I’m just beginning to process my photos from my November trip to San Francisco to visit with my son, Matt. On Thanksgiving Day, after visiting the SF wharves and the Golden Gate Bridge, we headed down Interstate 280 and then cut over to Half Moon Bay, arriving just in time to catch the evening light show. It was worth the trip.
It’s not as welcoming as a yoga mat, but it’s where I spend most of my waking hours, learning the ropes at LCG Inc., building working relationships with my peers and plying my trade as a writer-editor-researcher. The company is about a tenth of the size of my previous employer, but I probably do 10 times more work. I used to say that I worked in the Prop Shop; now I am the Prop Shop. Even though we have not presented a proposal since I’ve been here (mid-November), mainly preliminary responses, I always got a clogged to-do list and a stack of tasks. There’s all kinds of writing and thinking that needs to go into preparing to bid for a Federal contract.
LCG is a different kind of corporate animal. It’s small business working in the Federal health IT sector and grants management. It’s a challenge to understanding the details of each field. We’re working with 17 agencies on the IT side and even more on the grants management side. I have to create a kind of scorecard to keep track of all the clients, acronyms and players. It’s also in Federal government so there’s all kinds of changing taking place in the way that information technology is handled.
Just as with DMI, the company gives me a laptop that I can take home with me, usually on weekends. Most work days, I don’t have time to check my personal mail, Twitter or Facebook accounts during business hours. I don’t even think about it. It’s a heightened focus that can stretch over several days. I sometimes have to force myself to pack up my bags and leave the office.
Yoga slows down
For the past four-five months, I backed off my practice and focused on restorative or yin yoga classes. Plus, the holidays were particularly disruptive of my normal routines, getting to the gym and class. I’ve had to take time off work to deal with dental surgery and that time has to be made up, assignments delivered on schedule, and lessons learned. Thrive Yoga is on my way home, not 10 minutes from the office, but I still find myself driving past it because my discipline has been sapped by my workload. But that’s precisely when I should be going to class.
I wrote this entry last night, but my blog security system locked me out after midnight so I could not post it until now.
Sara Bareilles sings Brave
Does it make a difference?
Reuters United Nations declares June 21 International Day of Yoga
The 193-member U.N. General Assembly approved by consensus a resolution establishing a day to commemorate the ancient practice, which Modi called for in September during his inaugural address to the world body.
It’s as much a political victory for Indian premier Modi as it is a recognition of yoga’s worth.
Increasingly, specialized non-profits and service organizations are spreading the use of yoga and meditation in schools and underprivileged communities, what in yogic philosophy is known as seva. Here is a story from Canada:
Toronto Star Yoga program teaches kids how to cope with stress at school and home
The goal isn’t really to teach kids about poses, explains New Leaf’s executive director Laura Sygrove, who co-founded the organization in 2007. Rather, it’s to teach them how to understand the connection between their emotions and what they feel in their bodies. New Leaf’s work is rooted in a growing body of research showing yoga and mindfulness can support young people who have experienced forms of trauma.
This service movement has grown so much that it has started coalescing in broader organizations. The Yoga Service Council is organizing its third conference for May14-17, 2015 at the Omega Institute. It has a really impressive list of founder and member organizations, as well as participating faculty (almost a Who’s Who of yogic leading edge thinkers in North America). The YSC has also brought out its first journal issue.
In 2007, I was desperate to buy a new yoga mat because my practice had outgrown the entry-level, low-cost one I’d been using. I had my eye on Barefoot Yoga’s Eco mat, an environmentally friendly combination of jute fiber and rubber, because it got a thumbs-up review in the New York Times, For Some Things, It’s O.K. to Be Sticky (Yoga Mats). I visited the online store repeatedly, but it was out of stock for months. Obviously, the NY Times article generated a lot of demand. I eventually ended up getting a Manduka eKo mat, as I reported in On Mats and Towels.
I’ve stayed loyal to Manduka since then. I bought another eKo mat at the end of my yoga teacher training in the summer of 2013 because the eKo mat was falling apart. The rubber surface was coming unstuck from the foundation layer, and the rubber was oxidizing so I no longer had traction, especially when the mat was moist. I hurt myself in a jump-back because my toes did not grip the mat.
Seven years later and still operating, Barefoot Yoga has the original Eco mat in stock, priced at $85. as well as an array of Barefoot Yoga-branded mats, and Prana, Jade, Manduka models. Barefoot Yoga has evidently decided that they are going to commit to earth friendly products. As they explain on their site:
“Traditional mats can be an excellent surface for yoga practice. However, these mats are made from PVCs (polyvinyl chlorides) that release dioxins and other carcinogens into the atmosphere during manufacturing. Toxic additives migrate into their surroundings in the form of gas and small particles. Thousands and thousands of mats and other products are made with PVC, and none are biodegradable or recyclable. Hence the need for more eco-friendly alternatives.”
But if mats are eco-friendly and biodegradable, they age and wear out. That’s what biodegradable means, breaking down into non-toxic components over time. Sun light accelerates the process for rubber-based mats, as with my Manduka eKo mat. I also have a Jade Harmony mat, a gift from my daughter, that has lost texture and feels like an old, crumbling eraser. So there’s a downside.
Testing a new mat
Why do I mention all this? In early August I got an e-mail from Carolina Mills at Barefoot Yoga Company, Seattle, Washington, asking me to a do a review of one of their mats, either a Hybrid Eco-Lite Mat ($23.95 on sale, $26.95 regular) or a Performance Grip Mat ($59). I chose to test the second one, but I told her that I would not get to it until after I came back from my European trip, say October. Carolina sent me a demo right away.
The mat stats measures 24″ x 72″ x 4mm, and weighs 5 pounds. It is made of Polymer Environmental Resin (PER). “It does not contain phthalates or heavy metals, and its method of production is completely non-toxic and latex free,” says Barefoot Yoga’s write-up. It comes in three colors, black, charcoal and espresso, a rather somber selection but that may have to do with the manufacturing process.
The mat comes with a lifetime warranty:
Lifetime warranty covers one-time replacement of your Grip Mat due to any defects that arise as a result of normal use of the product.
Considering the mid-range price and eco-friendliness of the mat, these terms are extraordinary.
First, the mat is exceptionally light and compact, easy to roll up and slide in a bag (none of the struggle as with a traditional sticky mat). I have no problem carrying it around. As mentioned, the mat comes in one size. In my case, I prefer a wider mat, say 26-27″, but I’ve discovered that I am not as picky as I used to be. However, if Barefoot Yoga wants to cater to male buyers (taller and broader), they might want to offer a selection of wider and longer mats.
Since getting back to my yoga practice, I’ve taken a low-key approach: yin, restorative and nidra yoga mostly, as I try to tame a Type A+ intensity that has predominated in my practice. The Grip Mat was designed for a more active practice so I have not put the mat through a stress test. Its grip should get better as it wears down. I wiped down the mat with a sea salt and water mixture, as suggested on the Barefoot Yoga FAQ page, to speed up the break-in process.
A few days ago, my daughter, Stephanie, told me that while I was traveling, she used my Barefoot Yoga mat for her practice. From the start, she found it had a great surface that kept her from slipping, even though it’s not “sticky”.
If you want cushion for hands, knees and feet, you may want to use a yoga towel or cut-up mat squares for padding. This mat is not a big, flat sponge. Personally, I appreciate that I don’t feel as if I am sinking into the mat. I am balance-impaired and have peripheral neuropathy. Too much padding introduces a kind of sensory noise. With the Performance Grip mat, I sense a firmer foundation under my feet, and I can move through my sequences with confidence. In fact, the more I use it, the more it grows on me (or under me).
Since this mat’s strength is durability under heavy use, I will come back later and review it for this characteristic at a later time.
Last Monday morning, DMI Human Resources told that “due to changing business conditions and requirements” the company was terminating my job. Within 90 minutes, I was driving out the basement parking garage with my box of personal belongings in the trunk. I was not the only one.
Please note that I am not disparaging DMI for making business decisions that had a lot more at stake than my little job. As an upstart company that is not risk-adverse, DMI took a gamble hiring me a year ago. I had no experience writing Federal IT proposals. I underwent a “crash course with training wheels.” At the end of my tenure, I know that I bring value and polish to any proposal. I also “grok” how to leverage my other talents, knowledge and experience for maximum impact. I am grateful for the opportunity and privileges that come with a company that wants to create a productive work environment. I was told that my termination was “business, not performance-related” (the corporate equivalent of The Godfather adage). In a business heavy in human capital, cutting overhead is really about terminating people.
Today, I join LCG, a technology provider for health IT, scientific research and grants management in the public sector, in Rockville. I believe that LCG (re-branding for Laurel Consulting Group) did not make a high-odds bet with my hiring. For over a month, they had been looking for a proposal writer who could actively engage stakeholders and boil down the inputs into a polished product. Once I interviewed last Wednesday, they acted promptly to acquire a resource that fits their corporate needs.
I start work on November 17.
One of the most accessible online resources about substance abuse gets down with a leading advocate of including yoga in treatment:
The Fix The Next Phase in Recovery — The Tommy Rosen Solution
Ninety minutes later, having come through an intimate and powerful experience, I would be directed to lie down, relax completely, and let the full weight of my body rest upon the earth. This was savasana or corpse pose. The feeling was electric — energy humming through my body. I felt like blood was pouring into areas of my tissues that it had not been able to reach for some time. It was relieving and healing. It was subtler than the feeling from getting off on drugs, but it was detectable and lovely, and there would be no hangover, just a feeling of more ease than I could remember. I felt a warmth come over me, similar to what I felt when I had done heroin, but far from the darkness of that insanity, this was pure light — a way through.