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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Enough with the mall shopping. Are we not all online all day? Clicking off of ToysRus dot com as my boss walks by? No, just me? Between work and all the joyful holiday madness, you could potentially feel a tension headache coming on. And when I say “you,” I mean of course “me.”
So unclench your jaw and try puppy pose. First of all, you can’t be stressed because puppies are adorable. But more importantly, this posture stretches your shoulders and upper back – making all sorts of room in there for tension to melt away.
Feeling a little manic? Try forward fold to calm the mind and go inside.
Standing Forward Bend is a grounding pose that can calm anxiety and, along with the breath, quiet the mind. You’ve got both feet rooted solidly into the floor and your head reaching down toward the earth. I feel like it’s an incredibly grounding posture, and introspective too. I always like the folding-in-on-oneself poses to help me feel calm and protected.
Forward folds are not for you if you have high blood pressure, but for most of us it’s an incredibly helpful posture.
During the juicefest I felt a little boost of motivation and creative energy (though not a huge desire to be outside or terribly active). So, I finally moved some things around and I think I have a better place to practice. I can see out the window, feel less boxed in. It’s still a work in progress, but it’s getting there.
Feeling a little off kilter lately? It happens to the best of us. Try nadi shodana pranayama (alternate nostril breathing) to get you back in balance.
Focused pranayama used to be a part of my daily practice, and then it kind of, well, just slipped off the radar. But this morning I really felt a pull to do some nadi shodhana. They say it is balancing and purifying. For me, I felt calmer and more focused.
First image is from The Huffington Post and the second is from Noda Yoga. And if you think I didn’t spend at least a couple of minutes watching models fall on the runway, then you are mistaken.
This week has been rough for those of us in the North East. Right now the sky is an incredible blue and the clouds are perfect white and shadow. The storm, and the aftermath, have really been stressing me out. I’ll say this, I am among the fortunate to have power and water. So, so many people are not so lucky.
I’ve tried to curtail my consumption of media at this point. It’s so overwhelming. I feel better when I reach out to the community around me – letting friends and family come charge electronics, get warm and do laundry; or just sitting in coffee shops chatting with neighbors – than I do when I’m on twitter or Facebook or even reading the news.
I keep telling myself this is an opportunity to slow down. To let go. To be aware and to practice. But it’s hard not to be wound up when there is so much swirling around us. I have been lacing up my sneakers and running, rather than getting on the mat. But I feel that shifting now too.
With this post, I’m simply stating where I am in my head. Completely grateful, worried about those who are still without power, and worse. And simply trying to hold the space to have all of these emotions at once.