Sunday, October 13, 2019

Apple Branch Tree Earth Universe L'shana Tova Namaste

I saw the comedic stylings of JP Sears, aka "The Ultraspiritual Guy" aka the "Woke AF" guy, last night. His comedy is one part new age humor, one part mock-new-age humor, one part world-observation, one part self-observation, and a heaping helping of sarcasm (sometimes bitter, sometimes sweet).

This was the third time I've been in the audience for one of his live performances. The jokes and stories ranged from making fun of traditional male and female roles in marriage (men shouldn't put the seat down because doing asserts the misogynistic precept that women are too weak and shy to do it for themselves) to skewering the "success" of homosexual conversation therapy camps (because nothing changes people's innate sexual orientations like putting the fear of electroshock treatment in front of them).

The audience, I'm sure a very socially open-minded group, was game for whatever he was willing to share, though at times audience responses were groans as I feel as if he very much had us questioning our own hidden biases. One of his humor hallmarks is to go on eloquent effusive rants that we first think are rallies against our "enemies" but turn out to be thought provoking diatribes that make us turn inward and question the very nature of our own deepest beliefs. Pause. Laughter. Next subject. It's marvelously disarming if you're game.

He closed the show with an analogy about how we as individual tend to view ourselves as unique, and separate from everything else, using apples on a tree as stand in for us. He waxed poetic about if we open up our minds, we would realize that those apples, as juicy and unique as we are, are connected to something bigger than ourselves - A BRANCH - that provides us with nutrients, life, and support.

For a while, we sit in wonder at the concept of that connectedness and knowledge of the branch, and maybe even the fact that there are OTHER APPLES. We still have our own apple-ness, but there is a network, that branch, and we are actually part of a bigger organism.

Then after a while of chewing on that concept, we realize, that we aren't just an apple on a branch with other apples. That branch is actually connected to an something even bigger: A TREE. A big living vibrant tree with hundreds of branches maybe even hundreds of other apples. Our minds spin at the implications we never before considered: we are connected to a tree that provides lasting support, complex communication, a huge network for growth and prosperity and future beyond our little branch. 

That keeps our minds busy for another long while, but then we realize that tree is also connected to  something even bigger: THE EARTH. The tree roots hold fast into the earth, and one that earth there might be hundreds upon hundreds of trees, or other organisms, all interconnected, all with branches, or smaller parts, all with apples, or fruit, or unique individuals that are both dependent upon and networked together within it.

From the realization of the earth we eventually expand our consciousnesses to the realize the solar system, and the galaxy, maybe even the universe and the dimension beyond time and space.

JP said that's what it's like to take ayuhuasca (laugh track). But, the geometric, exponential, fractal, and Einstein-esque nature of the story doesn't have to lead to a punch line. 

We are all unique individuals. We spend a lot of time just being apples, turning inward and never realizing just how interconnected we are to each other much less someone on the other side of the earth. Too often we focus on what makes the others different from us, or what makes us less or more than something else, or what is wrong with the world.

Our yoga practice can help us find of our own inner "apple," and give it all the nurturing it needs to be beautiful, healthy, strong, flexible, and feeling unique. Then we can recognize, appreciate, and in turn nuture and other apples, branches, trees, etc.

In the spirit of the Jewish New Year I think the apple analogy, is quite appropriate. May you all have a sweet year, may the shiny apple in each of us always acknowledge the other. Namaste.

Friday, September 20, 2019


Thank goodness it's Friday - so let's do yoga at he Lemon Grove Library! Our Chair Yoga class was resurrected after August hiatus at the Lemon Grove Library September 6, at the new time of 12:00 pm!

It's been slow to start so I hope with the San Diego heat finally staying below 90°F (although the library IS a Cool Zone) that folks are interested in coming out for an hour of gentle, chair-based yoga.

I have great shoulder and neck releasing stretches planned, along with core-strengtheners, hip-stabilizers, and balance-enhancing standing postures (always optional), and a lovely guided mindfulness meditation to play for our savasana (resting sequence), so I hope you'll consider joining us at 3001 School Lane, Lemon Grove, CA 91945.

Park on the street for two hours, or in the lot across the street next to the Fire Station. You can also park at the back of the library on Licoln and walk around the building to the main entrance on School. We meet in the Community Room to the left of the main doors.

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Yoga and Loving Your Brain

Exerpted from the LoveYourBrain Foundation LoveYourBrainYoga Teacher Training Manual:

"In a way, both yoga and meditation are 'brain exercises' that engage different parts of the brain on the components of practice (breathing, movement, postures, chanting, visualization, concentration), and can help the brain form new connections and recover from injuries, or as we call it, to stimulate neuroplasticity." - Helen Lavretsky, MD, MS, UCLA

Saturday, September 7, 2019

Yoga Mat Review by

Another group reached out to me about promoting their yoga mat reviews, and happily I oblige. For your consumption I offer information from Consumers Advocate website.

Their claim is that they review mats based on four major criteria: Functionality, Eco-Friendliness, Value and Design.

They put in over 300 hours, used 90 sources to gather information, and reviewed mats of 11 companies to come up with a comprehensive guide to eco-friendly, non-toxic yoga mats. This is the 2019 list, updated as of August, 29. Please, enjoy!

For more on yoga mats, search blog for "yoga mat reviews."

Saturday, August 10, 2019

Mockingbirds on the mailbox

mockingbird fledglings
chirp back at my birding sounds
who’s mocking who now

yellow beaks always wide
begging to be filled with fat
grubs flies bees and worms

mockingbird mother
dives feather close to my ear
she knows i’m a fraud

curious how they
cock their heads sideways not just
wary but observing

three weeks to learn all
the different avian tunes
they’ll sing when they leave

Tuesday, August 6, 2019

Featured on - Finding my Passion in Accessible Yoga

Find your Passion and Center in Accessible Yoga

My name is Jackie Gadd, and I'm a certified Yoga Instructor. I specialize in Adaptive and Accessible Yoga, which means I utilize props, tools and special skills to bring the principles of yoga to unique populations. I currently guide 14 different adaptive style classes each week in San Diego (mostly chair-based), including ones for adults with ID/DD, active older adults, assisted care seniors and children.

Journey from Traditional to Adaptive Yoga

In 2004, I began taking yoga classes to help my own tired body and stressed mind. Right away, I found the physical practice very challenging. 

It took some searching to find a teacher that resonated with me, from whom I could learn how treat my body kindly (ahimsa/non-harming) and focus my mind appropriately (dharana/concentration). It was a breakthrough to figure out that yoga was so much more than just stretching and twisting.

I loved learning how yoga related to both physical and energetic anatomy, and how yogic philosophy and the universe are enmeshed. Equally fascinating was the East Indian mythology and history that are embedded in yoga's 5,000-10,000-year-old DNA. Regular discussion about these topics with friends became part of my practice as well.

Continue reading here:

Sunday, July 28, 2019

Give something

In Deepak Chopra's Seven Spiritual Laws of Success, there is a Law for each day of the week. Monday is for the Law of Giving. He writes, "Today, bring whoever you encounter a gift: a compliment or flower. Gratefully receive gifts. Keep wealth circulating by giving and receiving care, affection, appreciation and love."

You don't have to practice yoga, asana or otherwise, to see the power in this. One might at first think all the benefits would be in what the other person receives. But it very much is in the giving where the power resides. 

I'll explain... 

My husband does not practice yoga, at least not asana. However, he has been studying mindfulness through the lens of Stoicism, by reading Marcus Aurelius' "Meditations" and listening to podcasts like the Daily Stoic. During our morning chats (however brief in our busy-ness) we find like-minded intersection on mindfulness topics like: putting space between stimuli and reaction, and comparing perception versus observation. 

As an introvert his internal struggles often lend themselves toward rumination, and that can turn toward darkness and even depression. He shared with me recently something he does that is quite yoga-like, without him having studied the Sutras, or Eight Limbs at all.  

He said that when he feels that downward spiral starting (especially at work), he takes a break, gets up, and finds someone to give positive feedback, like, "You did a good job today." I asked him how this helps, to get his analysis. He said, it takes him out of his own head, and he feels better making someone else feel good.

I've been trying to use the language of yoga to describe the process, and so far I've come up with this:
  1. He makes a mindful observation about the effect his thoughts have on his well being
    • I think of this as pratyahra and dharana, or withdrawing the senses and concentrating. he is tuning IN and becoming aware of his state (of mind). He also is aware he wants to change it as he feels it is doing him harm (ahimsa is non-harming).
  2. He takes action by exchanging positive energy with another person.
    • Taking action, using discipline or practice is tapas. He needs to put his idea of changing his state of mind into action, and practice regularly to have it work, have the desired effect.
  3. Both people feel better. 
    • The action itself creates something positive for the recipient. This gift is part of the the "Law of Giving" and is a positive action for his karma (life actions). It creates happiness for both people (ananda) or even bliss (samadhi).
Perhaps someone out there has another way of analyzinng in terms of philosophy, but the gist of it is that the mindful approach, the desire to change, and willingness to create that change all result in a shift in energy. In sum, his perception of his mental state improves, so even if the stressors are the same, he has put some space between himself and his reaction to them. That space includes a positive energetic exchange with another person.

The present is a gift. We have that to give to ourselves. Enjoy your day, enjoy your yoga. 

Saturday, July 27, 2019

Free Yoga @Libraries SD City and County

Looking for free fitness classes within San Diego City limits?

Point your browser at, select your branches (or ALL), and on the filter page type the search term "yoga" and APPLY.

Looking for classes outside the city, from Alpine to Oceanside, Chula Vista to Poway?

 Either start at and click events, or route directly to Select the branch(es) you want, type the search term "yoga," and click FIND.

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Two Yoga Therapy Workshops: The Spine, and The Pelvis/Psoas

Unwind and lengthen your spine in this workshop 
with Jenn& Jason

Yoga Therapy Workshop: Pelvis & Psoas

Yoga Therapy for Pelvis & Psoas 
w/ Dr. Alison McLean PT, E-RYT, C-IAYT

  • Do you feel like you've tried everything to help your low back, and nothing seems to work?
  • Or, do you feel like your pelvis and/or hips are out of alignment contributing to a deep ache and soreness?
  • Have you been told you have a reversed cervical curve and this could be contributing to your neck and shoulder pain?
Your psoas muscle could be a contributor to this problem. Do you fear you are missing out on life because you can't get to the root source of your discomfort? Your answer maybe in this workshop.

Join Alison on Saturday, August 17th to learn more about the psoas muscle, it's relationship to the nervous system and how it can impact how you feel in the low back, hips, pelvis and even in the neck.

In this workshop you'll:
  • Learn a sequence you can practice at home to reduce stress, boost energy and unlock tension in your body, specifically in the psoas and pelvis
  • Learn how to strengthen your hips to take tension off your psoas
  • Unravel asymmetries in your body side to side and learn how to bring balance

Leave feeling restored, replenished, stronger and equipped with tools to implement right away.

Fee: $40 by 8/15; $45 thereafter

Prana Yoga Center | 858 456 2806 |

Wednesday, June 12, 2019


I'm taking a break from the seven-days-a-week teaching/mothering/partnering/problem-solving schedule that has become my life. Don't get me wrong, I love what I am doing, who I am, and the people with whom I spend my time. But lately I am feeling like I'm wearing coveralls filled with rocks and I need to empty out my pockets, take off the dungarees, soak in tub and walk around without anything on for a bit. Lighten the load, so to speak. 

I'll be heading to one of my preferred healing places, my birthplace, almost literally. I'll be gratefully staying with my parents in their very homey abode, where my son and husband and I will be treated to all the creature comforts family can provide along with a zero-pressure schedule. 

I'll be able to reconnect with childhood, school and college made friends. I'll hug relatives with whom I've shared some familial losses and we can cry and laugh together to heal. I'm looking forward to practicing yoga at some new spaced to spice up the learning and teaching engines as well.

One of the highlights will be leading two demonstrations at the Chicago Abilities Expo on June 21 and 23, which is why I timed this trip so early in the summer. I usually visit the Midwest in August when the moisture level in the air feels a bit more swampy (and does what it wants with my hair). Funny, though, I don't mind it so much when compared to the desert blasts in San Diego, especially when the Santa Ana winds blow mercilessly,  an assault to every mucous membrane.

A dear friend, a teacher, an inspiration, was once told that she needed to take time to restore herself because when you teach, you expend energy from your svadistana and manipura chakras - your power/creative/reproductive energy centers; you are figuratively expending yourself. So maybe that's what's going on; I'm not just physically tired, but energetically drained. So I'll take the advice that I give to everyone, that I know to be so true. I'm going to move outside my usual routine and take a well needed break, not just by physically moving my location, but mentally changing the way I think about what I do. If I over-give, then I am no good to those I wish to serve. I need to find balance and so I look forward to meditating on these thoughts over the next 12 days.

I leave with this sweet prose poem I found today on this exact subject. See you all soon.

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Guided Mindfulness Meditations and Yoga Audio and Video from UCSD

Disclaimer/credit: This text and these files have been copied directly from the UCSD website. The direct link is here:

The UC San Diego Center for Mindfulness has prepared a number of practices that are available here in MP3 format. Please feel free to download and/or share these guided practices.

To download one of the files, please right click on the title and select "Save Target As" from the popup selection. This will then prompt you to select a location on your desktop to save the file to.

Please note: These MP3 files are rather large. If you do not have a broadband internet connection, you may not want to download them.

Courses available at the Center:

Sunday, April 28, 2019

ADL Walk Against Hate 2019 @ Liberty Station - JOIN ME!

Sunday May 19 at 8:30 AM I'll be walking with Tifereth Israel Synagogue/Silverman Preschool in solidarity for the Anti-Defamation Leagues' 2019 Walk Against Hate.

The walk takes place at Liberty Station, in Ingram Plaza, in San Diego, CA. Register as individual here:
or feel welcome to join our team:
The walk is a 5K loop around Liberty Station and there is a Diversity Expo featuring local San Diego organization to highlight the diverse tapestry of San Diego!

We do we walk? To support the ADL as they defend civil rights, to combat against anti-semitism, to teach students to fight bias, to train law enforcement, to fight extremism, to counter cyberhate, to empower the vulnerable through hate-crimes legislation, to confront disrimination and secure justice, and to work tirelessly for immigrants and refugees!

Can't walk? Donate today:!/donation/checkout

Thursday, April 4, 2019

Happy Hands for the desktop and mattop

For anyone that frequents a keyboard and mouse configuration, I must recommend an ergonomic mouse. Back in my fully functional technical writing days when I was doing multi-hundred page manual editing and layout, my right hand would frequently experience numbness along the pinky finger and the bone just above the wrist below the left finger (the pisiform) would have a small callous.

My nickname for this syndrome was "mouse-itis" and hand and wrist issues were a running joke in our department as we tried to find the correct keyboards, mice, standing and sitting positions, chairs, footrests, desk heights and physical therapy exercises to help alleviate the repetitive distresses our bodies would experience from 8+ hours a day typing and "mousing."

Anker 2.4G Wireless Vertical
Ergonomic Optical Mouse,
A traditional "flat" mouse caused me to rotate my hand medially (inward toward the thumb) and hurt at the elbow and wrist, but also put pressure on that pisiform bony because I was using it as a lever to lift my wrist up to move the mouse. As a result, I was not only causing elbow and wristing tendinitis, but also pinching the ulnar nerve, causing the numbness in my hand.

With a limited home office budget, I scoured the internet and found this amazing little "vertical" mouse that allows me to rest my right hand on the side and use the mouse itself a support. It glides easily, holds my fingers in a natural position, and I don't have to lift the mouse up at all so I don't have to use my wrist bones as a pivot for lifting nor for rotation. It's an arm-saver.

Which brings my to how it relates to yoga.

When we do downward dog, we might tend to put a lot of pressure to the outside edge of our hands, rotating then out to a more "natural" resting position. The thing is, downward dog, for all that we call it a "resting" position, is a pause in our flow, not an actual position of muscular "rest" especially for our arms and hands.

We need to root through the index finger and thumb to draw the medial (thumb in this position) side of the hand down and root through their knuckles to prevent putting all the upper body weight on that little bone, the pisiform, and the little finger carpal and metacarpal.

The action of hugging the elbows under the body, externally rotating the shoulders to activate the latissimus dorsi should stabilize the arms and shoulders. In contrast to this action we need to root through the whole hand, creating pressure under the fingertips to activate energy across the whole hand (as if it's a foot) and support the bones in the wrist, the elbow joint and alignment all the way  the front off the body.

The wrists should have an open angle, with tops of the hands more than 90 degrees away from the forearms (oblique angle) which is hard for those that have tighter chest or shoulder muscles. So, using an ergonomic enhancement helps prevent the wear and tear, or perhaps "down-dog-itis."  Lifting the wrists is key! A block under each hand will elevate the floor, making the forward folding less difficult.

Position the hands in the middle or further up on the block (not at the closest side - the wrists should never bend sharply more than 90 degrees), with fingers and thumb gripping over the edges,  to give the hand muscles more opportunity to activate and helps prevent the outward roll and lifting of the thumb and index finger. There are many other types of props that can help accomplish this, like the yoga "eggs" or even wedges, but everyone should find the thing that suits their practice. Even a folded edge of a mat with fingers off the far edge.

So, whether it's a desktop or a mat-top, good body positioning habits can be very hand-y.

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Updated Fitness Resource List for Free East County Classes

Check out the Senior Yoga page and scroll down to see the newly designed and updated list of free fitness classes in East San Diego County for adults.

Monday, February 25, 2019

Donate to Celebrate 175th Birthday of the YMCA

I am honored to be an instructor at the San Diego County YMCAs. This year they are celebrating their 175th birthday and this month is their Annual Fundraising Campaign. The funds from this campaign go to support the almost 400,000 people - nearly 1 in 8 San Diegans - that participating in their programs or utilize our services (learn more about our efforts in our Annual Report).
But San Diego communities are continually evolving and facing new challenges every day. That's why they intend to double their impact by 2025, touching the lives of more than 800,000 people every year. Here's how:
  • They are planning to build a new, full-service YMCA facility, with several expanding neighborhoods being considered as potential locations.
  • All of the existing facilities are scheduled to be enhanced and improved to better serve their communities.
  • The Annual Campaigns held each year will help provide access to these facilities and programs by ensuring they are affordable and available to the most vulnerable populations in San Diego.
They will strengthen their endowment as an investment in the future for scholarships, facilities and more.
With your help, the funds raised will ensure that everyone in San Diego has the chance to be healthy, confident, connected and secure — both now and into the future. Whether it's a one-time contribution or a pledge for a larger gift over the course of the year, know that your generosity will help your and your neighbors to learn, grow and thrive at the Y.
With a focus on youth development, healthy living and social responsibility, the Y nurtures the potential of every youth and teen, improves the nation's health and well-being and provides opportunities to give back and support our neighbors.
Click here to make an electronic donation on my fundraising page. My goal is $500; I hope you can help.

Monday, February 11, 2019

Copley YMCA Yogathon Friday February 22

Coming your way on 2/22/19 at Copley Price YMCA:

A special  two hour master Yoga class led by the amazing Pattaya and me (Jackie G) on Friday, February 22rd from 6pm-8pm on the patio.

All are invited with a Suggested Donation of $20. Open to everyone in the community - membership not required!

All proceeds are for the 2019 Annual Fundraising Campaign to pay for the Y’s amazing programs like Livestrong to assist those in cancer treatment or recover with their wellness goals, and scholarship camps and memberships for those in our community who can’t otherwise afford it.

Membership dues help keep the facility open but donations to campaigns like this help sustain the YMCAs mission to serve.

I hope you can attend!!
Donate Here:

Saturday, January 26, 2019

Silver Sneakers hubbub and getting the most out of your benefits

My library classes are sponsored by Silver Sneakers(TM) which is a brand of Tivity (formerly Healthways).

Tivity works with Insurance companies to provide access to fitness programs at gyms and external locations (like my classes at libraries, called Flex classes). The insurance company contract with Tivity, and when one of their members checks in to one of the gyms, or signs in to one of my classes, the insurance company pays a fee to Tivity (who in turn pays a small stipend to the gym or for Flex classes, the instructor, aka, me).

There has been a big hubbub because one of the big insurance carriers dropped the Silver Sneakers contract (and replaced it with something else). Their members have access to an assortment of other fitness benefits (gyms and what not), but they don't necessarily have access to the same clubs as Silver Sneakers and they don't have the Flex instructor listing.

My classes, are free for anyone to attend. My Tivity coordinator was very complimentary when I explained to her why I do it this way, as opposed to charging a fee to the non-Silver members. Part of the reason is that my locations won't let me, but moreover, I think that yoga should be financially accessible to the community. Teaching seven of these classes a week helps make it work as a job for me as the county pays a small amount to support the community, and the attendees are often generous enough to make gratitude donations in appreciation, whenever they can. It's a business model that works for us.

But back to my original point, Silver Sneakers.

I find frequently that people do not know if they are a Silver Sneakers member or not. American Specialty Health does have a program of it's own with Kaiser Permanent called Silver and Fit, and often people know about that one (I'm going to be on their Active Options instructor roster soon too). But as far as the Silver Sneakers, either the insurance company hasn't explicity told them about their membership (perhaps to avoid having to pay into the system?) or the person just doesn't understand how it works. When someone comes to my class I can try to check their status by entering in a legal name and birthday but some folks, in this era of data privacy, are resistant.

With one of the large carriers dropping the program I had to do a big investigation into who was "left" and what I could do about the loss of income due to so many people having their policies changed.

So with that in mind I'm listing here all the companies to date that DO have the Silver Sneakers benefit in their programs. Please, investigate with your policy, and even check on the website to see if you are in the group. You might be missing out on the opportunity to go to your favorite local gym and take classes, go swimming or get training for free. You also have access to online tools for health and fitness management, as well as listings of all the Flex classes that are out there (like, mine!).

The list below ONLY applies to California, but please use the link to get to your state and explore your options!
  • Aetna Medicare MAPD* 
  • Anthem Blue Cross Cal MediConnect Plan 
  • Anthem MediBlue Coordination Plus (HMO) 
  • Anthem MediBlue Access (PPO) 
  • Anthem Value Plus (HMO) 
  • Anthem Connect (HMO SNP) 
  • Anthem Diabetes (HMO SNP) 
  • Anthem Care on Site (HMO SNP) 
  • Anthem Heart (HMO SNP) 
  • Anthem Breathe (HMO SNP) 
  • Anthem ESRD (HMO SNP) 
  • Anthem MediBlue Dual Advantage (HMO SNP) 
  • Anthem MediBlue Plus (HMO) 
  • Anthem MediBlue Select (HMO) 
  • Anthem StartSmart Plus (HMO POS) 
  • Anthem Medicare Supplement Plans A, F, Innovative F, G & N 
  • Anthem CalPERS PPO Supplement to Medicare Plan for 
  • Anthem PERS Select, PERS Choice, and PERSCare plans 
  • Blue Shield Medicare Supplement plans 
  • Blue Shield Trio Medicare 
  • Blue Shield 65+ 
  • Blue Shield 65+ Choice 
  • Promise Health Plan Care1st Health Plan AdvantageOptimum Plan 
  • Promise Health Plan Care1st Health Plan Coordinated Choice Plan 
  • Promise Health Plan Care1st Health Plan Total Dual Plan 
  • Humana Medicare Advantage and Medicare Supplement 
  • L.A. Care Cal MediConnect Plan (MMP) 
  • SCAN Health Plan 

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

SPRING into Garden Yoga!

Join us for Yoga at the
Water Conservation Garden

12122 Cuyamaca College Dr. West, El Cajon CA 92019

New Classes announced February 11, March 11, April 8, May 13

Mondays 9:00 am - 10:00 am.

$5 for Garden or Silver Sneakers members, $10 for non members. 
Includes day pass to the garden.

Chair and Mat friendly. Reservations required:

Sunday, January 20, 2019

Thirty TWENTY Class Challenge

Too many yoga and fitness studios, and I say this with absolute certainly, have started off this year with a Pitta/Vatta, A-type, aggressive personality Western culture "challenge" for their patrons. They call it the 30-day challenge and in an effort to kick off people's fitness routines (and draw in a lot of money) set a goal for people to come in for classes as much as possible within the first 30 days of the year.

Not only is this one of the most privileged of financial opportunities (who can afford 30 yoga classes at $20 a class?), but it is crazy to suggest that any person (especially someone with a job and a family) might actually be able to get to a yoga studio to practice any sort of fitness every day of a month.

Of course they don't explicitly say you have to come every day, but the carrot dangles there, and when people start to see others racking up visits, they get "inspired" ("fired up" "challenged" "dared") to push themselves physically.

This is as always the antithesis of what yoga is supposed to do for us. Yoga asks us to slow down and take notice of our practice. Patanjali says that sometimes we are very honest with ourselves about who we are, and other times our minds are filled with clutter and we cannot see the truth. How are we to see ourselves in an uncluttered manner when we are busy comparing our performance on a chart to someone else?

When we take on these challenges, we may very well be mindlessly letting others set artificial goals for us. Moreover, if we do not "fulfill" the challenge, do we let that affect our self-esteem?

Isn't asking someone to follow an obsessive habit the opposite of what we want to teach? Is the industry inviting behaviors that are counterproductive to actual mental health? What about the implications of repetitive stress disorder on joints? Is each student under the guidance of a personal trainer/physical therapist to ensure absolute balance of practice or is it a free-for all to just do as much as possible in the those 30 days? For beginners, for those prone to obsessive behaviors, for someone healing from an injury, to anyone outside the "prime candidate" age/physique range in yoga, these challenges can pose a very real physical and psychological danger.

As for the studios, are they rewarding those that adhere to their artificial goal, and by implication, not giving attention to those that cannot take on their extreme challenge? This is a very un-yogic practice as well, to not hold space for those that cannot be on "the A team."  In my opinion this marketing tactic takes a yoga business energetically even further away from the teachings of Patanjali. So, how can they continue tout themselves as a yoga studio if they don't treat each of the their students with respect no matter how much or little they can attend their classes?

Sasha Walsh of Jai Yoga ( offered her beautiful thoughts in a forum on Accessible Yoga on Facebook:
Formerly, the 30-day challenge. Now, the 30-class challenge.
Because we soon realized that a 30-day challenge isn't the most accessible and that it COULD breed behavior/beliefs that we are actually trying to disrupt.
 What we are trying to encourage is to EXPLORE how moving more can positively impact the way you feel. We aren't trying to ENFORCE competition or self-deprecation.
YOU ARE ALREADY ENOUGH. The more you give yourself opportunity to feel your body, the more time you spend embodied, the more you'll realize you are already enough.
So move because you want to keep feeling the feels. Not because you feel pressured or expected.

Thank you Sasha. Thank you.

So in conclusion: to all who come to my classes: get a note card. Every time you take one of my classes (free, at the YMCA or otherwise), come up and have my mark the card. Each time you get to thirty TWENTY classes, let's go out for a coffee or tea on me. Because YOU matter. Because YOU are enough. Because you did the work and I appreciate you.

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.