Wednesday, May 27, 2009


My lovely case manager, Erin, returned from clown exile Monday night, and came to work yesterday extra crispy.
What I mean by that is that during her journey she strayed a bit too long in the sun and got a bit sun burned.
"Again?" I asked her.
"What do you mean?"
"I'm going to have to buy you some sun block," I told her.
"I don't like sun block."
"And you don't like being sun burned either, do you?" What a nag I am.
"I guess I should start wearing it," she admitted.
The above was a phone conversation. When I finally saw her she definitely looked like she had spent some time in the Arizona sun, but not too bad, but her back looked like an overcooked lobster.
"It hurts," she told me. "I'm wearing my yoga clothes all day because my regular clothes ride up and down my skin too much."
I sympathized.
Fortunately yesterday was yoga day!
"Yoga" is an ancient Sanskrit word referring to a system of physical and mental exercises originating in India. It has close ties with Hinduism and Buddhism.
I have practiced rudimentary forms of the physical exercises of yoga for many years during my morning workout and meditations. I have been able to do this because I own a book that describes some of the various positions and techniques associated with the discipline. It even has pictures.
However, I've not had the opportunity to be taught yoga by a real teacher. Not until a few months ago.
Thanks to Erin, who along with case manager Paul, founded our weekly yoga class with Beth, a professional teacher, I can now enjoy the benefits of yoga with the guidance of someone who knows what they're doing.
Those of us who come to our class, being the unruly bunch of "clients" that we are, would certainly qualify as beginners. And Beth appreciates this, and tailors our sessions accordingly. Still, it's not easy by any means. I often find myself panting and sweating in the middle of our sessions, taking my mind away from my breathing which I'm supposed to be constantly monitoring, and turning it toward a longing for our distant cool down section, when all I have to do is lay flat on my back and relax, relax, relax.
For example, let me take a moment to describe one of our classes... yesterday's:
I arrived at the Defiance Space behind the Produce Hotel at five minutes to one. Don't ask me why this cavernous room, filled with maintenance supplies, tables, and chairs, is called the Defiance Space, no one knows. Even Beth asked why.
"I have no idea," Erin said.
Paul was still gallivanting around Michigan yesterday, so when I got there it was just Beth, Erin, and myself. We would soon be joined by a young man from from one of the SRHT hotels not under the purview of Erin or Paul, and Gena, from the Olympia. Our class soon began.
Beth is a beautiful young woman in her twenties, with shoulder length brown hair. Her voice is always soothing, almost hypnotic, which comes in handy while teaching yoga.
She always begins by instructing us to lie flat on our backs and to become aware of our breathing, gradually lengthening our inhales and exhales, until we come to a state of natural deep breathing. All during the class, Beth is playing soothing, rhythmic, Indian yoga music and sounds from her music and sound machine. The room's lights are subdued.
Beth was aware of Erin's delicate condition (sunburn) , and advised that she could lie on her side to breath, if that was more comfortable, or use a chair.
Next we graduated to some stretching positions, still on our backs. Stretching one leg, then the other. One arm, then the other. "Really stretch out those limbs," Beth will dictate. "Stretch as much as you can."
"I wanted to do some twisting positions today, some we haven't done before, but because it might be painful for Erin, we'll stick with stretching," Beth said.
And stretch we did, by golly. We stretched on our backs, on our sides, on our bellies. Contorting this way and that.
"Okay," Beth said, "Let's move to some balancing positions.
Oh no! Not the balancing positions!
"Now lie flat on your stomack and raise your left arm and right leg. Remember your breathing. Now raise your right arm and left leg. Good. Now raise both arms and both legs. Hold it. Breath. Good."
Good for her!
"Now let's do some balancing positions while standing. Good. Plant your feet squarely on your mat." (we have mats) "Really root them down like you were a tree. Good, good. Now bring your hands to your heart center. Good. Now let's slide your right foot on top of your left, as high up your leg as you feel comfortable. Good. If you feel comfortable and want to challenge yourself, you can try closing your eyes."
I did this, fell over, got back up.
"Good. Don't fall down again, Rick, it interrupts your breathing. Now let's try it the other way. Slide your left foot on top of your right. Really root down that right foot. Slide your left foot as high as you feel comfortable. Keep your eyes open, Rick. Good, good. Very good. Now let's try something we haven't done before, and really challenge ourselves. Slide both feet up at the same time."
What the...
Needless to say I couldn't quite manage that one. Erin and Beth are really good at it though, I must say.
We always end our sessions on our backs, breathing deeply, saying our mantra, aware of our breath. Then Beth directs us into the fair-well Scorpion Position, pictured at the top of this post. I have to admit it took me a while to master this pose, but it was certainly worth it.
"Hold it, good, now thank yourself for coming to yoga today. You could have done many things, but you chose to do something good for yourself. Now cross your feet, and repeat after me, namaste."
"Have a wonderful week."
"Thank you, Beth."
I should inform you, dear readers, that parts of the above account are a parody. The truth is Beth's classes are always fun, challenging, and motivating, and we all thank her for coming each week.
If you live in the LA region, dear readers, and wish to hire Beth as your very own yoga instructor, there is a link to her web site on Paul's blog, at:
I highly recommend it.
After class we roll up our mats, and go our separate ways.
Before leaving yesterday Beth asked if any of us had seen Monday's marathon.
"I did," I said. "I was there for the start." (see, Memorial Day)
"I was in the bike race," she said proudly.
"Wow," I said. "That started at five in the morning."
"It took us two and a half hours to finish."
"Gee Beth, the wheel chairs were faster than that."
"I know."
After Beth drove off, I walked Erin back to her office.
"Now I'm hungry again," she told me. We had eaten breakfast earlier at the Hippie Kitchen.
"Do you have something to eat?" I asked.
I brought her down some of my teriyaki chicken and white rice splashed with soy sauce, I had prepared for my dinner. I feel a responsibility to keep my case manager well nourished.
"Was it good?" I asked her a little later when I came back for Support Group.
"Oh, it was so good. Thank you, Rick."
"That's alright. I wanted to test it before I ate it myself."
Paul was gone, and no one else showed up for Support Group, so I told Erin it was okay if we canceled this week, as we both had lots of work to do.
I regret that decision now. A whole week without support!
Excuse me while I relapse.

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