The Jackson Herald
February 26, 2003
Finding the healing power of stretching
I was 16 years old and a freshman at The University of West Georgia when I worried myself into an ulcer and a nervous stomach condition. Sitting on the table in a cotton gown after my first barium swallow, I nodded my head while the gastroenterologist told me stress was the likely culprit and yoga may be the answer. Or I could take a prescription drug for the rest of my life. I opted for the prescription. I didnt have time for yoga. And I didnt believe that my medical condition could result from something as simple as worrying over whether I would get an A in English Literature so I reasoned controlling stress wouldnt solve the problem. In four years I unsuccessfully cycled through every prescription drug for Gastro-Esophageal-Reflux-Disease (GERD). My new gastroenterologist said I could learn to better manage stress by practicing yoga or meditation or I could try a surgical procedure that could fix the problem. I had the surgery the Monday after my graduation from college.
The migraines started less than a year later. My neurologist said stress was the likely cause and he recommended yoga classes. At this point I wondered whether yoga instructors were making large cash donations to the American Medical Association so I asked for a prescription and stopped eating salt (mostly).
Six months ago I found myself sitting on an examining table nodding at my gastroenterologist once again. But this time I listened to him. I passed on the prescription he halfheartedly offered me and told him I was going to start yoga.
I tried the videos, but they were far too fast paced for someone who had no idea what a downward dog was. And I thought I would surely asphyxiate if I only breathed when she told me to. So I did what I always do when I want to learn about somethingI bought a book.
Yoga by The Body Shop cost me $17 at Books A Million. I chose it because of its unique organization and the large color photos for every position. Yoga is organized into 20 goals like radiance, grace, vitality and peace. Each section promises a result for the two to ten minutes spent stretching: Lift spirits. Tone metabolism. Enhance balance. Soothe the back or the mind. Find rest. Expand range of motion. Ease tension in the hips. Eliminate stomach cramps. Energize. The photo shows what the positions look like and the caption explains how you do it. Each yoga cycle has a sequence of four simple moves that require no props or space larger than a square the length of your body. Yoga works by releasing joint tension and easing muscle aches through stretching. Some stretches even stimulate various body systems. For instance, the stretches which boost immunity stimulate the lymphatic and endocrine systems. To tone metabolism you stimulate the endocrine system only. The stretching is combined with concentrated deep breathing and focused thought. By inhaling fully and slowly, stretch receptors in your lungs signal for relaxation in the cardiovascular system, triggering a decrease in heart rate and relaxing you.
Yoga has a few cycle variations that would include a spouse, a child or a friend in your yoga practice. There is also a series of stretches to perform at your desk at work to elevate your energy level. It certainly works for me. After yoga, my body sings for hours. The aches are gone to be replaced by a looser, more relaxed feel that Im completely addicted to, like my skin finally fits my body.
If your new years resolution is to relax more or even just to exercise, Yoga may be the answer for you, too.
Rochelle Beckstine is a columnist for MainStreet Newspapers.
By: Virgil Adams
The Jackson Herald
February 26, 2003
An encounter with an atheist
I had an interesting encounter with an atheist the other day. I put atheist in quotation marks because I am not sure he is an atheist. And I am not sure he thinks he is an atheist.
He is a young man, in his mid-20s, I guess. I am an old man, pushing 80, for sure.
He was jogging. I was walking.
We met in the street, each on the left side, facing traffic, like the law says.
He slowed down long enough to ask me a question.
Did you hear that Colin Powells speech before the Security Council the other day was plagiarized?
Then he started editorializing.
Word for word, line for line, some of it was right out of a paper a graduate student at USC wrote ten years ago.
He used his hands, moved them up and down and sideways, to illustrate word for word and line for line.
Powell stole it. You cant believe a word he said.
The young man jogged on down the street, and I thought to myself: very interesting.
Thirty minutes later, on our return trip, we met in the street again, almost at the same place where we had met earlier, each on the left side, facing traffic, like the law says.
I slowed down and asked him a question.
Where did you get that about Colin Powells speech to the Security Council being plagiarized? Sounds like something off the Internet.
He stopped jogging. I stopped walking.
Its on the Internet all right, he replied. But the Times, of London, broke the story. You wont see that in the media over here. The American media are so conservative.
I immediately wondered if he had read The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, The Washington Post or The New York Times lately. Or watched CNN, NBC, MSNBC, ABC or CBS. Those outfits are the epitome of liberalism, I thought.
But my young atheist was on a roll.
All of the media over here are owned by big corporations and oil companies. They are so liberal.
(He said media are again, not media is like a lot of folks do when they get singular and plural mixed up. So this is an intelligent if misguided young man, probably a graduate student at The University of Georgia.)
But he thinks big corporations and oil companies are liberal? Maybe he is not as intelligent as I thought. Arent those outfits the epitome of conservatism?
Do you think we are going to war with Iraq? I asked.
I hope not.
Well, Im glad its not my decision, arent you?
No, I wish it was my decision.
I got the impression that, if it were left up to him, wed never go to war not even if Saddam Hussein dropped an atom bomb on us.
I said its sort of hard knowing who, or what, to trust. He mumbled agreement.
Since I was talking to an atheist, I figured Id get in a lick for God, not that God needed me to do that for Him.
I pointed to the clear blue sky and said, We can trust God.
I dont trust God. I am an atheist.
He raised his voice and said it rather angry like.
But I noticed he didnt say he didnt believe in God, just that he didnt trust Him.
Who do you trust? I asked.
I trust man. Man has the intelligence, the knowledge, the wisdom.
Where did man get that?
Nature. He got it from nature.
And what is nature? Some of us believe that God and Nature are one and the same, I responded.
(Im not really sure I believe that, but I, personally, have seen God in Nature and Nature in God. And I believe it says in the Bible somewhere that we have no excuse not to believe in God, for He has revealed Himself in Nature.)
But hey, aint no use in arguing with an atheist, a Southern Baptist, a devout Methodist, a proud Presbyterian, a Catholic, a Pentecostal, a TV evangelist, Neal Boortz or anyone who has his or her mind made up.
It was almost lunch time, time for my young friend to go back where he came from, and time for me to go home.
I took a couple of steps, turned, and without thinking said, God bless you.
The young man turned, looked at me, and said, And God bless you.
He tried to make like it was. Oh, uh, ah, that was unintentional.
As if it just sort of slipped out. Anyway, I began to think that the young man may not be an atheist.
He picked up his jogging, a little faster than before.
I stood in the street and laughed until he was out of sight.
I should not have laughed. I should have cried.
I started walking again. As I approached home I wondered what the young man, in his mid-20s, I guess, will believe when hes an old man, pushing 80, for sure.
He will change. Change, change the constancy of change. Like all of us, he is a work in progress.
Virgil Adams is a former owner and editor of The Jackson Herald.