Monday, January 14, 2013

"Not a Recommended Diet Plan"

For the past several months I have been scheduled for chemotherapy infusions on Mondays and Tuesdays, with Wednesdays serving as a day for recovery.  This explains why I haven't been blogging for several months. It also explains why I've lost fifteen---yes, 15---pounds! Chemo cocktails are certainly not a recommended diet plan, although extremely effective.   The nausea alone will prevent over-eating, not to mention the effect on the palate.  My tongue burns with every craving I try to satisfy.   Sugary-sweet desserts, even chocolate, and my beloved red wine are all too acidic for my newly sensitized tongue.   Any pleasure of eating that I once had has all but disappeared.
These new circumstances are not all bad.  I've learned a great deal about how my previously uncontrolled cravings have caused trouble for my physical body.  I've discovered when my cravings are at their strongest, and I'm becoming more aware of exactly what I put into my mouth.  I'm becoming a conscious and conscientious eater.
Spending time alone in the presence of my Lord has continued to provide me with the peace and guidance to make it through these challenging times.  I've developed a new appreciation for the "Cooling Breath" or Sitali Pranayama at times when my tongue burns with sweet, salty or spicy foods.   This yogic method of cooling the tongue can be practiced while meditating or reading Scripture once it becomes familiar.
  • Physically---Begin by sitting erect in any comfortable position (Sukhasana, Dandasana, Virasana, Siddhasana, or Padmasana) on the floor or a chair so that the position doesn't become a distraction to the breathing technique.  With the head level and the gaze at "Third Eye" or naitrayoh ma dyai  drishti, open the mouth and form an "O" shape with the lips as the tongue curls to form a channel.  The sides and the tip of the tongue touch the teeth lightly as the air is drawn slowly across the tongue, making a sibilant s-s-s sound to fill the lungs completely.  After the inhalation, withdraw the tongue and close the mouth as the chin lowers to the lifted chest into the chin/throat lock position called jalandhara bandha.  If comfortable, hold the breath for several seconds in antara kumbhaka before slowly exhaling through the nose only with a long, sighing sound to complete one cycle of Sitali Pranayama.  To continue, lift the head and open the mouth for another cooling inhalation and repeat for 5-10 minutes.  Rest and restore in "Corpse Pose" before rushing into the day's activities.
  • Mentally---Keep the mind clear of all thoughts except awareness of the cooling and healing presence of God's Spirit as it envelopes all surfaces of the tongue.  Think thoughts of gratitude for ancient breathing techniques that bring relief and healing.
  • Spiritually---Since the tongue can be a powerful source of pleasure or pain, ask God to bring greater awareness into the use of the tongue.  As Job asked, "Is there iniquity in my tongue?  Cannot my taste discern perverse things?"  (Job 6:30, KJV)
"Whoso keepeth his mouth and his tongue keepeth his soul from troubles."   
(Proverbs 21:23, KJV)


Monday, November 19, 2012

"Just Enough Light"

Headlights allow us to drive in the fog, but they provide just enough light to proceed slowly ahead with the setting on "low beam."  When we try to look too far beyond the light all we see is fog and the unknown, so we stay within the low light provided. Because the future is in the fog we are protected from seeing beyond the present moment.  This encourages us to live in the now moment, taking one step at a time toward our destiny, and trusting that the light provided will be just enough to guide our steps.  
Who provides the light to lead us along life's path?  Who influences which path we choose? For me, the Holy Spirit functions like headlights in the fog.  David explained it best in Psalm 27, "The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the strength of my life.; of whom shall I be afraid?"  Hopefully, we are connected (yoked) to the Spirit of God so that we will be guided step by step to achieve our positive life purposes.  We all want to make wise decisions about how to spend each moment of time that we are given, but we're not meant to do this alone.  God wants to take us by the right hand and lead us on His chosen path for us.  David went on to say in Psalm 73, "Nevertheless, I am continually with Thee; Thou hast holden me by my right hand.  Thou shalt guide me with Thy counsel, and afterward receive me to glory." 
This week in the low light of "Half Moon Pose" or Ardha Chandrasana Variation, allow God's Holy Spirit to guide you moment by moment as you experience just enough light to enjoy this hip and side body opening position.  Be thankful that you can do what you can do, and don't force the pose.  This posture is safe for prenatal students!
  • Physically---After prayer and several rounds of the "Cat and Cow Flow" (Chakravakasana as described in the December 20, 2010 blog) to warm and massage the spinal discs alternately in extension and flexion, the axial and lateral extension may be safely added in this week's "Half Moon Pose" or Ardha Chandrasana Variation.  Begin by inhaling both arms out and up into an "Upward Salute" while drawing the pelvic floor and abdominal muscles up and back toward the spine (called bandhas) for support.  Then slowly exhale while extending the spine and leaning to the left as the left hand is released to the floor in line with the left knee and directly under the left shoulder, fingers spread wide and pointing away from the left knee.  During the next slow and deep inhalation, sweep the right arm out to extend it directly above the left hand and shoulder as the gaze rolls up toward the right hand (hastagrai drishti). At the top of the inhalation and extension engage the "locks" or bandhas and then lift the right leg straight out to the right side, extending and stretching through an active right foot with toes spread wide.  Remain in this "Half Moon Pose Variation" for 3-5 slow and rhythmic breaths before exhaling the right leg and hand gently back to the floor.  After 2-3 repetitions of the "Cat and Cow" stretches, inhale up onto the knees and exhale the right hand to the floor in line with the right knee and practice this "Half Moon Pose Variation" with the left leg and arm lifted and fully extended.  Always rest in "Corpse Pose" for a minimum of five minutes at the end of every practice.
  • Mentally---Pay attention to each segment of the breath as it leads you step by step to enter into and out of this week's "Half Moon Pose Variation." Notice the peaceful presence of God's Spirit guiding your movement and your breath.
  • Spiritually---Practice remaining in the pose in each now moment with just enough light to keep the body and the breath focused and aware of God's presence.  Try not to fall into the trap of looking beyond to the next step or transition or what you'll do after your practice.  Become comfortable with the future remaining in the fog as you trust God to be your present guide and companion.

In the words of Jesus, "I am the light of the world; he that followeh me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life."       (John 8:12, KJV) 

Monday, November 12, 2012

"The Dark Side"

Everyone has a dark side. We all struggle with a sinful human nature that often gives in to depression or depravity.   To deny this "dark side" actually gives it more power.  In order to acknowledge the evil influence, some of my friends have jokingly given their alter ego a name when it emerges after too much alcohol .  Even the apostle Paul complained about doing what he knew was not good when he said,  "For the good that I would, I do not; but the evil which I would not, that I do."  (Romans 7:19, KJV)  He went on to say, "But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members."  And so we continually struggle with our sinful nature, even when we want to do good.  
Since we cannot solve this dilemma on our own as long as we have a physical body, God gave us the solution through His Son, Jesus Christ.  "For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh: that the righteousnes of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit."  (Romans 8:3-4, KJV)  Translation: we must become more spiritually minded and seek less satisfaction in the flesh. 
A crescent moon also has a dark side.  Although we don't see it without a telescope, we know that it's there.  This week while practicing a variation of the yoga posture called "Crescent Moon Pose" or Anjaneyasana, try to focus less on the physical aspects of the position and more on the connection with your Creator.  
  • Physically---After prayer and several rounds of saluting your Savior, "The Son of God," remain in "Downward-Facing Dog" for five deep and smooth victorious ujjayi breaths to focus on the source of each breath.  To move into "Crescent Moon Pose" Variation or Anjaneyasana, after a deep inhalation draw up the pelvic floor and abdominal muscles, (called the bandhas) look forward and lunge the right foot up to land just inside the right hand. Then slowly float the left knee to the floor duration the long and thorough exhalation. Inhale both hands up onto the right knee and gently press it forward over the toes during an exhalation.  Take 3-5 slow and deep breaths to allow the muscles along the top of the left thigh to relax before bending the left knee and reaching around with the left hand to grasp the left ankle.  OR if a canvas belt or strap is available, wrap it around the arch of the left foot to gently draw the foot forward toward the hips.  Remain in this gently stretch until the quadriceps begin to expand and soften---5-6 deep ujjayi breaths.  For a deeper stretch, inhale the right arm up and over the head to help hold the strap, or reach toward the left foot.  Feel the chest expanding with each deep breath as the tail bone presses down and forward in this backward bending posture.
  • After 5-6 smooth ujjayi breaths, slowly release the left foot back to the floor duration and exhalation, and drop back into "Child's Pose" or Balasana for 3-5 relaxed and grateful breaths before switching to lunge the left foot forward.  After completing both sides rest in "Corpse Pose" (Savasana) for at least five minutes of relaxation and restoration.
  • Mentally---Once established comfortably in the "Crescent Moon Pose Variation" focus attention on the slow and smooth rhythm of each breath and remember the source of each breath is from a loving Creator.
  • Spiritually---In order to shift attention from the physical to the spiritual, feel the Presence of God' forgiveness in each breath.  Look up to acknowledge the source of light and deliverance that is worthy of your worship and service.
"O wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me from the body of this death?  I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord, So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God, but with the flesh the law of sin."         (Romans 7:24-25, KJV)

Monday, November 5, 2012

"Preparation to Vote and Other Duties"

Yes, voting is both a privilege and a duty that requires preparation.  This civic duty involves more than registering in advance and then showing up at the polling place, or pre-registering to vote by mail.  Ideally, democracy requires that the people are free to make their voice heard by making informed choices on a private ballot.  An informed choice requires advance time and effort---called preparation---to research the differences among all of the possible candidates, as well as the issues involved in the approval of initiatives, amendments, and measures for approval.   This means reading about and listening to each candidate speak, as well as gathering all information available on initiatives, amendments and measures before voting!  With the technology and media options available today, this research is much easier than it used to be prior to internet access.  Therefore, we of the twenty-first century have no excuse not to prepare to make informed choices on election day!
Ideally, the physical body also requires preparation to go into each day.  A daily morning yoga practice helps to physically prepare the body by establishing a regular rhythm of conscious breathing and slow, breath-synchronized movements to warm the muscles and joints.  Mentally, the mind needs this daily discipline to become less scattered, more sharpened and focused on whatever the chosen object of attention happens to be.  For a Christian this would be the ever-present Holy Spirit within.  Meanwhile the spirit becomes more aware of this connection as it yokes to the living Presence of God.  A disciplined, daily connection builds a strong relationship with your Creator that will carry you through the roughest days of illness or loss.  Simply ask for the help, believing, and it is there.  As I endured days 3 and 4 of my third cycle of aggressive chemotherapy, I called upon the Lord for this help and He was there for me, lifting me when I physically and literally couldn't lift myself.   Try this preparation for yourself each morning, remembering these Scriptural Promises:
  • "But my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus."   (Philippians 4:19, KJV)
  • "And behold, I am with thee, and will keep thee in all places whither thou goest...."    (Genesis 28: 15a, KJV)
  • For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus, our Lord."     (Romans 8: 38-39, KJV)

Monday, October 15, 2012

"Feeling Complete"

Many people feel incomplete if they don't have a partner by their side.  This message is propagated by one of my least favorite lines of all times in the movie Jerry Macquire when the actress Renee Zellweger gazed into Tom Cruise's eyes and whispered, "You complete me."  I believe that it's emotionally unhealthy to need another person in order to feel complete.  However, we were created with a spiritual void that only God's Holy Spirit can fill. That may be one reason that people try to fill their longings with food, possessions, drugs, alcohol or even social events.  We all work toward creating a feeling of fulfillment, lacking nothing, and sometimes it's difficult to wait patiently for that satisfaction to arrive. Part of the answer is to accept that we are complete just as we are and stop looking at all the wrong role models.  Look to a relationship with the living God to bring that satisfying feeling of completion as you rest in His peaceful presence.
It's a huge challenge to find peace if you're not physically ready to complete last week's variation of "Horse Pose" or Vatayana, which was incomplete for two reasons.  First, to limit the length of the blog to one 81/2" X 11" printed sheet only the bottom half of the pose was targeted, and secondly, the pose itself is quite difficult, especially when the top half of the body is added because the core is now fully engaged and extended to maintain an upright torso.  A word of caution to all students:  forcing any version of "Horse Pose" could result in hip or knee injury.

  • Physically---In order to be physically ready for the full or complete "Horse Pose" or Vatayana, the torso must be upright with the bended knee of one leg resting lightly next to the heel of the opposite foot, and without the support of the hands.  The safest way to practice this pose is by sitting on the edge of a chair so that the knee can be gradually lowered toward the floor or an ottoman while the weight of the upper body is supported by the chair itself. Once the left hip has externally rotated (away from center) to the maximum position without pain, and the torso is extended up through the crown of the head, inhale to slowly sweep the arms out to the sides and then up in and "Upward Salute".  During the long and slow exhalation lift the pelvic floor and abdominal muscles (the mula and uddiyana bandhas) while crossing the left arm under the right and entwining the upper arms at the wrists with palms facing one another, as in the arm position used in "Eagle Pose" or Garudasana (described in the February 23rd and April 4, 2009 blogs).  The further the elbows lift upward the greater the stretch in the rhomboid muscles between the shoulder blades.  Remain in this position for 3-5 smooth, deep and rhythmic breaths before switching to the opposite side with the right flexed foot place on the left thigh.  On this side the right arm crosses under the left before entwining in the "Eagle Pose" arm position.  After 3-5 breaths in your best version of the complete "Horse Pose", release the arms and sit on the floor with extended legs in "Staff Pose" or Dandasana (described in the June 22, 2009 blog) before lowering onto the back in "Corpse Pose" to rest and restore for at least five minutes.
  • Mentally---Due to the difficulty of this full position, absolute singular attention and focus on the knee and hip joint involved is essential to prevent injury.  Breathe slowly and consciously taking time to relax the muscles of the affected leg at the end of each exhalation.
  • Spiritually---Practice patience in any version of this challenging position because it will serve to increase circulation unilaterally (one side at a time) in the hip and knee joint, and will release stiffness in the sacroiliac region.  Be satisfied and practice feeling complete where you're at in this difficult posture.  Find your sense of completeness in patient stillness as you breathe rhythmically in your best version of "Horse Pose."
"My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into divers temptations; Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience, But let patience have her perfect work that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing."                 (James 1:2-4, KJV)

Monday, September 24, 2012

"Force is Not an Option"

There's an old saying, "You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make him drink."  Anyone who owns horses---and we do---will verify that they can be very stubborn creatures, but they have nothing on a man!  For example, our young black gelding, appropriately named "Storm," will not walk up a short four-foot ramp to the upper corral where his feed awaits, and has even been know to wait stubbornly for four days without eating until someone finally takes him out of the lower barn area to walk him up and around to his flake of hay.  
Similarly, my husband learned of the miraculous healing power of Resveratrol ten full days before he actually was willing to try it!  (Please read last week's blog entitled, "Miraculous Fruit of the Earth.")  It took an act of God---a fly or bee buzzing near his right ear---to break the stubborn refusal to "drink."  As this man that I dearly love brushed whatever was buzzing near his ear (Who knows?  We could have been near a vortex!) his hand bumped the cancer-damaged cartilage of that ear and he bent over in pain for several minutes.  When the time was just right, I asked calmly, "Now are you ready to try the Resveratrol treatment?"  By then, my wise husband finally saw the reason in trying this.  Within two days of making a paste made with the contents of one Reseveratrol capsule dissolved in a drop or two of red wine and then applied to the cartilage of his right ear, even he had to admit that the healing had begun.  And yet, this stubborn man was not to be embarrassed, cajoled and certainly not forced into "drinking the water" until he was ready.
Trying new poses can be similar to "drinking the water" for anyone who is unwilling to attempt something new and even slightly uncomfortable.   Of course, it is never advisable to move into a physical position that involves a muscle or joint with previous injury.  Also, we must never force our body into a pose by moving beyond the "edge" of discomfort into pain.  This week's "Horse Pose " or Vatayana Variation is best practiced with an open mind, heart and ultimately hips, and is beneficial for prenatal students hoping to experience a natural childbirth. 
  • Physically---As with most challenging positions, it's best to prepare for this intense, external hip and knee rotation by warming the muscles and joints with several (3-5) rounds of "Salutations to the Son" and perhaps seated hip-openers such as "Head-to-Knee Pose" (Janu Sirsasana described in the June 29, 2009 blog).  
  • Begin the  "Horse Pose " or Vatayana Variation by sitting very tall and erect on the edge of a sturdy chair.  Inhale and draw the pelvic floor and abdominal muscles upward and back toward the spine as you reach for the shin of the right leg.  Holding the flexed right foot with the left hand gradually release that foot high onto the right thigh as close to the right hip as possible without experiencing pain or extreme discomfort.  Remain here for 3-5 long, deep and smooth victorious (ujjayi) breaths, extending up through the crown of the head on the inhalations and relaxing the right hip joint at the end of each exhalation.  With both hands now on the chair beside each hip for support and the left thigh remaining parallel to the floor, on a long and slow exhalation gently lower the right bended knee  (with a flexed foot to protect the knee) toward the inside of the left foot.  Keep the back erect with a slight forward tilt of the pelvic basin, but avoid bending forward as you gradually release the tension in the right hip flexors externally rotating the right knee down  the left and toward the left foot.  Only go as deep into this modification of "Horse Pose" as your body will allow without moving into pain.  After 5-10 rhythmic breaths in in this pose carefully lift the right knee and exhale the right foot onto the floor, now keeping the right thigh parallel to the floor as the left flexed foot is placed high on the right thigh to reverse the position and open the left hip.  After relaxing in your best version of this challenging hip opener for 5-10 smooth breaths, be sure to rest on your back in "Corpse Pose" (Savanasana) for at least five minutes.
  • Mentally---Pay very close attention to the sensation in the hip and knee of the leg that is released toward the floor and do not push beyond your personal "edge" into pain.  Use the slow and deep rhythm of each breath to keep your mind fully present in your body.
  • Spiritually---As the physical resistance of the body is released in the hips and knees, allow any spiritual resistance to faith and trust to be subdued and to melt into the earth with each exhalation.  Trust and willingly "drink the water."
"For our conversation is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ.  Who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto His glorious body, according to the working whereby He is able even to subdue all things unto Himself."
(Philippians 3: 20-21, KJV)

Monday, September 17, 2012

"Miraculous Fruit of the Earth"

Lemons and grapes have always been among two of my favorite fruits.  Recently, in my battle with cancer they've become even more significant in my life, and hopefully will become so in the lives of everyone who reads this blog.  In other words, print this out and pass it along to family and friends because they too can reap the benefits of my personal experience and research. 
Over a month ago a well-meaning friend sent me an email on the health benefits of drinking lemon-water to kill cancer cells.  Although the email was a complete hyperbole, extolling that lemon-water was 10,000 times more effective at killing cancer cells than a common chemotherapy drug such as Adriamyacin (which happens to be one of the three drugs being using to combat my fast-growing sarcoma cells), what did I have to lose? So I walked into the kitchen, squeezed and zested a half lemon into a 16-ounce glass water bottle and began what is now my daily drink routine.  After all, what harm could come of drinking a very old, tried-and-true remedy for constipation?   
Later, in a Snopes check, I learned that the limonene and pectin found in the pulp and outer skin (zest) of both lemons and limes did, in fact, kill cancer cells when tested in rats, according to several scientific studies, and without the negative side effects of hair loss, liver, kidney and bladder damage.   Two other natural substances that have been and are being tested by medical communities to fight cancer are asparagus and Resveratrol, which is made up of the healthful components found in red wine, minus the alcohol, of course,---the skins, seeds and stems of red grapes.  My oncologist commented that we'd have to drink about 40 bottles of red wine daily to absorb the benefits of taking 2 grams of Resveratrol capsules.  Clearly, this is impossible without serious damage to the liver, kidneys and bladder! 
The more information gathered on this amazing and "miraculous fruit of the earth" the more impressed I was with God's natural, unprocessed creations.  In an appointment with my UCI oncologist, I also learned that he not only takes 2 grams of  micronized (for better absorption) "Pure and Healthy" brand Resveratrol himself each day as a preventative for cancer, but also has used it externally on the cartilage of his ear to heal skin cancer.  If this product is safe and effective enough for a highly educated, teaching medical oncologist, I figured it just might help my fair-skinned husband, who has extensive sun damage on the cartilage of his right ear from golfing under the intense southern California sun.  
While awaiting my own chemotherapy treatments to begin I was also experiencing some stinging sensations (typical description of the nerve sensations when cancer cells are reaching out for a source of nutrition) on my bladder where a tumor had previously been excised, so I immediately sought out a bottle of Resveratrol the very next day.  Since I had had great difficulty falling asleep the previous night due to the stinging, I decided that I didn't have time to order the micronized Resveratrol online with, so I found a brand of organic French capsules called Resveratage at about $80 for sixty 500mg capsules, found in several health food stores.  I took three capsules throughout the day, and the stinging in my lower abdomen not only stopped, but I was able to get a good night of sleep without the distraction of pain.  I'm sold on Resveratrol, both as part of a natural cancer regimen and a preventative for future battles.
And wait until you read the story of my husband's miracle with Resveratrol in next week's blog!

"My fruit is better than gold, yea, than fine gold; and my revenue than choice silver."  
(The Book of Proverbs 8:19, KJV)