve your pain, your mood improves, you're more inclined to be active, and you don't need as much medication.

Heat Treatment
27 Yoga can help you make changes in your life. In fact, that might be its greatest strength. Tapas, the Sanskrit word for "heat," is the fire, the discipline that fuels yoga practice and that regular practice builds. The tapas you develop can be extended to the rest of your life to overcome inertia and change dysfunctional habits. You may find that without making a particular effort to change things, you start to eat better, exercise more, or finally quit smoking after years of failed attempts.

Guru Gifts
28 Good yoga teachers can do wonders for your health. Exceptional ones do more than guide you through the postures. They can adjust your posture, gauge when you should go deeper in poses or back off, deliver hard truths with compassion, help you relax, and enhance and personalize your practice. A respectful relationship with a teacher goes a long way toward promoting your health.

Drug Free
29 If your medicine cabinet looks like a pharmacy, maybe it's time to try yoga. Studies of people with asthma, high blood pressure, Type II diabetes (formerly called adult-onset diabetes), and obsessive-compulsive disorder have shown that yoga helped them lower their dosage of medications and sometimes get off them entirely. The benefits of taking fewer drugs? You'll spend less money, and you're less likely to suffer side effects and risk dangerous drug interactions.

Hostile Makeover
30 Yoga and meditation build awareness. And the more aware you are, the easier it is to break free of destructive emotions like anger. Studies suggest that chronic anger and hostility are as strongly linked to heart attacks as are smoking, diabetes, and elevated cholesterol. Yoga appears to reduce anger by increasing feelings of compassion and interconnection and by calming the nervous system and the mind. It also increases your ability to step back from the drama of your own life, to remain steady in the face of bad news or unsettling events. You can still react quickly when you need to—and there's evidence that yoga speeds reaction time—but you can take that split second to choose a more thoughtful approach, reducing suffering for yourself and others.

Good Relations
31 Love may not conquer all, but it certainly can aid in healing. Cultivating the emotional support of friends, family, and community has been demonstrated repeatedly to improve health and healing. A regular yoga practice helps develop friendliness, compassion, and greater equanimity. Along with yogic philosophy's emphasis on avoiding harm to others, telling the truth, and taking only what you need, this may improve many of your relationships.

Sound System
32 The basics of yoga—asana, pranayama, and meditation—all work to improve your health, but there's more in the yoga toolbox. Consider chanting. It tends to prolong exhalation, which shifts the balance toward the parasympathetic nervous system. When done in a group, chanting can be a particularly powerful physical and emotional experience. A recent study from Sweden's Karolinska Institute suggests that humming sounds—like those made while chanting Om—open the sinuses and facilitate drainage.

Vision Quest
33 If you contemplate an image in your mind's eye, as you do in yoga nidra and other practices, you can effect change in your body. Several studies have found that guided imagery reduced postoperative pain, decreased the frequency of headaches, and improved the quality of life for people with cancer and HIV.

Clean Machine
34 Kriyas, or cleansing practices, are another element of yoga. They include everything from rapid breathing exercises to elaborate internal cleansings of the intestines. Jala neti, which entails a gentle lavage of the nasal passages with salt water, removes pollen and viruses from the nose, keeps mucus from building up, and helps drains the sinuses.

Karma Concept
35 Karma yoga (service to others) is integral to yogic philosophy. And while you may not be inclined to serve others, your health might improve if you do. A study at the University of Michigan found that older people who volunteered a little less than an hour per week were three times as likely to be alive seven years later. Serving others can give meaning to your life, and your problems may not seem so daunting when you see what other people are dealing with.

Healing Hope
36 In much of conventional medicine, most patients are passive recipients of care. In yoga, it's what you do for yourself that matters. Yoga gives you the tools to help you change, and you might start to feel better the first time you try practicing. You may also notice that the more you commit to practice, the more you benefit. This results in three things: You get involved in your own care, you discover that your involvement gives you the power to effect change, and seeing that you can effect change gives you hope. And hope itself can be healing.

Connective Tissue
37 As you read all the ways yoga improves your health, you probably noticed a lot of overlap. That's because they're intensely interwoven. Change your posture and you change the way you breathe. Change your breathing and you change your nervous system. This is one of the great lessons of yoga: Everything is connected—your hipbone to your anklebone, you to your community, your community to the world. This interconnection is vital to understanding yoga. This holistic system simultaneously taps into many mechanisms that have additive and even multiplicative effects. This synergy may be the most important way of all that yoga heals.

Placebo Power
38 Just believing you will get better can make you better. Unfortunately, many conventional scientists believe that if something works by eliciting the placebo effect, it doesn't count. But most patients just want to get better, so if chanting a mantra—like you might do at the beginning or end of yoga class or throughout a meditation or in the course of your day—facilitates healing, even if it's just a placebo effect, why not do it?

Taken from

Sunday, April 01, 2007

April Truth for April Fool's

While I was perusing my chosen yoga's website, I came across this endearing Cathy comic. Aside from entertaining, though, it also reminds me or invites me to lead a yogi lifestyle, 24/7. What that is, I do not know. Besides, it differs for everyone, I guess--case in point in being T's and my recent spat (which had already been building up, but that's not necessary to discuss)

I've recently gotten into VMV Hypoallergenics. Being someone who has skin allergies to almost everything, VMV Hypoallergenics products are a Godsend. I can personally vouch for these two products, while these two I'm still trying out.

Recently got a book spawned by an online women traveler's journal, as well as this book which seems right up my alley. Ah, my weekend has been revealed. W-ell, not entirely, as I haven't mentioned Bleach.

But most people close to me know I'm addicted to Bleach right now. I am currently at Episode 105. I've downloaded 91-120, most of the music tracks, and both OVA's in Bleach Exile. It took many days, but I think it's worth it. Now to burn it into a DVD-R and I'll be good to go. Can they all fit into one disc, I wonder?

This doesn't mean, however, that I've completely forgotten I'm leaving for Teacher Training in 9 days (it starts in 14, but I've got to get used to the 18-hour difference!). I practiced my dialog for one pose--fully, both sides--with my teacher-mentor F. It went a whole lot better than with T, I can safely say. I know T meant well....but my spirit was crushed and I was discouraged. He's a perfectionist, one of his staff L said. Indeed he is: he was already pointing out my weak (i.e. lack of) conviction while reciting the dialog, comparing it to one talking to a plant. However, this critique also crushed my conviction, my belief in myself to be able to do this, even my desire to practice yoga. Fortunately, F brushed those aside and told me to pay T no mind, that I'll find my voice there; what's important is to believe I will. Hence my spirit has been renewed, revitalized to go on: as F pointed out, this is my dream, after all.