The jail where I volunteer-teach has an enormous, homemade wooden cart that I put the exercise mats into and lock with a padlock. (Apparently if you keep something useful or expensive in a jail, you must keep it under lock and key or it will wander off.) This sign is taped to the top of the cart and as you can see, someone has added their opinion.
Yes you doofus. Yoga really. As opposed to that yoga imaginary or the yoga incorporeal. This indicates the degree to which people aren't used to changing the way they think about things. What puzzles me is who wrote it? An inmate doing laundry where the cart is kept? A guard who thinks incarceration shouldn't include rehabilitation?
If this was written by a staff-member, I'd like to say something. Even if you believe jail should be a punishing experience, isn't there room to consider some inmates are going to go home at some point and they will be returning to society and (hopefully) choosing a new path? Where do you think they are going to learn those coping skills? How to make different choices? How to recognize that they ARE making choices every day? Shall they learn this from their family? Gangster friends? The student psychology center?
And if this was written by an inmate, I'd like to say something to that person too. The voice in your head is not telling you The Truth. It's just the machinery running itself and it's not interested in you doing something different, even if that something different is good for you. No, the voice in your head is just the voice of your past experiences. And apparently, that past doesn't include yoga or Pilates or self-inquiry or meditation. So you don't know what you don't know, but I challenge you to find out what is out there when you stop being distracted by that little voice in your head.
Written Jan 28, 2013, posted Feb 4
Today I met with the group of inmates at the county jail in V-Pod and we began another 6-week course in Pilates, imagery and mind-body techniques for managing stress, anxiety, depression and anger. The 6 women seemed very interested and glad to be there, they are from the general population, not from solitary confinement/lock-down, as was the last group I worked with.
Today's class plan was focused on goal-setting. Judging by what little I can detect about these women and their circumstances, it's pretty unlikely that they have been to a Pilates conference or a yoga retreat. They don't know how to set or reach a goal for wellness or peacefulness.
My classes begin and end with a minute of silent self-inquiry. This is how students can tell if a class made an impact or not. A vague or fleeting sense of "I feel good" isn't nearly good enough to effect a change in habits or thought processes. (Do you remember, in Prisoner of Azkaban, Harry Potter is asked to recall a really good memory because it will shield him from a hostile creature known as a Dementor. His spell fails and Professor Lupin tells Harry the memory he chose wasn't "nearly good enough".)
It's sort of like that.
If your students never take the time and notice the change in physical experience is really something great, meaningful, helpful, enjoyable, change-making.... then your students are very unlikely to repeat it or stick with it. This is really the only way to block the real-life Dementor "Entropy".
I had to split the video into 2 pieces. Sorry!
Whew! And then there's this....
Here are the statistics from my survey. The maximum score is 5.0 on each domain, with 5.0 meaning the subject believes exercising/meditating can deliver the stated benefit. A lower score means the subject does not agree that exercise/meditation can deliver the stated benefit.
As the story goes, when Joe Pilates was a young man he joined a traveling circus and left Germany to see the world and earn a living. He had a Greek statue act, where he powdered his body white and stood in classic postures, astonishing the ladies and impressing the fellows. We can imagine a hale and hearty, physically beautiful athlete up on a ramshackle stage taking postures with names like "The Discus Thrower" and "The Wrestler". (A modern street entertainer business has a photo of one of their players here.) Joe surely had a grand time, exulting in his strength and the sweetness of triumph over childhood illness. Unfortunately, however, the circus was performing in England when World War I began and Joe was interned as a German enemy alien for the duration of the war. Think about that for a moment. The Great War lasted from July 1914 to November 1918 and trapped millions like Joe in its terrifying web; Joe Pilates was not yet 26 years old when he was sent to one of the British World War I internment camps. He was held until he was 31.
-Anna Quindlen, Lots of Candles, Plenty of Cake
About 10 years ago, I invented myself again and I took on a mission statement to fulfill, a possibility to live into. The foundation on which I stand and operate is the balance and flowering of body, mind and spirit. I'm a stand for an extraordinary world.
I've been teaching Pilates for 15 years, mostly to educated and somewhat privileged middle-class and upper-middle-class Californians. Concentrating on unifying body and mind has been easy, fulfilling. For myself, I became a movement educator, danced, and finished my Master's degree in Kinesiology. For my professional self, I've completed multiple certifications in different modalities, outfitted and ran a Pilates and Gyrotonic studio, wrote a Pilates teacher training program and graduated 200 students. I kind of feel like I've done all that and I don't need or want another degree or another certification. It's time to focus on incorporating the spiritual. I'm a stand for an extraordinary personal journey.
My neighbor and deacon is the chaplain at the county jail and she often shares stories of the women she counsels, their sadness, shame and struggles; disempowered and their lives on hold. Yes, surely some of them are in jail deservedly. It's not supposed to be a tropical vacation. But I firmly believe it will be in everyone's interest (society, the individuals and their children to whom they will eventually be reunited) if these women develop a healthy relationship between body and mind.
Joe Pilates was incarcerated too. No, it was not a jail in the normal sense of the word, but he was imprisoned and prevented from returning to his home, his family and his life plans for 5 years. His development of Contrology was a lifeline of creativity, service, physical expression and artistry and it transformed his imprisonment into the opportunity to become extraordinary. Here is an opportunity for me to be that stand for the extraordinary in my own life and the life of my community.
I called Chaplain Cynthia and asked if a Pilates mat class might be helpful at the jail. She proposed the idea to the Sergeant, who gladly welcomed the idea and enthusiastically invited me to come. I'm scheduled to begin classes on September 10, 2012. I went to assess the facility and pick a location for the class and quickly found it's not the health club, nor the ballet studio, nor the school gymnasium, nor the community rec center. It is prison: all concrete, booming with noise, loud echoes bouncing off the concrete floors, walls and ceilings and slamming doors that make you jump. Chairs and tables are bolted to the floor and cannot be moved. The laundry area has room for maybe 6 mats on the floor, but someone's head is going to be underneath a stainless steel table and well you know what's going to happen when we do Rolling Like a Ball or Open Leg Rocker.
The Sergeant showed me an outdoor concrete patio with an open roof. It will be cold but it will be quieter than inside. Hopefully they'll be able to hear me. Plus I have room for 20 students instead of just 6. I intend to teach a 6-week course, 2x/week to the women in the general population and then - gulp - repeat it for the women kept in lock-up.
So this brings me to the next phase: getting my little tools pulled together. I've got therabands, playground balls and tennis balls. But the mats. The mats. Because this will be outside on a cold concrete patio, I think we need the thicker style mats instead of the thin yoga sticky-mats. OPTP.com has a nice thick mat, and they offer special pricing to Pilates professionals (OPTP.com, Item #439, $39.50 regular price, $33.95 for Pilates or Fitness professionals.)
I'm so touched and inspired by the Pilates professionals who have already donated a mat to this program (start following @MaryAscension IMMEDIATELY!) If you'd like to donate a mat you can order it from OPTP and have it sent to Monterey County Jail, Attention: Sgt Olguin, 1410 Natividad Road, Salinas CA 93906. If the shipper wants a phone number use the main jail phone (831-647-7782) and the chaplain's e-mail which is 39cmont27 at sbcglobal dot net. I will take my big black Sharpie and write your name on your mat and I will get you a photo of my class using your mat. Won't that be fun to put on your bulletin board?
And by all means, if you have a used thick mat you could send my way, that would be awesome. I would really appreciate it and so will the women at the jail. Right now they have no mats at all. As a Pilates and Gyrokinesis teacher, I cannot fathom not having a mat for my stretches, strength training and meditation. Perhaps I am being silly - millions of people didn't have mats for thousands of years. It's true we can just sit on the floor. But there's a message and a hope and a possibility that comes from being handed a mat. Here. Use this. It's for you so you can meet your body from within. You can develop a new conversation with yourself about what is possible. And it will be extraordinary.
EDIT: Added jail phone number and contact e-mail.
If you've experienced tension in the hip joint, or if one of your clients has, here's a video for you! This is a great way to release the hip - and it just happens to feel really good.
If you're not a teacher and you want to just skip to the moves, watch this one instead. It jumps over the teacher advice.
In the NYTimes today, an article about diet restrictions read,
Ms. Yayanos first dropped gluten, sugar and carbs on a friend’s advice after being mugged at gunpoint, a trauma that left her fending off panic attacks and depression. “Within 48 hours, it felt like a thick layer of gauze had been pulled off my brain,” she recalled. Now Ms. Yayanos revisits that diet whenever her mood drops. She’s noticed her friends experimenting with food, too, essentially “hacking” their bodies, tinkering with different fuels to reap feelings of clarity and energy.
"Hacking" your body? What a clever turn of phrase.... but I would call it simply making a change and then paying attention to how I feel, noticing the results of change and keeping, modifying or abandoning the adjustment. The metaphor of the hacker (the mind) vs the object being hacked (the body) has useful and not-so-useful imagery embedded in it. Hacking seems (to me) to imply forcing your will onto an inanimate, complicated, mysterious, and inscrutable object. At the sime time, I like the image of the patient, clever, quirky hacker determined to figure out how to feel vital and well. Vitality and wellness is not as complicated as we make it out to be! You try something and then pay attention to how you feel. Keep what you like, jettison what you don't. And try to keep it fun, don't suck all the energy out of the room.
Imagery is most typically used in a visual format. Your personal trainer or dance teacher demonstrates a movement, you watch and then try to copy it. But imagery can include so many more options than just visual! You're familiar with auditory imagery, in the form of someone telling you, not demonstrating, what to do. You listen to the instructions and you try to execute them. But how about using non-traditional auditory imagery... like a sound. Not words and language-sounds, but the sound of a sigh.
Sigh out loud. Right now. Like a cartoon sigh. Or like the appreciative sigh of getting a massage. Or like the satisfied sigh of appreciating the sunset from a location you love.
Do it again. How does a sigh feel? Never thought about it? That's ok, think about it now. Sigh again and sense the sigh with ALL of your senses. Your hearing, your skin, what does someone look like when they sigh in satisfaction and release. Think about it for a moment and enjoy it as much as your dog does when he yawns.
Now touch your right shoulder, tap it with the fingertips of your left hand. Lift your right shoulder up to your ear and as you lower it, perform your sigh. Theatrically, yes, but with an open query: can my shoulder sigh? I promise you, it can. Embody the sighing shoulder about 6x. Afterward, notice how your shoulders feel. Compare the right shoulder to the left. Does it feel different? How? Do you like it? Yeah, I know. Feels pretty good, doesn't it? Repeat this on your other shoulder.
Once you have done this little exercise about 8 or 10 times, over the span of 2 weeks or so, you will start to have a feeling for sighing shoulders. At that point, when you're at your computer and you realize your shoulders and neck are tense, you'll be able to do something about it immediately. You should have enough experience by then that you can mentally sigh your shoulders down and into relaxation. Take a breath in, exhale and hear the deep and satisfied sigh in your imagination as you feel your shoulder muscles relaxing. By then, you won't need to make a sound; you will have the experience embedded in your nervous system and you'll be able to generate it at will.
P.S. I found this image of feet yawning. Now *there's* a visual image to go with your new auditory image!
1) foramina for the obturator group
2) ischial tuberosity
3) lesser sciatic notch
4) ischial spine
Nature responds to the rules of nature and I guess this applies to the forces of wind and water as well as force and function.