Human connection

The yoga class I enjoy going to on Sundays is a “gentle yoga” class. We do very little in the way of vinyasa – continuous movements – which means we pretty much spend the majority of the class stretching. Yesterday was even more relaxing than usual in that we spent most of the time on our mats on our backs or sides doing much more conscious breathing and meditation than usual. It is a great way to end the week or start the week depending upon how you view the calendar. There’s one other thing that makes it one of my favorite classes; Aliza, the instructor, is also a massage therapist and most classes will come through and do some brief, but pleasant shoulder or neck massage, at least for those who are okay with it.

I bring this up because for me, I experience very little skin to skin contact in a day. It’s one of the reasons why I cherish snuggling and cuddling with Nathan in bed. It satisfies a need that I am rarely conscious of. The only other times I get that skin on skin contact is through handshakes, which most days I avoid, or through massage the once a month or so that I pay for it.

The contact through massage, or truly a more conscious, gentle, and traveling touch, is special to me in a way that I have found difficult to describe. It is not just a pleasant feeling, but nearly spiritual. I feel an opening up within myself and a mutual exchange between myself, the person who is in contact with me and the world. I don’t feel drained after this exchange but neither do I feel “too full”. I feel balanced, buoyant, relaxed, and at peace.ven

I believe that the reason that this does not happen with all contact like handshakes is that I have learned to avoid opening up because there are too many draining people out and about. This is especially true at work. The people I see there are not just mentally or physically ill and injured, but there are deep gashes on their emotional and spiritual selves. They pull on everyone around them to try to fill and heal those gaps whether they are brand new or years and years old.

I probably don’t feel the same complete opening when snuggling because it is a different sort of intimacy, one of grounding and rooting and safety. I have noticed that when there is more massage or traveling fingers/very gentle tickles from Nathan that I experience the more spiritual opening rather than the grounding/rooting feeling I get from our normal contact. It’s incredibly lovely when I am experiencing both. The extent of my relaxation is something I rarely feel except at those moments when I have found a “zen” moment in meditation.

It does make me wonder if others are aware if they have the same experience. Do they realize that there is this different sort of connection with people? How does the lack of connection within most western cultures influence how closed off and isolated we feel?

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Yoga and other various exercise things

Over the last few months I have increased the amount of physical activity I take part in. Going to the gym, doing the whole martial arts thing, and most recently I added yoga.

I have found them all to be rewarding, all in their own ways. At the gym I get to just completely zone out and do my thing and not have any interaction with anyone else. Some would argue that’s not the greatest thing to do since I don’t push myself as hard as what I need to, which is true, but at this point I’m just happy I’m making it there again and getting satisfaction from what I do.

In martial arts I’m learning so many new things and discovering a whole different kind of satisfaction from slowly becoming more proficient in what I am learning. I enjoy learning things that make me feel a little safer in that if something were to happen to me physically, I most likely would be able to react in a way that will help me as compared to freezing. I am learning *how* to punch and kick and whatever other strikes or defenses you can think of. I am learning how to fit things together and all these other awesome things.

Lastly, with yoga I am learning more about focusing on my body and releasing my thoughts and just experiencing that moment, that breathe, that movement. I am able to feel the difference between how I am doing each day and also to not judge myself or my body. Some days I can easily hold a pose, warrior 1 or dancer, or I can easily move through sun salutations or other vinyasas without shaking limbs. Other days I require more patience with myself. And some days I need to recognize that I need to modify the pose or the vinyasa and make them easier on myself.

I feel that in working on all these different things I am slowly starting to round out how I experience life in my body and mind. I am becoming healthier, making better choices for myself and working on learning some sort of balance. It is hard in some ways in that I am often doing these alone when I would like to share what I’m learning with my husband, but I am also grateful in some ways that I’ve got my own things. I write a wee bit, in my blog and occasionally journaling, and exercise and do yoga, work on various craft things and am interested in different studies. Nathan does martial arts, (sadly on days that I work) plays video games, builds things whether legos or tech toys and programs things and studies those sort of things.

It’s good to have that balance and different interests. But… I look at all sedentary activities that both of us participate in and can’t help but think that we both need to be more active. It not only is good physically but also mentally to participate in different activities. Our minds and bodies like variety, need it even, in order to grow and change and become more capable. I also can’t help but look at it from the perspective of a nurse – a variety of physical activities helps the body maintain itself better, encourages better sleep, maintain hormone balance, cleans out toxins and requires “new” blood and oxygen be sent to parts of the body that don’t get much use in day to day activities and therefore are sort of forgotten or stagnant. I think that’s actually why I enjoy the variety of physical activity that I currently partake in. They each get me moving in different ways and activate different parts of my mind and body.

Best of all, there are restive and restorative forms of all of these. There’s finding “the zone” when running. Katas in martial arts where the body acts while the mind quiets. And in yoga there are options for what kind of rest/restoration I need – gentle yoga that’s still movement, hot yoga where I am only focusing on finding balance within the poses and nothing more, or the quiet meditation of restorative yoga where I slowly stretch and relax my body until I find a stillness in each position. Any of the practices are good and serve a purpose. I’m a bit more partial to the restorative yoga, but that’s probably because I just got home from participating in it.

Now on to homework I’ve been putting off. And maybe the gym later. I’ve got some new work outs to try that a friend gave me and I’m interested to see if I can do them and get the full number of reps she suggested.

Social Anxiety

The last few months I have noticed that my social anxiety has increased. I am overwhelmed in public even more easily than I would have been a few years ago. I am even more intimidated by new situations, new people than I remember. I have started to get more of the physical symptoms including racing heart and occasionally even tightness in my chest.

All in all, it’s sucky, frustrating and scary.

I became acutely aware of this in the last week when I nearly started to cry while waiting to meet a new instructor for martial arts. I was making up a lesson from a few weeks ago and my normal instructor, hell any of the instructors that I knew, were not available so I agreed to work with someone I didn’t know. I got there a bit early and so had something like 7 minutes to work myself up nearly to tears, I couldn’t take a normal breath, I could feel my heart racing and I was uncertain if my stomach could tolerate much more acid build up before I would need to run to the bathroom and throw up. This was mostly because there was the one on one instruction with someone new in a place that I still am not familiar with and surrounded by others I didn’t know. It was compounded by the fact that I was stuck in a fairly confined space with over two dozen people coming and going. I haven’t felt that bad in a very, very long time. Once the lesson started and I began going through the new kata I’m learning I was able to calm down and I think even learn something. If there was too much time between different exercises the anxiety started to creep back up, but it was tolerable, especially since it was only half an hour and I was kept pretty active.

The other incident that comes to mind was Saturday night when I went out to dinner with Nathan. It was a Saturday night at just about 7, so of course it was busy and the restaurant was full of people. It was a pretty crowded space and it was so filled with people noise that I couldn’t hear the music. I couldn’t hear Nathan even when he spoke pretty loud, though I don’t know how much of that was because I had already hit my max for sensory stimulation and so my brain was shutting down the information overload to keep me from having a full on panic attack. There was again compounding in that I hadn’t slept well the night before and had been up since about 530am and it was the last day of my 3 twelves. It wasn’t until it had started to quiet down enough to where I could hear music (which is actually quite soothing to me) that I could even really start to think and was capable of responding to questions and carry on a conversation.

I am truly lucky that Nathan is as patient as what he is because I know he was getting frustrated and confused with me in both incidents above. He doesn’t like people much and can also get overwhelmed, but he is better at tuning out things and going into his own world. I can do that if I’m prepared, sometimes, but if I’m caught off guard then I just end up shutting down. That’s if I’m lucky and I don’t start to go the other way and begin to have building anxiety. Not so awesome. Not awesome at all.

I guess I just find it weird that my anxiety, which could be controlled, or at least ignored, a few years ago, has increased again. I can understand why it initially increased with starting a new job, but I’ve more or less settled into it. Yes, I have started back to school in the last two weeks, but I noticed the trend of increased anxiety before that, probably sometime in November. It was one of the reasons why I started doing yoga and working out again. I haven’t noticed any changes for the better despite better habits that have a lot of evidence behind them saying that they should have a positive impact on my symptoms. Actually, if there have been changes they have been in the wrong direction. It’s weird and I wish I knew what was going on.

Anyway, enough whinging. I need to find sleep and yoga and class. Thanks for reading and I hope you have a lovely day!