15 March 2014

I Was Interviewed!

How fun! A friend of mine just interviewed me about my yoga practice!  Yay!

Sarah: How long have you been practicing yoga? 

Zo Manik: I've been erratically practicing an asana practice since 2004.  Every single time I get asked this question, the year changes, I think it's because I came to terms with the idea of my doing yoga perfectly as being completely ok.  I used to think that when people said "Oh, I've been doing yoga for 15 years" it meant that they showed up every day on the mat probably doing crow and headstand.  The reality is, of course, that they probably didn't and that they too (like myself) have a delightfully imperfect practice that was perfect for them right then.

My asana practice doesn't require mat work every single day, though sometimes I have gone through long spells of daily practice.  Sometimes I don't even use a mat.  As my practice is deepening, however, I would like to play with asana every day because there is that epiphany the body has after even just a 10-second Tadasana; it's like the "ah-ha!" of haiku, such seemingly small gestures awaken the senses and create a whole experience.

S: What got you onto the mat in the first place?

Zo: Yoga always fascinated me.  When I was a teenager I got in trouble for photocopying an entire book "Yoga for You" by Elaine Landau (which I still have today!) but when I went home I struggled to understand how to interpret the body's movements, or breathing.  The meditation portion was a beautiful revelation to me; I was never really into sports or athleticism as a kid.  My favorite things to do were read books and do homework (yup, I was that kid).  

But something kept bringing me back to yoga; there was this whole life system around it, it wasn't just about being on the mat.  In 2004, I picked up a Yoga/Pilates Dvd by Jennifer Krys and I fell in love with the simple movements which made the body feel so strong and sensuous.  It was like I could be both woman and warrior.

S: What made you stay? What about it has kept you going with yoga?

Zo: The only real answer to what keeps me doing yoga (the whole system, not only asana) can only be analogized as water.  If a body lacks hydration, it starts to react: fatigue, dry mouth, hunger, headaches, insomnia, even body systems go to hell.  But when hydrated, the body runs efficiently, the mind is quick, the eyes are sharp, even pooping comes easier.  If yoga is removed from me, I fall apart.  It's water.

S: What styles have you worked in? Which do you enjoy most?

Zo: The concept of styles is something I've only more recently engaged, but I have yet to find my go-to.  I love the kriyas (or what I call the infrastructure) of kundalini.  There's something really calming about having a specific routine in that everything is already sorted out for you--the time, the reason, the asanas, the breathwork.  All the details are splayed out like a buffet and you can say, "I'm having digestive issues" or "I really want to create space in my hips" and ta-da! Yogi Bhajan has the remedy.

But, truthfully and at the heart of it, I veer towards what I call an intuitive flow.  This is where I let Heart and Spirit dictate what will be created on the mat.  I suppose this may be the problem of becoming a poet before becoming a yogi; the impulse of call and response or play and creation supercede any systematic modality, no matter the benefit.

S: What have you struggled with in your personal yoga practice, physically or mentally?

Zo: So, this is where I out myself as a perfectionist.  I have a bit of "Hermione-Granger-syndrome", a term I often use in speaking about my students and even some of my colleagues.  I (except for a few short stints of anxiety and depression) was a grade A student.  I love having all the answers, I love getting it perfect on the first try.  I fight and struggle EVERY SINGLE DAY with non-attachment to perfect outcome.  What ends up happening is that I get so stressed out about being perfect, that I scrap an idea altogether and/or not show up because I won't be perfect.  It isn't even about what others think about my lack of perfection, though that is a small part of it.  The reality is, is that I hate not living up to the ideals I have brainwashed myself into believing to be true.  

Funny enough, yoga is BRILLIANT for this, though.  All that movement and breathing and thinking and non-thinking and sensory exploration shatters blockages in the solar plexus chakra, the location of confidence (and fear).  When I step outside of my fear center or rather MOVE regardless and drag fear kicking and screaming with me, it bleeds into other areas of my life.  My yoga teacher training program kicked my ass back into the classroom, where I once thought I could teach and have my own students.  It was weird, it was as if I woke up one day and realized I had no choice--I had to teach, because teaching, sharing for me is also water.  And yoga as water hydrated those parts that I had let fear dry out. 

S: Is your yoga practice largely done through classes, or do you have a home practice?

Zo: My practice is done 99% at home.  I do take classes now and then, and I actually feel it in me to take more but my schedule can be such that I am unable to meet at offered class times. I really dislike skipping around among teachers or dropping in on random classes.  I like to take courses from a teacher or two, get a feel for their methods and philosophies.  I think this is where the serious student "Hermione-Granger-syndrome" comes into play for a benefit.  I learn best in an arena where I feel understand who is sharing the information and why so I prefer having a small handful of teachers and their methods to build from, rather than skating surfaces of a multitude.  (This is also why I am terrible at reading more than one or two books at a time, despite my having to do so when I was in university and grad school!)

S: When do you enjoy practicing yoga?

Zo: I will practice whenever I feel like it and whenever I don't, but I love love LOVE to practice in the morning, post-shower.  There is something so delicious in being clean and creating agni as the framework of my day.  It wakens me up and brings me from dreamstates or worries and wishes to the breath, specifically the exhale, and this now-moment.  Plus, all those sun salutations are incredible for drying my long hair!

Q: Do you listen to music when you practice yoga? If so, what kind?

A: I don't listen to music in the morning because I prefer the quiet of just my mind, my hands and feet and my breath.  The earlier the practice, the better because Gaia's profound silence bites through even those subtle sounds and there's this interplay of personal significance versus insignificance that melts physical boundaries.

I do however play music at other times and it really depends on what I'm needing or feeling.  I have a Pandora station I named "Zen Garden", another named "Sitars & Beats".  But then, I have this wild Youtube playlist called "Body Moving Music"of music from A$AP Rocky, Kanye West, and Flosstradamus that really gets my ass moving, where Beats Antique is the down-tempo group for savasana.  This kind of a pump-me-up playlist is particularly incredible for when I need to get out of my own head.  The bass and beats allow the physical, sensory and sensual to path me out of ruts to create space for newness.  Going back to the example of water, it's as if the water has been turned to wine or whiskey or a double barrel IPA, and it helps me to unblock my lower three chakras, which is crucial for me because I'm always floating in my upper chakras.

03 March 2014

Arcs, Curves, & Spirals: A Life Sermon from the Peering into the Grids of Deep Fascia

"The shortest distance between two points on the surface of the globe is an arc, not a straight line; all of the tissues on our body are arced tissues." -Gil Hedley in Integral Anatomy V2 pt1: Deep Fascia and Muscle

If you look in nature, there are no straight lines.  All of nature is comprised of a beautiful geometry of organic shapes, most often of spirals.  The double helix, the shell of snail or a conch, the river water's flow, even the flow of blood in our veins is all in spirals, and what are spirals, but an (in)finite piecework of arcs and curves meeting for greater purpose?

When I was a kid at some random elementary school age, I remember having to sing at a recital, "The shortest distance between two people is a smile."  I don't know who wrote that song nor do I remember the rest of the lyrics, but Gil Hedley's comment regarding the fibers and fascia of the body tissues reminded me of those young-sung words.  And it's complete truth, right?  If you want to increase distance between you and a quarreling partner, hold a straight face.  But if you want to increase the warmth and decrease the proximity whether you're at opposite ends of a sofa or a table or a large room, a smile is enough to bridge that gap.

And speaking of gaps, what of curves of life?  Who among us since birth has lived a straight life, walked linear path?  No, those curved detours actually brought us closer to the destinations we sought.  The truth is, those ultimate destinations would never have been actualized in all its glorious current fruition without those roundabout paths.  Chances are the straight path is too easy, too boring, and we would have hitchhiked to more exciting terrain.  It's in those straight line paths we experience the least amount of growth, the least amount of support and fruitful abundance, and find ourselves at odds with our purpose.

On of my Teachers, the body-insightful Lisa Ann, once said, "Adapting a pose is asking a person to move their limb to a different position."  The key here is not in getting that person out of that pose, but in offering a different interaction of the pose.  The pose itself, even the ideal of a pose,  is not a flat, straight action made of perfect right angles.   The arc and spiral of the radius and ulna in raising the arm, the curve of the thigh, the arced soles of the feet, nothing is ever straight, so why force an ironing out?  The greatest expression of any pose is the personal ability to finesse the line of strength and testing of wills.  This will vary from person to person and be made up of organic, dynamic shapes, stemming from (guess what?!) the spiral movement of the bodily breath.

Gil Hedley is showing much more than the curved grids of the body fascia.  He is showing how micro and macro are in fact one, that our paths are organically attuned to where we need to be right now.  Look to the inside of the body, the fascia, the helix, or even the minutiae of a shell and you'll find the signs all read the same thing: Curves Ahead. 


02 March 2014

Reading my poems: "Thin", "A Cold Cereal", "Skin", "Pinata", & "Celery"

Thanks for viewing!

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May we continue to see the art & poetry in all that we do & all that we are.

Om Shanti!

01 March 2014

The Foot as Way of Life

"We don't use our feet to their full capacity.  Remember when I said earlier that the foot is the only part of your body that is evolved specifically for the purpose of having a relationship with the earth?  Well that kind of begs the question of: What earth? The earth that was present when this thing evolved is not present for most of us. It's been leveled, it's been paved, it's been predictable. Nature has given us these all-terrain vehicles which we never take off-road." -Leslie Kaminoff 

I love Leslie Kaminoff.  Even if you don't have the slightest interest in yoga, his understanding of the body and his method of delivering what can be a dry subject with too many systems and parts to remember is interesting and personal.

That being said, I found his explanation on going barefoot enlightening, not just for feet, but for life in general. 

Apparently, 75-80% of the body's proprioceptors (those mechanical receptors in a joint structure which delivers information to the nervous system) are located in the ankle area. Predictable surfaces (such as carpet, flooring, paved streets, sidewalks, etc.) weaken these sensory receptors.  He explains how shoes, in fact, do not support nor create strong feet but actually damage feet in the long-term, for example, by stomping when walking to create that sensory reception not felt in on foot "muffled" (his term) by a shoe.  Barefoot walking does feel lighter on the feet, no?  By muffling (shoeing) the feet, those ankle proprioceptors are not exercising their fullest receptive potential. 

It should come as no surprise, then, that one of the best ways to clear up mental fog and return to the personal center would be to go outside and stand barefoot on Earth.  It's not just about feeling grass beneath your toes (sure that's part of it), but it's about awakening and re-invigorating those nerves on the foot pad and the proprioceptors of the ankle for the body to re-establish its support base, both physically and spiritually.  

We know that it is crucial to have a strong core for physical fitness and strength.  By strong core, we don't mean 6-pack abs (if that's what you mean, then you're sorely mistaken and setting yourself up for injury) but a strong trunk consisting of both abdominal, back, and side oblique muscles.  A stronger body trunk allows for greater weight-bearing with less injury for its limbs.  We are told to lift with our knees not with our back, but a strong body trunk supports much of that weight.  

Just as it is with the feet, the foundation for almost all our movement which bears immense weight every day; strong feet with sharp proprioceptors will prevent and decrease ankle injuries.  Go barefoot for a day, then see what happens in your work out.  My bet is that your squats will feel more stable, your lunges more powerful, and your running a bit lighter.

And go barefoot for the greater, personal reason: To re-connect the energetic relationship of the Self to the Earth and return empowered, centered, and restored.  Clearing up that head fog and confusion is like a home-coming, returning to a personal center to understand the new gains and loss of the current Self so that we can move forward  in greater awareness and truth.

So, just do it--go barefoot.  Feel the Earth, search out unpredictable and naturally-occurring surfaces.  Your ankles, your fitness, your greater Self will thank you.

You can watch the rest of Leslie Kaminoff's video on the anatomy of the feet in regards to barefoot walking here.