Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Svadisthana Self-Massage Methods

The self-massage methods I share below will stimulate the area around the svadisthana chakra. This massage has an added bonus of being beneficial to those who are trying to lose weight. You can do these self-massages either sitting down or lying down. You should try to do this before you eat, if possible. Place your right hand (if you are a woman) over your navel and your left hand over your right. (If you are a man, your left hand should lie beneath your right.) Slowly, without applying a lot of pressure, rub your palm in gradually widening clockwise circles, beginning with very small circles getting larger in circumference with each circuit. Eventually your hands will be skimming the hip bones and just below the ribs. When you have reached this outer limit, pause between your ribs above the navel and move your palm in gradually smaller counter-clockwise circles until you have returned to the navel. In Qi Gong, the ideal number of circuits is eighteen. This is also a powerful number in Hebrew tradition as it is mystically connected with Chai, meaning life. Creation. I once took a workshop with a yogini who did a similar massage and she encouraged the participants to do this before every meal 100 times, being quite vigorous, generating heat as you rub. Listen to your intuition and do what feels best. You may choose to do both, beginning your day with the 100 circles vigorously executed and doing the clockwise/counter-clockwise massage later in the day. In Dr. Stephen Chang’s book The Complete System of Self-Healing the author recommends another exercise. Rub the palms together to build heat in your hands. Beginning with your right hand just under your right ribs and your left under your left, move your hands down towards the lower abdomen. Now move them out and around, back up along the sides of stomach (but not so far they are running along your side waist). You will be making two ovals down the middle and up the sides. Do not reverse this exercise. This exercise promotes digestion. If you have problems with digestion, this is an excellent exercise and should be done along with one of the above. All three of these will help stimulate the svadisthana chakra. There is another form of self-massage which also helps but I won’t describe what you should do to stimulate the chakra further. Rather, I’ll remind you that the svadisthana chakra is associated with procreation. Suffice it to say, the method of self-massage you prefer is purely your business and whatever makes you . . . happy . . . is perfect. Enjoy! Namasté

Bitch by Elizabeth Wurtzel

Bitch: In Praise of Difficult Women by Elizabeth Wurtzel is the kind of book I want to love. Wurtzel is erudite and she addresses her theme, praising those women who are often seen as bitches, with a strident and clear voice. I found myself agreeing with her often, rolling my eyes in dismay more often, and wondering why anyone wanted her to be the sole voice of this topic. The problem is, ultimately, that you get one woman’s perspective and unless you find her point of view enlightening, agreeable, intriguing and/or provocative, you’ll come to the Epilogue with an expectation that finally Wurtzel will draw some conclusions that don’t sound pathetic or desperate. I think you have to read between the lines to find the praise. When she writes about Amy Fisher, the Long Island Lolita who shot her lover’s wife in the head, her defense of Fisher as a victim is obvious. Too obvious. It brings nothing new to the table. Her denigration of Hillary Clinton is not a typical conservative line of attack so much as a whining complaint that Clinton seems to be a feminist while not living up to Wurtzel’s feminist ideal. The few and far between women who do seem to come close have, since this book’s publication, proven to be far from potential role models. I think that many readers of a different era would probably read this book and hear nothing but a brat bitching about how the older generation didn’t get it right. Rather like those Civil Rights leaders who screamed against Uncle Toms rather than acknowledging the previous generations’ sacrifices that made it possible for anyone to speak out, let alone scream. Her frustration with the failings of Steinam, et al, is tedious mostly because she says it over and over and by the end of the book her point could have, and maybe should have, been said in far fewer words. I wonder if it isn’t just that I am reading the words of a barely 30 year old woman from a 46 year old woman’s perspective. Maybe I’ve had too many experience to still be caught up in regretting them, as Wurtzel clearly regrets some of her own. Or maybe I don't appreciate her dilemma as I never dreamed about my perfect wedding, didn't daydream about what I or my bridesmaids would wear, and still don't know what the fuss is about the ceremony when the marriage is the real deal and takes work. A lot more work and stress, by the way, than even the most elaborate wedding would ever require. I almost would rather read her memoir than her thoughts on how other people lived her life. But I have a feeling that her memoir would remind me of those “coming-of-age” novels I read last year in which the protagonist is actually in their 30s and should have come at least a decade earlier. Still, I have hope for Wurtzel. I think when she’s my age, she’ll be a lot more content with herself and her life. Edit Apparently she has written memoirs. Her book, Prozac Nation, is a memoir. I honestly thought it would be a similar collection of her thoughts on how people medicate to deal with life, allowing her an opportunity to climb on yet another soapbox and talk wonderfully but endlessly about her stance on the issue. (I would probably agree with her fully, to tell the truth.) She's also written another memoir, More, Now, Again, is yet another memoir about her addiction . . . to prozac? I don't know. I'd have to read it to know and I haven't.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Chakra Dance

The Svadisthana (or Swadisthana) chakra is located between the pubic bone and belly button and its color is is orange. Both Svadisthana and Muladhara, because they are located low in the body, lend themselves to belly dancing. All of the hip work--from thrusts, rolls, to shimmies--are wonderful ways to awaken these chakras. If you have any bellydancing dvds, you can easily focus on this area (but be sure you do the warm-up and cool-downs always!) by repeating the sections that focus on the hips. The following video has a lovely simple hip practice. (The lovely twins are so slender, though, which is my only complaint.) This is the 3rd of 4 videos so feel free to check out all four.

I have several belly dancing dvds. For pure exercise, I concede that Veena and Neena are more about cardio exercise. They have several dvds on the market, most of which were recorded about ten years ago. The Goddess Workout dvds are also enjoyable although they are shot with more attention to Dolphina, the instructor, than to the details of how each move is completed. I am always breaking a sweat by the end of the dvd. I adore the music on this one more than practically any other, traditional or not.

For a pure focus on technique, I recommend most highly Neon's Instant Belly Dancing dvds. Her breakdown of the movements is invaluable. If you were a little confused by anything on any other bellydancing dvd, this one will break it down and give you the time and practice you need to get it to where you are comfortable. Other forms of dance that are wonderful for these chakras are Tribal Fusion (a non-traditional form of bellydancing) and Hawaiian/Tahitian. Whatever form of dance you choose, remember that the focus should be on the chakras. Even if you do slow simple hip rolls, sensual figure eights, and lower body undulations, this is a wonderful thing. I would rather encourage you to focus than urge you to shimmy and shake your way into distraction. (As an aside, I read in The Overflowing Brain how dance, whether aerobic or choreographed, strengthens the brain. We have all heard that exercise helps the elderly mentally but later studies have shown that this is not as true of walking/biking/hiking/swimming as much as it is of dance and tai chi. I have no doubt that this is becasue of the layering and sequencing that these forms of exercise presume, the attention required as you move from one part to the next.

Hands of My Father by Myron Uhlberg

Hands of My Father: A Hearing Boy, His Deaf Parents, and the Language of Love by Myron Uhlberg is one of those rare memoirs that it is nigh near impossible to find nowadays. A gentle, compassionate telling of what it was like for Uhlberg to grow up in Brooklyn during the latter years of the Depression and into the early fifties. In a day when it seems de rigueur to boldly seek out every emotional scar and rip it wide open to pour blood out onto the page, sharing the dirtiest and messiest parts of our very beings, Uhlberg writes about his relationship with his father honestly. He does not hide the shame he feels as the outside hearing world sneers or behaves rudely towards his parents. Measured against this isolated experience of other people’s ignorance, he describes the typical boyhood of growing up in Brooklyn, playing in the streets and finding ways of being a child while still being called upon to be the voice and ears of parents who could not communicate except through writing otherwise. This tentative line of innocence and responsibility is told with almost poetic loveliness. When Uhlberg describes the various signs, the reader, even without any familiarity with American Sign Language, can visualize precisely what he was seeing. The book manages to inspire pathos without being pathetic, drawing a smile, an occasional sigh, and, yes, even a sniffled tear. The only other thing I can say about this memoir is that, if I were to write a memoir, I would love to be able to write one as overflowing with truth and love as this one is.

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Why People Don’t Heal and How They Can by Caroline Myss, Ph.D.

I wrote this review a couple of weeks ago but forgot to post it. Oops. Why People Don’t Heal and How They Can by Caroline Myss, Ph.D. begins the way so many of these types of books do: Let me give you a lot of examples of how I know this works before I tell you why you should try it, through still more examples, and then eventually I’ll get around to telling you what you yourself can do in your life to make this a part of your reality. In other words, by the end of the second chapter I was bored beyond words. I understand the purpose of giving examples before jumping into the primary purpose of the text. It lays a foundation of trust and reinforces the reader’s commitment to believe that what follows is not ridiculous or useless but possibly deeply rich and meaningful. I just wish more authors would not spend so much time on the prelude. The first four chapter focus on “Why People Don’t Heal” and this is most of the foundation stuff. There’s a lot of Age of Aries/Pisces/Aquarius stuff that I probably don’t appreciate because I don’t get it. (Why do the ages evolve backwards through the signs rather than forward and why is Western astrology more relevant to our ages than, say, Chinese or Ayurvedic?) There’s Kabbalah and Chakra stuff woven throughout as well and it is all a sort of stew of belief systems with everything from astrology to Jewish mysticism to Hinduism woven together. It isn’t until the reader reaches the second part, the “How They Can,” that the book takes off by finally giving practical information. But first we have to have more examples. Goodness gracious, at what point is the reader not going to start thinking that the author doesn’t trust the truth of what she is writing because she has to give so very many proofs that she knows whereof she speaks? Or maybe the reader will assume that the author doesn’t trust the reader to 1) remember the many examples already given in the first section and/or 2) isn’t sincerely interested in healing? The truth is, if it is 2 then even with all of the examples, the reader won’t read no matter how much they may actually need the information. Either the reader is ready or isn’t. Given so many examples is not going to convince the reader of the text’s veracity. By the sixth, seventh, and eighth chapters you finally start getting some practical applications. Journaling, chakra work, and a surprising merge of both chakra and Catholic sacraments (because obviously Judaism and Hinduism were not enough) lead the reader through various ways of inner work and self-exploration. For those who are more ecumenical in their spiritual leanings, these last chapters are the meat of the text, the reason why you bothered to read the many pages that precede. Can you skip ahead? No, unfortunately. The groundwork laid in the earlier chapters is necessary. I just think it could have been given in a more succinct manner. With that in mind, if the tenets intrigue you then don’t give up on this book too soon. Trust that it does indeed get down to business eventually. Read with a conservative haste if you are getting so bored you might never finish. And if the last part still doesn’t resonate or appeal to you, then move onto something else. For me, I am interested in giving the various practices at the end of the text a try and plan to do so in the coming weeks. As I said, I wrote this a couple of weeks ago--before I began my chakra work. I even forgot to refer to this book at all last week because I was just enjoying what I was already doing so much I didn't feel an urge or desire to do more. Maybe with this week I will incorporate this resource as well. Or perhaps I will leave it for the last week when I work through all of the chakras. We shall see.