Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Figuring some things out

I went back to my acupuncture/Chinese medicine doctor last Thursday. As I suspected, I felt better immediately. He knows me very well and treats very holistically, taking both Western and Eastern medicine principles into account -- he treats the whole me -- mind, body and spirit. He is a great teacher in my life...not to mention a partial psychiatrist, therapist, physical therapist, general practitioner, yoga teacher, etc. I am lucky to have him.

The insights and treatment he gave me got me started in figuring this whole anxiety/physical symptom thing out. He agrees there is probably something not healed right in my right wrist that gives me pain when I practice yoga. For that, he is sending me for an MRI. In the meantime, he is treating me for the pain...and offers me good suggestions as to how to mitigate the pain while practicing my yoga. The pains in my left arm and chest are probably stress/anxiety that I'm holding in my body. The acupuncture treatment he gave me last week started to release some of what I've been holding in my body.

I went back today for my next treatment and, while on the table, some real revelations started to crystallize for me.

I told him about my yoga experience last night...again, I came home crying afterwards. SO frustrated that the class is NOT giving me what I need and am craving. "And what is that?" he asked. "Peace." That slid out of my mouth easily. And that's what is missing. The yoga classes are so "ashtanga" -- one breath per pose, no time to really get into the pose and get the benefit. It sucks. And I go looking for something that I am not getting...always hopeful, always disappointed. No wonder I end up crying.

I also told him that I think I am actually stressed about work -- I'm trying to do all of my work in 9/10 of the time when we are going away skiing for 3-day weekends every two weeks. I appreciate my firm being so nice in letting me take this time and I am hyper-aware of not making them regret it...because I have more time off that I want to take to come!

I'm also stressed about my "life" work -- I'm trying to do all of it in 11/14 of the time. That's a lot.

Finally, it occurs to me that I have had "doom" feelings before when my hormones were out of balance...they weren't like this horrible anxiety I've had lately, but I am really wondering if it is related. I had blood drawn yesterday for my appointment with my gyne next week...I'll meet with acupuncture Doctor after that.

So Doctor says to me that it is clear that I have got a lot of "yang" (male, active, stressy) energy in my life and what I need (desperately) is "yin" (female, nurturing, relaxed). My yoga class is super-yang and that's why I am hating it and it's making me cry. Even my skiing is very yang. I need something else right now to BALANCE me out. He mentioned that a day in bed just relaxing might not be such a bad idea...but we Westerners have a hard time doing that. I know I do.

With that, he inserted the needles (the ones for the "sad" area in my left shoulder, my hurt right hand and top of my head -- wisdom area -- were particularly active today) and left me for my 25 or so minutes to percolate and meditate. It's a quiet room, warm massage table with heating pads and lamp, fountain and soft music running. I have been very emotional there lately so it takes me a minute to calm my mind and ponder while the needles do their work.

What Doctor said to me rang VERY true. I have gotten signs of this need for balance a lot lately...most recently at our Ostara (pagan spring equinox thing) that we went to at our "church of the backyard" on Sunday. We hunted for Ostara eggs and the token inside was something for each of us to mediate on. I instantly loved mine (these were not chosen for us individually by the people who set it up...it was luck...or I like to think it was the Universe sending me a message). It is a ceramic bead with a moon and sun on it. The moon (which I always relate more to than the sun) is in front of the sun and has a happy face on one side and a sad/perplexed face on the other. When you look CLOSELY, you can hardly tell which brushstrokes of the brush are different on the two faces...interesting. Balance between the two sides. The moon is also a symbol of the feminine (sun is masculine)...thus, the yin is in front of the yang on my bead. I didn't relate this to my current situation until this morning.

In addition, in our Ostara ceremony, one of the participants was talking about bunnies...bunny ears in particular. She was saying that she was wondering what made the Mad Hatter mad...and she thought it was his ears. But was it because he was trying with his big ears to hear things he couldn't? Or because he heard things with his big ears that he didn't want to? Hmmmm...there's a nugget in there that I need to hear (word-use intended).

All of this is very resonant for me. I left my treatment feeling very very happy. (It's later in the day now and the yang-stress of the day has really gotten to me...but I was feeling good THEN.) I will meditate more on all this. And I will keep working to get what I need to feel better.

(And, yes, we are going skiing this weekend! I do love it and this weekend will be the first one we've had this year that is just DB and me...so ROMANTIC ski weekend...even better!) :-)

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Life is BUSY

I'm just back from another 3-day ski weekend and we had a really great time. This time PD2 and her whole family (Hubby, Cutie Pie now to be known as Ski Monkey, and Bon Bon) went with us. It is so much fun to be with them. We really seem to travel well together and can all relax.

We made good time and got into Mammoth about 11:30 on Friday night -- Ski Monkey even stayed up until we got there. :-) We stayed up too late chatting with PD2 and Hubby and got up early on Saturday. PD2 was really tired because Bon Bon has been sick (ear infection and cough) so she decided not to ski on Saturday. So DB and I took Ski Monkey up to ski. We went up and down practicing with her for about 3 hours! She really improved and was having a lot of fun after some falls and tears on her first run. By the end of that time, she was doing really well and we'd just ski down behind her to pick her up if she fell (which she really didn't unless it was on purpose -- so cute to watch her just sit down between her skis and rest then pop back up all on her own and take off again -- oh, to be 6!).

Hubby had come up to the lodge to meet a cousin of his who was in town. We dropped off Ski Monkey with him and then DB and I got to ski ourselves for about an hour before the end of the day. I got in some short blue (intermediate) runs and only fell once (last run of the day...blue run was very bumpy from everyone skiing down it all day). I really never fall anymore on the greens (beginner slopes) and almost never on the blues. :-)

After DB and I were done, we picked up Ski Monkey from Hubby, went to the grocery store and then home. We all got in the jacuzzi and then, after showers, made dinner together. We rounded out the evening with a long game of Uno. Fun! :-)

Sunday we all went up to the mountain to ski. DB and I went up first and got in several good runs (me mostly on blue!) before the rest arrived. The plan was that PD2 would watch Bon Bon (who is 2) at the beginning and DB, Hubby, Ski Monkey and I would ski down the long green slope (with DB following Hubby -- Hubby hadn't skied in a LONG time -- and me following Ski Monkey). We were off!! Ski Monkey was doing great and I just skied behind her so she felt safe. I feel SO SO great that I'm a good enough skier now that I can be responsible for her! :-) Hubby was having some problems and he had also hurt his back that morning. He only managed one run and then went to take care of Bon Bon while PS2 came up to ski. (Hubby actually took Bon Bon home...it's not too fun for her to just hang out at the lodge...luckily Hubby didn't pay full price for his ticket.)

We all spent quite a while skiing with Ski Monkey down the long green slope (called Pumpkin, which she loved). She was doing great and it was so fun to watch her and to watch her with PD2a (even though it's harder on your legs to go slower when you're used to going faster). About an hour before the lifts closed, DB and PD2 took off to go do some more challenging runs and left me to watch Ski Monkey on the green. Ski Monkey was getting tired so we only did a couple more runs...on the first one she ended up skiing into some deep snow (which is hard to get out of) so I had to take off my skis and walk in to drag her out. I kept her calm and was so proud I could take care of her. :-) The last run we just skied down together really well (me always behind so that I could pick her up if she fell...which she didn't). She's my ski buddy now. :-)

We stopped and had some drinks at the lodge while we waited for DB and PD2. They had a BALL. They both are REALLY good skiers so they could just go fast all over the mountain. I am so happy they had that time together. We all ended Sunday with big smiles on our faces. :-)

Sunday night after the hot tub and showers, we took Hubby out for his birthday (which is this Saturday)...we had a great dinner, all of us sharing our ski stories for the day. After that we had secretly bought a banana creme pie for Hubby (who doesn't like cake) and we had that and candles back at the condo. A very fun "pretend" birthday. :-)

We got up early yesterday to go ski. DB and I got to the slopes by 10 and it was a fantastic day!! For the first time I skied only blues...no greens! It was so fun to be able to choose from different runs and not just be stuck on one or two greens. I was having SO much fun. DB even skied a few with me (a lot faster than me, but...). I skied all the blues around the lodge where we were. I was just finishing up and planning two or three more runs when I decided to go down the first blue I ever did (on my birthday) for old time's sake. It was the easiest blue on that side of the mountain although a little steep. Well, guess what? I had a really bad crash at the bottom!! I don't really know what happened but my legs were out from under me in an instant and I banged my head hard. Was very happy to have a helmet!!! :-)

I was a little discombobulated, but I picked myself up quickly, got my skis back on and skied down. I wanted to call DB for some sympathy, but I knew I had to ski again right away or risk being afraid next time. So I went back to do my favorite run. As I was on the lift, I saw DB skiing down to it so when I got to the top I waited for him. Told him about my crash and we decided it was our last run of the day. I did my favorite one and he did his. We met at the bottom to head home. :-)

My brains were feeling pretty scrambled for a few hours and my left knee hurts. We went back to the condo (the owner let us have a late checkout), changed and hit the road. The rest of the family didn't ski yesterday...went sledding as a whole family and that was fun for them. We got home around 7:30, then went for a quick dinner with our neighbors before going to bed.

My knee woke me up in the night with pain, but the earthquake we had this morning didn't! ;-) I'm glad I have an appointment with my acupuncture doctor on Thursday (I decided last week that HE is the one who can help with all the stuff that I've got going on -- he kept me super-healthy for two years when I went to him regularly). I will skip yoga tonight to let my knee rest and will go back tomorrow night.

I did go to yoga last Thursday and it was better...Teacher had thought of some other variations for me and I approached the mat with a better attitude, i.e., don't get frustrated, just do what you can.

SO MUCH FUN skiing...even though it takes a hunk out of our "real" life. We hope to head back in two weeks... ;-)

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Some days/nights it's hard to face what you find on the mat.

That was my last Facebook status last night. My first one was "back to yoga" with a smiley face. My, how things can change once you are forced to face YOU on the mat.

I went to back to yoga last night after a month off due to skiing time off, my squished finger and my panic attacks. I was full of excitement to get back "home" and was hoping for relief from some of my continuing attack symptoms.

The welcome from my teacher was so warm…she hugged me and told me how much she had missed me. She actually suspended my pass for a month (something she was not required to do) to help me heal my bad wrist (remember that from January?). I had also e-mailed with her last week saying how much I missed yoga and that I had been having some panic attack problems. She was, as always, supportive and warm.

There were four of us in the class. Two of us had hand/wrist issues so Teacher decided we would do a gentler class. I think all of the students were happy with this decision. Teacher also showed the other person and I some variations to try during the "vinyasa" portion of the class (dolphin instead of down dog, how to get into other poses from dolphin without hurting ourselves, dolphin plank, etc.).

So we started. Slowly from savasana. That felt good. I felt happily emotional about being back "home" on the mat.

I have had NO problems with my wrist for the past month (being off of yoga) and so I decided I would try some simple wrist-involved positions. I did a few half push-ups, ONE down dog and one "vinyasa" flow (plank, chattaranga, low cobra, up to down dog). My wrist started to hurt. A lot. I was depressed by this, but adjusted to using the variations.

Teacher saw that the other wrist student and I were having trouble so she decided we would do no further "vinyasas" that night. We would still do flow, but no weight-bearing arm work. This was good, but I was still feeling really sad. If yoga is going to cause my wrist to hurt so badly, how can I continue to practice as I have been? If you are a yoga student, you will understand how hard it is to face a practice with no down dogs, no chattarangas, no arm balances…it even hurts to do cat/cow. These are basic poses. I am sure that it is possible to practice without them, but the idea of it is a total paradigm change. And doing so in a class like they have at the studio where I've been practicing? Very difficult mentally. At least for me.

So we start the non-"vinyasa" class (I keep putting that in quotes because the word vinyasa actually translates, I think, to "flow" and you can do a flow class without the plank, chattaranga, low cobra, up to down dog series that this studio calls "vinyasa"). Wrist now wasn't as painful (although still achey and remains so today) but, since the focus was now on lower-body, my knees started creaking and weaking (no, that's not a typo). Going into and out of chair a couple of times I thought everyone in the room must have heard the terrible crackling from my right knee (I asked Teacher afterwards about it and she didn't hear it). When that happens, I pull back. Stop bending knees AT ALL if necessary. This makes other basic poses (chair, lunges, warriors, even tree) difficult to really get into. I was discouraged, but I kept going.

When we got to balances, I was a mess. I couldn't balance AT ALL. Physical balance poses are always so reflective (for me) of the inner balance situation in my mind/spirit. I was a mess. I think it was at this point that I almost started to cry.

By the time we got to squats (something I never ever do even on a good day), I was really thisclose to tears. I went into horse (a much higher squat) and Teacher could see at least some of how I was feeling. She gave me a reclining variation. I laid there and struggled not to cry.

I have practiced yoga for a long time. I know the philosophy and I believe in it. It is almost intrinsic to the essence of ME. Even knowing that I should just breathe and BE there on the mat (including tears if that was what happened), I struggled. I couldn't find the peace inside no matter what techniques I used. I was lost and sad.

We finally got to savasana (class duration has been extended by 15 minutes since I last went). Teacher put us in supported reclining butterfly (badhakonasana). My tears wet the eye pillow as we laid there.

As we left, Teacher and I talked. She said she saw my energy shift in the middle of the class when I got "frustrated". True. She hugged me a lot and told me again how much she missed me (she is a very very warm and happy person). We talked about the physical issues. She has a similar one with her wrist and says it's "impossible" for her to practice when it's acting up. I told her I'd be back on Wednesday no matter if my body could do anything or not. And I will.


I cried all the way home and was sobbing while making dinner. I feel like I am facing not being able to do a lot of physical yoga…maybe forever…and maybe not classes at this studio…this studio where I felt like I had finally found "home" after so long searching.

The thing that I think many yoga studios struggle with is pleasing their students. Lots of students these days want fast cardio exercise out of their practice. The spiritual aspect is less important to them. Lots of studios I have been to work to please their students and, in my opinion, the YOGA (which means "union") is lost. I want the YOGA. Fast flow yoga is not real POWER yoga even if that's what they often call the classes. Power yoga is what you get when everything combines (physical, mental, emotional, spiritual). Then you are in the power. Asana helps you get there when you're on the mat. It is supposed to challenge you, comfort you, make you face YOU where you are at that moment in every way.

Last night's class actually did a lot of what I described in the last sentence for me. But it was because of ME, not the class. It was because of me looking at me on the mat and after. I guess that's all I can ask...

But I still want a class where you take more than a few seconds in a pose. Where you have a teacher help you adjust and meditate on the pose and how it confronts your body/mind. Fast flow is great for certain things…but it is not great as the primary focus of a class…for me.

I'm not sure if any of this will make any sense to anyone out there (even those of you with strong yoga practices). And this is NOT about my weight loss or exercise. It is about ME and what I need and want…and how I get it. Right now, I don't know the answer to all that. But I am absorbing all I have learned/recognized after my class last night. And the tears are still very close to the surface.

[On the panic attack(s): I have an appointment with my doctor tomorrow. I have notes of all I want to discuss with him. I have been pretty attack-free yesterday and today at work and that is a good thing. I started listening to Native American flute music in the car on the way to work instead of the political talk program I usually listen to…it is soothing. I will keep that up for a while.]

The Universe e-mail this morning was unbelievably appropriate (as it often is):

When something difficult or painful happens, Helly, always look to see what it makes possible that wouldn't have otherwise been possible.

Like a new adventure, a closer friendship, or chocolate in your peanut butter.

Everything makes you better,
The Universe

Oh YEAH. :-)

Thursday, March 4, 2010


Just so those of you reading don't think I've fallen off a cliff, I've felt better the past two days. Yesterday I had minimal symptoms and today (so far, knock wood), none.

This was a scary episode. I need to make an appointment to talk with my doc about it.

Theatre Date Night was last night (DB got me a subscription again this year for my b-day)...I looked forward to it all day and maybe that helped. :-)

Tuesday, March 2, 2010


So I had a great weekend...Princess learned to ski as well as I do after five years in only two days. ;-) It was a joy to watch her. We had insane blizzard conditions on Saturday that I had never skied in before and beautiful sunny day on Sunday. I love love love the smaller resort we went to (and the little town where it is). We stayed in a motel in the canyon, our room (only $79/night) had a kitchenette and the motel's jacuzzi was awesome. We will probably go back (although DB is feeling very much like this smaller resort isn't enough mountain for him).

On the way home yesterday, we visited a national monument -- an internment center where people of Japanese descent were imprisoned during World War II. Interesting, sad...Princess got a history lesson on her day playing hooky from school. :-)

My anxiety attack news:

I felt better Friday night after a couple of beers and felt FINE all weekend. Driving back yesterday, I had a few symptoms and I thought/think it might be some kind of motion sickness. But today, back at work, I'm full-on into discomfort in my arm, stressed-out feelings, etc. Thinking of going back to doc...needing Xanax maybe (which a friend offered to me on Friday night when we were already on the way out of town). I have no idea what is up with this, but it's clear anxiety...and I don't know where it's coming from. :-(

I am going to yoga tonight. A friend recommended I try St. Johns Wort (which I have tried before and have felt nothing). We'll see what happens. This really sucks.

Oh yeah, and I gained 5 pounds from horrible eating this weekend. This ski trip weight yo-yo has to stop. We're going again in two weeks...

[P.S. to commenters on last post -- thank you all so much -- helps a lot!]