The Bible and Yoga Philosophy: The Niyamas

The niyamas, one of the first two limbs of the eight-limbed path of yoga, are precepts that focus on our attitude and actions toward ourselves. While the yamas  focused on our outward attitude and approach to others, the niyamas are more intimate and self-focused.

In Sri Swami Satchidananda’s translation of Yoga Sutra 2.32 states:

Niyama consists of purity, contentment, accepting but not causing pain, study of spiritual books and worship of God (self-surrender).

The next limb, niyama, concerns observances. The five points of yama, together with the five points of niyama, remind us of the Ten Commandments of the Christian and Jewish faiths, as well as of the ten virtues of Buddhism. In fact, there is no religion without these moral or ethical codes. All spiritual life should be based on these things. They are the foundation stones without which we can never build anything lasting.

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The Pine Hills Church yogin meditating on Isaiah 43:18-19 (Ishvara Pranidhana).

My yoga church small group has walked through the yamas and the niyamas illustrated by Biblical scripture in our weekly practice. These principles from yoga philosophy and the Bible speak directly issues we face in daily life and help to guide our meditation and our personal growth.

 

The following are the niyamas and what I believe is the corresponding teaching from the Bible. This is not an exhaustive list. However, I have endeavored to keep the scripture cited here in its original context keeping in mind that I am not a Bible scholar.

Niyamas

Santosha – Contentment – This, for me, is about gratitude – spending time being thankful and valuing what I have rather than wishing I had something else, which certainly takes practice.

Matthew 6:31-34 (NIV)

“So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”

Philippians 4:12-13 (NIV)

“I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.”

Tapas ­– Self Discipline – This is not just about self-control, but also learning from difficulty, finding the lesson within the heat of the trial, pain, or challenge of life.

1 Cor. 9:24-25 (NIV)

“Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever.”

Job 23:10 (NIV)

“But he knows the way that I take; when he has tested me, I will come forth as gold.”

Proverbs 25:27-28 (NIV)

“It is not good to eat too much honey, nor is it honorable to search out matters that are too deep. Like a city whose walls are broken through is a person who lacks self-control.”

Svadhyaya – Self-study – Like the yama satya, this is a lot about truth. When we turn our light of awareness on ourselves and honestly look at who and what we are, only then, can we grow. No one can grow out of a place of denial or lies.

Ezekiel 18:27-28 (NKJV)

“Again, when a wicked man turns away from his wickedness which he has committed and practices justice and righteousness, he will save his life. Because he considered and turned away from all his transgressions which he had committed, he shall surely live; he shall not die.”

Haggai 1:5-7 (NKJV)

“Now therefore, thus says the LORD of hosts, ‘Consider your ways! You have sown much, but harvest little; you eat, but there is not enough to be satisfied; you drink, but there is not enough to become drunk; you put on clothing, but no one is warm enough; and he who earns, earns wages to put into a purse with holes.’ Thus says the LORD of hosts, “Consider your ways!”

Matthew 7:5 (NIV)

“You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.”

Ishvara Pranidhana – Self-surrender – Recently I was at the funeral of a lovely and godly woman. The priest’s homily talked of her organization and preparedness in daily life and for her eternal future, which made her a wonderful mother, partner, and friend. The priest’s went on to address the truth that to excel in the way she did she had to be in control. And that she liked control. His point was that she had to learn a final lesson by dying – that she could not control her future. She had to surrender herself to God and his way, even if it means death. This is the truth for all of us.

Romans 12:1(NIV)

“Therefore, I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship.”

Galatians 2:20 (NIV)

“I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.”

Matthew 16:24-25 (NIV)

“Then Jesus said to His disciples, ‘Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves, and take up his cross and follow me.’ For whoever wants to save their life will lose it; but whoever loses their life for me will find it.”

The parallels found in the yamas and niyamas, the framework of yoga philosophy, to the word of God is interesting, but also encouraging. It seems that many of us, regardless of our church memberships or spiritual philosophies, believe in and value the same things. Humans are all different, yet the same. Peace.

This was the second post in a two-post series on the yamas, niyamas, and the Bible. You can read the first post by here.

 

 

 

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The Bible and Yoga Philosophy: The Yamas

I committed to a yoga practice about three years ago. As I did I learned more and more about yoga philosophy and spiritual practices. While not a religion the yogic lifestyle is inspired by wise teachings on how to live, how to treat others, and how to care for yourself. This is the eight-limbed path of yoga described in Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras – moral discipline (yama in Sanskrit), moral observance (niyama), physical postures (asana), breath practice (pranayama), withdrawal from the senses (pratyahara), concentration (dharana), meditation (dhyana), and bliss (samadhi).

Long before I committed to a yoga practice, I committed to loving God and doing my best to follow the example of Jesus. So, when I started practicing yoga I read the Bhagavad Gita, the Yoga Sutras and other yoga philosophy, but was careful what I accept as truth. If something conflicts with the teaching of Jesus and the Bible I discard it. But what I found has been interesting – aside from reincarnation and not getting caught up in the Sanskrit language (the Bible was not written in English either) there are a lot of similarities in the teachings of the Bible and yoga philosophy.

FullSizeRender 5As part of my yoga and spiritual journey I started leading a weekly yoga group at my church about a year and a half ago. I use scriptural meditation in place of traditional yoga intention-setting and use Christian meditation techniques. As I chose scripture for the yoga group I could not help but connect it to what I’ve learned in yoga teacher training. So, I decided to test out my theory on the similarity of the Bible and yoga philosophy. Over five sessions I took the group through one of the first limbs of yoga – the yamas using Biblical scripture. It worked. The same truth taught by Jesus and the authors of the Bible is mirrored in the teachings of yogic spiritual philosophy. I found this to be a lovely exercise and an encouraging affirmation of my yoga practice.

The yamas, as described by John McAfee in his book The Secret of the Yamas, teaches:

Yamas, or the five conditions of behavior, make up a second limb [of eight-limbed yoga]. These conditions are non-violence, non-stealing, chastity, absence of greed, and truthfulness. The yamas have been loosely compared to rules of behavior that exist in nearly every religious or social philosophy. These rules are generally considered logical guidelines for an orderly society, or as personal guidelines for shaping and improving the individual self.

The following are the yamas and what I believe is the corresponding teaching from the Bible. This is not an exhaustive list. However, I have endeavored to keep the scripture cited here in its original context, but I am not a Bible scholar.

Yamas

Ahimsa – Non-violence – This violence is physical, emotional or mental. It includes “an attempt to impress our will or beliefs onto others, or to prevent others from infringing on our own ideals and principles,” according to McAffee.

  • Romans 12:17 (NIV) – Live at peace and do not do evil.

“Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.”

  • Matthew 7:12 (NIV) – Treat others non-violently as you would have them treat you.

“So, in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.”

  • 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 (NIV) – Do not defile or be violent toward yourself.

“Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore, honor God with your bodies.”

Satya – Truthfulness – This not only means telling the truth to others, but more importantly seeing the truth for ourselves, removing the veils of deception and denial from how we see ourselves and our lives. In Sri Swami Satchidananda’s translation of Yoga Sutra 2.36 he teaches “with establishment in honesty, the state of fearlessness comes. . .. When there are no lies, the entire life becomes an open book.”

  • John 14:6 (ESV) – The truth of Jesus’s existence in our lives.

“Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.’”

  • I Peter 2:9 (NKJV) – The truth about how God sees us.

“But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light;”

Asteya – Non-stealing or the Absence of Jealousy – Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra 2.37, translated by Satchidananda, teaches this yama saying “If we are completely free from stealing and greed, contended with what we have, and if we keep our minds serene, all wealth comes to us.”

  • Philippians 2:3 (NIV) – Humility is the better path.

“Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.”

  • James 3:16 (ESV) – Jealousy only produces negative consequences.

“For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice.”

  • Ephesians 4:28 (NIV) – When we work hard to share what we earn.

“Anyone who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with their own hands, that they may have something to share with those in need.”

Brahmacharya – Chastity – Living in moderation, constraining the senses and desires, which will result in not dwelling on the past or fantasizing about the future, but being fully present in our lives.

  • 1 Corinthians 6:12 (ESV) – We are free to do anything, but we should only mindfully do what is best for us, not being controlled by our desires and fantasies.

“All things are lawful for me,” but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful for me,” but I will not be dominated by anything.”

  • Proverbs 25:27 (ESV) – Moderation is good.

“It is not good to eat much honey, nor is it glorious to seek one’s own glory.”

  • Galatians 5:13 (ESV) – We aren’t free to use our freedom to fulfill our desires, lust and greediness.

“For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.”

Aparigraha – Non-attachment or Possessiveness – McAffee describes this attachment in The Secret of the Yamas: “We want to cultivate non-attachment, yet we generally know little or nothing about attachment. We know that we are attached; our love turns quickly to possessiveness. We cling to financial success, to our cars, televisions and toys. We are attached to ideas, political views, religions, neighborhoods, and nationalities. We clutch at our fading youth, our knowledge and our personal identities. Yet until these attachments are understood, until we discover and expose their root cause, any attempt to create non-attachment will further strengthen the source of attachment.”

  • Proverbs 28:25 (NIV) – Our possessiveness and greed just creates conflict with internally and with others.

“The greedy stir up conflict, but those who trust in the Lord will prosper.”

  • Luke 12:15 (NIV) – Life is not about what we get or collect.

“Then he said to them, ‘Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions.’”

  • Matthew 6:33 (ESV) – All things will come to us if we seek righteous things in life.

“But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.”

I love this alignment of believes. Yoga spiritual philosophy is largely about personal development and growth – moving toward something positive. This is exactly how I feel about my Christian experience – moving toward a grace and love filled heart, like Jesus. This, of course, is a process with no ending and no shot at perfection, but progress is possible.

The next post will address the next limb of yoga, the niyamas and Biblical scripture.

 

 

 

 

Home Ownership Lesson #12: If it’s not the painter, it’s a thief

If it isn’t the painter, it’s a thief.

I try to do everything at once. It is just who I am. I can’t just watch TV, I have to watch TV and write emails or read the paper. I can’t just talk on the phone, I have to clean the house while doing it, or play solitaire to try to stay in the moment with the person on the phone. This same nonsense applies to the important things in my life as well.

IMG_3211I decided about six or eight months ago that no amount of new flooring or painted cabinets was going to make me happy in my old (first) house. The location of the house had grown inconvenient for my life and I was tired of not knowing any of my neighbors. I think the latter is a symptom of the welcome to my garage subdivision culture. We pull into our garages, close the doors and never see anyone. So, after months of looking at every house in the sweet little non-cookie-cutter/non-subdivision neighborhood I found my house. It is on the street I’ve wanted to be on and is super close to the nicest park in town. Winning.

Here’s is where the problems start. In the month of July and first week of August, I closed on two houses, moved out of one, started renovations on another, had significant renovation delays and drama, stayed temporarily in another house, took a trip, turned 40, and finally moved into the new house.

Turns out some painting contractors (or maybe all contractors) don’t actually do what they say they will do. This can result in starting 5 days late, doing a sloppy job, sending the same guy back 3 times to fix the problems he created the first time, and finally fixing the problems 3 weeks later. Then we discovered crumbling concrete under the carpet we removed from the basement. I say “we” here but I really mean someone far handier than me. The kitchen flooring had to be reimagined and is now vinyl instead of tile. The master bath shower is unique – meaning waiting a long time for a special door. And I won’t even talk about the half bath faucet that won’t be in for another 28 days.

Despite all of this I moved into the house this week. It is lovely and I am remarkably not annoyed by the paint issues that remain. It must be love.

The first night I slept in the house some friends came over to celebrate. I went to bed, slept great and woke up feeling at home. I started my day with a dog walk and as I passed my neighbor’s house she came outside and informed me that her home was broken into overnight.

IMG_3210Naturally, I went back to my house and locked the door and glanced at my car. It was unlocked in the driveway. Sure enough, the thieves had stopped at my place too. My car was a mess – compartments open, papers everywhere. I immediately noticed my change cup for tolls was gone – $15 dollars or so of quarters.

It instantly felt awful. I have never been robbed before. I let the neighbor know and then continued my dog walk on the phone with the boyfriend. I returned home and called the police to report it, ate breakfast, worked some and then hopped in the shower. A bit later as I was drying my hair it occurred to me that my garage door opener was in the console. I dropped the dryer and ran to the car. It was gone. Along with my iPhone charger. Some random people either have unfettered access to my garage or my garage opener is laying in a neighbor’s yard. I didn’t know which.

I lost it. Whatever tears wanted to come earlier were unstoppable now. All of the time and work, so many houses, the careful planning, the inspections and offers and counters and bargaining, the cleaning and packing and unpacking, rolling with the changes because this was my house on my dream Fort Wayne street, coupled with a milestone birthday. All of that and now I just wanted to feel HOME, to not have to keep on doing everything at once. It seemed totally unfair. I immediately called the garage people and the kind man at Raynor felt sorry for my weepy self and sent someone over the same day to reprogram my garage door openers. Not the welcome to the neighborhood I wanted.

After a day of crying and fixing and praying, I am back to normal. I love my little house and street. I have great friends that helped me to put up all my first-floor curtains, make sure my motion light works, and call/email/text me to make sure I’m okay. And, of course, I’m now locking everything all the time and keeping the car inside the garage. And in the process of the crying, fixing, and praying the house feels a little more like a home and a bit closer to finished. Although, I wish that activity hadn’t been driven by a welcome-to-the-neighborhood theft.

Just when you think you are doing all you can do at once, life throws something else at you.

At the end of this and most importantly I was reminded and will more often think on the truth that “I will both lie down in peace, and sleep; For You alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety.” Psalms 4:8 (NKJV). I’m grateful for that because if it’s not one thing, it’s something else.

The Reluctant Yogi

If someone told me five years ago that I would spend most of my free time in yoga pants, stay a weekend at the ashram, and watch Netflix while in relaxing in supta baddha konasana, I would have laughed. No, I would have rolled my eyes. That is my move.

But all of that is true.

Nearly three years ago, during an intense time for me at work and personally, two friends told me that I should give yoga a try. I knew nothing about the practice of yoga or its philosophy. But I figure if I hear something twice from two different people it’s worth a try.

So, I did what I do, and bought a set of 6 private sessions with the founder, master teacher, and yoga therapist at the local studio. There was no way I was going into a group class, even a basics, without knowing what I was doing. The ego knows no bounds.

Shortly after my first session I knew something was happening. I was reading books and signing up for workshops and within six months I was in yoga teacher training. It was a whirlwind romance.

So what was reluctant about it? I am a Christian of the born again evangelical variety, a fun but pretty rigid lawyer by trade, eatin’ up with common sense, and not very open to woo woo. I had heard other Christians, particularly preachers, criticize yoga as heretical, as though it’s a religion. It’s more common for lawyers to release their stress at the bar, not stretching and Om-ing in bare feet and yoga pants. From the outside yoga seems silly to people like me, you know the people who say that they “aren’t flexible” or don’t need to “just breathe.” I am a sixth generation Appalachian-American we are of the tough-it-out-get-over-it-suck-it-up school of dealing with life. And while I think the woo woo (crazy yoga stuff) speaks for itself – let’s say after three years and nearly 500 hours of training I still don’t know if I believe our bodies are filled with 72,000 nadis (little rivers) that move prana through the body.

But, what I do know is that yoga can make a significant positive change in anyone’s life.

I spent the better part of my thirties becoming a whole person, a real adult, emotionally and mentally. So by the time I met yoga three years ago I thought I had myself together. Turns out I was missing one leg of the stool – having your s&*t together emotionally and mentally is not enough. I had to get out of my head and connect my head to my body – as my teacher says, “our issues are in our tissues.” Yoga is the first practice or activity that allows me to quiet my mind. And not to worry the Christians out there – I don’t quiet my mind to empty it, I quiet my mind so that I can hear what is most important. I have a very active mind – sometimes it crosses from a great problem-solving machine to a worst-case scenario generator. Yoga helps me to keep the mind active and moving toward the positive by focusing and concentrating on what matters – changing my behavior, rather than trying to change my mind. It isn’t magic, it’s work but when something changes it certainly feels magical, productive and, more importantly, healthy.

14469634_10157489365085321_7607067573271721235_nOf course there are physical benefits to a regular yoga practice – I am strong (I can see muscles now), more flexible, balanced, and I can stand on my head. I love all those things, but what I love most is that my regular yoga practice has allowed me to become more calm, quiet (literally and figuratively), and more focused (on the right things).

I figure that if yoga is for me then it is for anyone, anyone who wants these outcomes. Turns outs you don’t have to believe it all, you really can take what you need and leave the rest. Maybe one day I’ll need to believe in the nadis. Until then my yoga romance will continue because I can’t wait to experience the depths of healthy that I now know are within reach.

 

 

Yoga and Celiac Disease

This post is published on The Huffington Post Blog.

I was diagnosed with celiac disease (“celiac”) in 2012. As a result, my life changed dramatically. What I thought would be a diet change turned out to be a lifestyle change affecting every part of my life – family, social, travel, and work. My symptoms ranged from the traditional gastrointestinal symptoms to extreme fatigue, lactose intolerance, and vitamin D insufficiency. Four years later, planning and preparing meals and monitoring and managing symptoms are now a normal part of my daily life. The new normal.
Celiac is a genetic[i], systemic autoimmune disorder caused by exposure to gluten.[ii] Gluten is a protein found in wheat, rye, and barley. The immune response activated in celiac when gluten is ingested causes the body to attack gluten as if it is an antigen. This immune response causes damage to the villi within the small intestine. According to the University of Chicago Celiac Disease Center, there are approximately 200 hundred recognized symptoms of celiac,[iii] including cancer, infertility, and depression. Celiac affects 1 in 133 people in the U.S. Currently, the only available and medically accepted treatment for celiac disease is the strict adherence to a gluten-free diet.[iv]

Patients with celiac must avoid ingestion and in some cases physical contact with anything that contains or has come in contact with gluten (wheat, barley, or rye). This includes food, cosmetics, beauty products, cleaning supplies, and medications that contain gluten. Exposure to gluten from any of these sources can also result in a celiac-related immune response and accompanying symptoms.

Upon diagnosis, I immediately eliminated gluten from my diet after my diagnosis and over the following 10 months eliminated gluten from my beauty products and cleaning supplies. Only then did I receive a negative blood test and “no exposure” declaration from my gastroenterologist. In order to heal my gut completely I adopted a whole foods diet free from grain, alcohol, dairy, soy, and processed foods for six months. Studies show that the intestinal damage caused by celiac can be healed over time by adherence to a gluten-free diet, although it is less successful in adults than children.[v]

One of the primary challenges of living with celiac is avoiding unintentional exposure to gluten, typically due to cross-contamination of gluten-free food with gluten-containing food (e.g. via cutting boards, grills, utensils, or medications) in restaurants. An inadvertent exposure causes symptoms similar to those at diagnosis. The treatment of symptoms from an exposure to gluten may include rest for fatigue and brain fog, anti-diarrheal medications for gastrointestinal symptoms, and eating whole, easily digestible foods and drinking lots of water. However, this varies based on the needs of the individual.

Two years after my diagnosis I started a relationship with yoga, which as grown quickly and significantly. I practice Hatha and vinyasa flow yoga in the lineage of Krishnamacharya and Shiva Rea. I am now a registered yoga instructor (RYT200), trained at Pranayoga Institute of Yoga and Holistic Health. I was drawn to yoga for stress relief but have found it a great tool for gastrointestinal health and support for celiac symptoms.

However, there are no studies investigating a connection between yoga and celiac disease. Current medical research on yoga and gastrointestinal disorders is focused mainly on irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). Similar to celiac, IBS and IBD symptoms include anxiety, depression, headaches,[vi] severe diarrhea, abdominal pain, cramping, weight loss, and fatigue.[vii]

In a study of patients with IBS practicing yoga once a week for 6 weeks improvement was found in the patients’ symptoms, including fatigue, physical functioning, and abdominal pain.[viii] Quality of life scores and functional abdominal pain improved in a study of 20 patients with IBS after practicing yoga for 12 weeks.[ix] Patients with IBS who practice one hour of yoga at home via a video-guided practice experienced improved gastrointestinal symptoms and decreased pain.[x] Additionally, the patients indicated that they would continue practicing yoga because it was beneficial to them. These studies demonstrate a pattern of improved symptoms and enhanced quality of life among those with gastrointestinal symptoms who practice yoga.

I have found that my yoga practice generally improves my health (mind and body) and specifically helps manage my digestive process. After two years of regular yoga practice with pranayama and inconsistent meditation I have found poses and techniques that help with specific symptoms. When I am experiencing constipation and other gastrointestinal symptoms I rely on balasana (child’s pose), apanasana (knees into chest or full gas release pose), viparita karani (legs up the wall), malasana (squat), and supta baddha konasana (reclining butterfly) to assist in elimination and relief. Apanasana or knees into the chest pose done with a micro-dynamic movement in and out with the breath (inhale and move the knees out as far as the arms will extend and exhale bring them back into the chest) provides immediate relief to bloating due to gas and constipation. And when I am experiencing extreme fatigue pranayama (alternate nostril breath and other deep breathing) and a balanced Hatha practice increase my energy level and help me to sleep better.

FullSizeRender 2Yoga certainly isn’t magic but the management of my digestive health and symptoms have improved since I began practicing yoga. Whether the improvement is a result of decreased stress and increased relaxation that comes from yoga or a direct physiological response to certain movements, I can’t be certain.

It is difficult to separate the whole body, wellness, and life experience into parts that isolate what activities affect certain conditions. However, for me it is clear that the holistic practice of yoga supports the healthy functioning of my body as a whole – mentally, emotionally, and physically.

Many of the same symptoms and body processes present across gastrointestinal diseases, including IBS, IBD, and celiac disease. Given the scientific evidence and my experience, it is an easy leap to suggest that a regular yoga practice can lead to positive outcomes for people with celiac and other gastrointestinal diseases or distress.

Ultimately, every body is different and each person must know how their body responds to their specific condition. That awareness will aid in finding the right physical yoga practice to feel whole and well again. Because, yoga is for everyone.

 

[i] Celiac Disease. U. S. National Library of Medicine website. https://ghr.nlm.nih.gov/condition/celiac-disease. Updated May 10, 2016. Accessed May 11, 2016.

[ii] Celiac Disease. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases website. http://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/health-topics/digestive-diseases/celiac-disease/Pages/facts.aspx#what. Updated June 2015. Accessed May 11, 2016.

[iii] Symptoms of Celiac Disease. The University of Chicago Medicine Celiac Disease Center website. http://www.cureceliacdisease.org/symptoms/. Accessed May 11, 2016.

[iv] Treatment of Celiac Disease. The University of Chicago Medicine Celiac Disease Center website. http://www.cureceliacdisease.org/treatment/. Accessed May 11, 2016.

[v] Celiac Disease – Sprue. U. S. Library of Medicine Medline Plus website. https://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/000233.htm. Updated February 21, 2014. Accessed May 11, 2016.

[vi] Kavuri V, Raghuram N, Malamud A, Selvan SR. Irritable Bowel Syndrome: Yoga as Remedial Therapy. Evid based Complement Alternat Med : eCam. 2015;2015:398156. doi: 10.1155/2015/398156.

[vii] Mayo Clinic. Diease and Conditions: Inflammatory Bowel Disease. Available at: http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/inflammatory-bowel-disease/basics/symptoms/con-20034908. Updated: February 18, 2015. Accessed: March 14, 2016.

[viii] Evans S, Lung KC, Seidman LC, et al. Iyengar Yoga for Adolescents and Young Adults With Irritable Bowel Syndrome. J Pediatr Gastroenterol Nutr. 2014; 59(2):244-253. doi:10.1097/MPG.0000000000000366.

[ix] Brands M, Purperhart H, Deckers-Kocken J. A Pilot Study of Yoga Treatment in Children with Functional Abdominal Pain and Irritable Bowel Syndrome. Compliment Ther Med. 2011.19(3) 109-114.

[x] Kuttner L, Chambers CT, Hardial J, Israel DM, Jacobson K, Evans K. A randomized trial of yoga for adolescents with irritable bowel syndrome. Pain Res Manag : The Journal of the Canadian Pain Society. 2006; 11(4):217-224.

What Happens When You Get a Bug in Your Ear

One of my very favorite southern sayings is “like a duck on a June bug.” You know, he was all over her like a duck on a June bug or like white on rice. I have friends who had a great time as kids tying strings to the legs of June bugs and watching them fly in circles.

These things make June bugs seems charming, even cute.

They are not.

This summer I came face-to-face, well, ear to body, with a June bug. We went to the woodshed and I survived, but it wasn’t pretty.

JPEG image-7BC76CC603FD-1I was enjoying an evening at the Romp Bluegrass Festival in Owensboro, Kentucky. It was a lovely evening, despite the tiny little chairs we brought to sit on for hours. In an effort to relieve our rear-ends we laid on a blanket in the grass. It was just like a country song – laying under the stars with your boyfriend listening to music and enjoying a warm summer night. It was until, without warning, a bug flew into my right ear.

This wasn’t just a bug crawling on my head. This bug dive-bombed my ear and was in my ear canal before I could raise my hand to swat it away.

What happened next was mostly a blur of me crying, screaming, and dancing around trying to get the moving, wing flapping, biting, and scratching bug out of my ear. I can only imagine what the other concertgoers thought as they watched me. In a moment of desperation I opened our Nalgene bottles and poured water in my ear. By the time we reached the security tent the June bug stopped moving. I was relieved that the pain had stopped and horrified that I was bleeding from my ear and had a dead bug in my head.

The kind security guard called for a cart to take me to the EMT (the first aid tent closed at 8:00 p.m.) and talked to me until it arrived. Very encouraging. But that feeling quickly faded when the cart arrived. The driver, a man I can only describe as Bubba, told me to get in. He was accompanied by what appeared to be his girlfriend and her little sister, who was holding a dog. I explained the problem and the little girl, sitting next to me, said “you can get a bug in your ear?” I braced myself.

We started down the narrow road, carving a path through the concertgoers who were surely camping (all night – long after first aid closed). I noticed the cart slowing and heard Bubba call out to a man at our right as he stopped the cart to say, “hey man how’s it going?” I was near the end of my rope, as nicely as I could I said “dude, seriously?” He promptly starting moving and announcing that there was a “woman in the cart who is bleeding.” This did not do much to move the crowd.

We arrived at the ambulance. The EMT was not there. But in the distance we saw a small form running toward us. He arrived and while nice he seemed about 19. He looked in my ear and promptly declared that he could not see anything, “could not do anything” for me and that I would have to go to the hospital.

We explained that we are from out of town and aren’t familiar with Owensboro or the hospital. He attempted the give us directions, which culminated in, “Do you have GPS? Use that.”

We walked silently back to the car. In the dark. In the middle of a field in Owensboro, Kentucky.

I started to cry – the I-am-at-the-end-of-myself slow weeping – as I opened my Google Maps app and found the directions to the hospital. It was nearby.

I walked into the emergency room and spoke to the nice lady at the registration desk. I gave her my information and story with big tears rolling down my cheeks. She sweetly asked if I was alone, I said no and that I am from out of town. She tilted her head and looked at me as only an elderly southern woman can and said slowly and sweetly, “bless your heart.”

Then we sat in the waiting room for an hour, my head in the only position that wasn’t painful and bleeding on my boyfriend’s shirt.

After an hour they called my name. I went back and met with a cheery physician’s assistant who wanted to know “what’s going on tonight?” Through my now dry swollen eyes I explained that there is a bug in my ear.

He took a look in my ear and proclaimed that he “could see something brown and it could be a bug, but it could be earwax.” He does not know how close he came to getting smacked in the face. I calmly but condescendingly explained that I could feel the bug moving in my ear (back when it was alive) and I am certain that is not earwax. Suddenly, he was a bit more motivated to take a closer look.

We went into a procedure room where I promptly refused to lay on the bed because there was a distinctive looking black hair on it. We moved rooms. He was annoyed. I was indignant.

I laid down on my side in the clean room. The PA took forceps with a long nose and immediately dove into my ear. I immediately screamed and insisted on sitting up. As I did I watched as he examined a tiny piece of something he pulled out of my ear, which he described as “not part of your ear.” Duh.

Meanwhile, I was reeling from the pain. He did not warn me that taking whatever was in there out would be far more painful than when it went in (and that was very painful). I asked, nearly begged, if there was another way? He offered irrigation but said it might cause the bug to break apart and that did not seem desirable.

So, I braced myself, squeezed my sweet boyfriend’s hand, and employed my yoga breathing as he made 3 more pulls from my ear. The last drew out the bulk of the bug’s body to which he exclaimed “oh my God.” Turns out, it was a bug. I exclaimed, “thank you, Jesus.”

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I thought we were finished, but he explained that he thought that there was a leg left behind in my ear (we counted only five on the bugs body). He could not go searching for it because of the blood and swelling and danger for my eardrum, but “it isn’t a big deal, it will come out in wax.” Easy for him to say, he didn’t have a bug leg in his ear.

JPEG image-3E68EC8E76E1-1I was release from the hospital a short time later. The next day we returned to the festival (I wore ear plugs), listened to some great music, and celebrated me not having a bug in my ear.

I am still okay with bugs and my ear no longer hurts, but I’ll never hear the old saying “put a bug in someone’s ear” quite the same way ever again.