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Friday, January 6, 2012

BE STILL: Yoga and My Obscure Malady---by Jeannie Snow VanOrden

I did my Yoga routine this morning.  This is one of my goals for 2012: incorporate calming, deep breathing, stretching yoga into my daily life.  I have recorded about eight routines on the DVR.  This particular Yoga series is very mild and relaxing and I have found that it significantly improves my health.  I could have used its healing power a long time ago. 

When I was eleven my mother and father sat me down and said,   “Which would you rather do, take dance or take piano lessons?”  My older sisters both took piano lessons and were accomplished singers and musicians.   It was discovered that my younger sister could benefit from dance lessons as physical therapy for a problem with short tendons in her legs.  My mother found a dance teacher who gave lessons in her home.   So there I was with the option of one or the other.   I chose dance.

I very much wish that I could play piano but if I could only do one, dance was by far the best choice for me.   I was a middle child sandwiched between two talented older sisters, an adorable younger sister whose needs required extra attention, and a long awaited baby brother.  It seems silly now but I was plagued by feelings of being awkward and unlovely and dance was great therapy.  

My teacher was a blonde statuesque beauty by the name of Jean Enright.   Her garage was fitted with mirrors and a ballet barre.  I was one of her older students.   I took lessons from her for about five years.  My last performance at one of her recitals was when I was sixteen.  Because of those lessons I was in Choreodancers at Rolling Hills High School, I danced in high school dance concerts and musicals, I danced in church plays and talent shows,   and I danced for a short time at Brigham Young University in Ballet Theater and Modern Dance Club.  

My mother encouraged me to get a degree in dance and do as my teacher had done, teach dance.  My mother was probably right but I resisted.  I think I resisted because although dance was a joy, it was also a heartache.  It was very hard for me.  All dancers must work hard and be disciplined but I felt like I was fighting my body’s basic nature.  I am not naturally limber or flexible.  I struggled to be confident on stage.  Although I am slender, I don’t have the curveless figure of the ideal ballet dancer, and I felt like I was too tall.  Knowing what I know now about the varieties of dance styles and opportunities, I realize I was too self-conscious and too pessimistic.  In spite of that, dance was a great blessing in my life.  I acquired poise and grace and confidence that my awkward young self very much needed.   I love to dance.  I had wonderful experiences performing and making friends through dance.   

After I had my second child, while I was at the doctor being treated for strep throat, I learned something about my body that shed more light on why dance was hard for me.  I have an obscure malady with the weird name, “Essential Tremors.”   I realized that the trembling in my legs and arms was not just because of exertion during a difficult work out.  I learned that being still and steady on stage wasn’t just because I had stage fright. I love performing.  I am not afraid of performing.  I am afraid of the unexpected trembling of my body that I cannot control.  I sing and that same malady had consequences during vocal performance.  I once toyed with becoming a nurse, but tremors in my hands made me give up that as a possibility because I could not imagine being able to give shots and place IV needles in patients with my trembling hands.

The worst part is that people often express concern that I am anxious or nervous because they notice the trembling.  Truthfully, I am at times anxious and nervous, and I am sometimes a bit frenetic. I think I’m a productivity junkie.  I bustle around at high speed getting as much done as possible. Which isn’t actually, all that productive sometimes.   All this does not help calm my essential tremors.  

These days I take beta-blockers to control my tremors.  Beta blockers are also useful for performance anxiety and shakiness.  Yoga with its stretching, deep breathing, Zen quality is probably the best thing I am doing to get my tremors under control.

To get the most out of my Yoga sessions both physically and mentally, I must slow down, still my mind, and create a zone of existence where nothing matters but the present  NOW:  t he body breathing in health, light, and peace;   breathing out stress and discomfiture of all kinds.  It was very hard at first. Hard like dance was hard.  I’m not limber.  Some poses are difficult.  But it gets easier every day.  My muscles are more limber every day.  I feel more youthful and more productive as I take this time to slow down. 

Aches and pains and stress are eased in that timeless space where I am at peace with myself and my maker and the challenges he as blessed me with.  Be still and breathe.

“Be still and know that I am God.”   Psalms 46:10

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