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.