Cissy Brady-Rogers
Cissy Brady-Rogers Cissy Brady-Rogers Cissy Brady-Rogers

Tag: listen; body awareness; yoga

Mindful eating is simply eating with attention. But in our fast-food, eat-on-the-run world, just paying attention to what you are eating and how you are eating can be challenging. For overall wellness, nourishment and digestive health, how we eat can be as important as what we eat! Join us for an evening of slowing down, savoring each bite, honoring your body and celebrating the abundance we’ve been given.

SAVOR

SAVOR

WHAT’S INCLUDED?

In addition to meal and beverages, our time will include teaching on mindful eating principles, guided experiential learning on hunger awareness and engagement with five senses and five primary tastes, personal reflection on how you eat and facilitated conversation.

WHY MINDFUL EATING?

In our diet-obsessed but food abundant society, rather than being a joyful and nurturing experience, eating is often fraught with anxiety, distraction and guilt. While we may know that eating with attention could be helpful, deeply engrained patterns of relating to food and the hectic pace of life can undermine our efforts.

In addition to providing a delightful evening savoring a meal with a welcoming and compassionate group of women, this workshop will help you:

  • Strengthen your capacity to listen to your body’s signals about hunger and fullness
  • Understand the interplay between physical, emotional, spiritual and other hungers
  • Expand your awareness of the multiple levels of satisfaction possible through mindful eating

Dinner takes place at a private home in Pasadena. Space is limited to 12 with only 10 spots still open. More information and registration at Alive and Well Women.

Degenerative disc disease (DDD) is a common and natural part of aging.  If we live long enough, normal wear-and-tear breaks down the shock-absorbing discs between the bones in the spine.  Symptoms of disease are more likely in people who smoke, perform heavy physical labor or are obese. Although it’s not completely avoidable, we can minimize the process by building strong core, abdominal and back muscles, maintaining good posture and avoiding lifting heavy objects.

Ironically, lifting heavy objects is often a central part of weight training. CrossFit is the latest example of a fitness program that relies on heavy lifting to build muscular strength. It’s been called “the world’s fastest growing athletic specialty.” And it’s also been identified by doctors, physical therapists and rival fitness professionals as one of the most potentially debilitating forms of training.

My Dear Spine - Wear & Tear and Mis-alignment

My Dear Spine – Wear & Tear and Mis-alignment

I can’t attribute my DDD to any one training routine. But I’m pretty sure that years of mildly compulsive exercise didn’t help!

My recent ventures into weight training weren’t extreme. I kept my dumbbells light, listened to my body and adjusted poses with support from my trainer. But my DDD (diagnosed 20+ years ago) coupled with an undiagnosed osteoarthritis in my hips, lead to increasingly stiff and sore lower body.

I landed at Optimal Performance Systems – an alternative to traditional physical therapy and training.  Their corrective movement therapy and vitality program has loosened up my hips in ways that yoga and traditional stretching had been exacerbating. And it’s deepened my commitment to helping myself and others focus on holistic health. The OPS motto says it all: “Exercise is optional. Movement is mandatory.”

bike

I love to ride my bike

I got back on my bike this weekend for Ciclavia Pasadena. While I loved it, I also realized I need to get a new set of wheels if I want to do any significant cycling. I’ll be giving up my old faithful road bike and the spine jarring mountain biking my husband and I used to love. But, I hope to find a way to keep enjoying the freedom and joy of riding my bike without further compromising my spine or hips.

When expected changes of aging or unanticipated challenges of injuries and illnesses arrive, we need to adjust. Ultimately, it doesn’t take heavy lifting to maintain functional levels of strength, flexibility and balance. Of course, if I ever need to move a large boulder or lift a car, I’m screwed!

At this point in my journey, heavy lifting is optional. But bending over to harvest zucchini and sweet peas from my garden is essential. I think I’ll choose the veggies and flowers!

 

 

I lead a workshop on working with same-sex attraction for counseling trainees and interns at Life Pacific College last weekend. The clinicians were hungry for information and tools to help their clients cope with not just same-sex attraction, but a long list of other sexual issues.

I presented the work of psychologist Mark Yarhouse on narrative sexual identity therapy, along with some provocative thoughts from anthropologist Jenell Paris’ new book The End of Sexual Identity: Why Sex is Too Important to Define Who We Are. Both teach at conservative Christian colleges where they are seeking more compassionate and helpful ways to think about and work with issues of sexuality among this very confused, ill-equipped and all-too-often guilt and shame ridden group of young adults.

Pastor Steve Smith of Malibu Presbyterian church says that from puberty to marriage students from conservative backgrounds are in sort of exile from their own sexuality — he calls it “Sex-ile.” The church tells them to “wait” until marriage, but then offers minimal resources to integrate and develop a healthy sense of their own sexuality while they wait.

A former student from Azusa Pacific University where I taught human sexuality and sex therapy for 8 years sent me a link to a story that illustrates how well intended but limited efforts to prescribe chastity as the answer for sex-ile can end up doing more harm than good. Samantha Pugsley says that she waited until her wedding night to lose her virginity and wishes she hadn’t. It’s a tragic example of the kind of outcome that I suspect will become even more common among these young people if we don’t develop alternatives.

Meanwhile, five days ago ethicist David Gushee, who’s wise counsel helped me with my decision to discontinue teaching at Azusa Pacific this past summer, stirred the pot in a big way with his speech “Ending the Teaching of Contempt against the Church’s Sexual Minorities” at the Reformation Project Conference. As expected in the heated conversation taking place about same-sex attraction in the church world, he was soon on the chopping block of those who disagreed with his presentation.

Lord, have mercy.

Christ, have mercy.

Lord, have mercy.

I remain in the conversation, committed to staying open and being part of the solution. One day at a time.

Amen.

I woke up today feeling unmotivated to get out of bed, uninspired by the day ahead of me, pondering what it would be like “if only…” I got up anyway.

As I made my tea and prepared breakfast, I looked out the window at the clear blue, crisp Southern California morning, heard the sparrows chirping and the doves cooing and decided to change my attitude. Just because I woke up feeling discouraged doesn’t mean I need to spend the rest of the day there.

Legend wants to know: What will you choose today?

Attitude is largely a matter of choice–especially for those without psychological conditions. But even those who suffer from mood disorders benefit from learning to shift their focus from what feels most natural (discouragement, sadness, suffering) towards something more life-giving. Our attitude impacts everyone around us, including our pets. When I’m in a grumpy mood, my dogs stay away. When I’m lighthearted they draw near. Same with my husband. The energy I communicate through my attitude changes the way others experience me and will reinforce whatever state I’m in.

Thoughts and feelings come and go. To a large extent we don’t have a lot of choice about the content that appears on the screen of mental awareness. But we do have choices about what we will do with what shows up.

Attention is the mental process that enables us to selectively concentrate on one thing to the exclusion of others. It is like a spotlight energizing whatever it shines upon. Deficits in attentional capacity contribute to all sorts of psychological, academic, occupational and life problems. It’s an essential skill for navigating the details of daily life, managing resources like time and money, and making health behavior changes. Without a strong capacity to focus attention on what is life-giving, we are prone to dysregulation of all sorts.

The apostle Paul knew about the power of choice and attention regulation. From a Roman prison he wrote these words of encouragement to his brothers and sisters in Christ who lived in the city of Philippi: “Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence or anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” Powerful words from a man in prison. Like Nelson Mandela and other inspirational leaders throughout history, Paul didn’t let feelings evoked by unpleasant circumstances dictate his mood. He chose to set his mind on something bigger than his own miserable condition–specifically his faith in the God who radically interrupted his previous life as a persecutor of the Christian communities and called him to serve the very people whom he’d previously sought to destroy.

Twenty years ago I wanted desperately to do what Paul wrote about, but didn’t have the mental muscles to do so. I’d read biblical instructions telling me to choose to think differently, but couldn’t actualize it in my own daily life. I was largely subject to whatever thoughts and feelings rose to the front of my mind. In those days, “uninspired and unmotivated” might have set the tone for my day.

Like many of my brothers and sisters in Christ, I needed more than just good information and the power of the Holy Spirit within me to live out the transformation Paul describes in his letters. I needed mental muscles to access the power of the Spirit and mind of Christ.

The good news is that attention is trainable. Consistent use of mental and spiritual practices that work the aim and sustain part of our brains can strengthen attentional capacity. Over time the effort of intentional exercise of those neuronal pathways leads to what interpersonal neurobiologist Dan Siegel calls “effortlesss traits of living…” which make setting our minds on what is life-giving possible.

Fifteen plus years of exercising my aim and sustain muscles through yoga, centering prayer and mindful awareness of all sorts, have enabled me to practice what Paul wrote about to the Philippians. If I’d stayed in bed with discouragement this morning, I might still be there.  Instead, I chose to get up and into action, to set my mind on what I really want–to be inspired and motivated. That got me moving in the right direction. Then I chose to notice the beauty of the day. That shifted me a few degrees more toward a positive mindset. Then I chose to show up to my blog and share my experience, strength and hope with others. That leaves me feeling inspired and motivated for the day ahead.

If you struggle with choice and attention regulation, instead of suffering through another day of “trying to get focused” or “trying to change your mindset” I encourage you to invest 20 minutes exercising the attentional muscles of your brain through a guided practice. Transformation is possible when you have the mental muscles needed to access the power of the Spirit of life within you.

Join me for weekly Christ-centered yoga classes at Fuller Seminary and Glendale Presbyterian Church or come to my June 21st “Self-Care through Self-Compassion” workshop.

For online resources, Dan Siegel shares downloadable audio practices as well as lots of other resources on his website. His Mindsight book is a wonderful introduction to both theory and practice related to mindful awareness.

Christ-centered yoga brings body, mind and spirit together to help you deepen you connection to God’s love.

praying with our bodies

We use the physical poses of yoga, breath awareness and experiential prayer to enhance your ability to sense God’s presence and align yourself with the graces continually being poured out by the Spirit to transform us degree by degree into greater Christlikeness.

In addition to the spiritual growth fostered through praying with our bodies, other potential benefits of regular practice include: increased mobility and energy, improved balance and mood, normalized gastrointestinal functioning and much more.

I’d love to share the gifts of yoga with you.

Tuesdays at Fuller Seminary in Pasadena @ 7:30 p.m. – 8 week session begins January 14th.

The Fuller class is open to people outside the Fuller community when spots are available. Contact Jose at 626-584-5680 to register.

Wednesdays at Glendale Presbyterian Church @ 6:15 p.m. – meets weekly in room 202. Contact me for more information.

Both classes are open to all levels of experience.

Bring a yoga mat or towel, water and wear comfortable clothes.

If you told me 25 years ago that one day I’d be teaching yoga at the upcoming Big Bear Yoga Festival–I’d have said you were crazy!

Raised Catholic, I stopped attending mass in junior high school and became a “born again” Christian within the year. God’s timing was perfect. I desperately needed someone or something to “save” me from the disease and dysfunction growing within me and around me in my family system.

I spent the next 15 years involved in evangelical church and para-church organizations and attended evangelical undergrad and graduate school.  The personal relationship I developed with God and the people that surrounded me during those years really did “save” me. I made plenty of poor choices as it was–I can only imagine the trouble I might have gotten into otherwise. I’m grateful for the love and support of all those who came alongside me, loved me, and prayed for me. I also learned how to study the Bible and think critically about spiritual and theological matters. All of this laid a foundation for my faith in a God who so loved the world that he became flesh and blood, lived among us and revealed the way of love through the life of Christ Jesus.

And, I needed more than any of that provided.

I needed to embody my faith.

I needed to experience that love in my flesh and blood, in my female body. But the things about “flesh” and “body” I learned in church contexts didn’t take me deeper into my body.  Confusing messages reinforced an already shame-based body image: you are intricately and wonderfully made, but your desires, instincts, feelings and thoughts can’t be trusted; your sexuality is a gift from God, but don’t act too sexy or show too much of your body lest you cause your brother to lust. For Christian eating disorder patients I’ve worked with those same messages were life threatening–creating distorted views of “flesh/fat” and appetite that reinforced destructive body related thoughts, feelings and behaviors.

My bout with breast cancer in 1992 activated an interest in alternative approaches to health. I attended my first yoga class in 1993 with cautious interest. I prayed before I entered the room, asking God to give me discernment about participating in what my earlier training had told me was “of the devil”. Twenty years later I can’t imagine life without yoga. It’s the spiritual discipline God has used to heal my relationship with my body–to learn to listen to, respect, appreciate and be grateful for the glory of God’s image revealed in my body, in my flesh, in my blood. To experience Christ in me — the hope of glory dwelling in the sacred temple of my body.

I keep coming back because the practice takes me into my body in a transformative way, deepening my knowing of God’s love in the depths of my innermost self. My movements on the mat are prayers: my body speaks what my heart longs to express but words fall short of conveying.

Yoga for Every Body

I teach Christ-centered yoga because I want to share the transformative power of moving prayers with my communities of faith. While I mostly practice the physical postures (known as “asana” and one of the eight limbs of yoga), I have a deep respect and appreciation for other aspects as well.

That’s why I’ll be teaching a Christ-centered yoga workshop at the festival this month. I love sharing the immeasurable riches of God’s love in Christ through the yoga postures. I love guiding others into a deeper connection to the goodness and sacredness of their bodies. I love being at home in my body and inviting others to more fully inhabit their own homes.

I’d love to have you join me!

August 23-25, 2013

It’s that time of the year when both the positive and sometimes painful stresses of the season begin to build.  Temptations to neglect body and soul come in many forms: overbooking social events, not drinking enough water, and mindless eating of holiday goodies are three I anticipate will greet me again this year.

My daily centering prayer time and regular yoga practice are two primary ways I maintain my alignment with myself and stay rooted in God’s love. They are essential parts of maintaining my physical, psychological and spiritual health. When my spiritual tank is empty from not praying, and I’m disconnected from my body because I’ve not been practicing yoga, I’m more likely to ignore the signals that tell me to slow down, drink water, and stay away from the sugary treats that show up everywhere this time of year.

My former pastor Bob Whitaker used to tell us that people got sick at the holidays from eating too much sugar.  I snickered then, but wondered if there wasn’t some truth in his folk wisdom.  Now I learn, in my wise adult life, that in fact sugar does deplete my immune system and make me more prone to infection. My intention is to enjoy a little bit of the things I especially love — like my own Famous Irish Toffee and the Cobb Family’s homemade fudge — but to keep a kind and loving bridle on the part of me that wants to eat the whole batch before it’s even cooled down!

As you give thanks this week and start filling your calendar with holiday commitments, staying connected to the One from whom all good things come will be good for both your body and your soul.

What helps you stay connected to yourself and what holds you together when life gets stressful? Imagine how different the next six weeks would be if you dedicated even five minutes a day to writing a gratitude list, praying a psalm of thanksgiving, meditating on God’s love or some other soulful practice.

Yoga is an excellent way to nurture both your body and soul.

I teach Christ-centered yoga classes weekly at Glendale Presbyterian Church. You are welcome to “drop in” to my Wednesday 6:15 p.m. class. We’ll be meeting on 11/23, 11/30, 12/7, 12/21.  If you need directions or details, please contact me.

Also, my new favorite yoga resource is Yogaglo –  an online yoga studio you can access from the convenience of your own home.  I have been a member for several months and love it!  It’s an excellent source for everything from beginners and five-minute routines to two-hour advanced level backbend and inversion practices.  There’s something for everyone.  Check it out and get a free two-week trial membership.

What will you do to stay connected to yourself and the One from whom all good things come during this season of celebration?   Your good health is worth at least five minutes a day, isn’t it?

This morning my lower right torso, hip, and leg felt tight and “out-of-whack.”

My immediate response was to stretch.  Makes sense, right?

Wrong!  Stretching already tight muscles without warming up tends to exacerbate the problem.  The tension is there for reason.  Tightness and discomfort are your body’s way of calling for help.

“Warming up” the muscles through gentle movement is like hearing the full story before you offer advice to a troubled friend.  It’s a way listen to the muscles and get a sense of what is happening, before attempting to fix the problem.

So, like a good friend, I took time to listen to my troubled body.

Today that included several rounds of “cat-cow” and “child’s” pose as well a few gentle twists—all in harmony with deep, full breathing in and out through my nose. I matched my breath to my movement while listening to my lower right back, sensing what I needed.

After a few minutes on my knees, I stood up in mountain pose, stretched my arms to the sky and stretched gently to one side then the other.  Then, I bent forward and explored my lower back in forward fold, downhill skier pose, half forward fold and then came back to the forward fold position.

Along the way, I felt a gentle shift in my hip socket followed by a releasing of the tightness!  Re-alignment of my femur bone in the hip socket resolved the problem in a way that impulsive action could not.  Tight muscles weren’t the problem.  They were symptoms of the misalignment of my skeletal structure.

Symptoms invite us to pay attention, to listen to our lives more carefully.

Like the impulse to stretch without inquiry, I’m also prone to impulsive responses to my heart.  Irritability with my husband, impatience while waiting in line, or tears welling up behind my eyes—like physical aches and pains—indicate misalignment.  I often want to “fix” Dave, criticize the store for poor customer service, or ignore my tears.

Befriending my body—like befriending my loved ones, cashiers, and even my own heart—takes practice.

We learn by practice.

When faced with an impulse to “fix” your body, try doing for your body what you already know how to do so well for others: listen first.  With practice, I bet you’ll be surprised by what you hear!