Tuesday, April 10, 2012

40 trips around the sun, the evolution

This year I turned my New Year's Resolutions on their proverbial ears and vowed my goal for this year be an understanding and practice of Sankalpa. A Sanskrit word, sankalpa means "will, purpose, or determination." To make a sankalpa is to set an intention. A sankalpa also praises the nobility of the effort rather than focusing on what you are doing wrong.
This year marks my 40th trip around our glorious Sun. I've been working on the same resolutions for at least 30 of those 40 years so it only made sense to give my Resolutions a resolution of their own...and oddly enough, none of them started in January... anywhere other than in my mind

So far, my intentions that have met action and developed a relationship include:

  • Intentional, personal yoga practice - Ashtanga
  • Healing my body with real food rather than supplements - Mila
So now I work on the next level I feel called to... Hrmm...that's another interesting thing about sankalpa, my changes evolve rather than being dictated by some thought that makes me feel less than or in need of change.
  • Consume a 90% plant based diet
This, unlike other attempts at change to my diet, will be one I allow to unfold. If everyone cut their animal product consumption by 10%, we could make a huge dent in not only the battle with dis-ease, but in worldwide hunger.
Why 90% and not 100%? Well, because I like some animal based foods sometimes, they taste good but are not always the most nutrient dense choices and definitely don't have to be the main component of my diet.

My plant based consumption will also be Gluten free based on my intolerance.
I'll be posting weekly updates/menus on my GF blog. If I'm feeling extra plucky...you may even get a shopping list :)

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Yoga is like Sex

In my late 20's I worked as an educational interpreter in a public High School. I provided Sign Language services for 2 students during their freshman year.
Algebra, Creative Writing, World History, Intro to Computers, P.E., Reading and Biology.
I have many vivid memories of that year. It was the year of the Columbine shooting so people, emotions and events are etched into my brain. I'll never forget the role of mitochondrion thanks to 4th period Biology lessons on the parts of a cell and this catchy little earrworm.

Intro to Computers was my favorite class, not because of the subject matter but because of the teacher and the way he presented the material. His stature and presence reminded me of a late 1960's Burl Ives and he taught these kids, and me, far more than how to type.

The first 3 weeks for these kids was excruciating! Imagine sitting each day at a desk in front of a monitor and keyboard and NOT being able to touch it. First they learned about the machine, then they learned about the processes they would be mastering during the year. They spent time on theory and did some quizzes (with pencil and paper). There wasn't a whole lot to interpret during these first few weeks, mostly busy work for the kids so the teacher and I got to know each other. He and his wife were in the process of purchasing a new SUV, a shiny new Lincoln Navigator with all the bells and whistles. Everything I know about buying a car I learned from this man and I've been told...I'm quite a shrewd car shopper. This guy knows his stuff....he knew what he was doing making his kids wait to use those computers too!

The day finally came.
Oh the joy and exclamations that rose from the class when they got to push the power button!
"See how excited you are?  Sometimes it's good to wait...remember that" he said with a wink.
"Everything worth having or doing is worth waiting for, everything."

A few chuckles, embarassed eyes and whispers later and they were all focused on the task at hand utterly ecstatic to be typing  a s d f j k l ;

My week on the mat has been like the keys on a Qwerty keyboard. Each day I've been working to move past Ardha Baddha Padma Paschimottanasana and each day I've gotten a bit further.
Yesterday I was able to bind both sides with assistance from my teacher, this morning I reached the fullest expression of the pose on my right side without help but my left side toes are just past the reach of my left hand.
In Ashtanga, when you are learning the series in the Mysore method, you work on a posture by repeating it 4 or 5 times.

This is ONE vinyasa
Stop and take that in for a second... after Surya Namaskar A and B, the basic sequence, the primary series standing postures and moving into the seated postures (all with a vinyasa sprinkled in between to keep you warm) you work on the current pose 4 or 5 times. Let me expand on that notion...once you get to the seated postures you do a vinyasa between each side of each pose. That's a whollotta chaturanga!

So back to this morning's practice. Since I cannot yet bind on both sides and take the fullest expression of the.pose.affectionately.called.stuck ...I did it 5 times.
The right side came relatively easily and put a grin in the corners of my eyes. Three times and 6 vinyasas later...and I touched my left big toe with my left finger for the very first time! I SWEAR I heard the opening riff to a Madonna tune! I wriggled and reached and even poked my bottom lip out...I can't grasp yet...but I TOUCHED it and that touch.was.awesome! It was so worth the wait...my smile spread from the corners of my eyes to every inch of my face. My teacher says I'm close, I may even have it tomorrow...but I'm not thinking about tomorrow when there is so much to revel in today.

So the lesson
Don't rush
if it's worth doing
it's worth the wait
and it's sooo much better when you finally get there

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

I do not like to be stuck

With Bandha, Drishti and Ujjayi your body becomes a temple when breathing and asana, tension and concentration come together into one unit. So with Ujjayi, Bandha and Drishti you create the foundation of your practice, and the spiritual dimension of Ashtanga Yoga develops. (source)

The spiritual dimension of Ashtanga has taught me that...
I don't like to feel stuck

movement: V handshape to the throat
Funny, because the ASL sign for the concept "stuck" is also one of my least favorite signs...only because it means so much more than the English word "stuck" but people still say the word rather than the idea...but I digress.

We started our 3rd week of Ashtanga practice yesterday. We've been progessing swimmingly through the poses and have moved into the seated postures of the primary series. We left off with Ardha Baddha Padma Paschimottanasana on Friday of last week so we fully expected to be moving on when we returned.

Nope. Keep working on this one until you get it.
Grr, I don't want to, I want to learn the next one
I "get" this one, my hips just don't allow the fullest expression yet....
Hubs was even MORE aggravated about it.
He's looking forward to some of the quad stretches and grumbled about being stuck.

Admittedly, I did too. On my way to work I grumbled
After each grumble, I reminded myself to let my ego just step aside because this is a practice.
It worked, by the time I made it to work I was appreciative and looking forward to the extra time it will take to truly experience the benefits of this pose. I mean, I've been practicing downward facing dog for 11 years and the nuances I've found in the past 3 weeks have made a huge difference in my practice.

photo credit

Monday was a grumbly day for my mini me too.
And I, as a mom, was stuck.
My hands were tied.
There was nothing I could do.
I was caught between a scylla and charybdis.
Ardha Baddha Padma Paschimottanasana
(HA, next time I see that sign I'm gonna voice THAT!)

This morning we worked through our practice and stopped at the last pose we learned, the one I affectionately call stuck. It was a great practice, I felt strong, worked up a good sweat and waited for today's teacher to tell us what to do next.
"On Tuesdays, we take it easy. Once you've moved through the standing poses and get to the seated postures of the primary series, we don't teach anything new on Tuesdays. Krista (my fave yoga teacher of all time and the owner of the shala) doesn't teach new postures on Tuesdays, neither does her teacher...so this is an opportunity for you to work where you are..."

So we did, I went back through my seated postures because I had forgotten one the first time.
I did my back bends and closing postures...and had an AHmazing Savasana.
Hubs even said so...we joked about being grumbly yesterday and today being just fine.
We did not move further into the series...but we did progress!

It really wasn't any different than yesterday
but it was
I'm still in the same place
but I'm not stuck

My mini me got up this morning, dressed herself up in a snazzy outfit and faced the day...with whatever it may bring. She knows it's okay to be sad...but I don't think she'll let herself be stuck.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Fundamentals First

Today is day 3 of Ashtanga for the hub and I.

We've learned our poses through the fundamental asanas (standing series).
Whoo whee...I could feel my feet towards the end of our session! Definitely time to invest in a new pair of my favorite sandals.

So my memorization trick for the day to get me through what I know so far

That could be a nursery rhyme for baby yogis :)

Suryanamaskar A
Suryanamaskar B
2 forward folds
2 triangles
2 side angles
Wide Stanced Forward Bend:
hands to the floor, hands on hips, hands clasped shoulder stretch, big toe peace fingers :)
Pyramid (which make me think of 'walk like an egyptian')

I may have to put this into a saturday morning yoga flow soon :)

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

When I Practice, I am Strong

Practice, Practice, Practice
All is coming ~K. Pattabhi Jois

Day 2 of our Ashtanga journey

Today we moved into the first few standing postures of the series after going through Surya Namasakar A and B 5 times each on our own. Just flowing through the salutations that many times, conscious of my drishti and my breath, was work. Half way through I realized while I have come to the understanding of engaging mula bandha...I'm not always sure about when to disengage. :/

I did find some new found freedom in my downward facing dog simply by remembering my drishti. My head knew I should be looking at my navel but I don't always remember that!

We worked through triangle, revolved triangle, side angle and revolved side angle... we worked through them a lot.
I felt invigorated, I felt strong, I felt focused...

That focused feeling lasted ALL day.
I worked a 9 hour shift at work and managed to do so with energy and a positive attitude all day long. I don't care who you are...9 hours is a LONG day stuck in a cubicle...today was a good day :)

My finishing sequence this morning included wheel ...the braid worked :) Utplutih
I've always had trouble with Utplutih but I'll get there with practice, practice practice.

Monday, January 30, 2012

AHHHH Ashtanga

Typically February has me taking a peek to see what new challenge Christine has for us. In addition to that, this month the hub and I have signed up for a month-long beginner's course in Ashtanga yoga at the Yoga Shala. I have practiced Ashtanga before and have the great fortune of having studied under some amazing teachers so when I noticed one of my favorite mentors and teachers actually owns the studio, we were there!
Today, day 1
6:30am at the Shala
Yoga Shala teaches traditional Ashtanga in the Mysore method and it was absoluely awesome walking into the studio where other yogis were moving through their individual practice flowing with inhale and exhale. Mysore encourages each person to go at his or her own pace, you learn the poses one at a time, as your teacher deems you ready. You progress at your own pace and develop a personal practice.
So Awesome.

We were up at 5:10am (admittedly, I was up before the alarm...excited to go!)
This morning's lesson took us through Surya Namaskar A and B series, bridge, wheel...my pony-tail got in the way :(

Tomorrow we add some call and return, standing poses ...and I wear my hair in a braid!

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Let it Flow, Let yourself Go...what the heck is a yoga flow and why am I crying?

2011 brought me back to my yoga mat (yay!) as a practitioner and instructor. I teach in the beautifully quaint downtown center of Winter Garden at Ananda Yoga and Massage. Downtown Winter Garden offers a cluster of family owned business in a nostalgic setting and Ananda fits in perfectly; the vibe in the studio is very welcoming.

2012 launched a bunch of new and exciting things for the Studio and I'm so excited to see the hustle and bustle that will be happening there. We have great teachers throughout the week, several massage therapists and exciting specialty classes like guided meditation, candlelight yoga and even Crystal Singing Bowl meditations!

I started out teaching a yoga basics class on Saturday mornings. It's a class where we focus on technique, form, alignment and phases of different asanas or groups of asanas (think twists or backbends) and it's good for any one from a baby to a seasoned yogi. I love teaching this class because it brings ME back to basics. Sometimes it's just easy to fly right through a sun salutation without even thinking about it...but then later wonder why my neck is out of whack :\

This month I added a Funk and Flow class ...yes I said FUNK :)
It's set to great music, including rock, reggae, hip hop, blues and world beats, and is geared to the student who likes to sweat and be challenged both physically and mentally. A strong emphasis on linking breath to movement creates a steady and consistent flow from pose to pose, encouraging a meditation in motion.

It's amazing how physically and emotionally cleansing a flow class can be. Not only can you be motivated by the music, which usually follows a theme (even if that theme is just to DANCE), the process of the flow actually acts as a physical and emotional scrub brush so it's not unheard of to find yourself in tears as you find your inner warrior or while you rest in savasana.

Why is this?

For starters, we'll discuss the class format.
As I mentioned, the class is set to an eclectic mix of music ...last week included the Beastie Boys, Eurythmics, Sting, Jack Johnson, Steve Ross and Camille ... you're welcome to sing along, tap your toe or just flat out dance, after all ...it's your mat, it's your space.

We start out with a warm up that leads into an invigorating round of Sun Salutations to warm the body. Then we BOUNCE...yes Bounce (more on that later)
Once we're good and warm we move into the work phase. This includes more challenging standing poses incorporated in a vinyasa flow...think "Inhale-move, Exhale-move" and definitely SWEAT.
We take it to the floor for some core work and move into seated poses that are held longer for a deeper stretch to the muscles now that they are good and warm. Class will always end in an inversion and a deeply relaxing savasana to seal in the benefits of the class.

There's no doubt this is a physically challenging class and you should have at least 6 months of prior yoga experience or a teacher recommendation before attending. But what about that emotional scrubber part I mentioned?

Well, this has to do with the lymphatic system and the way we "work it" in this class.
Stop and think of every emotion you had in the past 24 hours
Did you yell?
Did you laugh?
Stub your toe?
Did your heart gush with love?
Were you frustrated?
Were you relaxed?
Each and every one of those feelings...and ones you don't even realize, release hormones into your system. Once you're done "using" those hormones in the moment, they "sit" in your lymphatic system. This system is the only one in the body without it's own pumping system (Respiratory - lungs, Circulatory - heart, etc.) So what happens to all these used up emotes? They sit in your body...sometimes they cause pain...either way they are "toxic" and need your help to let them out.
THIS is why we bounce...we get warm, we bounce (creating an internal pump to release toxins from the lymphatic system), then we work...to sweat out all those toxins. Sometimes, sweat just isn't enough and our eyes leak too. Sometimes you feel that original emotion all over again...this is why we slow down, allow our selves to go deeper into our stretches, cool down the body with inversions and seal in the benefits of our practice through savasana.

Call it Invigorxhausting
Awesome :)
(but I'm biased)

There's lots of other great stuff happening at the studio this year!
We continue to offer Crystal Singing Bowl meditations once a month and monthly guided meditations are back too! New this year is a monthly Candlelight Yoga class and exciting new Sunday workshops are on the  planning boards too!
Stop by and visit. Ananda has a wonderful and caring yoga and massage staff with several teachers and massage therapists; you're sure to find a place to fit right in/

Monday, January 2, 2012

Lessons from the mat

The best thing I did for myself in 2011 was get back on my mat.
faith like a child
Yoga is my favorite form of everything: physical movement, emotional release, mental training, personal satisfaction, personal growth, sharing and receiving. Yoga completes me.

I have increased my personal practice and, by the grace and flow of all that is right in the Universe, I am teaching again...taking my sense of honoring my being and purpose to a whole new level.

Today's lesson from the mat came during the practice of my life, rather than the practice of asana.
I decided to put a bit of "poetry" on my mat. My hub got a new mat for Christmas so we had one to spare where I could try the medium (permanent marker) and my technique (my own handwriting).
I measured, I spaced out my words, I picked the right colors, measured again, counted letters per line, taped, and measured again just to be sure...and then I put pen to mat.

This is the year. My year. 
I will dream big, grow ideas and take leaps of faith. I will do yoga everyday.
I will rest when I'm tired. I will run, jump and play when I need to be re-energized. 
I will continue to open my heart, lead from that place and allow it to be my guiding force. 
I will get grounded when I feel uprooted and expansive when I feel stuck. 
I will nurture myself with nature in a way that supports my health and energy. 
I will embrace the dark times with love and gentle grace, enjoy and rejoice the bright times with love and laughter, and do my best to be grateful for both. I will say yes more and soften my face. 
I will let others in without losing myself. I will drink deeply from the well and offer back freely and fully. 
I will forgive those who've hurt me and I will forgive myself. I will speak my truth out loud and often. 
I will look for the good in others and in myself. I will dance. I will sparkle. I will cry freely. 
I will revel. I will fly. I will sit quietly. I will live out loud. I will laugh. I will teach and I will learn. 
I will allow myself to be as I am.

It only took a few lines in for me to have a write-o (I wasn't typing...couldn't be a typo)
It gnawed at me
I brooded
I furrowed my brow
I sighed...and not a relaxing let everything that no longer serves you go kind of sigh...
Then I kept going
and had another
The first one obviously still eating at an edge of a thought somewhere...
And then came the lesson, my practice is about accepting where I am and understanding that while I'll never be perfect, in the same breath I already am perfect.
Perhaps it wasn't a write-o but a riiight...ohhhh!

Now, I still haven't competed the entire mat
In my self-ed-ness, I am still wrestling with whether or not the error, which would line up with my drishti in downward facing dog, will be a humble reminder of my not perfect/perfect revelation in a positive way, or in a negative way...
So for now, I haven't thrown it away...as I threatened to do through furrowed brow
But I know today, I cannot work on it any more.
It's a process
Like me
Like my practice

Good lesson, mat!
I Heard An Owl