Saturday, January 12, 2019

Looking Good for its own sake (aka Growing Older Gracefully)

There's a meme going around on social media right now asking people to post their first picture on the platform, and then a more recent photo. For many, that means photos that reflect a 10 year age gap. The title of this social experiment is "How hard has aging hit you?"

I was impressed at all the people who immediately bought into this I'm-just-as-great-now-as-I-was-then side-by-side aesthetic comparison. And yes, they most certainly are (at least everyone brave enough to post). Though, what what would you say if someone posted a picture of themselves 10 years ago and the most recent photo is far less flattering (for any reason including that the photo itself was taken from a bad angle)? Then again, what if the earlier photo is terrible and the newer photo is STELLAR? Then they can say "Suck it aging, I hit YOU!"

More power to everyone that is posting. But for me, I recoiled in horror at the mere title, that seems to imply that aging is supposed to suck the life out of you, and if it doesn't you are "looking good for your age" or "gifted with good looks" or "defying the aging process." But, hear me out, what. if. you. are. not? What if you are just weathering life naturally, and trying to "stay young" or "get younger" or "get better with age" is an uphill struggle, and actually takes time and emotional energy (too much) away from the enjoyment of your daily experiences?

Frankly, I don't want to buy into the "look good for my age” crap. If I look good, it's should be "You look good," not "for my age" any more than it would be “for a white girl” or “for someone that doesn’t dye her hair” or “for an older mom” or even “for a Jew." (Yes I've heard "You don't have that big of a nose for a Jew.") Qualifying how we look by chronology or other demographic category without taking into account what our personal experiences have been seems (is?) reductive, vain, shallow, and dismissive of some of our better qualities. Asking us to post suitable pictures for voluntary scrutiny speaks too heavily to requesting sociological approval to which I don’t want to fall any more dependent than I already have. The world is cruel enough.

I'm well aware that loved ones and friends will (and SHOULD IMHO) say you look great. There are the "keeping it real" ones though that will say things like "You shouldn't make a face like that, it wrinkles your forehead" (yes, that happened, the implication being that at my age I hardly need to add wrinkles to my countenance).

But if your son woke you up at five AM saying he couldn't sleep, and even though you teach 15 yoga classes a week, you still feel tired and at 52, and there are wrinkles and bags under the eyes, and saggy skin, and graying hair, maybe you just don't feel like comparing what life was like for you 10 year ago even before you had kids. Posting a picture of then vs. now might not be the ego-boost a nap or even a good brisk walk could be.

Then, there are folks that have had a frustrating, tiresome, gawd-awful past 10 years. I think whomever wrote "Let's see how hard aging has hit you" was laughing at their own cleverness too hard to consider that some people will wish to heaven above that the past 10 years hadn't dealt them such a stressful set of circumstances, hadn't brought  sadness, or illness, or even death.

Perhaps, maybe this is the conspiracy theorist in my talking, that the badly worded meme, and the viral nature by which it has garnered attention speak to something more sinister after all. Not bad intentions on the part of shaming people for aging, but actually to cull more data for facial recognition software. I'll leave that one out for the technology experts to debate.

As for me, I’ve survived the past 10 years and that’s more than i could have EVER asked for. My auto-immune disease that dragged me down on and off for 10 years remitted. I had a child nine years ago, at 43 years old. Life gave me a few unpleasant side swipes, but so far I have handled it. So forgive me if I don’t want to wax nostalgic about the days gone by where I had less gray hair or fewer wrinkles, more or less body fat, and far fewer huge circles under my eyes. I don’t and couldn't look the same, and I don't want to resent the changes that are happening that it seems the beauty industry and popular society think I should.

I want to celebrate and learn to more gracefully embrace the changes that mean I am surviving and ripening. I'll keep doing yoga, and in the spirit of support and love I will make sure to tell everyone that does post a picture that they look like they FEEL amazing and I'm glad they are around so they CAN post and keep posting pictures.

Saturday, November 17, 2018

Register for Classes at Positively Yoga

Meditation and Movement

Steeped in tradition, this class will draw from the foundations of yoga poses, breath and meditation practices to guide the practitioner toward deeper states of mind, leading toward clarity, peace of mind and heart.

Wednesdays from 4 - 5:30 PM
Instructor: Sita Michelle Baker, C-IAYT
Schedule: January 9 - 30
Price: $65 - 4 classes  **A minimum of 5 students is needed.  Show your commitment by registering early.

Yoga for Back Health

Join Yoga Therapist Sita Michelle Michelle Baker, C-IAYT for an 8-week series on managing low back pain. Learn how to keep yourself safe in a Yoga class, as well as the right poses to assist your back’s return to healthy function. This class addresses generalized low back pain or discomfort. 

Saturdays from 11-12:30
Instructor, Sita Colucci, C-IAYT
Schedule: February 16 - March 22
Price: $195 - 8 classes
**This class requires registration.  Please see Class Description for more detailed information as this is a Therapeutic Yoga Class.

Monday, November 12, 2018

Just added SUNDAYS at Copley YMCA - Mat Yoga (all levels)

I'm excited to announce I just added a new class to my weekly schedule on Sunday mornings. In November this class will be 9:15-10:30, and starting in December it moves to 9:30-10:45 (and continues at that time moving forward).

This will be an all levels mat yoga class combining many different yoga influences (hatha, vinyasa, restorative, iyengar) into a fun, flowing, full body experience. The class is for YMCA members (but if you aren't a members see a member specialist about a day pass or joining!). A limited number of mats are available for use (but I recommend bringing your own).  The YMCA also provides straps, blankets and blocks and I make good use of them too I; whole-heartedly believe that props can be the key to finding your own personal expressions of poses that might otherwise be inaccessible.

As always, there will be focus on Pranayama (breathing), good natured jokes, stories, music, and encouragement of questions as we explore our yoga paths.

If you need a class with a chair, try my Monday morning Copley class at 11:05. Both classes are upstairs in Room 3.

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Yoga and Jewish Spirituality

Tonight I'm honored to be teaching a yoga class with some Jewish flavor for JewishXperienceWeek, part of the http://www.ShabbatSanDiego,org celebration this 2018.

My yoga prep for this class has come in the form of reviewing my Yoga 101: the Chakras, the Yamas and Niyamas, personal reflection on what drew me to and keeps me doing yoga, and basic pose review. But the difficult part has been diving into Jewish philosophy more than I've ever done before. A friend gave me this amazing book (also recommended to me by a Rabbi in Chicago, called The Jew in the Lotus. I have to say, after two months of flipping pages it is already so well worn it looks like I've had it for years. This has been the most rewarding part - that *I* am benefitting from this experience, from delving into the spirituality and finding my connection to my community and perhaps even to the divine, especially when I need it most. I will be sharing my thoughts on this tonight, and I hope to see some of you there.

The book, written by Rodger Kamanetz, is a dense with lessons on Judaism in the common era, kabbalah, an Indian travelogue, a Tibetan history lesson, and a comparison of different Hebrew traditions: Orthodox, Hasidic, Reform and JUBUS (Jewish Buddhists). Delegates, Rabbis and other scholars, from different factions traveled to India to visit the XIV Dalai Lama of Tibet, to discuss the plight and future of Tibetan Buddhism, using the Jewish experience as an example, and compare practices, spirituality and even meditation.

The contrast/comparisons between Tibetan Buddhism and Judaism are fascinating. I'm still scribbling notes in margins just hours before the class, and writing in a notebook as I consult my training books and the world wide web for refresher information on yogic practices. I'll add more information after class as this blog post was just a teaser.

There are fundamentalists that might strive to cleave apart Buddhism, or in my case yoga practice, from Judeo-Christian traditions, saying the Jews should only look to Torah for information. In the book, the author, Mr. Kamenetz, speaks of a disenfranchisement from his Jewish community/identity due to dogmatic absolutes like this. I myself was turned off at a young age by the fear mongering about people going "astray" because they were trying to learn more about the world around them and their own path to true spirituality.

But I think it's marvelous to try to find similarities between two ancient traditions that both are based in the notion of practice for the sake of bettering oneself and bettering the world. Mindfulness, practice, and finding a deeper sense of meaning in this life are, for me, and it seems for Mr. Kamenetz, part of the journey toward enlightenment, toward At-One-Ment, toward knowing god.

P.S. Here are a few links (some are on my nightstand waiting to be read!)

Yoga Sutras of Patajali

The Jew in the Lotus:

Who Wrote the Bible