Acupressure & Yoga

I’ve been reading a book recently called Acu-Yoga: The Acupressure Stress Management Book. In the past I didn’t really think much about acupressure/acupuncture. I didn’t know very much about it, so I never really had an opinion of it. I had believed it was somewhat controversial regarding whether or not it was considered “real” medicine or pseudoscience. However, never having tried it or read anything about it myself, I withheld judgement. Only recently did I become interested in the subject. I stumbled upon the topic in a very unusual way, but have practically become obsessed with learning more since then.

I had been watching a YouTube documentary about the history of drugs in the black community. (Unfortunately I am unable to find it now to provide the link.) To my surprise, through this documentary, I learned that acupressure and acupuncture were actually originally brought to the US by the Black Panther Party. In their effort to dismantle institutionalized racism in this country, the Black Panthers utilized these forms of Chinese medicine to help members of the black community detox from drugs like crack and heroin. The most surprising thing of all is that it actually worked.

Given my psychology background, I learned a lot about drugs and withdrawal. So I know how serious detoxing off of hard drugs can be. It’s one of the reasons that make it so hard for people to stop using. The idea that something as simple and holistic as acupressure could get people through their detox absolutely astounds and fascinates me. That was all I needed to hear to believe that there must really be something to this acupressure stuff. Since then I have been researching the practice and reading everything I can find on the subject.

Coincidentally around the same time, my yoga studio got a new book, the one I mentioned earlier. I was so excited to borrow it and learn how to incorporate acupressure into my yoga practice. I have come to find out that acupressure and yoga go hand in hand. They compliment one another. There are many acupressure points I have been hitting without realizing it, simply by doing different yoga poses. However, the second half of the book really goes into more detail about how you can target specific conditions or address certain physical/mental/emotional needs by including acupressure more intentionally into your daily practice.

After a week or so of practicing what I’ve learned, I finally decided to share it with my yoga students in class today. Only one person showed up this morning, sadly, but she did seem to really enjoy the flow I planned. I had to stifle my laughter as she got pretty vocal towards the end. Moaning and sighing from sheer bliss. Hearing these types of sounds from students is probably the best compliment you can receive as a yoga teacher. I was honored to pass on my newly acquired knowledge.

I had never really connected the dots until now, but I have actually been a lot less anxious since adding this new aspect into my practice. It could be a coincidence, but acupressure is supposed to be extremely helpful for anxiety. One of the best things about it is that you can use it anywhere. Even though it’s possible to do yoga anywhere, like in your car or at your desk during work, it can be somewhat distracting or embarrassing if you know other people can see you. A lot of acupressure points can be pressed without drawing any attention at all. For example, one of the points that is good for anxiety is the fleshy space between your thumb and pointer finger. Pinching this area with the opposite hand is something that you can do without anyone else even noticing.

Whatever your opinion of acupressure, I would highly recommend giving it a try for yourself, even if it’s only pressing a few hand points as you wait in line at the grocery store. It has definitely been a valuable addition to my daily yoga practice and to my life in general. If any of you have any experience with acupressure or acupuncture, I would love to hear from you! How long have you been using it? Has it helped you? How so? Where did you first learn about it? I’m eager to learn all I can so that I may pass it on to others.

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The Great Outdoors

I have always lived out in the country. At my childhood home, my parents had four acres of land lined with dense woods. Although most of the woodland area didn’t belong to us, we would always wander down through the trees to the charming stream at the bottom of the steep valley. This was one of my favorite activities when I was growing up. As I got older I would explore further and further down the stream in both directions. I have many stories of adventures in those woods with my friends, my family, my dogs, or even just by myself. I treasure the time I spent there and don’t plan on selling that house or the land even once my parents pass.

Even when I moved out to an apartment while attending college, there were plenty of gorgeous deep woods for us to explore right off campus and right outside our apartment complex. My college was nestled high in the hills of West Virginia, only visible after a long drive on winding back roads. It was almost like a small village hidden in the trees. Even now I only live a short walk from the river and can wander up into the trees right behind my house whenever I want to. I’ve always had the advantage of having nature right in my backyard.

The other day at work, we were talking with a girl who was originally from a big city. She was exasperated by the lack of people and places to go in our area. She even complained that she missed looking outside and seeing houses and buildings. Now when she looked outside she would just see cows. I said it at the time and I’ll say it again, who would rather look at buildings than cows?! Its baffling to me that some people would actually prefer living in a crowded city. To me that has always seemed like a nightmare.

It’s strange to think that most people actually live in cities now. Each year humanity becomes more and more separated from the Earth. I find that terribly sad. To think that some people have lived their whole lives within the confines of New York City for instance. Even Central Park or other state parks in more populated areas don’t do the true majesty of nature justice. While I was in awe at the unique, natural landscapes in Hocking Hills State Park when I was there, it was still somewhat spoiled by the sheer number of other people there, making that serene, calming environment noisy and crowded. There is a special magic that can only be found alone in the silence of nature. It breaks my heart to think that so many people will never experience that. There are even plenty of people that have no desire to.

I believe that humanity has lost something crucial to our survival when we severed our ties with the natural world. For so many centuries we viewed the harsh conditions of the outdoors as our enemy, not realizing that it was also an essential part of us. Not realizing that it has the potential to heal as well as harm us. That we need its nourishing energy to be happy and healthy and fully alive. We have all come from the earth and whether we want to accept it or not, we are still a part of the earth.

I know a lot of people that have hopeful fantasies about humanity living in space or on Mars one day. This has always seemed like an impossible, as well as idiotic plan to me. Humans think space will save us once this planet has been utterly killed. Yet no one seems to realize what life separated from our Earth mother might really be like. I imagine life in space to be absolutely desolate and devoid of all of the things I love about being alive. I truly would not want to live if it meant being apart from the Earth. That would be no life at all to me.

And sadly that life apart is something so many humans already seem to be living, oblivious to the majesty of life that they are missing out on. Even people living in smaller towns with a grassy patch of backyard to themselves, can’t comprehend the meaningful time I have been able to spend in nature all my life. Sitting by a single tree behind a fence as neighbors drive by or mow their lawns cannot compare to being fully immersed in the deep, green forest, or all alone on the bank of a great river. The former is a sad substitute for the latter.

I believe it is because so many of us have spent our lives separated from nature that we have so easily been able to continue destroying every piece of it. So many people see this as necessary development, as “progress.” They don’t realize that what humanity builds, while impressive and amazing at times, can never compare to what nature has already provided for us. When so many people have lived their whole lives away from the natural world, it’s no wonder they are unable to grasp the importance of it.

I don’t know that there is any way to help so much of humanity realize what they have been missing out on. Like many things lately, it seems like a lost cause. However, contemplating all of these other lives I could have led, makes me so grateful for the life I have. It has truly been a blessing to grow up and experience this little sliver of existence the way I have been able to. To be accustomed to only the sounds of bird calls, rustling leaves, and running water outside my windows my entire life. To have spent so many days barefoot, with the warm soil between my toes, walking through the shallow water of a clear stream. Collecting enough wild berries at the edge of my yard with my grandmother and sister to make a pie. Always having plenty of space to garden or simply bask in the sun. To have always had loyal, loving, innocent animals at my side. To be able to gaze at a sky full of stars each night I have been alive. I would not trade this life of mine for anything.

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