Monday, May 15, 2017


In conjunction with my graduate school studies I provided a bedside yoga therapy session as a clinical intern at Howard County General Hospital (HCGH) in Maryland yesterday.  My first in a hospital. Untethered. Left alone to help another human who was in the midst of some next level suffering. Big stuff.
Thrust into an acute inpatient clinic I was planning to sit in as an observer of a yoga therapy session for my virgin experience. As you can imagine I was hesitant to jump right in as it was something new for me, and it was a hospital, and those aren't typically fun places, and these are real people with real not so good shit happening in their lives, and I have not so fond memories of my three week stay in Tripler Army Hospital in Hawaii after being seriously burned 20 years ago.  In HCGH nobody (except for my ride or die MUIH yoga therapy crew) had a smile on their face.
Setting the scene I was on campus in the morning and had a session with a client that went super well. Not having a scheduled session in the afternoon I decided it was time to head over to the hospital where roughly eight of my fellow students were since 10am.  So when I arrived at the hospital at 2:30 p.m. I found a seat at the break room table next to my yoga therapy crew and said not much. I wanted to observe what was going on, what the general vibe of the place was and to get my bearings. I learned many of the patients didn’t want yoga therapy and my first instinct was “What?! Who doesn’t want to feel better?  I mean, you’re in a hospital, you need this shit. I need to go talk with them and make this right.”  And guess what folks, you reading this who are outside of the hospital probably need this shit. Let me go out there on a limb and say you definitely need this shit. Feeling me yet?  
So one of my fellow students and dear friends says. “Jeff, there is this guy who I think you’d be a great fit for. None of us have gone in there yet, but we thought you’d be great with him.”  It was then I started to feel pressure from the clinic supervisor that I needed to get in there with this guy.  After a few minutes of deliberation about wanting to first be an observer of a session before being a primary I was like “Screw it, let’s do this. I’m here, I’m good at this, let’s see what happens.”  So I grabbed my clipboard and headed down to his room… knocked on the door and introduced myself with a smile. “Hi, I’m Jeff, a yoga therapist and would love a few minutes with you.” He nodded and granted me entry to the room. He was sitting on a little sofa by the window, the sun was shining and there were beautiful green trees outside. It was a gorgeous day in Maryland.

I walked over, humbled by the whole experience. Poor guy sitting there in his hospital gown holding a crappy styrofoam bowl of “some kind of yellow” soup with a plastic spoon.  Dude had been in there a couple of days and was experiencing an extremely painful condition. He was on a Deluded IV, but still in a lot of pain. He’d slept 3 hours in the last two days and was feeling quite a bit of anxiety about his health and life in general.  So we chatted for a few minutes and I asked him if he would like some yoga. He said he’d love it. Bam, I was in.
I helped him into his bed and put a pillow (makeshift bolster) under his lower spine for support. He hated that bed, and I can’t blame him. The damn thing inflated and deflated on its’ own every couple of minutes.
Over the next 20 or so minutes I led him through a practice with breath, visualization, mudra, and intention that - according this him - blew his mind. When it was over he opened his eyes and said “Wow, that was awesome, you are really good! For a while there I felt no pain. Why don’t I do this more often?” I smiled and started to choke up a little bit with an overwhelming feeling of gratitude of being thankful to be able to help another human in this way. I shed a bit of a tear now just writing about it.  Every time I jump in there I’m reminded this work I’m doing is so needed. Who wants some? Who want’s to help me keep expanding? Who wants to expand themselves? #onelove

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Ready or Not

Yesterday I was chatting with a friend via Messenger, who happens to be a very experienced yoga therapist, about yoga things and she mentioned perhaps I should consider trying to take my work into some pretty well known yoga centers.  My reaction was to pull back and my response was. “I guess I don't consider myself one of those big time teachers who can get into those kind of places.”  Feelings of inadequacy in my abilities started to arise.  I struggle with this on the regular even though I know I am fully capable to take on pretty much any task at hand if I put my mind to it, but still, it’s a struggle. Being a yoga teacher and now a yoga therapist means it’s just a fact of life I have to continue to allow myself to be vulnerable enough to put myself out there to help people who are struggling with sometimes serious and heavy issues, yet doing so without over extending and expending my energy reserves.  

Being an experienced teacher and therapist she sensed exactly where I was coming from and replied...

“Sometimes we are so connected to what feels like our limits, that it is hard to imagine a readiness...OH YES.”  

That really hit home with me, like really. I thought back to all of the hard stuff I had to do in the Army. Like joining and going off to boot camp in what seems like a lifetime ago, going off to war, being responsible for the training, health, welfare, of a hundred Soldiers, being accountable for tens of millions of dollars worth of property and equipment, being handed giant shit sandwiches tasks to "handle" and having no clue as where to start. I handled my duties each and every time, excelled even, but sometimes it feels like I was never completely ready for pretty much any of it when I embarked on whatever it was.  It reminds me of when I used to race competitively; I put in the miles, the speed work, the long runs, the diet, and all the other things you need to do in order to be able to race well and cross the finish line respectably. I knew I’d done the work to prepare, but still, there’s that feeling that comes, and everyone can surely relate. Maybe it’s the night before the race. Maybe it’s when you lace up your shoes. Maybe it’s at mile 21.7. Maybe it’s when you stand up to give that big presentation. Maybe it's during final exams. It's THAT feeling when you sell yourself short and think you aren't ready for what lies ahead. You haven't studied enough, haven't researched enough, haven't put in enough time on the training or studying or whatever. There’s an inkling of doubt, that naysayer telling you you’re not worthy of your dreams or success. Times like these are when we tend to shrink, quit, make excuses, seek external validation to tell us we are good enough, etc. They are also when can choose to rise up and tackle whatever faces us to the best of our abilities and that's enough. Because it is. Enough. I love humor, and I think it’s something I need to gravitate to more often. I’m usually one to see the comedy in a situation or topic; I love laughing, but know when it's time for business. That said, I’m a forever funny finder in things and I hope that never changes. It’s served me well throughout my life; perhaps I need to remember that more often when I’m dealing with personal feelings of inadequacy, but I digress.
My friend went on...

“Rising above it works for the sense of inadequacy where it is; we don't have to live There.”

Okay...yeah...I like that.  Basically it’s like “Hey there, Mr. NotGoodEnough, how the hell are you? Glad you could stop by for a chat, I’d love to hear what you have to say, let’s have some coffee and conversation, but then I gotta peace out because I have business to take care of. Cool? Cool.”
altar.jpg So I sat down to meditate this morning to have the coffee and conversation with whatever popped up.  I lit the Palo Santo wood and settled in.  Then I noticed my mudra book sitting to the left of my altar; it’s an amazing book by Joseph LePage I would highly recommend those interested in the healing properties of hand gestures. I turned it open to a random page and there is was...Vajra Mudra, which he tells us is primarily used to balance our third chakra - Manipura. Oh how familiar I am with this one, it’s what I struggled with through all those years tackling an eating disorder.
So I started to read the page and, well, here’s what the author tells us about Manipura Chakra:
“The main theme of the third chakra is clarifying our life purpose and manifesting it completely. When the third chakra is balanced, we find a natural harmony between our own needs and our ability to serve the community. When this chakra is out of balance, we may experience a lack of personal power and self-esteem and a subsequent decrease in motivation and energy. Third chakra imbalance can also manifest as an inflated sense of self and a need for success at all costs which is a reflection of a deep sense of insufficiency. Third chakra balance is supported by integrating its essential qualities, including inherent self-esteem, clear life purpose, determination, vitality, conscious action and conservation of energy, resulting in inner and outer harmony.”
Oh. Shit. Ouch.
So yeah, okay.  I’ve found the root of the issue I began this blog with. I’ve indeed found my life’s purpose with being a yoga therapist, but I’m starting later in life than the masters have.  So I’m dealing, again, with that sense of not feeling prepared, not being good enough, a bit of imposter syndrome if you will.  Knowing what our issues are can be the most important step to growth, so yeah, let’s do this, Jeff. Let’s go help people and remember to keep finding the humor in everything. Ready or not...

References: Le Page, J., Le Page, L., Rezek, S., & Barbosa, C. (2013). Mudras (1st ed.). Sebastopol, California: Integrative Yoga Therapy.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

One Love.

This photo was taken in 2004 during my time in Baghdad, Iraq during an actual war. 127mm rockets (those are not small btw) crashed into our compound less than 100 meters from where I was standing within days of this. Ali Hashimi is an Iraqi, a Muslim, and one of the most kind and good hearted men I have been fortunate to know in this world. Last I heard he and his family has fled Iraq to the UK where his sister was living with her British husband; basically he became an Iraqi refugee. Every single day he braved the ever dangerous streets of the capital to bring much needed supplies and goods to our unit to help improve our quality of life. 
I'll never forget the day he rolled up to our headquarters with a washing machine tied to the roof of his little car. Finally, after months of washing clothes by hand in buckets we could at least have somewhat fresh uniforms to wear. The washers sucked, but at least they were 10x better than sloshing around clothes in a bucket like Little House on the Prairie. The good part was it was so hot and dry over in July and August everything line dried in about 30 minutes (albeit dusty; sand was a big problem). Ali also brought legit Iraqi food to our unit on several occasions, once even introducing us to his family. 
 As the unit's intelligence officer I was tasked with "vetting" this man to ensure he wasn't a threat to our security. I had a list of questions to ask him, but I had known him for a while and had no doubt about his intentions. We went through the process anyway. He had been a low level Baath party guy (all males were Baath party guys in Saddam's regime). Long story short: Trump's cabinet has more dirt on them than my homie Ali. 
 Where am I going with my random Tuesday night writing? I don't know, it's cathartic for me to let this stuff out every now and then. I'm saddened by the state of fear that exists in our nation today. There is a growing sense of being easily offended and attacking anyone with a differing belief system than our own. We are afraid of our neighbors, other races, religions, beliefs, anyone with contradictory values, and we have a regime... I mean adminiTwitterstration that flies off the handle with every damn thing. The lines separating us as humans are becoming ever so remarkably clear, and it's got. to. stop. There are two choices people. Love (or) Fear. That simple. Pick one. Look at life through the lens of love and you'll probably be much happier. Look at it through the lens of fear and you'll doubt everyone and everything. Even the hashtag #resist going around right now has negative connotations. It strikes a confrontational chord. We can do better than resisting. We can broaden. We can reach out. We can lend a hand. We can give. We can love. We can teach. We can soften. We can. We can. 
Bottom-line is people are people are people. We connect on a heart level, we all want to be happy, healthy, safe, and free. My heart goes out to those who suffer, in any of its' manifestations. May your thoughts be pure, may your words be kind, may your hearts be free from pain, may your actions be good, and may all beings everywhere know peace. One Love.