Sunday Night Check-In: Chillin’

It was a long week last week. Everyday started at 6:30 AM ended around 7:30 PM with a meeting. Luckily, there were slow times in between where I could run home and walk my dog, but I had some very long days even for somebody who usually gets up early. I’m waking up now at 4:15 AM in order to squeeze some yoga in, cook breakfast, take care of the animals and get out the door on time. I appreciated being able to sleep in this weekend even though “sleeping in” is about 6 for me.

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I started a 31 day yoga practice with a YouTube yoga teacher named Adriene. The practices are about 25-35 minutes, and she varies them from day to day. Her practices are moderate in pace, and she has a great knowledge of meditation and pranayama, too. So, when I saw she started a “Revolution 31-Day Practice” January 1 I decided to give it a try. I’m a little late starting but it doesn’t matter. The sessions are recorded. But I think they will be a better wake-up call for me than hitting a cup of coffee or tea first thing. I did Day 1 today, and I felt so much better after doing it.

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I’m also in a Virtual Boot Camp. It’s led by my friend and coach Jessica, and it’s a sane but effective strength-training and cardio series. We do three “circuit” trainings per  week which last 30 minutes each. I usually have no issues squeezing them in, but last week’s time suck really knocked me off the program. I only got one circuit done. I’m committing to doing tomorrow’s circuit no matter what, so I just cooked up a bunch of veggies and fruit for tomorrow’s dinner. I can just saute’ a fish filet, and I’ll be eating.

 

Yesterday I met up with another Michigan blogger here in St. Joe. Stacy has been following my blog since I moved up here, and we’ve been chatting off and on about meeting each other. We finally did it yesterday, and it was really fun to talk with another blogger and writer. During our conversation, I found out her boss was one of my best friends! She told me about ice fishing which is a big hobby of hers, and she shared many stories about snowmobiling in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. Apparently, the groomed trails up there are very popular, and she said people snowmobile at about 80-100 mph. I’d love to go up there and experience that. But she prefers the slower pace of ice fishing. She explained to me that the huts that I see on the lake are more for parties. Most people just go out on the ice, cut a hole and fish. She brings a Coleman lantern to warm up her fingers when they get cold, and she gave me a tip to wear a mitten over my gloves to keep my hands warm.

I also met up with my friend Karen yesterday and then went ice skating at the local rink. I’m getting better. I’m able to glide a little, but I did fall twice in rapid succession last night. I lived to tell about it, and when I left the rink at the end of the evening, this woman stopped to tell me how good I was. I laughed because I thought she was being sarcastic, but she said she was serious. I don’t know that I’m good, but I am not as scared as I once was, and I am feeling like I’m actually skating now. My friends John and Marge run the concession stand, so I get to visit with them while I’m there. It’s great fun and exercise for only $5 a pop.

I had great intentions to go to the gym this morning, but my garage door opener didn’t work. My car was stuck inside the garage, and I don’t have a door on it. I had to call my neighbor, and her boyfriend came over and helped me. We finally managed to pull the cord to release the door without breaking a window, but it was very cold standing out there trying to do that. It’s an old garage door opener, so I don’t think I can program a new remote for it. I think I’m going to have to get a new one or just do without.

The rest of the day I just cleaned the house, deep-conditioned my hair and got food ready for the week ahead. I took Ashok for a walk at about 5, and it was so beautiful out. The sun was shining, and Lake Michigan was frozen over almost to the end of the pier. Silver Beach was deserted except for a few people taking photographs. I wish that a photograph could show you what it looks like, but there’s just no way to capture the icy magnificence unless you are immersed in it.

Ashok is getting used to her new booties!

I’m seriously considering getting in shape to run again. I don’t know that I want to do long-distance running anymore, but I’d like to be able to run a few miles to get my heart rate up a little higher than when I’m walking. I have something going on with my piriformis right now, so I’m really on the fence of whether I should try to run or not. But it’s just hard to get motivated to go to the gym, and I feel like I need something that’s also good for my soul. Running really fits the bill, and it can be done in 30 minutes. We’ll see where I land on that.

I hope you are noodling some healthy behaviors right now. I’m not a big fan of New Year’s Resolutions, but I am a big fan of fresh starts. I’ve learned over the years that exercise of any kind gets boring to me after awhile, and I’m always having to change it up. It’s so important for my well-being.

Have a great week, y’all. Get out and move. Your body will thank you.

 

Sunday Night Check-In: Long, Lazy Weekend

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Since the monsoon forced the evacuation of our building last Thursday at 1 PM, I had a really long, unexpected weekend. It would have been nice to have some great weather, but I guess I wouldn’t have the days off if the weather was good. I’m very grateful that I didn’t get flooded, but I know that many, many people all over this state are digging themselves out of mud and, in some cases, are still socked in by muddy water. Prayers and dry thoughts are going out to all struggling with this disaster.

I mostly hung around the house and worked, explored hiking club information, googled potential future backpacking locations, and read Undaunted Courage. With all the rain and mud, Ashok didn’t even get to walk much. At one point, she sat down and stared at me with that “Can we PLEASE go walk?” look in her eyes. I felt so bad that she couldn’t get out and burn off some energy. I also felt bad that I couldn’t burn off any energy, too. In fact, the longer I was lazy, the less energy I had. It was a problem before the weekend was over.

IMG_5547I had breakfast with my backpacking teacher Katherine at Frank’s on Saturday before it started raining again. Frank’s has amazing alligator sausage, and I ordered their world-famous biscuits, grits, eggs and the gator sausage. Then I drove out to my parents’ place in Pierre Part and watched it rain all afternoon. At least Ashok got to chew on their dog’s deer antlers, so she was a pretty happy camper. I need to get her some of those. She absolutely loved them. Momma made an awesome dinner of a creative yummy coleslaw, baked beans and pork chops. It was delicious. And I certainly enjoyed hanging out with them better than spending another day going stir-crazy in my house.

I noodled driving out to Bay St. Louis today as the sun was going to be out, and I wanted to get out of this mud. But, by the time I got up and realized I’d lost an hour of time, I decided to just hang here. I wrote my curls blog and made a video this morning, had some awesome coffee and killed an unbelievable amount of time. I have not been eating well the last two weeks. I’ve been missing the farmer’s market, and I haven’t liked the food I had stocked at home. So, I’ve been eating out too much and in general making bad choices. So, I went to the grocery today and bought some really good veggies for roasting and for making salads. I plan to take charge of my diet this week. I ate well today with lots of fruits and vegetables… and no sugar. I feel pretty good at the moment.

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During my web searches this weekend, I saw an ad for a website called YogaAnytime.com. I checked it out as my Yoga Download membership is expiring in two weeks. I signed up for their free 15-day membership. They are more expensive than Yoga Download. I pay $60 a year for Yoga Download, and Yoga Anytime is $18 per month. But, when you figure it is $17 to drop in to one yoga class, it’s a pretty good price for a month of yoga. I’m just ready for a change, I think.

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Their classes are presented like “shows” with seasons and episodes. The classes aren’t live, but I can choose different ones every day from the archives and have the same teacher. I’ve done two episodes of a show called Good Morning Yoga, and I absolutely loved it. The teacher is very knowledgeable, and the classes are challenging but not as fast and crazy as some of the yoga out there today. I plan to start rolling out of bed and doing 30 minutes of yoga every morning before I do anything else. This will be just what I need. My yoga practice is for my mental well-being and to help me undo the knots in my body and keep my joints and muscles feeling good. As soon as I stop doing yoga regularly, everything starts hurting.

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My yoga class this morning… Mindful Flow

So this week will be a “get back on track” kind of week. I plan to practice yoga every morning, eat better and get to the YMCA for at least two strength-training workouts. I’ve also asked my friend Sallie to start doing some run/walk workouts with me. I HAVE to get in shape for mountain backpacking. The temps are creeping up here, and hiking in Louisiana is quickly becoming less desirable. I need to head north, and there are hills in them thar woods! I’ve got to get these legs in shape for climbing. There is more rain in the forecast this week, so I’ll need to stay flexible. But, I have a plan … and I’m going to stick to it!

Yoga Challenge Day 30: I Made It!

Me and my fave yoga teacher, Teresa, on the first day of my Challenge!

Me and my fave yoga teacher, Teresa, on the first day of my Challenge!

Today was the 30th day of my Yoga Challenge. I did yoga every day for 30 days. Some days it was a vigorous practice. On others, I did a long yoga nidra. But, I did something every day. I listened to my body and did challenging practices when I needed the energy, and I did relaxing practices when I needed to relax. Tonight I did a more relaxing practice since I didn’t started until 8:30. I needed to wind down for bed. But I wanted to check-in and celebrate the end of my challenge.

I am going to keep doing the yoga. I like the way it makes me feel, and it’s rather easy to do. I have decided that I don’t like the really fast-paced yoga that is so popular these days. I like the slower, strength-building yoga. When I started the yoga challenge on April 13, I said I would measure 5 things:

  • Strength
  • Flexibility
  • Sleep
  • Emotional Stability
  • Energy

So, here goes:

Strength – I feel much stronger. I especially feel stronger in my core, and my joints feel much more stable. I don’t know if joints strengthen, but I can stretch and open without so much wobbling and shaking going on. I also am moving very smoothly through transitions where I used to be more wobbly and unsure of myself. My arms can now do many chaturangas. In the beginning, I had to rest through the last few in a class.

Chaturanga

Chaturanga

Flexibility – I am more flexible in my hamstrings. I think I would be even more flexible if I hadn’t overdone it that first week with Monkey Pose. I ended up overstretching, and they’ve been tender ever since. It causes me to back off, but I’m going to just take the time I need. My spine is definitely more flexible. Last night, I popped up into 3 consecutive wheel poses, and I felt free and light between my vertebrae. When I first started, my back was pretty tight. And, my hips are way looser than when I started.

My favorite yoga pose!

Sleep – I’m sleeping really well. I wasn’t sleeping well when I started. My sleep started improving, and, even when I didn’t sleep as much as I like, I did my yoga nidras, and they reset me. They say the yoga nidra replaces a couple of hours of sleep, and I believe it. When I have insomnia, I get up and practice, and I don’t really feel like I’ve lost that much sleep. That being said, lately I’ve been getting great sleep. I can also thank my sugar cutbacks of the last week, but I was starting to sleep better as soon as I started the yoga.

Links to my Favorite Yoga Nidra Practices

Beach and Stars – 42 Minutes

Blossom Garden – 25 Minutes

Emotional Stability – I haven’t been writing a lot about it, but I have had a LOT of big things going on in my life lately. Plus I had a rather exhausting trip to Michigan last week. In the past, these kinds of stressors would send my anxiety over the edge. My anxiety has been extremely low given the circumstances of the last month. If nothing else, that improvement should tell me that I really need to do yoga regularly.

Energy – My energy has not increased as much as I thought it would. I guess I’ve had energy to practice, but I haven’t felt super energetic. I do get up and walk my dog every morning now at 5 AM for an hour, so I’m doing better with that. That’s partly because of the good sleep I’m getting, too. But, I would like to see my energy improve.

I would say the challenge was a success. I learned a few things and got back on track in several areas. I know that I want to continue the yoga, but I’m also getting anxious to do a little extra strength-training for my arms and a little running. It’s heating up down here, so I won’t be running a lot, but I’d like to pick up the pace over walking. Hopefully the yoga has stretched out the kinks and provided enough of a different kind of movement to heal my injuries totally. I look forward to easing back into it in whatever way suits me.

Most importantly, the challenge game me a change of pace. My exercise became much more inner-focused rather than focused on my body. Although yoga is a very physical practice, for me it really is an inner practice. I get less worried about how much I’m doing and more concerned about how I feel. I push through less and honor where I am. I think that may have bled over into my life a bit, too.

Tonight’s practice was designed to stretch me out and get me ready for bed. We did a lot of crescent lunges, twists and hip-openers. We carry a lot of tension in our hips, so it feels great to work them and stretch them out before sleep. And twists help me let go and melt into softness. Ashok is already snoring, and I’m getting ready to be. One thing’s for sure – I look forward to going to bed now that I’m not tossing and turning all night. That’s truly a blessing.

Screen Shot 2015-05-13 at 9.42.23 PMCrescent Lunge Pose Instructions

Yoga Challenge Day #15: Loving Les

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I took some classes with Les Leventhal in Chicago at the Midwest Yoga Conference. It doesn’t look like they are still having it in Chicago unless I just can’t find it on the internet. I loved going to that conference. I got to practice with national teachers like Seane Corn, the Kest brothers (Jonny and Bryan), Paul Grilley and Les. The conference was usually 3 days long, and, if you were a teacher you could attend some pre-conference sessions that were designed to go in-depth into either certain poses, certain styles or with a specific focus. I remember loving Les’s class, so I was stoked when I saw an entire channel of his classes on Yoga Download.

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Tonight I went to acupuncture, and I came home energized. I was able to take a little nap during my session, so I looked for an invigorating practice. I didn’t want to do too much, though. My hamstrings are still smarting a little from that Monkey Pose practice I did last week. My hamstrings are screaming every time I do forward bends or any pose where I have to use my hamstrings’ strength to lift and move. I knew Les was a power yoga teacher, but I hoped his practice was still as moderate as I remembered it being. I don’t think hard is better when it comes to yoga. It’s great for it to be challenging, but a lot of our Western influence is just serving to make the practice harder not more informed.

Extended Side Angle with the bind.

Extended Side Angle with the bind.

Today, I’ll focus a little on a challenging pose but one that I truly love because it’s a twist, a strengthening pose AND a hip opener. It’s called Extended Side Angle Pose or Utthita Parsvakonasana. I like all variations of this pose. When I’ve not been practicing, I can’t move into the twist as well nor are my legs strong enough to hold very long in the full pose, but tonight I was able to comfortably practice the full pose without the bind. I tried the bind for a a few breaths but decided it was more effort than I wanted to give tonight.

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The version I did tonight. Photo Courtesy of Yoga Journal

This one hour practice was delicious and just what I needed. For one thing, it featured more topless men than women yoga models, so I loved the eye candy complete with muscles and ink. Les was very knowledgeable and had great instructions and modifications for all of the poses. I chose to practice at about 75% tonight, so I held myself back from some of the more advanced stuff. It felt good to do just what felt good with a little bit of challenge here and there. At one point, Ashok came in and mirrored me in Downward-Facing Dog. She was so cute. I may make a yogini out of her yet.

This was a yummy hip stretch at the end of class!

This was a yummy hip stretch at the end of class!

So, I feel really good after practicing. I sauteed some fresh kale, red potatoes and leftover chicken in some olive oil for dinner and did a tiny bit of work. I’m about to settle in for some reading. This past week I have been sleeping so good. I’m dreaming, and I’m sleeping through the night. I believe the yoga is helping. We’ll see if it continues. I’m going to have a busy weekend with some travel. I plan to continue my yoga practice. It’s only for 30 days, so I need to stay dedicated. I’m anxious to see what happens.

Yoga Challenge Day #14: Savasana

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Photo Courtesy of Yoga Journal

What a crazy weather day! In New Orleans, a train blew off the Huey P. Long bridge. The news was showing footage of trees all over the streets of Baton Rouge. My Mother had difficulty getting out of Pierre Part because of all of the downed trees and wind and rain blowing sideways. A friend of mine had a job interview in New Orleans today by candlelight. It was like mini-hurricane, and my street looked like a bomb went off by the time I got home. Branches and leaves were all over the place.

I drove to Watson for my facial with Lisa at the Redneck Spa. I wasn’t going to let a mini-hurricane get in the way of my facial. She pampered me amid the thunder and lightning of round 2. I drove home in the rain, but it wasn’t nearly as bad as this morning. I knew I still needed to do my yoga, but I was really feeling relaxed. I sat all day today at a conference, so I knew I’d better move a little. I compromised. I picked a practice that was half yin and half yang. The instructor promised to get me up and moving in the beginning but bring me to a relaxing close. That sounded like the ticket, and it was.

My favorite yoga pose has always been Savasana – Corpse Pose. It is called Corpse Pose because you are supposed to withdraw all of your senses like a corpse. I often imagine myself with a tag on my toe and sliding into one of those lockers. What would I really feel like at that time? That vision really helps me let go of everything. If I was a corpse, I’d have no worries about tomorrow’s workday, retirement or whether I’m going to hell or not. I would be en route to wherever I’m heading, and I could totally be blank.

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I have loved Savasana from the first time I took a yoga class. Sometimes Corpse Pose is the only pose I practice. It is a complete practice by itself. After a really invigorating practice, Savasana feels amazing. All of my muscles relax after being stretched and contracted. The stress has exited my body so it is pure relaxation. People often leave class before doing Savasana. I can’t fathom why they’d want to skip the most blessedly divine part of practice. Experienced teachers say it is the most important pose of the practice, too. It is in this pose that all of the benefits of the practice are integrated into the body. Yoga is so healthy for the body, but it is the rest afterwards that allows everything to regenerate. It’s as healing as sleep. Most importantly, it is the pose that calms the mind. I usually stay in Savasana a lot longer than the teacher allows because it takes awhile for my mind to calm down. When the body is still, the mind can finally rest. My favorite part of teaching yoga was watching my students arise from Savasana. They were so peaceful and sleepy-eyed. I felt like we were all kids waking up from a nap.

It’s not always that easy to get to that ‘corpse’ state, however. Sometimes my mind wanders. On occasion, I’ve fallen asleep. Tonight, I felt a little edgy still. I got a big fat bolster and put it under my knees and covered up with a blanket. I put a folded blanket under my head for a pillow. I tucked myself in. Bella tried to get under the blanket for a moment and then plopped her fat body onto my abdomen. She felt warm and heavy, and it helped me sink into the floor. I could hear the rain falling outside. I forgot about needing an ark. My breathing slowed. I forgot about July. My thighs let go. I forgot about going to hell. My hips relaxed. My shoulders sunk into the floor. Ahhhhhh …. savasana.

Yoga Challenge Day #12: Opening the Hips

 

So, Wednesday night I decided to do a challenging yoga class since I’d done more restorative classes the previous two days. I searched Yoga Download’s inventory and found one that ended up with Compass Pose. I wasn’t familiar with that pose, and it wasn’t Crow or one of those I can’t stand, so I picked it. The description said it would stretch out my hamstrings and inner thighs, so I thought that might be a good balance to last week’s backbending practices.

The class was definitely as promised. Lots of lunges, forward bends and hamstring stretches got my legs and hips feeling loosey goosey. It was a strong Vinyasa (flow) practice with lots of standing poses interspersed with some chatarangas and sun salutations. I felt really strong … much stronger than last week. But the leg stretches were really burning. I hate stretching my hammies. The running I’ve done for years gets me really tight in that area, and it hurts. But I know it’s important to keep them stretched or tight hammies will start to throw off my pelvis which throws off my lower back. In other words, hamstring stretching will help me avoid lower back pain as well as other stuff. So, I complied. But, I have to admit I snarled at the teacher a little bit.

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About 3/4 of the way through the class, she started adding on to the already painful stretches. She encouraged me to go into full Monkey Pose – otherwise known as a full split. Yeah … I don’t think so. I did the best I could with my hamstrings yanking on me and burning the whole time. I was really beginning to despise that little 20-something teacher. She was going on about how she couldn’t get fully into the pose, but she wasn’t nearly as far away from it as I was. Finally – after an eternity – she let me get up. Searing pain in my hamstrings and numbness in the rest of my leg told me I’d probably gone a little too far. I made a mental note to back off on the other side and not let her encourage me to push beyond my edge.

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After I did more intense hip opening and inner thigh stretches – to the point where I thought my legs would fall out of their sockets, we actually started moving into compass pose. I was thrilled that the preparation stuff was over, and we could finally do the pose and end this torture. We rocked the baby which felt really good. It consists of holding your lower calf in your arms and pretending it’s a baby. It feels really good to my outer hip. Just as I started to think things were turning around, she tells me to put my right knee over my right shoulder. What? I sort of got into that, but then she wanted me to add my arms into the mix, and I totally lost it. I called her a few choice names, and did the best I could. There may be a little too much freedom in doing yoga at home. I think I would have been kinder if I’d been in public. It wasn’t very yogic of me at all.

The full expression of the pose. I didn't get there.

The full expression of the pose. I didn’t get there.

When I went to bed, I was so tired that I fell fast asleep. It felt really good, but I was really sore the next day. Thursday I did Yoga Nidra instead of a movement class and then tonight I did a gentler vinyasa class that was still a bit challenging, but I managed to complete the class with a sense of dignity and with the teacher’s reputation intact.

I am sleeping better. I’m feeling a lot more flexible, and I feel a bit stronger. My arms feel like they are getting stronger faster than my legs, but it may be that the classes I’ve done tend to challenge my legs more. They’ve all had a lot of standing poses. I don’t feel as anxious, but it may be that I’ve not had a lot of anxiety-producing drama going on. Work has been pretty smooth, and I’ve not been traveling like I was. I’ve settled into a routine of walking Ashok in the morning, going to work and doing my yoga in the evening. Even my animals are starting to get the flow of things. They met me at my mat this evening.

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Yoga Challenge Day 10: Life Lessons from Yoga

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The yoga challenge continues. This week I’ve been doing more restorative classes. Over the weekend I ramped it up, but I haven’t been sleeping, so I’ve been doing restorative. Tonight, I hope to add another challenging class, but we’ll see how I feel when I get to my mat after work. In my Morning Pages this morning, I was writing about some challenges I have in my life right now, and I realized that all of the affirmations and advice I am giving myself are all things I learned first in yoga.

When I first started practicing yoga in 2000, I was a very different person. Well, I was probably the same person, but I had a very different approach to life. People laugh when I say I WAS Type A because they see me now as very Type A. But, I can assure you my Type A today is more of an A-  instead of the A+++ it was back then. I was competitive, edgy, snarky, hard-driving and completely and utterly miserable inside. Yoga provided a path to learn some hard lessons in a much softer way. I learned through my body and experience rather than someone telling me. I’m a bit hardheaded and telling me to do something is not nearly as effective as my learning it myself.

Some of the life lessons I learned in yoga are:

  • My mat is my personal space and sanctuary. It is defined, and it is mine. Don’t walk across other people’s mats, especially with your shoes on. If they tell you to join them on their mats, you can go but respect their personal space. Everything is vice versa.

Our pedicured toes.

  • Do not compare myself to others. I am where I am because of my life experiences. Yoga – and life – is a personal spiritual journey. Like one of my friends quotes, “There’s only one spiritual path, and everyone is on it.”
  • Respect my ‘edge.’ I will strengthen and improve by playing with my ‘edge’ but I can hurt myself going beyond it.
  • I can always rest in Child’s Pose.  It doesn’t have any other meaning except that I want to rest. No judgments.11111961_10153204912922770_3732936620956608850_n
  • Teachers – just because they may know more about some subjects – are not authority figures nor are they perfect or to be trusted unless proven trustworthy. Although yoga can be a spiritual path, not everyone has a spiritual agenda and not everything is sacred. Use my brain and gut to decipher what is safe.
  • Some days I need to be gentle with myself and other days I need to get out of my comfort zone. Neither is easier.
  • Often the hardest thing to do is to slow down and lean into the pain. It might be easier to rush through and push into power, but I learn to breath and to survive by allowing stillness.
  • All teachers have something splendid to offer if I just open my eyes to see it.
  • The magic is in the poses. When I was in teacher training, we all were freaking out because we were new and didn’t feel confident to be teachers. Our teacher, Katherine, assured us that this practice was thousands of years old, and the magic is not in the teacher. If we get students in the poses, the magic will happen. I learn by doing. My teacher is just a guide.
  • I approach my practice like I approach my life. If I’m getting injured or too tired by the yoga I practice, I’m probably doing that in my life. If I’m being lazy, well that fits too. And my approach to both changes all the time.
  • I evolve constantly. Where I evolve to is my choice and my journey, but I go one way or another. I don’t stand still.
  • The poses I avoid are often the ones I need the most. Enough said.

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  • Opening the heart can be all at once painful and glorious. After my second divorce I did a Camel Pose in class, and the tears and pain came bursting forth through my body like a cannon went off. All of the pain I’d been protecting myself from by closing my heart for years spilled onto my mat in a puddle of tears. It was a glorious release.
  • Tiny adjustments to alignment can make a huge difference. Rotate your inner thigh out … focus on releasing the psoas … breathe into your hip. I was struggling with getting my balance in Half Moon Pose, and a teacher told us to engage the groin muscle and roll up and out with that muscle. OMG … immediately I was up and strong. It was that tiny awareness that made all of the difference.
  • Honor your body’s wisdom. If you don’t want to do something, don’t do it. You’re not pleasing anybody else by not following your own lead. Your body knows a lot more than you think it does.
  • Keep moving and feeling. Our bodies hold emotions from past experiences, and when we open through yoga, we release those held emotions.  I always want to be living in the emotions of today not jumbled up with emotional baggage from years past. Don’t be afraid to feel them and let them go.
  • It’s not about me… it’s about the yoga. You can approach yoga as a great exercise class or embrace the hundred other great things it does for your nervous system, awareness, presence and energy. It doesn’t matter how you approach it. The magic is in the poses.
  • Turn things upside down. When times are really rough … or boring … or out of whack, do an inversion and turn everything upside down for a minute. It makes you aware that you are wonderfully alive, and new blood and energy flows to places that need it. Just make sure you have support in place! It can be dangerous!
  • The breath is truly the life force. It is with the first breath that we come alive and the last that we die. How do we take it for granted all of that time in between? Nurture it, pay attention to it and use it sail through difficulties with more ease.
  • One is not a lonely number. It is often a lot of fun to practice yoga in a class with others, but it is entirely different and lovely experience to practice solo, to listen to my own breath, to watch the stars go by with only myself as the witness and to honor my own internal voice as my greatest teacher.

What lessons have you learned from yoga? I’d love to hear them!

Yoga Challenge: Days 5 & 6 – Acknowledge and Celebrate the Work Done Thus Far

Yesterday, I was really tired. You know the kind of tired where you can hardly move without hurting? I felt like that. I had to be at work at 7 AM, and the day felt really long. I got home, took a little nap and still didn’t feel refreshed. So, I made myself a deal that if I did a restorative yoga class last night, then I would do a challenging class today. I have to tell you that last night’s class was yummy. I actually did two classes. The first class was a restorative class with bolsters and long holdings utilizing gravity to hold the poses. There was no effort. There was no pain. There was just pure supported comfort. After I finished that, I did a 35 minute Yoga Nidra with Rod Stryker. He has this amazing, sexy voice, and it literally transported me into another dimension. I slept like a baby and didn’t get up until late this morning. I felt so rested. Screen Shot 2015-04-18 at 5.53.23 PMThe deal was that today I would do something challenging. I was actually still sore this morning. Yesterday I was really sore. Doing yoga 4 days in a row is exercise whether I like to think of it that way or not. I prefer to think of it as a mind-body wellness practice, but yoga builds a lot of strength and is even good for cardiovascular health with the right practices. So, for my challenging class, I picked a practice that focused on one of my favorite yoga poses, Wheel or Upward-Facing Bow.

Screen Shot 2015-04-18 at 5.50.02 PMWhen I first started practicing yoga in 2000, I was obsessed with Wheel Pose. I saw a picture of it, and I was drawn to learning how to do it. I practiced and practiced at home. I didn’t have the strength in my arms. I didn’t have the flexibility in my back. I finally build up enough strength and flexibility to do it, and then I took a teacher training class and learned I was doing it all wrong. Luckily, I still had the strength, so it was a matter of learning to do it the right way. I’m surprised and pleased that I never hurt myself. As good as yoga is for you, you can definitely get hurt. Any teacher that tries to get you into inversions or deep backbends as a beginner might be a dangerous teacher. Any pose that is centered around your spine doing things it doesn’t normally do should only be done under the guidance of a good teacher. I’ll get off my soapbox. You can find out more about Wheel Pose at YogaJournal.com

Rod, the instructor from YogaDownload.com and today's practice, leading the model through the practice.

Rod, the instructor from YogaDownload.com and today’s practice, leading the model through the practice.

Today’s class took me through a Vinyasa (where one pose flows into another) practice warming up my body and my back for Wheel. It was really challenging. I found myself shaking through the whole second half of the class. Along with the shaking, I was trying hard not to beat myself up. Why did you stop doing yoga? You used to do this without any problem. I had to really work against my tendency to push myself beyond where I needed to go in the poses. It worked. I didn’t beat myself up too badly, and I was still strong enough to do Wheel Pose twice before collapsing into an amazingly restful Savasana.

Upward-Facing Bow (Wheel Pose)

Photo from YogaJournal.com

Photo from YogaJournal.com

One of my girlfriends called me just as I finished my practice. She told me that she had a terrible bike accident yesterday. She was bruised up, hurting and more than a bit scared about riding her bike again. I said I was sorry, and she told me that wasn’t why she called. She said, “You will be so proud of me.” This morning she had gotten up afraid of riding her bike again and hurting from being banged up. “I told myself that I was not going to let myself give up. Riding my bike is good for me, and it will make me feel better and maybe even help me sleep. So, I got back on and rode it again!” she excitedly said. I was proud of her. What an amazing thing she did for herself.

Later, I started thinking about how I practiced yoga steadily for about 5 years. I was really strong. I could do most of the inversions. I felt comfortable in my physical body, and I loved the practice. Then I started resisting practice more and more. Since then, it’s been on again and off again. I complained about myself to a yoga teacher one day, and he said that’s why they call it a ‘practice’. We don’t have to be perfect. How I practice my yoga is a metaphor for how I live my life. I don’t do it perfectly. Sometimes I’m weaker or lazier than others. Sometimes, I just hide and don’t show up at all. Other times, I am courageous and get back at it again. Just like my friend, I have to just keep getting back on the mat. It’s not whether or not I do it well that matters. What matters is that I keep going back at it to take care of myself.

Alex, the teacher from last night’s yummy class, kept urging me to repeat, “I acknowledge and celebrate the work done thus far.” I loved the way that phrase felt in my psyche and in my soul. I’ve lived 54 years in this lifetime. I’ve done a lot of work. I’ve married and divorced. I’ve moved across country several times. I’ve failed at relationships – all kinds. I’ve succeeded at relationships – all kinds. I’ve built at least two long-term careers in different fields. I’ve been good and bad and everything in between. While my body was lovingly folded into itself yesterday evening, I truly did acknowledge and celebrate the work I’d done thus far. And in today’s practice, I acknowledged and celebrated the work that is yet to be done.

Right now, it’s time for dinner. I’m having crawfish pie and roasted green beans. I’m having a celebration … and I have 6 days of yoga to thank for it. Namaste, y’all. It’s a Louisiana Saturday Night, for sure.

Yoga Challenge Day 4: It’s Been a Long Day

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It’s been a long day. I had to work, pick up my CSA box in the Garden District, cook dinner and then head to the library for the Artist’s Way group. I had already planned that I’d do a short wind-down yoga practice after the Artist’s Way because I wanted to walk Ashok this morning early.

I chose a class called “It’s Been a Long Day” off YogaDownload.com. Celeste, the teacher, was enthusiastic and led me through some gentle stretching to work out the kinks from sitting all day. It felt really yummy, and I feel ready for bed. I just wanted to check in and say that Day 4 of my 30-days of yoga is complete.

Screen Shot 2015-04-16 at 9.38.21 PMI also wanted to share that there is an Earth Day Sale going on at YogaDownload.com. You can get my 2009 renewal price of $60 per year until April 23. I have to say I’m liking this site. It’s only yoga, so you have to be into yoga, but they do have some power yoga practices as well as meditation, gentle and beginner classes. What have you got to lose?

Namaste and good night, y’all. Tomorrow is FRIDAY!!!

Yoga Challenge: Day 3 – One-Legged King Pigeon Pose

Screenshot courtesy of YogaJournal.com

Screenshot courtesy of YogaJournal.com

I didn’t sleep well last night. I slept better than Monday night, but I was up at 3:30 AM this morning. I promised myself that the next time I had insomnia I would get up and do a meditation rather than laying in the bed tossing and turning. It just makes me anxious, and I start associating the bed with NOT sleeping. So, I got up and completed a Yoga Nidra practice. Since it was yoga, I could’ve checked that off as my yoga practice, but I really wanted to practice tonight in a more physical way. Besides, it might help me to sleep better tonight.

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Photo courtesy of Yoga Download.

My friend and fellow blogger, Tara Mae, decided to join me in the challenge, and she joined Yogis Anonymous for her classes. I used to be a member of Yoga Download when online yoga first came out. It began with audio only which I liked because I could keep focused internally rather than watching an instructor. They eventually went to video, and I opted out of it. I got curious about what is out there these days, and so today I went looking. I googled ‘best online yoga classes’ and found an article on About.com that had several reviews. You can view the article here. The first site I went to had photos of the yoga teachers on the home page. The first photo I saw was a picture of the yoga teacher who had an affair with my second husband at the end of our marriage. Ugh … I’m not joining that one. I watched the start of one of her videos just to make sure that she is not aging as well as I am – she’s not – and moved on to the next site.

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Screenshot of tonight’s class

I finally decided to go with my old site Yoga Download because they seemed to have really upgraded their selection and had a couple of my favorite teachers, Ana Forrest and Les Leventhal, in their line-up. I got to renew with my 2009 cost, so I joined for $60 per year. The current rate is $90 per year, so it’s still not bad.

Les Leventhal’s Class in San Francisco … His class is HOT and so is he!!

Tonight, I came home and chose a backbending class. I thought maybe it might give me some energy and help with my somewhat low mood. I loved the teacher, Channing Grivas. She had such a soft voice and gave such gentle and steady instruction. My strength was good but not quite good enough to do every pose. I used the modifications, and I was able to get through the class. My knees were creaking a bit, and I hope as I continue to practice and get stronger, they will be more stable. My flexibility seems to be really good. I really enjoyed the class for it’s backbends and hip-openers. We did lots of low lunges combined with heart opening backbends. I felt really stretched out and loose by the time we laid down in Savasana.

One of my favorite moves we did tonight was Pigeon Pose. It has always been one of my favorite poses. Running keeps my hips tight, and I love that this pose uses gravity and my own body weight to move me further in the pose. Sometimes I’m so tight it hurts a bit, but tonight I felt really good from the previous hip-openers we did. I never push myself past where I need to be. I learned a long time ago that yoga is about playing with my edge – not pushing past it. After sitting slumped over a computer all day, the combination of hip-openers and backbends felt really good.

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Variation of King Pigeon’s Pose from tonight’s class. I was somewhere in between the two of them in completing the pose. I’ll get back to the full pose again someday!

You can learn more about the One-Legged King Pigeon Pose in this Yoga Journal article. It has other amazing benefits to the body beyond just feeling good. Namaste, y’all. Let me know how your practice is going if you are in the challenge. I’ve heard from a couple of people already.