Tuesday, February 19, 2013

there is no path. just follow your heart

This one is perfectly times dear Friends. Enjoy these heart centered words from Miss Meredith Swim.

February holds a dear place in my heart. The entire Swim clan (besides me and the noble dogs, who are Scorpios) celebrate late January and February birthdays, so February in my Aquarius household has always meant family get-togethers, heart themed parties and a sweet abundance of birthday cake.
I also must share that I absolutely love Valentine’s Day. I totally dig the color scheme (hot pinks and flirty purples, hurray!), adore dark chocolate (especially organic with ginger pieces) and I heart-fully support a day that honors love in all its marvelous forms.

So, as I finish the last of bite of birthday cake and awe over valentines given to me by friends and family, I find myself thinking about the heart and all the curious, beautiful, frustrating and sometimes overwhelming emotions that dwell there.
As someone who lives in her heart, I am influenced and motivated by my feelings and my thoughts revolve around my present relationships. At times, (flashbacks to high school) my emotions can overpower me. My sensitivity can prompt me to be reactive instead of responsive to certain situations: “She said what?!! Well, I’m totally de-friending that chick!”
Hurray, Yoga arrives as a knight in shining armor! Yoga and meditation invite me to take breathing space from my feelings, allowing me to acknowledge (not suppress) them and understand the thought patterns and memories contributing to the intensity of an emotion. If I am caught in an emotional rut, I take a few conscious breaths, focus on my heart center and from there ask myself what I am really feeling about a current problem.
An answer always emerges.

During the day, I sometimes go on emotional autopilot. I can’t afford to be completely submerged in my feelings all day long, my homework would never get done! So, with the guidance of the breath to create a safe and nurturing space (one where my inner critic has been silenced or at least muffled), my emotional check-ins let me know what is going on in this heart of mine.
All arising feelings are welcomed, and the painful ones deserve an extra long deep breath, but they must come to the surface so I can rise. 

The heart is also very wise. Once the mind is peaceful, and the sticky emotions have been cleared, I ask my heart for guidance and the answer again always appears. If I am debating about going out or staying in, I imagine the scenarios and notice how I feel about each possible one. I allow my heart to decide. Feelings are intuitive creatures.

This February I intend on devoting some extra attention to my heart. I encourage you, yogis and blog travelers, to soften the voice of the mind and listen to the stirring whispers of your heart.
Maybe there are answers waiting to be heard. Or maybe you’ll be advised to treat yourself to a Hershey’s chocolate kiss or some lovely yoga time. ;)

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

strike a pose

Need to settle your mind? Relieve an achy back? Boost your mood? Sarah has it covered in this post (with pictures!). Enjoy Friends. I'm off to do legs up the wall.
Okay no I am not referring to Madonna’s song Vogue (or am I???)…
I’m talking about yoga poses.
Do you know which pose is best for quieting a monkey mind? For lifting your mood? To encourage the body to relax? What about for soothing an achy low back?
Here are my tried and true go-to poses. Next time you need an asana pick-me-up, give one of these a try...no yoga mat required!
Settling the mind.....
You'll find me in a seated forward fold, with my forehead resting on the support of a yoga block (if props are nearby) or maybe on the seat of a chair or couch, or the edge of a desk if not. Supporting the forehead is key. Usually my legs are loosely crossed in front of me (but they don’t have to be!), and I don't have to fold too far forward to access peace of mind. I might sit in this pose up to five minutes, and encourage a longer exhale than inhale in my breath.

Boosting your mood.....

Sphinx pose is my go-to mood lifter for when I’m feeling cranky. Add in some steady ujjayi (victorious breath), and after a minute or two I will feel more clear headed and clear hearted. And I can always let my chin rest to my chest if the backbend feels “too” good. A little back bending always helps me find a smile.

Relaxing the body.....

Supported bridge is the ultimate relaxation pose for me.  It doesn’t get better than a supported inversion.  The grounding of a block under my sacrum, combined with feet planted on the ground, yet legs relaxed (and hip flexors at rest) and upper back pressing gently into the earth…ahhhhhh…a few minutes and an occasional big inhale-2 second pause-slow exhale breath later, I feel like a brand new yogini! If you don't have a block try using a thick book or a couple really firm pillows.

Relief for a sore low back....

Legs up the wall to the rescue! This pose encourages the low back to lengthen and rest, and the sacrum (tailbone) is firmly rooted to the floor.  I might rest here up to 15 minutes, and practice inhaling breath into my belly, and exhaling and gently pulling my belly button towards my spine. And if I take a quick nap, all the better. Legs straight up the wall (and inner thighs relaxing) is the ideal option for back relief versus legs wide or feet and legs in butterfly. If flexibility limits you, you can use a chair – just bend your knees and let your lower legs and heels rest on the seat of the chair.

So friends, I want to know – what’s your go-to yoga pose?

Thursday, February 07, 2013

awaiting the moment of practice

More Treehouse yoga teachers getting real about yoga. Refresh yourself with Laura Whitaker's words then take a deep breath, and know that this too is "practice".
Practice by Julie Rappaport
Today I wake. Sort of. Roll out of bed. Make Tea. 
Awaiting the moment of practice. 
It never comes. 
I notice this moment of never-coming practice as true as any other. 
I notice.

If you read Misty's post, you already learned that yoga teachers are real people. Teachers are students. Teachers, too, fall out of tree pose.
And sometimes teachers even {gasp} fall behind in their asana practice. I can't say I'm exactly proud of the amount I practiced in January, which is unfortunately less than I'd have liked, but I'm okay with it now. And I appreciate that yoga is in fact the very thing that's made me better at accepting my lack of yoga this month. 

"Wait, what was that? Yoga helped you do less yoga?" Well, what I'm trying to say is that the most important things I've learned through yoga over the years - honoring my body, noticing my breath, acknowledging my thoughts and (attempting) to let them go - continue to remind me that there is no perfect and that our well-being has no space for judgment. January happened.
With the realized goals of running, teaching, and taking more graduate classes came adjusting to a new schedule and an unfortunate decrease in my own asana practice. I practiced of course, but not quite to the extent I initially envisioned I would. But I've been practicing yoga through acceptance, acknowledgement of what was happening, and simply taking things moment-by-moment. 

So, if you ever find yourself in that moment of never-coming practice (or never-coming fill-in-the-blank-with-whatever-isn't-coming), notice it just as you would your breath when you're centering in a yoga class. Maybe in that moment of true acknowledgment, the practice will actually come. 

Or maybe it won't. But that's okay. It will come back, I promise.