Squatting Whole Body Health Benefits and Politics plus Video by da-AL

Picture me sitting on my haunches atop a conference table, assigned to perform an entertaining Toastmasters speech titled, “The benefits and the Politics of Squatting”…

Can you do this and smile? Image by edwindoms610 from Pixabay.

The subject first piqued my interest years ago, when my mom moved in with us. To make things extra comfy for all, we had some construction done on our snug home.

Each morning, a crew of men assembled under our backyard gazebo. Aged from early twenties to eighties, each hailed from Cambodia.

What intrigued me was the way they waited for each other to show up. In totally relaxed full-squats, the gentlemen sipped coffees, munched pastries, chatted, and smoked. Once all were there, they stood — not a one groaned or complained of creaky bones.

Lunch involved more of the same. They full-squatted as they passed around freshly steamed rice with fragrant grilled meat and veggies. Afterward, still squatting, they finished with smokes and maybe a sweet.

Squatting was still on my mind when, a couple of years later, I broke my knee twice in the same year. Torn cartilage, fractured bone, stretched tendon, blah, blah, blah. Ouch!!!! and Ohno!!! don’t begin to cover it.

Enter, Francisco Rufino, a gifted yoga instructor who pointed out that squatting keeps people in India free of knee and back problems.

Voila! Thanks to his suggestion that I squat five times a day, for thirty seconds each time, as I watched TV, my knee is so great that I never needed the surgery that two doctors prescribed! Yesterday I went for a terrific jog, no problemo!

By aligning muscles and organs from toes to neck, squatting aids in…

  • Getting rid of hemorrhoids, diverticulosis, and hernias.
  • Preventing heart attacks caused by straining on European-style toilets.
  • Alleviating incontinence and pelvic organ prolapse.
  • Making pregnancy easier.
  • Guarding reproductive organs, including protecting against prostate cancer.

So why don’t we do it more? When I gave the speech, at least one audience member expressed disgust. My h-a-unch is that we think we’re too good for it — and that includes politically. This Korean woman, married to an Anglo man, explains his chagrin when she and her family socialize while squatting.

Would your family be embarrassed if you performed full squats?

Learning from Cancer by da-AL

Photo of daisy wearing glassesPhoto: Gratisography.com Ryan McGuire.

Years before I was diagnosed with cancer, an agency that facilitated emotional support groups for people with cancer hired me to produce a video for them.

The morning my partner and I gathered our camera equipment, I braced myself for an emotionally trying day. Listening to the stories of those battling to live, I did my best not to cry as I stood behind the lens.

By the end of the videotaping session, I felt uplifted by their strength — and mystified! How could many of them speak of cancer as a blessing?

In 2007, I too was diagnosed with cancer. At first, I was angry, sad, frustrated, and terrorized. It took time for cancer to reveal its lessons to me.

Photo of a group of mallard ducks walking Photo: Gratisography.com Ryan McGuire.

Learning that happiness is worth fighting for has changed me profoundly. Early on, a sage cancer warrior recounted how a friend of hers dreaded when his cancer would kill him, yet he outlives many loved ones. The wise woman told me, “No one can predict how long they’ll live. We’re lucky for every day.”

Day and night, as I endured my illness being categorized, quantified, and treated, I obsessed over how I might have contracted it…how to get rid of it…how to never get it again…how it would hurt my loved ones…and on and on…

When I tried was hot yoga, the laser focus it demanded quieted my mind. The full length mirrors reflected how, if I dwell on what hurts and what I fear, then my yoga suffers. They showed me how, when I physically and mentally resonate words like ‘happy,’ ‘healthy,’ ‘joy,’ and ‘love,’ possibility becomes reachable.

Photo of bee at purple flowers Photo: Gratisography.com Ryan McGuire.

It’s a wonder that my worrying didn’t kill me. Often I wondered if someone as ordinary as me deserved to live. Eventually, I figured that I’ve got as much of a right to breath as do cockroaches and fleas. And that I’ve got something to say, which is how this blog started (as did the two novels I’m writing!)…

Life is always a gift, and that includes all of our experiences.

Has illness taught you any lessons?

Standing Head to Knee Yoga Video of Me by da-AL

When the yoga studio where I practice posted on Facebook a 24-second video of me doing a pose, many people were entertained. Hopefully in a good way.

Here, dear blog friends, I share it with you.

This studio hosts a free class every second Saturday of every month. Ask any studio near you if they offer great introductory deals. Chances are, they do!

’Tis the Season to Sweat Out your Demons! by da-AL

Thank you, Ryan McGuire of Gratisography.com
Thank you, Ryan McGuire of Gratisography.com

“These people are nuts,” I thought when I first heard about Bikram yoga.

Little did I know…

That I’d be doing it myself a couple of years later — desperate for anything that would make me feel like I was living rather than dying.

Cancer. That’s what drove me to try anything — even Bikram! I’d found a lump, had it biopsied, had gotten the terrible news, and now, several days later, cancer was all I could think of, day and night, night and day. 24/7? Hell no. More like 48/7.

Bikram is tough — the heat, the poses. All the classes are for beginners, but just getting through the heat definitely takes some kind of strength of character — or in my case, absolute end-of-the-rope desperation — to get through.

The poses are challenging, but to their credit, they’re only as challenging as one decides to make them. They’re beginner level or advanced level — all the same poses — just depending on how hard you elect to push yourself.

I pushed myself as if my life depended on those poses because they did. My mental health decimated by cancer, Bikram made me focus. Each 90-minute class was a vacation — being forced to get  through that heat, to truly listen to the instructors because they rarely show — made me not think about cancer. What a relief! As treacherous those 90 minutes were, they were also a refuge. A respite from contemplating about the myriad decisions I needed to make and from contemplating my grim situation. I’m not so good at meditation, at the time worse than ever at it, so the classes forced me into laser focus!

In those 90 minutes, body, mind, and soul were simultaneously pummeled and sweat purified into submission. As my body became strong, balanced, flexible, and focused, so did my mind and spirit.

“Bikram’s Beginning Yoga Class,” by Bikram Choudhury with the help of Bonnie Jones Reynolds, helped speed the process.

161023bookfrontIt’s just the best! Everything one could want in such a book! Without wasting a lot of ink, paper, and the reader’s time, it engages, explains the background and because. Then it gets to the 26 poses, each with their own succinct background and because. Those magical 26 poses! Designed to address every single part of the body, “head to toes, bones to skin,” as Bikram extols.

There’s a lot of pictures for each pose, some modeled by people who were known by most everyone back in the 1970s. Picture Dick of the Smothers Brothers in what was then referred to as a ‘European style bathing suit,’ doing yoga before everyone was a yogi.

Thank goodness for the non-celebs in it too. They illustrate how women and men, oldsters and youngsters, huge and petite, can all do this yoga! Simple, direct, straightforward, and best of all, inspiring.

All yogas have benefitted me more than no yogas. Here’s the great friendly place I currently attend that even offers a free class a month.

Here’s where I talk more about cancer and about the wonder of public libraries that house many more marvels besides this book.

Cancer has Blessings: 3 of the 1st I learned by da-AL

Years back, I was hired to produce a video that featured people in the throes of battling cancer. On the day I was to interview them, I braced myself to be depressed. To my surprise, their wisdom uplifted me.

Each of them had committed themselves to enjoying however many days were left to them. To my amazement, they spoke of cancer as a blessing.

Nine years ago, I joined their ranks. In 2007, I was diagnosed with cancer. Like the brave people I had met long ago, eventually cancer lent me wisdom that continually enhances my life.

We all deserve to live
Thanks Folkert Gorter, SuperFamous.com


Here are the first three of the many blessings that cancer taught me:

1. Staying focused and positive leads me to my highest self.

I learned this as I waited for my illness to be categorized and quantified. Day and night, night and day, I lost a lost a lot of sleep as I obsessed: how did I get cancer? how could I get rid of it? how would I ensure that it never touches my life again? how might it hurt my loved ones? how might it kill me?

Desperate, I thought maybe I could detox myself. If the lump could be sweated out, hot yoga was the answer. Before then, I had figured that anyone who exercises in upwards of 105 degree is a nut. Crazy with fear as I was, that made it perfect for me.

Surviving the ordeal commanded laser focus. With each class, full length mirrors reflected my lesson: if, while I contort limbs into aching knots as I listen to sweat drenching off of me like rain pattering to my sticky matt and dwell only upon my misery as musty perspiration stings my eyes, I’m a mess. Conversely, if I feel positive down to my bones, I fare way better! Those ninety minute sessions of profoundly experiencing words like ‘happy,’ ‘healthy,’ ‘joy,’ and ‘love’ led me back to sanity.

2. We all deserve to live.

Nonstop worry turned me into a bore. At the height of my self-absorption, I decided that because I had never accomplished anything extraordinary and probably never would, I didn’t deserve to live.

That melodrama rocked me — clear into cancer’s second wisdom for me. If cockroaches and fleas deserve to live, so do I. If I ever make some good kind of history, that’ll be nice. My ordinary mortal best, though, is enough.

3. Sometimes happiness is easy. Sometimes I must fight for it.

Constantly imagining the worst eclipsed all the color from my life until a wise cancer warrior visited me. She asked, “Who of us knows how long we have to live?! While you’re wasting your life making yourself miserable, someone you love could be getting run over by a car this very second!”

Thanks unspash.com Alex Wigan
Thanks unspash.com Alex Wigan

Her words continue to knock sense into me when I get too full of myself. I’m lucky for every morning I wake and for each night I go to sleep. Pursuit of what offers meaning to my life is all that matters.