Yoga and the Death Cap

This original post went out Tuesday, August 25th, 2015.  
I mentioned my swollen shoulder in another newsletter that I sent by email.

What I didn’t detail:

My complicated relationship with, ahem, yoga.

I used to practice yoga for three hours straight and then drink two bottles of wine in a row.  I was a practicing alcoholic and a serious yogi at the same exact time.  The years that I was a practicing alcoholic I taught way more yoga classes than when I quit; it took many years for me to realize it would take many, many, many more years to allow myself to accept that life doesn’t always make sense.

I did a lot of Pinca Mayurasana; too many vinyasas; and yet here I was allowing my body to convert alcohol to acetaldehyde which was dislodging the PLP coenzyme over and over to contribute to poor serotonin, dopamine, and epinephrine circuit function and thus, aggravating my depression.

At this point, I really did have a beautiful yoga practice; balanced my green juice with In N’ Out Burgers; and was authentically, slowly on my path.  Meaning, Good God yes, that sloppy ugly stage in my life was part of my path that eventually led me to another sober path with less yoga and no alcohol.

Whether it was perfectionism or bad genes or my sensitive soul shrinking in response to homophobia (a complicated thing made manifest even now, humph), I was very good at drinking for a very long time.

I also looked pretty good according to artificially imposed standards on Southern California yoga teachers (someone needs to come up with a fridge magnet called “Artificially Imposed Standards on California Yoga Teachers Kill Grey Matter While All of the World’s Problems Swallow Us”).

Yoga and meditation saved my life because they loved me.  They made me develop entirely new circuits in my brain.   The hippocampus, which often shrinks with depression, had to grow to acquire new information.  Yoga was like a sister to meditation and meditation introduced me to self-love and compassion.

Yoga taught me that I was a bad-ass, that there had to be something deeper and stronger in me beyond the drinking.  Meditation taught me that I was an alcoholic; I sat with myself a lot.  Meditation teaches you where you are stuck by sort of giving you access to a video recording of your life that you can slow down at any moment to review; it not only does that, but it allows you to organize patterns from that video so you really can see where you are stuck.

I knew I was an alcoholic.

I knew it for years before I was strong enough to walk away.

So the day and a year after Amy Winehouse was found dead, I quit alcohol.  (Okay, this is silly to mention, but so is astrology.)

Two years later, I quit nicotine.

And now I’ve been sober for 3 years and nicotine free for one.

Yoga can be a potent tool to find freedom; or it can be a poison.  The perfectionism perhaps lies in the Western desire to achieve some sort of perfect body; and getting distracted by this poison can be quite easy when there is no cut and dry way to initially distinguish a yoga class that provides tools for freedom vs. a poisonous one.  Personally, I think of a good yoga practice as a sensible button mushroom; and a poisonous practice as a death cap mushroom.  In their infancy, they are easily confused for one another by novices; but as they grow all you need to do is look a little closer and pause and it’s pretty clear which one will kill you.

Seated Yoga and Pranayama

Seated yoga poses to prepare the body for breathing exercises; this video uses a long exhale to slow down the nervous system and encourage relaxation.  Appropriate for beginner/intermediate students.