Jean Erlbaum, M.S., E.R.Y.T., L.V.C.Y.T, author, has been studying yoga and meditation since 1965 and has been teaching since 1972. An Experienced Registered 500-Hour Yoga Teacher, she is certified as a teacher of several styles of yoga, meditation, and stress reduction. She has studied Zen for over thirty years and in 2012 was designated as a senior Dharma teacher by Boundless Way Zen (Worcester, Massachusetts). She offers classes in Greenfield, MA, and Naples, FL, where she lives with her husband Richard Rumelt and their two dachshunds, Stella and Oscar. Richard and Jean have two daughters, Anna and Libby, who live in New York City.
Jeanie is a friend and colleague of mine through Marco Island Writers. I know you will want to know all about her new release, Sit With Less Pain.
Jeanie, when and why did you first become a writer?
I have been writing since my chubby little hand could form letters. Growing up I was not given a lot of space for expression. I think for me writing was a survival technique, a way of staying true to myself. Even when I was very young, I wrote essays and stories. I rarely showed my work to anyone. I wrote for myself and I wrote every day. As I got older I did begin to share my writing with friends and teachers. I began to feel confident about my ability to put words on paper, but I never considered myself a “writer” and never thought about being published. To me a “real writer” was someone who did creative writing – fiction or poetry. As an adult I have almost always written opinion pieces or instructional essays. Now that I have a book published, maybe I can begin to consider myself a writer. I have been encouraged to be more receptive to that designation by my wonderful Marco Island Writers Group!
What is your book about?
Here’s the synopsis for Sit With Less Pain:
Relieve and release the stiffness that comes from prolonged sitting—at a desk, behind the wheel, or on a meditation cushion—with these easy-to-follow exercises. Free yourself from pain with this beautifully illustrated guide. The book is organized anatomically, helping readers to immediately focus on the part of the body that causes them pain: tense shoulders, stiff knees, sore hips, etc. Sit with Less Pain also includes instructions for flowing series of movements, which combine several exercises into smooth sequences, for readers who have mastered the individual stretches and want a more complete experience. Gorgeous, clear illustrations and lay-flat binding—which lets the book stay open at the proper page—will help readers perfect the poses. Companion CD’s are available with the author’s soothing voice guiding you through the sequences offered in the book. You can chose tracks and design your own unique stretching sessions focusing on the parts of your body that need special attention.
Few of us at Marco Island Writer’s are traditionally published? How did you find your publisher?
I have been teaching yoga for many years. One of my specialties is teaching yoga to people on meditation retreats. People who sit for long periods in meditation get achy in very specific ways. I designed classes that addressed those specific problems. One of the people who attended one of those retreats turned out to be an editor for Wisdom Publications, a Buddhist publishing house. He liked my classes and asked if I would consider writing a book to share the techniques I had developed. (He had no idea that I loved writing – he just knew he liked my yoga!) Even though I had never considered writing a book before, I immediately said yes. I liked the challenge of such a focused commitment and I welcomed the opportunity to empty my brain of 40 plus years of yoga information. (As I was writing the book, I often did have the sense of just tilting my head and pouring all these theories and techniques into the computer in front of me. And it was a relief to empty out in that way, to pass it all on.)
What do you hope readers will receive from your book?
As I was writing the book, I began to imagine that it could be beneficial anyone who sat for a long time – not just meditators. It could be helpful to people who sit in an office all day or behind the wheel of a car or truck; I realized that the techniques I designed could easily be adapted for folks in wheelchairs. As I started telling my yoga students and local health providers about the book I was writing, many people requested copies and told me how helpful they thought the stretches would be for them and for the people they worked with. After a while, I sensed that these people were not just being polite. I began to understand that techniques I was relaying in the book could be helpful in alleviate pain for many, many people. Along with the physical stretches, I added an element of meditative awareness to the exercises, so a wider audience could benefit from the centering and calming aspects of yoga. I decided also to create companion CDs for the book, so readers, once they have seen the instructions and illustrations in the book, can be led effortlessly through the stretches. My hope is that readers will enjoy doing the stretches and gain mental and physical ease in their daily activities.
Where can reader buy your book?
Jean’s website: http: www.sitwithlesspain.com (This is the only place currently that you can get the companion CDs.)
Wisdom Publications: http://www.wisdompubs.org/book/sit-less-pain
Companion CDs for the book are available: $25 for a set of two chair yoga cds, $25 for a set of mat yoga cds, $45 for all cds. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org, www.sitwithlesspain.com for ordering and more info.
Here is an excerpt from the Introduction to the book:
Yoga can bring us into the authentic embodiment of each moment. When we pay full attention during a forward bend, we can drop all memories of how our back has been, judgment of how it should be, worries about how it may get worse, or fantasies of how to make it better. All there is in that moment is the stretch, the breath, and any physical changes or insights as they occur. Yoga used this way is not separate from meditation practice—it becomes the practice. By fully sinking into the specific sensations of each pose, we create the possibility of relinquishing the usual busyness of mind and expanding beyond the usual constrictions of the body, beyond the boundary of “this self.”
We can create regular yoga sessions for ourselves and take the visceral awareness this practice promotes into our every day lives. We can cultivate a larger yoga: an ability to align with our body while sitting, walking, washing the dishes, or climbing into bed at night. We can cultivate mindfulness of what changes with each movement and of the stillness that remains even as we move through our days.
Yoga can help us go beyond watching the movements of body and mind; it allows us to become “bodymind,” to embody this one thing we always are. My hope is that these stretches help you as much as they have helped me, so that we all can sit deeply and live with grace and flexibility in all circumstances.
Thank you Jeanie. This has been so much fun. As you know, my daughter is the owner of three yoga studios in Miami and has a nationwide non-profit organization that teaches yoga as an alternative to violence to at risk youth. You handle the other end of the spectrum – the older generation and the less nimble. Thanks so much for sharing with us today on Author Interview Friday at Writing Under Fire. Best of luck with your book launch.