Sunday, February 26, 2012

Yoga Babies

I have two amazing nieces, Madeline and Lily. Madeline is eight and such a unique, beautiful, complex little soul who is chock full of LOVE. She's also exceedingly bright, always a skeptic and often a comic. In a lot of ways, I see a lot of myself in Madeline. She can be VERY private, and I always get the feeling that there is a lot more going on behind the eyes than she lets on. She's really sensitive to other people (and bugs/animals/the earth) being hurt. She's always been immensely creative (my sister says it's because she wouldn't stop Madeline from doing things like artistically decorating her entire body with lipsticks at 2 years old - HA!!!) Madeline was a god-send for our whole family in a lot of ways; she was born just three months before my mom died - an incredible juxtaposition of joy and sadness. Lily is two and has an exuberance and vitality about her that is just breath taking. She's been matching pitch since she was less than a year old, which I'm convinced means she is going to be a musical genius, and she has the most captivating eyes, smile and demeanor about her that you can imagine. And she's HILARIOUSLY funny. She is also affectionate, shy, respectful (sometimes) and ritualistic; she likes to close all of the doors, throw things away, and sit on a specific rug (the one next to the yoga mat in the kitchen, as a matter of fact) to eat bowls of berries. Her love of berries is one of our connections - when she stayed with me while my sister and her family went to Disney World in December, she ate an entire container of blackberries, an entire container of strawberries and an entire container of blueberries in approximately 30 minutes.That was a fun diaper. (Ew).

Madeline has actually taken a couple of my public yoga classes at the YMCA. Lily is just a complete MIMIC, and incredibly limber. Tonight my dad gave me a Manduka Black Mat Pro for my birthday. I rolled it out as soon as I opened it, but before I could give it the good old Downward Facing Dog Test, Madeline and Lily beat me to it! Thank goodness for iPhone cameras in easy reach! I really couldn't believe it.

I adore my two little yoga babies. 


Friday, February 24, 2012

Reality Yogi Aims True: Habits

February is almost over! My birthday is on Monday, February 27, which is fun, but what is even MORE exciting is that on Wednesday it's FEBRUARY 29TH! I love, love, love, love LEAP YEARS! I'm really excited that it's a Wednesday, too, because that means I lead my meditation group on the EXTRA, SPECIAL DAY we only get once every four years. It's gonna have to be a special one. =)

So the second month of 2012, and you might think I've TOTALLY failed at my Aim True challenge. Well, I haven't. (Have I struggled feeling as though I failed because I needed a break from vigorous vinyasa with Kathryn Budig? Yes.) But the reality is, I actually feel as though I'm starting to aim more and MORE true. I've still been practicing and teaching a LOT of yoga. But I've moved back toward the power of KRIPALU yoga these days, and it's incredibly therapeutic and personal. I know I'll start to work some more of Kathryn's classes into my practice, but maybe just one or two a week. I still want to finish all of her classes by the end of 2012.

In other news, but totally related, here are two habits I am starting to get a firm grasp on:

Sadhana every morning. This doesn't have to be yoga practice, although it could be. Any combination of asana, meditation, pranayama, music and silence for at least 30 minutes. I have my own little 6-motions of the spine practice/warm-up that I do (almost) every morning, which developed out of both my personal practice and my teaching, that takes all of two minutes. I try to do at least 8 to 10 minutes of some pranayama, which could be as simple as soft-belly breathing, but is usually some combination of Dirgha, Ujjayi and Nadi Shodhana. I also do a 20 minute seated breath, mala bead, or mantra meditation every morning. Right now I've gotten really into metta meditation - sending positive energy out into the world, usually toward someone specific. I was completely taken by this passage in the book The Wisdom of Yoga by Stephen Cope:
This photo has nothing to do with the passage, but was a yummy dinner.
Jake was holding the most intriguing piece for last. "Here's the most amazing thing. I discovered that there were tracks coming back the other way."
Susan knit her brow. "What?"
Rudi got it. "It means that Fiona had been praying for Jake, too. Jake found the tracks of Fiona's prayers coming back toward him."
"She has been praying for me. Praying for me for years." said Jake.
"Of course, she hasn't been praying for the right things, exactly. I mean she's been praying, I assume, that I'll get married, give up yoga. Whatever. Be a good dog. Get the Devil outta me. But I don't think it matters. It's the spirit of well-wishing itself that makes the tracks."
Jake later discovered that, indeed, Fiona had her own prayer group of Catholic ladies: the St. Mary Society. They had all been praying for Jake for years."
For some reason, perhaps oddly, this calls to mind my favorite E.E. Cummings poem.

(Oh, and I hope you ALL can feel my well wishes for you. =)

Ginger tea while I blog. =)
Ginger tea every night after supper. Signifying the end of eating for the day. This was ritualistic for me at Kripalu. There is really no snacking at Kripalu, unless you buy goodies at the little shop during the day. And I didn't. I stuck with the cafeteria food - which is pretty EXTRAORDINARY. (Okay, except for OCCASIONAL afternoon coconut waters and ginger chews. Sheesh).

Also trying to:
  • Limit snacking
  • Continue drinking lots of water (about 100 oz a day on a good day, um, ESPECIALLY if you include La Croix!)
  • Drink a little bit LESS La Croix (just as an experiment...I was drinking at least six a day).
  • Read a BOOK at least two hours a day.
Wanna know the one habit I cannot seem to get a grasp on? GOING TO BED AT A DECENT HOUR. Another one? WATCHING LESS REALITY TV. Housewives, Kardashians, Top Chef... I even got sucked into ICE LOVES FREAKIN' COCO THIS PAST WEEK! Come ON, Hilary. ;)

Tell me, tell me...what habits are YOU working on these days??

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Reality Yogi: Kitchen Yoga

Sometimes it's really hard to make the time for yoga practice. Especially when it becomes one of those things - you know all about those THINGS. Things that you need very specific set of circumstances to do CORRECTLY. In my perfect yoga world, every day there would be 90 to 120 solid, consecutive minutes, falling exactly three hours after I last ate (a light, healthy, organic, free-range, local meal) in a day that I was perfectly hydrated (but for some amazing yogic reason, I wouldn't have to pee during those 90 to 120 minutes) and wearing the perfect yoga outfit (and it would have to be Lululemon from head to toe, because what is more ironic than a $300 yoga outfit?) in a room that had been smudged with (organic) white sage approximately 30 minutes before I began my practice, candles (I made myself) lit, and a perfect playlist cued up.And of course I'd be on my Manduka Black Mat Pro. Duh.

I think those exact circumstances happened once. Well, except for the Lulu outfit. Oh, and I've never made a candle in my life. And I don't have a Manduka Black Mat Pro, except I think I'm getting one for my birthday!! But yeah, something like that happened one time. In 1996. That's the ticket.

Okay, it never happened.

And let's face it - it probably never will.

But you don't need the perfect amount of time, the perfect space, the expensive mat, and definitely not the $300 yoga outfit to practice YOGA. You can practice yoga anytime, anywhere.

Today I did some yoga in my kitchen. In between folding laundry and drinking coffee. And thinking about how I need to start eating more celery because it's supposed to be good for your heart, or at least that's what I read in some magazine yesterday.

Luckily the beauty of yoga is that I stopped thinking about celery for a hot second and had a very fleeting moment of blissful peace and concentration.

You can, too.
  • Stand with your feet a little wider than hip with apart. 
  • Being to twist, allowing the arms to gain momentum like empty coat sleeves of a trench coat draped over your shoulders. Lift the opposite heel as you look behind you. 
  • Coordinate it with some strong pranayama practice - a sharp inhale through the nose as you come through center, a forceful "HA" breath out the mouth as you twist. 
  • Let the momentum build and build, and let your hands hit you wherever they may (it's probably somewhere you have a big concentration of lymph nodes, and they need a love tap now and then!) 
  • Continue for a minute or two, then let the momentum slow down, like the battery in the toy is slowly dying.
  • When you are finally still, notice how you feel. Breathe deeply. 

This incredibly simple twist is SO therapeutic and beneficial. It's a nice squeeze and soak for all of the organs in the abdomen - flooding them with freshly oxygenated blood, and it also keeps the spine supple and creates space for all of the nerves traveling out of the spine to the rest of the body. Hooray! 

Or go throw on your Lulu clothes, roll out that Manduka, light the candles, smudge the room and have that perfect, enlightening two hour practice. I'm jealous already. ;)

The Reality Yogi

Friday, February 10, 2012

Reality Yogi: Deep Relief for Aching Shoulders

Start in SUKASANA. Bring the attention to the breath. Do it again. Do it again. Everytime you notice that the mind has wandered, bring the attention back to the breath. Do it again. Again.

BREATHE. Deeply. Dirgha-Ujjayi if you dig it. Five minutes. Or more.

GENTLE RESTORATIVE CHEST OPENER on a folded blanket. Knees bent, soles of the feet on the floor. Knees fall together, feet apart. Five minutes. Ore more.

CHEST OPENER ON TWO BLOCKS. Legs in BADDHA KONASANA. Breathe. Breathe some more.

Table - cat/dog spine stretch.

Step one foot through. KNEE-DOWN LUNGE. Arms up. Drop arms down like you could reach the edges of the mat. Work the heart center forward, shoulders down. Breathe.

WIDE STANCE DOWNWARD FACING DOG. Floss the shoulders - drop the heart through. Moving toward 5-point pose.


SLOWLY roll up to stand.


STANDING YOGA MUDRA ARMS with or without a strap. Shimmy and floss the shoulders. Repeat at least two times. Three for good measure. Breathe, breathe, breathe.

Standing. Release the neck with a positional therapy move: bring one arm over the head, droping the inside of the elbow onto the head and leaning the head toward the raised arms. Repeat on the other side.

SAVASANA. Relax. Let go.

A Detour

I had to take a hiatus from my Aim True challenge for a few reasons. First and foremost, I was fighting a cold for about a week, and could barely breathe to practice. Doing yoga when congested is DIFFICULT. Second, I have had this nagging issue in my shoulders and neck, and I feel like my body is asking me from some time off from the repetitiveness of Vinyasa yoga. I'm really trying to do my very best to live the point of this challenge - which was always to reconnect to myself. And if I'm truly exploring the inquiry of optimal living, then I have to listen to my body.

So I've been returning to the therapeutic and mindful practice of more traditional Kripalu yoga - which is, actually, INCREDIBLY strength-oriented more so than flexibility oriented, and trying to be consistent about other aspects of my sadhana: pranayama and meditation. I've started doing a 30 minute practice every morning that includes 10 (timed on my iPhone) minutes of pranayama (Dirgha and Ujjayi, mostly) followed by 20 minutes of (timed) seated meditation. I'm reading The Wisdom of Yoga by Stephen Cope for my book club, and it's really making me want to get back to my meditation practice with more regularity.

We'll see. I ADORE Kathryn's classes, but I have to listen to my body.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Reality Yogi: Bummertown (A Lapse In Practice)

I don't want to be that blogger. You know, the one who just drops off the face of the planet after being REALLY amped about something. I feel like I AM not only that blogger, though, but I'm also that GIRL in real life. And I don't want to be her. 

So I need to follow-through.

The upside: I think my path of yoga is the first thing I've REALLY followed through on in a long time. I mean, let's face it, I can track this practice in my life with more consistency and detail then I can track much else in my life.
The downside: After writing almost as many blog entries in one month of 2012 as I did in ALL of 2011, I'm feeling pressured to keep it up. And this week I just haven't felt good. I've been outrunning a cold, and so outside of teaching, work, more teaching, and more work, and trying to stay caught up on my life (and all the while stay sane) I just haven't been able to make my practice a priority. First of all, pranayama is such an essential part of my practice, and I've just been so damn congested that I CAN'T freakin' breathe through my nose. Which is a royal pain in the ass when you're trying to rock some Ujjayi and Nadi Shodhana.

So instead of practicing yoga (outside of teaching all of my classes, and demonstrating quite a bit, which I guess for non-yoga people would be more yoga than they would ever do in a week - so maybe I'm being too hard on myself?) I've been trying to stay on my Weight Watchers plan and I've been drinking Airborne three times a day, two tablespoons of apple cider vinegar 1 to 2 times a day, and 2 teaspoons of elderberry syrup 2 times a day. I've also been taking my multi-vitamin and 1000 mg vitamin C every day. And I feel like it's WORKING - I'm not getting any sicker, and I'm not FEELING bad, but I'm not getting rid of this congestion and cough.

All my remedies may never work, though, because I'm also wondering if it's not this CRAZY weather making my body go crazy. This is the mildest winter I have EVER experienced. And for as much as I have appreciated not having to try to drive down snow covered roads that have never, ever seen a plow (the road clearing situation where I live is RIDICULOUS) it's also making feel a little bit anxious.

So I'm heading into the weekend (my Aim True weeks run Monday-Sunday) and I've yet to do a single Kathryn Budig practice. Well, outside of that 15 minute shoulder practice on Monday. Yikes.

But this is the honest, authentic update - this is my reality, and I want to be a reality yogi more than anything.

Maybe tomorrow afternoon I'll be able to practice! I hope so!!


Update: I think I'm going to do a Level 1 Anusara practice with Tara Judelle. It's not part of the Aim True challenge, but it's just what I feel as though I NEED today. xo

Update #2: What I actually did on Friday afternoon was a Moderate/Vigorous online Kripalu class with my YTT teacher, Devarshi. Hit the spot. =)

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Aad Guray

so absolutely beautiful and haunting. but if you feel too mellow after that one, try this one: