Please don’t mistake puberty for a health or weight PROBLEM

The statistics about pre-teens and body image are staggering, really:

“According to a 2016 study in the Journal of Pediatrics, over half of 9-14-year-old girls desire a thinner body shape. This matters because body image plays a key role in the development of healthy habits. Girls who have a poor body image, for instance, are less likely to eat a nutritious diet or exercise and are more likely to experience problems with their emotional health. They are at higher risk for dieting, eating disorders, accelerated growth, internalizing unrealistic media images, and engaging in risky behaviors like drugs and alcohol.”

This quote is pulled from an article, “Your adolescent daughter doesn’t have a weight problem. She’s going through puberty” by family nutrition expert Maryann Tomovich Jacobsen.

It really makes me sad to think of girls spending any time or energy at all worrying about their weight or shape as something that determines their value as human beings. But, they are responding to very real pressures and strong messages, both implicit and explicit, coming from the media, their families and friends. We are all part of this seemingly perpetual cycle of self-denigration and shame, and we gotta start being a part of the remedy as well.

What could you be doing to make this change? Be a part of the Embody Love Movement revolution! Check out what we’re up to in San Antonio.

 

From the (he)Art of a young woman

About once a month I teach a free yoga class for the instructors and staff of a local arts organization called Say Sí. Say Sí’s mission:

SAY Sí ignites the creative power of young people as forces of positive change. We value artists, empower marginalized communities and advance culture.

Every year they do an exhibit of their seniors’ work, and put those works up for sale. I often purchase works from this annual show. The money goes to the students who are now off to college or art school, or adventuring into adulthood with other endeavors.

This year, I was struck by the work of Lee Ortiz. Lee is a mixed media artist born in Harlingen and moved to San Antonio to pursue art further within North East School of the Arts and SAY Sí. As she says in her bio, her “work expands on feelings, ideas, and troubles that she feels are not addressed enough in our daily lives, tackling topics such as eating disorders, self image, mental illness, fatphobia, friendships, relationships, family and how to deal with these issues in a social and political way.”

This tender heart is doing all she can to fight the hurtful messages — both implicit and explicit — about what it means to have a certain kind of body… what it MEANS about our value as a human being. She screams in her work: I am not gross! 

Let’s support this powerful young artist as she launches herself out into the world. She is a brave fighter! Lee will be attending Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design as an Illustration major, and I’m sure buying her work will help her a lot. If you are interested in purchasing anything, let me know. I can buy it and ship it to you. We can venmo. 

I am not gross (above) $150

They’re not Gross $150

Things I see online (Skip Dinner) $150

The Calorie Count Grows $200 (SOLD)

You can find Lee for further questions and commissions through these: Instagram: @eeelbee Email: aleahlouiseortiz@gmail.com Artstation: eelbee.artstation.com

 

What could we have done instead?

Ladies, what else could we have done with all the mental energy we’ve spent:

Counting calories? Counting carbs? Reading labels?

Craving and denying a simple pleasure?

Hating ourselves for giving in to a simple pleasure?

Dissecting ourselves into body parts we hate?

“Hating” other women?

Staring sideways in the mirror and hating what we see?

Staring at our own (and each others’) faces too closely, examining every detail of an eyebrow, a lip line, the size of our pores, and feeling somehow that those things actually MEANT something about our SELVES?

It’s complicated, I know. And I’m not blaming us, or each other, or even “society.”

I’m not blaming, but I AM going to try to do something about it.

MBS Yoga, with the support of Trinity Healing Foundation, are working to expand women’s and girls’ horizons, to pay more attention to how they FEEL than how they LOOK, and to value themselves for all they can DO and BE.

Learn about the transformative Embody Love Movement workshops we are offering at our information session Sunday, August 4, 5 pm at MBS Yoga.

On the matter of birthday donations

Many years ago (in the last century)—1992—I got to meet one of my childhood sheroes, Gloria Steinem. Mom and I went to the Brazos Bookstore in Houston and she signed our books. During her talk, Gloria gave a piece of advice that has always stuck with me. She said your checkbook (remember, 20th century) should reflect your values. Ever since then, I have always given MONEY to causes I care about, regularly.

I really appreciate that Facebook encourages people to give, bundle and promote their favorite causes and charities for their birthdays. However… and please educate me if I am wrong… I gave to one this morning for a friend’s fundraiser, and I got my receipt from Facebook, not from the organization I gave to. I believe the money we give that way gets to the groups. BUT, what it means (or might mean) is 1) the group doesn’t get my contact info and I lose the opportunity to be more involved in that group, and 2) Facebook gets the tax deduction.

I’m not opposed to tax deductions… but with all the millions of donations Facebook is bundling, IF they are getting the credit, they are getting ONE HELL OF A TAX DEDUCTION.

And… I kinda think Facebook actually owes our country a little, after 2016.

So… I’m not doing a birthday fundraiser through Facebook.

If you are in the spirit of giving, though, here are some Texas groups I endorse for your ongoing (or one time) support (with links to their donation pages:

 

On Immigrant Rights: Angry Tias and Abuelas of the RGV,  RAICES

On SO MANY things: ACLU of Texas, Texas Freedom Network

Environmental Justice: Sierra Club Lonestar Chapter, t.e.j.a.s., Texas Campaign for the Environment

Reproductive Justice, Rights, Access: Lilith Fund, NARAL Prochoice Texas

Quality Nonprofit Journalism: Texas Observer, Texas Tribune

Worker Rights: Workers Defense Project, Equal Justice Center

 

There are so many… Please give to someone if you can! If you want to tell me you, great! 🙂

I really can’t believe the news today…

We now have a pretty solid deadline for turning things around on climate change… and we’ve passed it. Private corporations are making millions, as immigrant children are dying in US detention centers and we warehouse a third of African American men in prisons. The states have begun unilaterally striking down essential rights and freedoms. We have a president that lies, whines and rants and despite it all, may still win re-election.

The problems feel insurmountable—but we MUST face them. We must not look away.

I have always felt compelled to respond to the crises of the day, to do something with my life that made a difference on a broader scale. Even as a little child, I had a keen sense of injustice and wanted to fight to right the wrongs I could see all around me. I wore a button that said “Be Nice To Each Other.” I thought that would be a start. As an adult, I made a pretty good run as a professional organizer and policy advocate, working at many levels to secure basic health care for low income women, adequate and equitable public school funding, worker protections, environmental protections, voter protections, safe schools, streets and homes.

I gotta admit sometimes I feel a little conflicted about not doing more now, about my turn to the “Be” category of activism, while there is so much still to Block and Build (see Block Build and Be). But, “Be” it shall be! BeCause it is necessary. And BeCause it is intimately connected to the Building and Blocking. As Gandhi said, “We must be the change we wish to see in the world.” And, as the estimable Mavis Staples said, “who’s gonna do it if I don’t do it?”

Yoga has become pretty comfortably nestled in within the lucrative (for some) markets of Fitness, Wellness, and Self Care. And that is fine, depending on how you want to define being well, and being a self. I believe — and the teachings of yoga (as well as Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism, and Islam) affirm — that we must be well within communities; that we can only be well within communities that are well; and that we are indeed, each in some way implicated in the injustices and inequities we see in our communities. That’s what Karma is all about. We have work to do here in this life that is about more than feeling good about our “little s” selves.

Inspiration abounds. Here is one of my godsons, Climate Justice Warrior Zayne Cowie, as featured in The New York Times, doing what he can. And he is 9!

Here are some groups doing great Build and Block work in S A N  A N T O N I O,   T E X A S  and   B E Y O N D  if you want to get involved on climate change and environmental sustainability.

If, for now, you’re keeping your yoga on the mat, that’s a great place to Be! You can always catch me Tuesday, Thursday and Friday mornings, 6 am for Rise Strong, or Tuesday and Thursdays at 9 am for Yoga-ahhh Yin Yoga and fascial release at MBS Yoga.

If you’re interested in learning more about the karma path of yoga, check out my 6-week summer series, Foundations of Yoga: The Karma Yoga Path, which also comes as a 3-month mentorship version in the fall for yoga teachers who want to earn even more Yoga Alliance continuing education credits.

Hope to see you soon — on or off the mat!

 

 

Excerpted from my newsletter! See the whole thing here.

Why is yoga politics?

Because politics is about change. And yoga is about peeling back the layers of illusion, even if for just one hour, to experience the most radical power on earth: the power of CLARITY that is the wisdom of your heart; clarity, the heart of this practice and the IMPETUS for all change.

If only for this one hour out of your day, you can FEEL what YOU feel, KNOW what YOU know, you touch the power to act on that foundation of strength whenever you need to. Yoga opens you to possibility and empowers you to see beyond the agreements we are living under, agreements we may never have consciously chosen to accept.

I mean the agreements that constitute the assumption that things just are the way they are. The ways in which we unquestioningly proceed through life. I first questioned these agreements when I was 16 and became a vegetarian. Who said I have to eat meat, just because “everybody” does?

Yoga can be a personal practice of checking in with yourself — what feels right for you? What does your body tells you it needs? Paying attention to that for yourself can be an act of radical resilience and self care.

But we end each class saying “Namaste,” acknowledging our sameness, our connection—this in the context of a culture that prizes individualism and competition, both of which require us NOT to see our sameness, our connection. For me, that’s one of those unspoken agreements that needs to be challenged. Our lives, and our fates, are intricately connected.

Yoga creates personal transformation that makes action in the world possible. Politics is one way we make change happen collectively.

Do what you can today.

I didn’t die yesterday

I saw the most beautiful sun rise as they carried me to the car to take me to the hospital.

It was the first morning of my retreat. I had gotten up early to write morning pages and drink coffee before morning yoga practice. My alarm went off at 6. It was still dark and my roommate was asleep, so I tiptoed through our room to go to the bathroom without turning on any lights. Feeling my way along the walls for the bathroom doorway, apparently I missed it, walked right past it and stepped into a void that was the stairwell to the first floor.

WHAT’S HAPPENING?!?!?!

It was pitch black.

There was no floor, there were no walls that I could find.

Completely disoriented, I lurched in the dark, reaching out for something to hold onto, but wasn’t finding anything. By the time I realized I was falling, I had dived to the right, past the landing halfway down and tumbled over the steep edge to the lower stairs below. I banged my head on the stone stairs, and then just kept going. I have never hit my head so hard. I felt my teeth break.

HOW FAR DOWN DOES THIS GO?

Finally, sometime before I stopped I told myself to make a sound, to yell while I still could so someone could help me. I honestly wasn’t sure I’d be able to yell when I hit the bottom. I yelled once and then finally hit the bottom and called for my roommate and next door neighbor.

They both came quickly, probably as terrified as I was. They got me to a bed and ran to the kitchen for ice and help.

I burst into tears when my teacher came and held me. All these beautiful women in their nightgowns, ferocious in calling for help and calm in taking care of me, reassuring me. FULL ON mama bear mode… for me. And I cried harder for their tenderness.

My dear retreat-mate accompanied me to the hospital, interpreting from Spanish to English and back again, filled out all my paperwork for me, asked all the questions and stayed with me for hours while a parade of on-call doctors SLOWLY made their way to the hospital to check me out. The hospital’s dentist-on-call refused to come in on a Sunday. I saw an orthopedist, an neurologist and a maxillofascial specialist. I got x-rays and a CT scan. And once they assured my by brain was ok, I let them give me some anti-inflammatory drugs and started to feel better. They checked me out of the hospital and the myofascial doctor came back to get me and take me to her clinic so her dentist and orthodontist could fix my teeth.

Just nine hours later I was back in my bed at the hotel.

I’m ok.

I’m observing the yoga classes rather than taking them. I’m surrounded by heart strong women doing their own deep work while taking care of me. I’ve only ever felt this kind of collective nurturing when my mama died. As as they came out of shivasana yesterday, I thought to myself, “I didn’t die yesterday.” I might have. But I didn’t.

 

 

Celebrate your inner strength on Hanuman’s birthday

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A beautiful interpretation of Hanumanasana from the book Metamorphosis, by Emanuele Scanziani.

Tomorrow, March 31, marks Hanuman Jayanti, an important Hindu religious festival honoring Hanuman. Half monkey, half man, Hanuman is a pivotal character in the Hindu epic Ramayana, known for his bravery and selfless devotion to Lord Rama, whom he served throughout most of his life. As a symbol within the faith tradition, Hanuman stands for the power of devotion to discipline the unruly “monkey” mind and guide us into right action.

Tomorrow, in my Noon Body Strong Flow class at MBS Yoga, we will honor the spirit of Hanuman Jayanti with a strong practice focused on building the strengths that Hanuman represents: focus, determination and strength. We’ll hear some of Hanuman’s stories and learn a little more about this important figure while we practice the yoga pose named for him. We are in no way even approximating a true Hanuman Jayanti celebration, but we can acknowledge the celebration and offer in our own way something to the intention of the day.

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Focus is the reward

 

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Benny was my mom’s dog. He came to me with some pretty bad habits: peeing wherever he wanted, barking at everyone, and biting people, mainly the ones with red hair! So when I got him, I took him to obedience school. He was already 7 years old, but I was sure we could break him of these lifelong behaviors.

We both learned a lot at obedience school. One thing I learned was that Benny’s obedience was pretty much up to me — I was the one that was going to have to learn and practice how to be a dog’s master. Seven years later, Benny is just as bad as ever.

I failed obedience school, but Benny did learn one thing: how to focus. The game was for me to hide a treat in one hand and reach my arms out to each side. Benny’s job was to keep his eyes on ME, not the treat in my hand. If he could, he got the treat. He was really good at it! In no other task could he focus his attention and concentrate like he could in this one.

In yoga, you may find yourself going for the treat, the calendar pose reward at the end of all that work. But the real reward comes from learning how to stay centered and focus.

Yoga offers a complete set of practices to help you do that. What I love about the asana practice we do in class is that it anchors the mental effort in the physical body. In balancing poses, and in transitions from one pose to another, you’ve got to activate and fix your mind to your core, to the deep muscles that stabilize and ground you while all the “action” is going on in the periphery. Physically, energetically with your muscles, you have to pull yourself IN. In the body, you draw the abdominal muscles IN. You gently retract the limbs INto the sockets that connect to the torso—hips and shoulders. Plugged into your center, you can make any transition, from a strong, side stretching backbend to a twisted, forward bending balancing pose.

Here’s a little clip of a sequence that requires a LOT of focus. It’s speeded up to double-time, and I still falter, but you’ll see what I mean.

Focus on the breath

Meditate copyYoga teachers often instruct our students to “focus on your breath.” But what does that mean exactly? This guided meditation walks you through observing several different qualities of the breath. Learning how to notice these fine qualities helps attune your perception of your own physical self right here, right now. Plugging into how you actually feel physically in your body opens the door to deeper inquiry into the self.