It’s a Yang, Yang, Yang, Yang World

chandra namaskar

This morning I felt plagued with challenges. I have to caveat this and say I feel guilty about saying that. Everything is fine. Life is good. Better than good. But it was just one of those days, before 8 am.

So I rolled out the mat and got to moving and breathing. There was no cardio today. No sweating or grunting. It was a lunar flow kind of morning.

I’ve written about Chandra Namaskar before. There’s just something about this practice that helps me slow down and reconnect. I’m not saying I tune in and get all the answers. Because I certainly don’t. But even half way through my practice I started to feel more calm, more grateful. I felt less like a whirling dervish, panting and grasping for answers. And I felt a little bit more like myself.

There are many variations of Chandra Namaskar, but here is one from Yoga Journal that might be helpful.

Image from Ethical Ideal in a post about yoga for back pain. Bonus!

Insta-yogis

yoga instagramDid you read this article in Well and Good about the surge of Instagram Yogis?

I often have to remind my students, and myself, that our goal in class isn’t to look like the cover of Yoga Journal. That everyone’s body is different, and each posture is beautiful no matter if it looks “perfect” or not.

When choosing images for this blog what I’m first drawn to is my completely visceral aesthetic response. I want this site to be pretty to look at. So that means high resolution images with interesting composition and color play. Does that mean that I’m often choosing professional photographs with models instead of your average joe-gi? A lot of the time, yes. What can I say, I like to look at pretty things.

Am I part of the problem of perpetuating an unattainable ideal? Ugh, I hope not. I will continue to make an effort to show beautiful postures that are individual and perfect just as they are.

And so I love the idea of seeing more “real” people’s postures, photographed beautifully. It seems like a great opportunity for a more democratic point of view.

Image from Trek Along. You can share with them on Instagram using the hashtag #NaturesGym.

Like a Gazelle

music-is-life

When I used to play youth center soccer, my mother told me I had two different ways of running: like a gazelle and like a mack truck, which seems to have been an early indication of my dislike for cardio activities.*

I just don’t like to move quickly. I like slow, I like graceful. Anything I try to do quickly, I tend to do clumsily. Yoga? It’s a physical challenge, but I could manage to move through with some amount of fluidity.

But where does that leave me when it comes to cardio activity? Not much of anywhere. Over the years I’ve tried step aerobics, kickboxing, running, Zumba… and on.

This week I went to SLT Yoga – what my friend calls Hip Hop Yoga. Normally, I don’t look to my yoga practice for my dose of Rihanna, but I figured I’d give it a try. And to be honest, I liked it.

There was way more “yoga” than I expected. And by that I mean, not just asana – but breath work, non-judgment, staying present. The music helped me stay in the moment. It was definitely different, but I admit the volume level absolutely helped my mind stay in the room.

I don’t think Vinyasa to a blaring playlist of The Fugees is going to replace my regular practice, but I’ll definitely go again. Like a gazelle.

*Update: My mother denies having ever said this.

This image is from Yoga With Kristin B. She’s got a bunch of playlists you can check out online.

Wild Asana: Marilyn Monroe

marilyn monroe, tulip, navasana

I love this photo of Marilyn Monroe. I don’t know the story behind the shoot. (Was she doing yoga?) But I do love her smile.

This navasana is paired with the upward facing petals of another tulip in bloom this week at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden. This time we’re looking at the Tulip Viridiflora. Seriously? I had no idea there were so many different kinds of tulips out there.

Maybe my favorite part of this pairing is the perfectly imperfect posture. As a teacher, I’d remind this student to keep her back straight, and applaud the shins parallel to the floor. The smile goes a long way in making this posture perfect, don’t you think?

The tulips picture comes from David Hunter Garden Centers.

Pride and Prejudice in Asana

matthew macfadyenI can do chaturanga in my sleep. And I do. And by that I mean, I’m sleeping through my vinyasa half the time. I don’t know how long it lasts, but all of a sudden I’ll “wake up” and notice my shoulders way below my hips in chaturanga, or my feet aren’t aligned in, well, anything.

Today though I nailed chaturanga. I couldn’t see it; I don’t have a mirror. But I was wide awake, mindful and easy. Aligned. I could feel it. And there was the smile and the extra depth of breath for the rest of my practice. A little prejudice against laziness can’t hurt.

This image doesn’t have much to do with chaturanga, but was a great excuse to post a hunky picture of Mr. Darcy.

Roller Coaster

rusutsu rollercoaster

I’m learning to ride the roller coaster my brain provides me. It’s more and more clear that external circumstances are not at all what change my mood or even necessarily change the quality of my day.

Sure there’s usually an outside trigger, but how I react can vary drastically based on nothing else but an 8 lb maze of tissue and neurons that I will never fully understand.

The other day I actively talked myself out of a crap mood. You guys, I was so proud of myself. Which must be the mating call of hubris.

This morning my intention during my practice was to feel vibrant. And let’s just say I had less success. And so I’m going to try to be satisfied with slightly less than vibrant today and see how it goes.

Vibrancy hidden under packed powder at an amusement park in Japan. Image here.

This & That: Holding Back

Okay. This is actually a more difficult post to write than I thought it would be. It’s about ego, and holding back in your practice to heal.

modified pigeon pose

I did something to my hip. Or sacroilliac joint, or low back. Something is a little off. I’ve been gentle. I have heating pads. I want to do yoga. I want my yoga to be amazing. I want it to feel like my joints are lubricated by angel spit.

But they aren’t.

You guys know I’m not a doctor – so when it comes to injuries, you have to check with one of them. I’m just here to tell you my personal experience.

I’m stiff, and it’s making me cranky. But I know that I have to hold back. I want to push, and pushing won’t heal my back. Soft, gentle exploration of joint movement is the way to go here.

So now to the This & That: When you feel stiff, or are recovering like this, modify your asanas. Go 70%, or 50%. Go even a third of the way there, and explore. I’m working on getting my ego out of the way and letting compassion for my body to take over.

In my case that might mean supine pigeon, this number four looking variation up top, instead of the eka pada raja kapotasana I’m used to.

half-pigeon-eka-pada-rajakapotasana

Mmm. Doesn’t that look glorious though? It’s like looking at cake. I want it, but it’s just not good for me right now.

Finally, I thought I’d share this piece of wisdom from Yoga Journal. It’s basically exactly what I’m trying to say:

It can be very frustrating to hold back in class when you want to do all of the poses, but it is essential that you respect your body’s limits.

Yes, YJ, it is very frustrating. So here I am. Having to get my ego out of the way and do only as much as what’s good for healing my body. I’ll let you know how it goes.

First image found here. Second image here.