Curvy Yoga and the Cultural Revolution

anna gj headshotBack to this blog again after a hiatus, I am still thinking about work.  Still working at the disability center, still writing, teaching one yoga class.  It’s just the writing that has changed:  I started freelancing for pay again, this time online.

But I felt a need to get back to this blog.  “Work from the Other Side” still draws me, because I’m still obsessed with questions of how we can work in ways that suit us, even energize us, but that are also gentle for the planet and the other creatures who live here.  And in my new freelance work I encountered a woman who started a business that fits the bill and also has a bit of that counter culture flavor that I dig.

That’s Anna Guest-Jelley and her Curvy Yoga “training and inspiration portal.”  Now here’s an innovative business meeting a true need.  Curvy Yoga provides podcasts, writings, videos, and now books that provide a new angle on yoga, one for people who are bigger bodied.  It serves as part advocate, part educator, and part trailblazer showing us a way to practice yoga that is good for our bodies and ways to make yoga more inclusive.

Guest-Jelley calls herself “a writer, educator, and lifelong champion for women’s empowerment and body acceptance.”  Says she, “I’m here to encourage people of every size, shape age, experience level & ability to grab life by the curves. And never let go.”

What I like about her work is that she has stepped up and spoken out about an issue that isolates many of us, that she is clear and professional and provides quality tools and education that are accessible and free.  She’s providing a tremendous service to many people who feel excluded from the fitness yoga craze, or even from the “gentle yoga” classes found in studios.  She’s speaking up about learning to accept one’s body and claim the right to honor it and to exercise as one wants and needs.  Guest-Jelley is also providing imminently practical advice.

Most of all I like that her business encourages women to be and love themselves while simultaneously challenging the paradigm of our society that values only certain body types.  On top of it all, it she is running an awesome website and has created her own niche.  Cool, I say, bring on more.  More of Curvy Yoga, and more new businesses that empower, more ways to make a living doing the empowering, more innovation in business and healthcare, more challenges to the status quo.

Gather the resources, network, spread the message.  I see Daniel Pink’s “right brain” approach in action, I see Seth Godin’s “post-industrial revolution.”  In Anna Guest-Jelley, I see finding one’s potential, clear presentation of message and values.  Hope my encounter with her “infects” me to spread a message, connect, and change the world.   Thanks Anna!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Spiral staircases and old friends

IMG_0914“. . . in my own life, I seemed to be going round and round and round, making the same mistakes, having the same failures, the same experiences – and seeming to make no headway. But in fact, even though you’re going round and round, you are going upward. You are moving towards up, as I hope, towards the light or in the labyrinth, into the center of yourself.”

Karen Armstrong, in an interview with Bill Moyers about her book, The Spiral Staircase.

The religion writer Karen Armstrong called her memoir The Spiral Staircase, a phrase from a T.S. Eliot poem called “Ash Wednesday.”  I love the reference, because I have had the experience many times of revisiting situations and making the same mistakes, but I do see progress.

Armstrong’s book came to mind two weeks ago when I reconnected with an old college friend.  Marlene called me and we talked for an hour.  Afterwards I felt like I took a strong shot of déjà vu, some kind of elixir that coursed through me like adrenaline.  I had flashbacks to our young selves, and I saw a clear continuity to my meandering path.  I noticed an enduring thread in each of our worklives.

Marlene and I caught up with family, work, health, etc., but we also caught up with a seed we both contained as young women, an inquiry into how people heal and into our own relationship with healing.  Each of us was looking for something missing from healthcare as we knew it.

In college we could not yet articulate what we were after, but we’d begun our search.   Marlene was clearer at the time, and she worked harder, studying chemistry, organic chemistry, nutrition, spending hours in labs.  I dabbled in many subjects, for a while pursuing a “liberal arts” major with concentrations in biology, psychology, and English subjects.  Psychology made me squirm with discomfort, while literature taught me more about human beings, so I switched to English with a minor in biology.   Marlene focused on nutrition studies while I looked into journalism, and after college we moved away from each other:  After we married we didn’t talk for twenty years.

Marlene worked in dietetics (which ultimately frustrated her), then entered chiropractic school and private practice.  I worked at a hospital as a neuropsychology tech and studied cosmologies, philosophies, and Jungian psychology, later becoming a health writer and yoga therapist.  We both discovered how very different our emerging conceptions of healing were from most of the world’s, and we continued our studies through reading and workshops and mentorships.

Our recent conversation revealed some very similar conclusions about health.  We have come to believe that healing involves so much more than a specific modality, nutritional approach, or medical treatment.  We found that our own illnesses and recoveries required deep introspection, prayer, withdrawal from everyday life and its values, connection with nature, and a transformation in our physical, mental, psychological, and spiritual habits and ways of being.

Marlene experienced fibromyalgia, then breast cancer.  A long-time health fanatic, she was riddled with pain from fibromyalgia and looked to her emotional life and spiritual faith to heal.  Through cancer she faced intense fear and physical discomfort, again facing her own makeup and calling on her faith as well as a strong sense of humor.  Her tumor, with the help of chemotherapy, shrank to nothing.

I studied yoga therapy and ayurveda, yoga psychology, and body-oriented psychotherapy, or hakomi.  I experienced a change in consciousness as I became more aware of my body and of sensation and changed old patterns of movement and perception.  In the midst of all this study and practice of yoga, I encountered candida, which weakened me and made me foggy headed, and led me to make radical changes in my diet, friends, and exercise patterns.

Where are we now?  Marlene became a confident chiropractor, focused on muscle testing and the storage of emotions and life stories in our bodies and working to free folks for better health.  I have become a published writer, a student of many modalities, a disability and wellness coordinator, a yoga teacher, a spokesperson and interpreter for integrative medicine and for a broader perspective on healing.  You could say we are doing the same work we started years ago in different forms.

But, as Karen Armstrong observed, we can only see this spiral staircase in retrospect.  It’s been a path that has often seemed faint and hard to see.  I feel strengthened and empowered by my reconnection with my friend.  I feel a little more whole knowing I have a long-term companion in my travels.

Making that mission statement

IMG_0968I am seeing a career coach.  I’ve tried this before, and it wasn’t helpful, but this time it is.  What is the difference?  The fact that she has tons of experience and presents herself well, the aggressive start to our work together (starting meetings and projects), and her professionalism.  But topping the list is her ability to listen to me and make adjustments, to respect me and my path.  I feel like we are working as a team.

I’ve really struggled in my career journey.  Maybe because I hear that different drummer and want to bring a new dimension to health care rather than join the system as it is.   I’ve been an outsider.  And yet I have had some extraordinary gigs along the way, such as working for a progressive magazine and for a hospital holistic center.  And teaching yoga to teens in a county drug court.

So I know my passion for mental health, yoga, and integrative medicine, and I have writing and publishing skills.  How do I put all these together and serve my community?  As I began to pay more attention to the digital world, it occurred to me that I could be a website content manager for a healthcare organization and teach yoga on the side.  But I felt I needed some help getting there, so I called Katy Piotrowski of Career Solutions in Fort Collins, Colorado.

We started out with The Strengths Finder and some values assessments.  I’m glad, because they helped validate my direction and enhanced my focus.   After working with Katy for five weeks, I feel stronger on my path, better armed with tools and techniques, clearer in focus, and readier to reach out to others to promote myself and reconnect with my work.

Katy is a successful entrepreneur herself, and I observe personal integrity and high standards in her.  She is always on time, and dresses well, and looks me in the eye.  She encourages me but points out areas to work on. Six weeks into our work together she asked for my feedback on her services.

It is lovely to experience aid in such an effective form:  I feel like the lonely adventurer I’ve read about in stories, a hero type who has struggled in the wilderness, been wounded, and is then taken in by a kindly soul who nurses her back to health and provides sustenance for the next leg of the journey. For one who doesn’t quite synch with the ways of the world, the path can feel rough, but now I pause to collect myself:  I train my body and my mind with courses; I receive mentoring; I articulate my mission.

It’s time for me to step forth and find like-minded people, to put my energy and creativity to work at a higher level.  Having gone through those woods and found my path, I’m getting the help I need to connect with these people and the work.  So this blog is less about career counseling, and more about me deciding I’m worth the investment and need help pulling my experience and abilities together into a new form.   It is not about selling myself to get a job and earn a living, but presenting myself and telling others what I can do.  Its about connecting with a broader wave of change in the workforce consisting of folks developing new models of business and care. I am glad for the help, and I hope to pass it on.

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