Fully human

“Being satisfied with what we already have is a magical golden key to being alive in a full, unrestricted, and inspired way.” – Pema Chodron, Awakening Loving Kindness

real


I sit here battered and beaten. Muscles sore, hot, dehydrated. It feels as though someone has beaten me well with a rolled up yoga mat, dipped me in salt water, and left me to dry on the sidewalk.

There may be a small voice in my left knee. There’s a slightly louder one in my low back. And my mind, my mind is one that’s taking the brunt of it.

The past few months has seen a serious recommitment to physical movement. There came a point where I didn’t recognize my body anymore. Didn’t know what it could do, or what it wanted to do. We hadn’t been speaking really.

We went from feeling like strangers to having four or fives dates a week. Things got hot and heavy fast. Barre every week, to barre teacher training. One beginner ballet class, to a crash course twice a week.

I can’t tell if I’m renewing my commitment to health or if this is my mind’s way of punishing me for aging, or neglecting to take nude photos when my body was perfect. And publishing them on the Internet so I could stare at them and wonder who the hell that was.

Rebellion is present. Rebellion against stagnation, restriction, incapacity. And then rebellion again against movement and work. It comes in the form of self doubt, the sinking comfort of the couch, and glasses of red wine. I’m striving for something and then fighting against it.

I read this early this morning, on Satisfaction from Pema Chodron: “It’s very helpful to realize that being here, doing simple everyday things… Is actually all we need to be fully awake, fully alive, fully human. It’s also helpful to realize that this body that we have … And this mind that we have at this very moment, are exactly what we need to be fully human, fully awake, and fully alive.”

So all this work may not get me to some end. My body is my body. It’s getting stronger but it’s not going backwards through time. My mind is my mind. It whirls and sometimes it stops. My heart is full and it breaks. Fully human, fully awake, and fully alive.

The Power of New

jenny-barry

Pulling out the sweaters for fall. Picking up a new shade of lipstick. It’s amazing what a little change can do. The thrill a little bit of new can bring to your day. Whenever I get my haircut, I feel like a star (silly, right?). I’ll look around in meetings and wonder how we could all be talking about anything else other than this blunt cut.

A haircut or a new pair of shoes doesn’t change who we are. We’re the same person, and every task we’re faced with on a daily basis is the same. But the fresh scent when you change your shampoo, or put a new bedspread on the bed, it just feels different. Game changing in tiny ways.

This weekend I started practicing forearm stand. I’ve been doing yoga for fifteen years and this one has always seemed beyond my scope. I should know better. I tried it Sunday, and flailed around. But I find myself waking up thinking about it. I dream about it and I can feel my body strong and light.

I’m still practicing against the wall for now. And I haven’t felt it all come together quite yet. But I’m walking around thinking about it. Imagining sneaking into a conference room and shutting the door. How can any one get anything else done when there’s forearm stand to practice?

This beautiful pincha mayurasana is from Jessie Barry.

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Using Yoga

Everything is changing. But everything is always changing. In several different places in my life, there is movement and change. I know my instinct in the past would be to get quiet and hibernate. But this time I feel the need to move with it.

As the focus of my days shifts to my career, it started to shift away from my practice. But it’s getting to be pretty clear that I can’t replace yoga with work. They just occupy two completely different facets of life. I still need yoga. Maybe even more now.

My almost two-decades-long practice (oh, no. not really) is still serving me. It’s reminding me to breathe, it’s nudging me to get back on the mat. It’s telling me that even though “yoga” might not be my focus, that this is the time to truly integrate yoga into my life. This is where all the lessons come into play.

I need to USE yoga to stay sane, to keep moving, and to breathe.

Perfectly Imperfect

20 minutes is better than nothing

This morning I lay in bed musing about the day, knowing that the longer I stayed under the covers, the less likely I was to roll out the mat. So I got up and looked at my yoga space – filled with mail that needed to be opened, a dog leash begging to be used, and a suitcase that lay stuffed and ready for unpacking.

It was tempting. First I’ll clean off the counter, put away all this stuff so I can set my drishti on a clear, uncluttered space. I could just take care of the mail rather than let it sit. If I’m moving the suitcase, I may as well unpack and throw a load of laundry in before I start. Then the dog is up and looking my way, ready for a walk.

That’s how it goes some mornings. The mat stays rolled up in the corner while a bunch of other things on the list get done. I want to make things as close to ideal as I can in order to practice. I want to clear the space, so I can clear my mind. I want a home studio that looks like the ones in the magazine. But at what cost? It’s not helping me to skip my practice until it can look perfect.

This morning I set up my mat amidst the chaos. The room was a mess. My body ached and my waistline spoke of too much Christmas pie. My nose was stuffed up and I couldn’t pranayam my way out of a paper bag, but I did it. I got down in chaturanga with elbows as close to 90-degrees as I can get them. My trikonasana was crooked, but existent. And it was good.

Favorite Posts of 2013…

year in review

As January approaches (how did that happen?), I wanted to gather up some of your favorite posts from this year.

Kripalu: What I Pack This was THE most popular post of the year, for sure. And timely, as I’m heading back up to the snowy Berkshires right after the holiday. Update on this post: I’ve upgraded my water bottle and now use and love my this one from bk – a lovely part of my Blogshop goodie bag.

bed yoga

Yoga in Bed: 8 Poses to Wake Up To I know. Sometimes it’s just too cold or too comfy to leave the sanctuary of our beds.

Harvest-Moon

This & That: Moon Salutations I’m sensing a real Yin vibe from you guys this year. I think this is another perfect posture series to do around the holidays.

Have a wonderful year-end celebration everyone. And thank you for coming with me on the adventure.

Shining in Ardha Chandrasana

ardha chandrasana

I have been drawn to Ardha Chandrasana lately. For some reason, I can feel the dynamic tension between grounding and expanding so profoundly in this posture. The foot stable, roots deep through the mat, through the floor, into the earth below me. And my heart searching, yearning, turning upwards. It’s felt pretty amazing.

Am I drawn to it to relieve anxiety, to work my ankles, stretch my groin? Or is it that something inside me knows that ‘chandra’ can mean glittering, shining, brilliant light, and I’m approaching the idea of shining with everything I do?

Or maybe it’s just because I found a cool new way to come into the pose. I learned a long time ago to just do what my body wants when it comes to my time on the mat. I don’t ask too many questions.

Here’s my new entry into Ardha Chandrasana: (Here’s a more traditional entry.)

1. Start in down dog
2. Identify the point on your mat half way between your hands and your feet
3. Step the right food forward to that point
4. Adjust your right hand to be forward and to the right of your standing foot (like a kickstand or second leg)
5. Slowly, using your core, lift the back leg AS YOU rotate the body towards the side wall
6. Keep the left hand at your waist, or extend it upward to the sky, following it with your gaze

This is a pretty subtle variation to coming from triangle pose, but for me, I feel a big shift. It’s much easier for me to shift my gaze from my standing foot, to the sidewall, to my upward-reaching hand and shine.

Image from Fine Featherheads.

Restoration Barn-ware

yogabarn

I am ready to restore.

I’m heading up to New Hampshire, where I hear it’s really and truly autumn, to Dragonfly Yoga Barn. I haven’t been there before but I have to tell you, this place looks amazing. It’s a Yoga Barn, you guys. Yoga. Barn.

Twice a year I assist my teacher in a program called Refilling Your Well. It’s a nurturing retreat that helps teach the science of stress and stress-reduction. Learning what truly nurtures them, students are encouraged to ‘put the oxygen mask’ on themselves first, so that they are healthy and strong when they take care of others.

It’s wisdom I know in my head, and more and more, feel in my body. Which is why I’m so excited to assist yet another restorative retreat coming up this weekend. I’m helping out a long-time friend of mine from back in the Kripalu days as she leads a Gentle Yoga and Yoga Nidra program. I know there will be lots of setup (bolsters, blankets, backjacks) but I also think there will be time for hot tubs, and hikes, and being still. Remember being still? Ever? I barely do. And I’m so looking forward to it.