Tuesday, 13 September 2011

Earthquakes, Hurricanes and Chinese characters

I look forward to seeing you all after an eventful summer holiday.  While visiting family in the USA I experienced a small earthquake; raced ahead of the evacuees across the Chesapeake Bay Bridge tunnel ahead of  Hurricane Irene; shopped for yoga clothes; and even found time to sit quietly, breathing in the smells of marsh grass, salt water, and pine woods.  Every now and then the fresh outdoor experience  was tempered by the smoke from the Great Dismal Swamp in southern Virginia which has been burning for  25 days and counting, despite the 10-15 inches of rain dropped by Hurricane Irene.  The fire now covers 6,000 acres and was started when lightening stuck a tree. Many dynamic natural  occurrences.  Some pleasant. Some unpleasant.  Crisis. Change. Falling away.

The day the hurricane evacuations began on the Eastern shore of Virginia, my 18 year old niece, Katherine said, with a down-turned mouth and a gesture of hopelessness, “The whole word is ending.” I can see how she might feel that way as she contemplated rioting in the streets of jolly old England, turning points in the Libyan revolution, violence in Afghanistan, natural disasters on her own doorstep, breaking up from her boyfriend and  leaving home for university all in the same week. We all know that overwhelmed feeling that crisis brings. The Greek word krisis, from kr nein, means to separate. Being separated from our family members, loved ones, our past, our familiar reality:  separted from our ideas about how reality should unfold in our lives is often a painful process.  But perhaps the secret to going forward is to recognise the opportunities that can become apparent in these situations in these situations:

Our thoughts and prayers go out to those whose lives face dramatic change and who face pain as these events arise. In our own lives we try to turn with courage to face the dangers and difficulties in order to find the opportunities.  Sometimes these opportunities are so subtle that we cannot see them until much time has passed. Across a span of time we see that our choices in the face of crisis have brought us in some mysterious way, exactly into being the people who we have become.

Research into the benefits of yoga (The Daily Mail 14 July 2011)  reports that scientists have shown that good posture doesn’t just give a good impression—it also raises your pain threshold. They also found that slouching makes our physical body more sensitive to discomfort. Regular practice of yoga brings us fundamental improvement in posture. Perhaps through this research we can link yoga’s influence on our physical bodies to our ability to withstand the pain of change and to transform crisis into powerful turning points in our lives.  

Yoga elsewhere in the news:
A study by the School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences at Indiana University-Perdue University, Indianapolis, shows stroke survivors who participated in a specialised post-stroke yoga class improved their balance by up to 34%.

Researchers say the participants experienced a boost in their self confidence after their yoga practice and became more physically active generally. Assistant Professor of Occupational Therapy, Arlene Schmid said, “It was also interesting to see how much the men liked it,” and that many of the participants wanted to continue their yoga practice at home after the study ended.  “They liked it so much partly because they were not getting any other treatment. They had already completed their rehabilitation but felt that there was still room for improvement,” Schmid stated. Previous research shows the risk of falls and breaking a hip increased significantly after a stroke and also with increased age.  In this small study participants had an average age of 26 and attended an hour long yoga class twice a week for eight weeks. The yoga therapist modified typical yoga poses to meet participants needs: initially participants performed the yoga poses seated in chairs and then progressed to standing poses. Eventually, all the participants were able to perform poses on the floor.

At the end of the study the researchers found the participants balance had improved by 17% on the Berg Balance Scale and by 34% on the Fullerton Balance Scale. In particular, the average score on the Berg Balance Scale improved by 40% to 47% indicating the participants were no longer at high risk from a fall.  (reported on WebMD Health News June 2011)

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