Sunday, November 26, 2006

Holiday Rumblings

So, Thanksgiving has come and gone, and now it is time to hunker down and prepare for the big December Holiday rush that we all get caught up in, with or without any religious denomination. I hope everyone has survived Black Friday, with money still in the bank and without having to think of it as Black and Blue Friday. I understand that the competition for getting that favorite gift at the lowest price on the official opening day of the shopping season can sometimes become a day of not just crowds, but of brawls.

The holidays are challenging, because we face this uncomfortable dilemma of having to reckon with both our self and our family. It is proscribed that the rest of the world is meeting for friendly family gatherings, so if we choose not to we somehow become societal outcasts or unacceptably belligerent. Maybe; maybe not.

I have always preferred the Thanksgiving holiday over Christmas, or I should say, always since being an adult. I generally give the classic reasons for this. You know, there’s not the pressure of all that gift giving. Thanksgiving, in it’s ideal form, is truly a gathering within the loving embrace of family, and sometimes others; a gathering where we get to reflect and truly be grateful for the things we have, big or small, for which we know we can express true thanks. There is not the distasteful materialistic hype and pressure that is associated with Christmas, and the more secularized version of the December Holiday. There is not the pressure to know which of these you should be talking about when you greet people, the religious holiday (Christmas) or the secular holiday (The Holidays). Yet, I think there is, in addition, a somewhat more cynical reason for my preference for Thanksgiving.

The escape from family can be quicker at Thanksgiving. It is one meal on one day; the end. Well, I guess not entirely, the end. There is some pretty major preparation and clean up; maybe a day and a half total! Now don’t get me wrong, I truly love my family. I am very happy for the rest of the world creating a cause for our family reunion, which we do not otherwise have the ability to create for ourselves. And yet, there is this uncomfortable piece about “the family”. The pulsation of love them, can not stand them. Love them because they are the only people on the face of the earth that are unconditionally there for me, and who in their own bizarre, and not entirely accurate way, understand me. Can not stand them, because they are this very uncomfortable mirror that reflects me and how I got to be me. This pulsation gives both a powerful draw to them, and a feeling of intolerance as well. It is all the unique things that I understand and love and am proud of about my family that creates the draw, and at the same time, it is the intolerance of their craziness and knowing that I can get away quickly that makes Thanksgiving my preference. It is my fantasy too, that nobody else’s family can create quite the combination of meal and conversation that I live for on Thanksgiving.

So I indulge in this moment to offer thanks to my family. Thank you to my parents for having me and loving me. Thank you to my brothers for providing a loving model for my children of that gender with whom I have so much trouble making healthy intimate contact. Thank you to my children for being the best children that a mother could dream of having. Thank you to the rest of you, all of my family, who have loved me and made me who I am today.

With much love for a Happy, Healthy, and Meaningful Holiday Season for all. Donna

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Why Yoga and Therapy?

The metaphor between what happens in the body and mind becomes very direct when yoga and psycho-therapy are combined. Yoga stretches, strengthens, and brings the body into balance. Therapy stretches, strengthens and brings the mind into balance.

Yoga, as a physical discipline, gives us direct access to a practice using our skeletal (voluntary) muscle system. What goes on in our heads is less voluntarily controlled. Yet, what we do and how we heal and take care of our bodies directly impacts our mental health. In this way, yoga and therapy come together to heal the whole person. I use the word “heal” with an assumption that the process of living causes various levels of both physical and emotional injury for everyone.

Yoga is a more complete physical exercise than most other athletic systems. More complete, in that it offers a system that addresses not only the entire skeletal system, but in addition to offering muscle strengthening, the skeletal muscles are also very deliberately worked through their length, creating increased flexibility, and strength through the length of the muscles. Alignment becomes a means and a goal as the body works through various “asanas”. (Asana is the Sanskrit word for pose or posture. Next time you hear a yoga instructor give the name of a posture in Sanskrit, you might notice that the names of all of the postures end in “asana”). The variety of asana is as endless as the imagination, and limited only by the practitioners willingness to play.

The same effect that is obtained from a regular yoga practice will not be achieved by exercises such as running or bicycling, which are repetitive and focused on some, but not all, of the muscle groups. A cyclist or a runner, or any number of other classic athletes, will more easily get a thorough aerobic workout than a yogi or yogini, but they also have to be very wary of developing muscle shortening and imbalances, or a variety of joint injuries. In fact, many athletes are discovering that a yoga practice offers an important enhancement to their main game. This is not to say that someone who practices yoga can not develop injuries from their practice, of course we can and do. When done well, however, yoga can be a very effective therapeutic for the physical body. Which now brings me back around to my original topic.

As an effective form of therapy for the physical body, it is my firm belief that the yoga practitioner thereby addresses their psyche as the physical body is being offered important exercise towards a more functional and healthy bodily alignment. As a massage therapist, one of my favorite truths that I tell my clients is: “the issues are in the tissues.” When people hear that, generally they will at least smile, or sometimes laugh outright. The recognized humor in this statement speaks to a deeply understood truth. We all have experienced how our bodies are so adept at taking on form and shape, molded by the issues in our lives. A massage therapist can help you undo deep muscle tension. A psycho therapist will help you to address and uncover the issues in your life that bring on bodily tensions. A yoga practice however, will bring your awareness keenly to your habitual form, and help you to see and feel how you carry your life in your body.

My contention is that when we do that, we are better primed for our psychotherapy sessions. Yoga may be very good therapy, but I don’t believe it replaces good talk therapy. We are social creatures, and as much as we can develop good understandings of ourselves as we allow a closer and healthier relationship with our physical bodies, I believe we also need the affirmation and understanding that comes from having a healthy relationship with a good therapist.

So, to sum up why yoga and therapy: Yoga develops our own personal awareness of ourselves through a discipline that works towards our becoming well aligned, physically. This tuned in physical alignment moves our psyches in the direction of also becoming more well balanced and aligned, creating a beautiful opening for working with our therapists. The individual awareness developed during a potentially meditative yoga workout, gives the client access to important material. Serious yoga practitioners understand that yoga is much more than an exercise of doing daily asana, but that our lives take on their own unique asana. Having a therapist available to offer encouragement, understanding, and insight can create a very meaningful merging of modalities as yoga on the mat is brought to life off of the mat.


Monday, November 13, 2006

A Musical Note.....

I have been singing with Hamilton College's community/college Oratorio Society on and off for a number of years. They do a major choral work every term. In the fall the concert is always the Tuesday evening after Thanksgiving. This years fall term performance will be:

Felix Mendelsohn's, St. Paul

Conducted by G. Roberts Kolb

Tuesday evening November 28, 2006
Wellin Hall in The Schambach Center for the Arts

on Hamilton College's Campus

The rehersals have been a lot of fun. It is truly a beautiful piece of music. Should be a nice performance.


November Yoga Classes

I have been teaching yoga classes for Pam LeBlanc of "The Fit Biz" This month my schedule for her is:

Tonight, Monday the 13th at 5:40 PM at Bellevue Heights Church on S. Geddes St., Syracuse

Monday the 20th at 5:40 PM, Bellevue Heights Church

Wednesday the 29th at 5:40 PM at Rockefeller Church at Tecumseh and Nottingham Rd's in the Univeristy area of Syracuse

I also teach out of my house on an "as asked" basis. Have space for private, up to about 10 people. Let me know if you are interested in your own small or private class.

Thanks, Donna

Friday, November 10, 2006

Welcome to my "Blog" Page

Wanted to see what would happen, if I put together a place where people could talk about the various therapies that I am interested in. I do "family therapy", teach yoga, and am also a massage therapist. I put family therapy in quotes, because sometimes people get confused, and think that if what I offer is family therapy, maybe they need to come in with their family in order to be qualified as a client. WRONG! Actually, not so terribly wrong..... every time a client comes in, as an individual, as a couple, with a friend, with another family member.... the rest of the family comes in with them as well. That is, like it or not, we all carry our families with us all the time.

I say I do family therapy, because that is the training that qualifies me as therapist. I graduated from Syracuse University with a Master's in Marriage and Family Therapy in 2005. That is my formal academic training. My own personal training in family therapy started in my own family of origin, which I was born into on June 11, 1958. I am daughter of small town central New York mom, and Palestinian immigrant peasant father, sister of two brothers, one older, one younger. So, I am well placed to be the diplomat, and peace maker from my origins, and have played that role on many occasions throughout my lifetime. Long about my 23rd birthday I married a very succesful German Catholic man, successful primarily academically when I married him, but he went on to complete medical school, and do quite well for himself and our family over the years.

We have 4 children together, and did a very unskillful divorce together. Divorce was official by the summer of '99. Over the last years since the divorce, our children have complained to us about our unskillfulness, but despite ourselves, the kids have overall been quite succesful. The magic, people sometimes ask me..... what do you attribute your children's success to? I hesitate to respond with the first thing that comes to mind..... which is that they have been genuinely loved. Why do I hesitate to respond this way? Primarily because it sounds too easy, and also because too many people genuinely love their kids and still have all kinds of issues and serious difficulties with them. So, I am still working on a good answer to that question. Likely it is some magic combination of love, luck, and just enough pain mixed in to their lives to offer them some humility and incentive.

Yoga and Therapy

I am interested in bringing yoga and therapy together. I thought a nice way to begin to do this might be to offer a yoga workshop to therapists. There was a lot of interest and enthusiasm expressed when I presented the idea, but no one signed up for my first attempt at trying to make this happen. If you are interested, let me know and let's see if we can get something going at a time and place that works for people!