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.

On Benders and Balance

While the benders I’ve experienced in recent years are mild compared to the “Winning!” variety – mostly binging on rice cakes and watching too much TV on the internet – I do think it’s natural for the pendulum to swing in extremes. And sometimes we forget how poorly that extra drink (or serving of cheese or gluten or Real Housewives or heroin) serves us until we wake up the next day with head stuffed with spikey cotton.

Well + Good NYC asks the question: If we don’t know what it feels like to be down, can we truly appreciate the accomplishment of up?

Four experts weigh in, and the prevailing wisdom seems to be: Benders are Bad! Love Yourself and Pay Attention!

What do you think? Are benders a part of balance?

Read the whole article.

I got it, I got it, I don’t got it.

[photo by
MasTaPiannisat AshtangaNews]

I’ve been a little stuck. But you probably knew that. It happens. Cyclically. I get inspired, leap, hit my stride, get in a groove, then get in a rut, get bored. Then stuck.

But something happened the other night. I got home from work and whipped out the yoga mat. I did a 45 minute practice where I tried new things and shocked myself with my accomplishments. (Yes, I know yoga is not a contest but, c’mon! It feels good to do things you didn’t know you could do.)

This time it was Utthita Hasta Padangusthasana. Well, sort of extended, but definitely hand-to-big-toe. Not perfect, by any means, but still! I’d never done that before and I was so surprised I actually started laughing mid-pose and fell out of it.

Inspired, I got up the next day and went to my first in-studio class in about six months. My brain was not at all accustomed to being on the mat for so long, but my body welcomed it. I feel the groove coming on. I can hear the beat.

And then yesterday, bam, I missed class. This morning? The dog was whining to go out mid-Namaskar B (I’ve learned not to ignore her). So tonight I’ll go to class – and, cue sad trombone – I have a last-minute call for a project I’m volunteering on.

I feel like I’m ready to leap, ready to hit my stride. Weeeee! I am so close to getting my groove on I can hardly sit still in this office chair all day. I just don’t want to lose the momentum, you know? The wheels are turning. The plane is picking up speed and I’m ready to take off and soooaar. And I want to catch this updraft before I crash and want to do nothing but nap.

Black Swan Beautiful – or Dangerous?

[image via]

I’m having a hard time reading this article in Vogue about Natalie Portman’s training regimen and transformation for her role in Black Swan.

I don’t disagree with core strength, awareness, beauty and elegance. Mary Helen Bowers, the woman Portman trained with and the creator of the Ballet Beautiful program talks about the physique to which her students aspire:

“The body type is strong. It’s muscular, but the muscles are very long and lean and there is something that’s very elegant about the body, and also very powerful,” she says.

But isn’t there also something dangerous? Mila Kunis talks about how her training and weight loss for the film left her feeling, well, gross. She lost 20 lbs for the role, dwindling to a mere 95 lbs.

“In real life, I looked disgusting, but in photographs and on film, it looked amazing.” [via]

Yikes. I’m glad Kunis says this out loud because even though the pain of training is apparent in the film, and is being discussed in the press, I still feel like there’s this underlying tide of: but don’t they look beautiful?

And that’s what this Ballet Beautiful article talks about too. Train hard, intensely, unforgivably and you, too, can look beautiful. The tagline on the site reads: Artistic. Athletic. Attainable.

Yoga is not ballet. We are not taught to train or restrict for the sake of achieving a certain body type. And, to be honest, I don’t mean to suggest that ballet is a particularly vain pursuit. I simply don’t know enough about it to say that. It is an art, but one that has the surface-workings of painful ego-addiction.

In yoga, we are encouraged to let go of ego all together. But all the tools for vain self-destruction are there: rigorous dedication, cleanses, diets, austerities. The superficial practices – when coupled with the beautiful bodies we see bending and twisting on the pages of magazines – can serve to feed the ego, too.

I don’t have a final word on all of this. I’m not saying that this film is doing women a disservice, or that Yoga Journal is twisting our minds. I’m just aware of my own feelings when I read this article.

Ostensibly, the press coverage is not congratulatory about the rigors of training and weight loss these women undertook for the roles they play in this film. And yet, somehow, I still feel an undercurrent of it. Is it because I can feel the push and pull, the attraction and repulsion of this kind of physique myself?

Is the suggestion there – that this is an acceptable ideal for women – or is it just my sensitivity? Is anyone else feeling it?

Watching the clock

My dad and I made a pact to support one another in our efforts towards healthy eating over the holiday. Well, apparently neither one of us saw me go for the chips and dip. Or the pudding pie. Friday I went to his class, and did an hour and a half of digestive twists. And this morning I wanted more.

Usually I do a 20-30 minute practice in the morning before walking the dog and getting ready for work. After this weekend, especially, I knew I needed more. By body craved the practice.

Forty minutes into the practice, Dawnelle leads us into eagle pose and I literally stood up and said: are you f*$&ing kidding me?

Er, I guess my mind needed the practice too. After Eagle, I stopped the podcast. I took a deep breath and went into a nurturing forward fold. I stayed there for a couple of minutes before I started up again. Just breathing. Letting go of the time, letting go of what my mind wanted to do in that moment – which was stop the damn yoga and get on with the day.

How many times have we heard teachers say that yoga on the mat helps us with our lives off the mat? I’ve said it myself many times. This morning, those poses held for me chaos and tension, and I wanted to stop and move on. Get on with something else, anything but staying there and breathing through that tension.

So I’m left pondering where in my life I’m passing by the chaos and tension – ignoring it and moving on to other things. On the yoga mat, I’m always pleased that I didn’t give up. Always glad I practiced through the tension and the monkey mind. How would things change if I did that in life? I’m not sure what the life-practice would look like, but it’s a question I’m convinced is worth thinking about.

Update: Chicken Dog

The universe is laughing at how dramatic I was about that whole thing. I thanked the chicken. I almost gagged. But when it was done, the house smelled like chicken soup, and I was really very proud of myself. And SO excited to feed Kaylee.

Well, kids, guess what? My dog don’t like chicken.

She ate the rice, she ate the vegetables, she spit the chicken on the floor and looked at me like I was nuts.

Seriously? Did I create a vegetarian dog? We’ll try again tomorrow. But if this dog doesn’t even like chicken, I may have to get her checked out.