Sunday, March 23, 2014

Last push and thank you

My fundraiser based on my 40 Day of Yoga for Syria is about to come to an end. If you'd like to make a last-minute donation to help me reach my goal of $500 for the International Rescue Committee and their work with Syria refugees, please click here. Thank you so much to all of you who have donated and/or shared my fundraiser. I really appreciate it, and I especially appreciate your intention to help displaced people like these children.

Original caption: "Syrian refugee children who arrived with their families from Damascus, eat fruits under a tent at the Majdal Anjar refugee camp in Bekaa Valley near the Syrian border in eastern Lebanon, September 9, 2013. CREDIT: REUTERS/JAMAL SAIDI"

Thursday, March 13, 2014

#WithSyria

I am #WithSyria

We're coming up on the third anniversary of the beginning of the catastrophic crisis in Syria, and sadly, we can say this is statistically the worst humanitarian crisis of our 21st century thus far. Throughout my recently-completed 40 days of yoga for Syria and my fundraiser for the International Rescue Committee's work with refugees, I was humbled by the people who stepped up to support my fundraising efforts, through contributions and sharing on social media, messages of support, prayers and positive thoughts, and of course, my fellow yogis at Authentic Yoga Life. Thank you all so much. I know you've all made a difference in the lives of someone from Syria who really needs you now.

However, to be completely honest, I was also saddened by the fact that most people I know just ignored it. Because of the topic of my work, I know that the Middle East is "controversial" and brings up a lot of ridiculous emotions in people. People who are otherwise sensible get really vehement about dumb things when it comes to the Middle East. The common humanity we all share gets completely lost. However, as far as I'm concerned, there is nothing controversial about wanting to feed and educate and house and clothe displaced refugees. Is it because Syrians are Arabs, and people are racist against Arabs? Is it because it's just too painful to face babies dying, kids crossing borders without their families, or what? I know we are all overwhelmed and we can't "fix" everything. We all have our causes. This is one of mine, and I am particularly adamant in my desire to assist the MILLIONS OF CHILDREN who have been displaced by this war. We can deal with this now, or we can deal with it later, but regardless of how far you live from the Middle East, this is your problem. It's the world's problem, and it won't go away without everyone's help. You can run from the world's problems and even drown yourself in pseudo-news about Justin Bieber and Kim Kardashian, but you cannot hide from the long-term, multi-generational consequences of millions of refugees in the most geopolitically important region of the world. It will come back home to all of us, if we don't make an effort now. 

Banksy put this beautiful reworking of his art out this week, in solidarity with the #WithSyria campaign.


To me, this sums it all up. This is about an entire generation of children who are struggling to get the basics our children take for granted: education, shelter, security, health care, food. Like the video I posted at the top of this entry, they want to float away. Let us do what we can to make their lives stable once again.

Malala released this video this week, too, appealing for help for Syria's children. And in the clip below, you can watch her discuss the real danger that we will lose this entire generation of Syrians.


Tonight, there will be vigils all over the world to mark the beginning of this nightmare. If you follow the #withsyria hashtag on social media, you can see reports about this solidarity movement. If you want to take part in the Faces for Syria solidarity project, click here. Please, now is the time--we need to elevate awareness about this crisis and do everything we can to protect these children. Three years is three too many! If you'd like to give to the IRC and their work, please consider doing so through my fundraiser, which closes in a few weeks. There are many other organizations that are also working to save the children of Syria, including Save the Children, Oxfam, the UNHRC, Islamic Relief, Mercy Corps, Doctors Without Borders, and many more. Thank you for your support. I am #WithSyria and I hope you are, too. 

Friday, March 7, 2014

My 40 Day Challenge Has Ended, But the Cause Has Not!

New to this site? Click here to see what I'm doing.

I finished my 40 days of yoga yesterday! Although I have struggled with some knee issues, I did a lot of power yoga, yin yoga, restorative yoga, and even face yoga! I'd like to thank everyone at my home studio, Authentic Yoga Life, who did this challenge with me -- we rock! I'd especially like to thank my teachers--Valerie, Rachel, Nancy, Karen, and Kristi--you are all amazing and inspiring!

To date, I've raised $345 for the International Rescue Committee and their work with Syrian Refugees. Thank you so much to everyone who has contributed! I will continue to raise donations for another month. I would really like to meet my goal of $500 before April 1st. Please help me make that happen by sharing my donation page. Thank you!

This is such an important cause. The displacement of millions of Syrians is simply mindboggling. My friend Pauline sent me this video yesterday -- It is a powerful take on what MILLIONS of Syrian children are experiencing RIGHT NOW. We cannot turn away from these children!


Please consider donating to my challenge for the IRC. I selected them because of their immaculate record of financial efficiency and accountability, and their wide reach with displaced Syrians, both inside the country and in neighboring host countries. If you cannot give, please share this info with your friends and family on social media. I would especially like to reach out to my friends in Middle Eastern studies to share my fundraising page with their contacts. I have not seen much in the way of concrete fundraising among us, even though so many of us are deeply involved in educating and advocating for and about this cause. I really appreciate your support. Thank you.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Is the World Indifferent?

New to this site? Here's what I'm doing.

My 40 day challenge is nearing the home stretch! The last day of my 40 days is March 6th. I've been keeping up with my yoga practice every day, although my work schedule has made it impossible for me to make it to my home yoga studio over the past couple of days. Fortunately, I get to hit up an awesome hot power yoga class taught by one of my favorite teachers this morning! I'm still having some issues with my knee, but I know that just getting to class is going to help loosen it up. It's also going to help me sit for hours today at work as I wade through a mountain of paperwork at my desk.

And now, for the reason I'm doing all of this yoga:


Yesterday morning, I heard this episode of the Diane Rehm show on National Public Radio, about the world's "failed response" to the Syrian refugee disaster. After delineating the fact that there are now upwards of 9 million displaced people inside and outside of Syria as a result of the civil war--a staggering, mind-boggling number--one of her guests pointed out that it has been more difficult than normal for relief agencies to raise the money they need to provide assistance to refugees. To paraphrase, he presented this example: an unnamed agency was able to raise more money in three weeks for the Philippines after Typhoon Haiyan than it had been able to raise for Syrian refugee relief in three years. It's a major problem that is making refugee relief so difficult in Syria and in all of the countries that are hosting refugees, both in official camps and in their societies at large.

Why is it that the world has not been better equipped to handle this situation, nor responded with the same sort of outpouring of other horrible events? And why is this not a major news story all the time? I would suggest that the answer is one I'm well aware of, as someone who works as a Middle East historian. The general public in the USA has an image of the Middle East as a violent, always troubled region--one they do not understand, and often do not care to understand. Despite the fact that our lifestyles and economies are entirely dependent upon the natural resources of the region, despite the fact that our monotheistic religions come from the region, and despite the fact that the USA meddles constantly in the region, Americans just do not know about regular people's suffering there. And sadly, when they do learn about it, a lot of people just do not care. I'd like to be wrong about this, but I do not think I am.

Syrians and other Middle Easterners have been dehumanized in the media, and, as a result, it's hard to get the general public to think of them as just regular people trying to live their lives, raise their families, and be happy--just like everyone else in the world. That's why we need more stories like this one, a blurb from Michael Abramowitz of the Center for the Prevention of Genocide at the US Holocaust Memorial, discussing the destruction of Syrian childhood as a result of this catastrophe and the responsibility of the world community to protect these kids. We also need a lot more visual and audio images of regular people in this horrifyingly irregular situation, such as these powerful photographs of "Syria's Lost Generation" by Elena Dorfman. Click on this link and follow the slide show -- you can listen to teenaged refugees' stories as you look at their portraits.

And here's another photo by Dorfman, taken in Lebanon for the UNHRC. I don't know about you, but I cannot turn away from these babies.

Original caption: "Dorfman captures a baby in the box that serves as his crib on the grounds of an active slaughter house near Tripoli [Lebanon]."

I know this is an overwhelming problem, but I believe it is imperative that we all face it head-on and work to curb this humanitarian nightmare. It's not just the right thing to do, but it's political pragmatic as well. My fundraiser is small, but if we all put our small work together, we can make something big. I've made my living off the study of the Levant for many years. This is the least that I can do. Please, consider supporting my fundraiser for the International Rescue Committee and their work with Syrian refugees by making a contribution and/or spreading the word via social media. Thank you very much. 

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Restoration

New to the site? Click here to read about what I'm doing

It's been a very hectic week at work and in my life, but I've been keeping up with my yoga! I've made it to the studio on most days, but I've been struggling with my left knee. My Power Yoga practice has been suffering because of some swelling and irritation, so I've had to scale back my efforts on my mat. On the days when my work schedule has prevented me from taking a class in person, I've relied upon my Gaiam TV subscription to get my yoga in. The theme of my 40 Days program this week was Restoration -- so on the days when I've felt extra tired, I've relaxed with some yin yoga and restorative poses, and I even took a nap one afternoon, which is something I almost never do. 


Despite my fatigue, there have been some powerful stories in the media this week in regard to the crisis of Syrian refugees. Malala Yousafzai, the brave Pakistani teen who was shot by the Taliban for daring to go to school, and who is now a tireless campaigner for girls' education around the world, visited the border between Jordan and Syria this week. In this video, you can see Malala and her father as they watch new refugees crossing the border, fleeing the civil war in Syria. 




Some of those new refugees no doubt have wound up in Za'atari, the largest camp in Jordan. (In fact, the camp is so large that it is now the fourth most populous city in Jordan.) The camp is overseen by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and the Jordanian government, and relies on many non-governmental organizations for its daily operations, including the International Rescue Committee--the organization for which I'm fundraising with his challenge. The IRC has many roles in the camp, and some of its primary focuses are the protection of women and girls from domestic violence and stranger exploitation, children's education, and employment training. This week, I read an inspiring photo journalism piece about women of the camp and how they find ways to create meaningful lives while they live in the limbo of being refugees from their homes. This photo in particular struck me: 

Photo by Rena Effendi
Original caption: "More than half of Zaatari's population is under 18. These kids, making their way home from school, are some of the 60,000 children who call the camp home."

When I look at this photo, I see the horrible conditions in which these children are living. However, I also see the commitment they, their families, and organizations like the IRC have to maintain their educational development, despite their displacement. These children, just like Malala, inspire me beyond words. They are not allowing inhumane circumstances to strip their humanity from them. It leaves me humbled. 

In keeping with this theme, there was a viral video blowing up social media this week from Norway, about a boy who had no coat, freezing at bus stops around Oslo. Shot using a child actor and hidden cameras, it illustrated that most people wanted to help the boy, and many even gave him the coats off their own backs. Here is the video:



The video was created by an organization, SOS Children's Villages Norway, to encourage people to give to a campaign to raise money for winter cold relief among freezing children in Syria and the surround countries' refugee camps. It makes a powerful statement about what happens when we are confronted face-to-face with suffering. Even the smallest acts can make a difference in a person's life. This is what has kept me going with my yoga challenge, even as I've had some moderate pain over the past couple of weeks. I want to make a small difference in a few people's lives. I encourage you to consider donating to my fundraiser, sharing it on social media and among your friends, and doing what you can to make a difference as well. I truly believe that we are all part of a one world human family, and we need to look out for one another. This is my small way to try to help. Thank you for your support!

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Sustainance

New to the site? Here's an explanation of what I'm doing.

I've been keeping up with my 40 days of yoga program and really enjoy my practice. However, it's been hectic at work, and it's been quite chilly here in Denton, so some days, I've been fairly tired when I get to class and sometimes I feel like I'm struggling in places where I normally do not. For example, I have a knee injury that often inhibits how deep I can bend my left knee in poses such as Warrior II. My knee has been bothering me a bit more than usual, so I've had to back off a bit, which is a challenge for my ego! This is, of course, one of the biggest lessons of yoga: listening to your body and doing what you can do today, not worrying about yesterday or tomorrow. Fortunately, I always leave the mat feeling better than when I start. That's a real benefit of doing yoga: gaining not only physical strength, but also getting energized, even on days when you scale yourself back a bit. Also, I love the teachers and community of people at the studio where I practice, Authentic Yoga Life. They keep me going, because we are all in it together.

My intention of raising money for the IRC throughout this forty day period also keeps me going. I've been following harrowing tales of life in the refugee camps this week and wanted to share a little snippet with you today. Here's a photo from a recent pita bread distribution in Za'atari camp in Jordan, from Instagram users Livingonone. They are living with Syrian refugees in the camp while they make a film about their plight. This photo really hit me; look at how many people are crushing up against the window to get their bread. Pita bread is a staple food for people in the Levant, and when I think about how much of it all of the organizations working the camps need to make in a day, just to keep people at subsistence levels, it boggles my mind. However, it seems to me that providing food and shelter is just the small part; taking care of people's humanity is a much greater task. To get a sense of that, check out this recent Reddit Q&A with the guys behind Living On One. It is very humbling.

Thank you for following my yoga journey, and please spread the word of my fundraiser. More soon! Namaste.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Elements

New to this site? Here's an explanation of what I'm doing.

I'm so excited that I've passed the half way mark to my fundraising goal of $500 for the IRC's work with Syrian refugees! Thank you so much to everyone who has donated so far. I am grateful to you!

We've had a quite cold week here in Denton, and it's gently snowing today. I was so cold going into yoga this morning, but the studio is so warm--both in terms of temperature and the people in it--that I left feeling totally restored. Our teacher Rachel changed the sequence up on the mat for some fun, which is always great -- it keeps us on our toys and in the moment! Now back home, as I look out my window, I see flakes of powdery snow drifting onto the white ground, and it's very soothing.

That being said, my thoughts throughout this 40 day challenge are never far from the refugees who have let their homes in Syria. The UN is now saying that there may be over 8(!) MILLION people who have become displaced, both inside and outside of Syria. This is mind boggling and scary. For those people, snow is not a fun and picturesque event that makes winter charming; snow is a life-threatening occurrence. This problem is compounded when the snow falls in camps that are short on food and even water. While I've lived through significant droughts in California and Texas, I've never, ever had to worry about whether I had enough water to live. Even though I think I'm pretty conscientious when it comes to not wasting water, this is relative. When I'm feeling slightly dehydrated, I just automatically go to my kitchen and drink some water, or even coconut water or Gatorade, to get myself back on track. I don't think about it--I just hit the tap and it's there for me: safe, cheap, and plentiful. But refugees throughout the Middle East are struggling to get basic water for subsistence in most of the refugee camps in neighboring countries, such as Jordan and Turkey. This is a kind of misery that I cannot fathom, but which is being tackled head-on by groups such as the IRC. However, without a lot of help -- a gigantic amount of help -- this problem will only get worse.

Moreover, some really horrible reports were released this week about the lengths to which all sides in the war have been torturing and killing children. Click here and here if you want to read more about this--but I'm warning you, it's beyond disturbing. On top of that, there are extreme food shortages and people are starving in some parts of Syria--particularly in and around Yarmouk, the Palestinian refugee camp that was decimated recently in the midst of a series of battles between factions of the civil war. I can't begin to imagine what it's like for the people who remain in this camp and who are being starved and brutalized by war. It just breaks my heart, and I feel completely despondent about it.

And yet, in the midst of unfathomable despair, the people are Yarmouk are making music.


Humanity cannot be crushed, even in the face of radical attempts at dehumanization. Thank you for reading this and supporting my 40 Day of Yoga for Syria project. Please spread the word. Namaste. 

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Week 1 has Finished + the Weather

New to this site? Here's an explanation of what I'm doing. 

On Friday, I took another amazing Yin Yoga class, then stepped outside into a warm 74 degree afternoon here in Denton. Less than 48 hours later, there's a little ice storm taking place outside! North Texas in the winter is a roller coaster, that is for sure! Our Sunday yoga and weekly 40 Day Challenge meeting at the studio have been cancelled due to the weather, so I'll be doing yoga today using my Gaiam TV subscription on my Roku. I took Saturday off from yoga (I'm allowed one rest day per week), but I did buy myself a new pair of walking/running shoes, so it wasn't a totally fitness-free day!

Looking outside into the cold weather makes me think of the difficult conditions facing refugees from Syria who are now living in refugee camps, or even worse, in the streets. A lot of people do not realize that the Levant is very cold in the winter. Average low temperatures dip below freezing, and cold rain, snow, and sleet are not uncommon. While the IRC works hard to provide winterizing kits in the places where it works, the overwhelming amount of people living in camps, in the streets, and in the harsh elements is crushing supplies for relief agencies. Moreover, a significant amount of refugees are children--at least half the refugee population is under age 18! Displaced children face grave health risks, but also lose out on their education -- this is a problem that harms the entire world. Children in war and displacement also are at risk for a variety of types of abuse, disease, malnutrition, and other hygiene and mental and physical health crises at a disproportionate level. Many families are sending their teen daughters off into arranged marriages because of the risks of sexual abuse and poverty in refugee camps. These threats are worse when winter comes. So while I sit in my warm house with the fire and crockpot going, I can't help but wonder about so many people who are freezing, scared that they will never go home, worried about keeping warm and keeping themselves and their families alive under such horrible conditions.

Look at these Syrian refugee children making a snowman in an "unofficial" refugee camp in Lebanon. You can read about this camp here. Photo from AP/Getty Images. 

Here's another photo from the same camp: 
Photo from Reuters

Thank you for reading and for your support. Please consider donating to and/or sharing my fundraiser, and please don't forget about these children and their plight. Namaste.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Days 4 & 5

New to this site? Here's an explanation of what I'm doing.

I'm now five days into my 40 days of yoga, and I'm excited that I've been able to raise $120 of my $500 goal for the IRC's work with Syrian Refugees! Please click here if you'd also like to donate, and please share the site through social media among your friends and family.

Yesterday, I had a crazy-busy (and at times, stressful) day. What was wonderful, though, was that I was able to start my day with my Day 4 yoga class--this time, it was a Yin Yoga class at my studio, Authentic Yoga Life, led by one of my amazing teachers, Nancy Nelson. Nancy is a natural teacher, and she has a very calm demeanor when she's teaching that I really appreciate. I definitely needed that class, so I was very grateful! Yin yoga can be hard sometimes, because you have a lot of time sitting in intense poses with nothing but your brain and potentially some physical "sensation." However, I always find that I leave Nancy's classes feeling very relaxed and a lot more open in my joints and tendons (the point of Yin). She is very encouraging, and I also love that she usually plays a subtle, beautiful soundtrack during her classes. Getting in my yin first thing in the morning made my day a lot more manageable, so by the time I got to go out and visit with my friend Jen at our Happy Hour standby Hannah's, I was probably a much better companion than I would have been without class!

Today I got to start my day off with yoga, too--this time, with an awesome hot power vinyasa class led by another of my amazing teachers, Rachel Merriman. Rachel is such an inspiring teacher, and she always says really thoughtful things, like "lead with your heart" and "hold the pose for one more breath, because you can." Those words don't sound like meaningless platitudes when she says them, because they clearly come from a genuine, encouraging place. With her encouragement, I usually achieve a lot more in class than I think I can. I love Rachel's classes and always leave feeling really energized after them. I am so lucky that each of the yoga teachers at AYL are all amazing, and very different!

In our class today, I was thinking about the crisis of Syrian refugees and how it's a story that few people are really hearing about in the United States, despite its scope and global impact. The United Nations declared the catastrophe "the greatest humanitarian crisis of our times." Just let that sink in for a moment. Our mainstream media often focuses more on celebrities and pseudo-news, but this is something that impacts all of us. Even if we live far away from Syria and the many refugee camps that have grown up in the countries around it, the displacement of over 6 million people will have a major impact on the Middle East for generations. And that region of the world is important for geopolitics, economics, energy, faith, environment, and culture. So please, consider donating to the IRC's work, and/or sharing my website, and especially, learning more about the situation these displaced people face. I will write more about life in refugee camps in my next blog entry.

Here's a powerful and informative video from the United Nations about the human cost of war in Syria.



Thank you for reading. Namaste.


Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Days 2 & 3


New to the site? Here's an explanation of what I'm doing. 

Well, days two and three of my 40 day challenge are under my belt! I took two intense hot power yoga classes (this morning and Monday morning), and I'm definitely feeling it! Although I practice a lot of vinyasa yoga anyway, I've found that when I'm doing a challenge, it sort of ups my game. For one thing, I'm not the only person doing it, so classes at the studio are usually even more packed than normal, and that makes the room physically hotter and more inspiring. Also, Sunday's class was loaded with a LOT of core work. I can still feel that class in my abs, let alone today's and yesterday's! But I'm not complaining, that's for sure.

My abs aside, it's important to me to keep the focus on my intention to raise money for the IRC's work with Syrian refugees and raise awareness about what these millions of people are experiencing. Yesterday, I read an article from the Guardian about Syria that I wanted to share here. It's a before-and-after look at key world heritage sites and other important historical places that have been decimated by the war. Click here to read it.  As an historian of the Middle East, and especially of the Levant, seeing this is beyond upsetting. The Syrian people's heritage, and the world's heritage, is being destroyed. Syria is a beautiful country filled with wonderful people. Moreover, it is a crucial historical site for Islamic and Christian history, it has significant Jewish history, it's the center of tremendous moments in the political history of the Arabs, Byzantines, Persians, Romans, and Greeks; it has amazing cultural traditions, insanely delicious foodways, remarkable material culture...I can go on and on. Seeing these key places devastated is just horrifying.

That being said, for every explosion and rape of the historical landscape, there are people who are losing their homes, jobs, and security. Looking at the destruction of buildings is not just looking at remnants of the past disappearing. It is witnessing the destruction of people's lives today. I want to put the focus on that. Here is a recent video from the IRC about the situation in December 2013 for Syrian refugees.

 

You can see from this brief glimpse that their work has a lot of challenges. However, with support from all of us, the IRC can make a real difference in real people's lives. I believe that we are all part of a one world human family. We all belong to each other, and we need to take responsibility and do something when we see others suffering. We can't take on the responsibilities of the entire world--that's too much for any one person. For me, as a Middle Eastern historian, I usually focus on this region, because it is one of my homes. The Middle East is an amazing part of the world that has seen an insanely disproportionate amount of human displacement due to war and political conflict over the recent decades. I fear for the futures of these new refugees, because I can see the terrible circumstances of refugee groups who have come before them. I want to make a difference, and so I appreciate you taking this journey with me to learn more and brainstorm about ways we can make a difference together.

Monday, January 27, 2014

The 40 Days Have Begun!

New to my blog? Here's an explanation of what I'm doing.

I started my 40 Days of Yoga yesterday afternoon with a killer, super-tough 90 minute hot power class with our excellent teacher Kristi Taylor. It seemed extra hot in the studio, and I know I wasn't the only one who thought class kicked my butt! (But in the best possible way.) Here's a photo of my totally drained yet energized self right after class!

After class, we had our intro meeting, to learn all about the Personal Revolution program and our commitment. We had to select a word that described what we're seeking from this program. I selected the word equilibrium. It's definitely something I need in my life, that is for sure! I'm always telling my students and others that they need balance in their lives. This is the time to take my own advice!

It's really important to me to keep my intentional focus on my mission to raise awareness and money for the IRC's work with refugees from Syria. So each day that I write in this blog, I hope to post something about the crisis that millions of Syrians and others in the region are experiencing. Here's a heart wrenching, yet very important, look at the devastation that's been wrought on the Palestinian refugee camp of Yarmouk in Syria. One of the things that gets lost a lot of the time in this crisis is that we have multiple generations of Palestinian refugees caught up in this new refugee crisis in Syria--as well as Iraqi refugees from the horrifying collapse of that country in the wake of the American invasion of 2003. So, the human tragedy that is playing out now is occurring on top of a variety of other human tragedies instigated by war and unresolved by those who could resolve them. I'll be exploring this more in future posts. 

For now, I'm about to head to day two of my 40 days and take another hot yoga class. Thank you for reading and spreading the word! 

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Getting ready to start the challenge!

New to the site? Here's an explanation of what I'm doing!

So, my 40 Days of Yoga starts tomorrow! I'm very excited to make this commitment, both for myself and for my project to raise money for the IRC's work with Syrian Refugees. If you'd like some info about the statistics on IRC, click here.

The program that I'm doing is based on Baron Baptiste's book, 40 Days to Personal Revolution. I just got my book and I'm looking forward to reading it throughout the program. It's not just yoga, but it also focuses on meditation, healthy eating, and a lot of reflection.


The program will be at my yoga studio, Authentic Yoga Life--which is awesome, by the way--and led by Kristi Taylor. I'm looking forward to it, because one of the things that is great about the studio where I practice is the wonderful community of yogis. In October and November of 2013, I took part in a 30 day challenge, and it was a lot of fun, but also at time, very challenging. However, the community that this studio (and its awesome owner, Valerie) has created totally helped me push through and complete the challenge; I did 38 classes in 30 days! It was awesome. 

So I will be relying a lot on community to get me through these next 40 days, I am sure. This is a busy time of year for me at work, but I'm looking forward to knowing that I'll be doing my yoga practice each day, even if I can't get any other type of exercise in. Let the asanas begin! :)

Saturday, January 18, 2014

What I'm Doing

WHO I AM: My name is Nancy L. Stockdale, and I live in Denton, Texas. I am a professor of Middle Eastern History at the University of North Texas. I'm a native Californian, love my dogs, take a lot of photographs, and I practice yoga regularly.

WHAT I'M DOING: I'm dedicating a 40 day yoga challenge in which I'm taking part to the International Rescue Committee's work on behalf of Syrian refugees. The war in Syria has displaced at least six million civilians, both inside and outside of Syria, and IRC is working with them to meet their basic needs, as well as get them back to their homes safely. I've decided to use my yoga challenge to raise money to help as many Syrians as possible while they are in this dreadful situation. I'll use this blog to record my 40 days of yoga journey. The challenge begins on January 26th and ends on March 6th. This is a 40 Days to Personal Revolution program, fashioned by Baron Baptiste, and based at the yoga studio where I practice, Authentic Yoga Life in Denton. I'll be doing yoga six days a week (giving myself one rest day a week), as well as practicing daily meditation, eating healthy, and working to set my intention on helping others. The yoga styles I will practice are Power Vinyasa yoga (95 degrees F heated room) and Yin Yoga. On the days that I can't make it to a class at the studio, I will do yoga at home (and document it) using my Gaiam TV subscription and (if I get my beta access on time) My Yoga Pro.

WHY I'M DOING IT: As a scholar of the Middle East, I think about this war and its devastating toll every day. Although I have never been to Syria (unfortunately), I've spent a lot of time in the rest of the Levant, and, as a specialist in Palestinian history, I'm well acquainted with refugee issues. No one wants to be a refugee, and no one leaves his or her home willingly. It's simply a horrifying thing to be uprooted and to have no idea when you will be able to get back home, if ever. I've been trying to figure out a way that I could make a small difference, and realized that getting sponsors for my yoga challenge would be an effective way to raise some funds for an organization whose work is crucial and whose reputation is stellar. I hope that the money will make a difference in some people's lives.

HOW YOU CAN HELP: Please consider sponsoring my yoga challenge by clicking here and making a donation to the IRC. All donations are tax deductible. If you cannot give, please consider sharing my donation page on social media sites, such as Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and others. You can use the share widgets on the right-hand side of this blog, as well as on my donation page itself. Thank you so much! Namaste.

Here's a photo of me doing Half Moon Pose, taken in Nov 2013 by my Yin Yoga teacher, Nancy Nelson.