Posts Tagged ‘woyopracmo’

Seriously? THREE HOURS for 9 holes. I wanted to shoot myself. I am a hot sweaty mess.

On the other hand, I had the best round of golf I’ve played all summer. BY TEN STROKES. For those of you who don’t golf, that’s a vast improvement. Even though you don’t care. ;) Turns out that Wii Golf is good for something! It’s possible that today’s round is keeping Spouse’s LPGA dream for me alive. He would someday like to be a kept man and is mostly convinced the LPGA is the way to do it.

We golfed with some really nice guys, so despite the horrendous backup on the course we at least had good company. Not so much beer though.

Someone had the fantastic idea of ruining Lemon-Lime Gatorade by putting STRAWBERRY in it. Except instead of coloring it pink – as you would expect a strawberry beverage to look – it still looks like Lemon-Lime. I did not discover this terrible desecration of my favorite beverage until TOO LATE.

Lemon-Lime Gatorade is the only Gatorade I will drink, so why? Why ruin a perfectly good thing?

Today is the last day of WoYoPracMo. I’m pretty happy that I managed to post every day (and totally made enough posts to count for every day). Alas, the majority of my posts were not-so-yoga-related. I’m totally shocked that I’ve gotten more than a thousand hits this month. I found a lot of blogs I like reading (links to the left) and watched too much reality TV. I managed a couple new playlists for classes and also got them loaded on imeem (which was more of a challenge than I expected). I’m doing quite well in Anatomy and Physiology as well, so I guess my time management and Procrastinatory Posting haven’t been as awful as they could have.

Thanks to everyone who’s stopped by to read!

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Alas, I did not post an asana yesterday. I generally take one day off of practice per week and last week it was Saturday. I did practice, just not my ‘typical’ practice. Which is what brings me to the blog.

I’m always telling students that, even more than practicing for an hour a day, if you practice 10 minutes at a time a couple times a day you’ll get the same benefits. I actually believe this to be true because (aside from physical benefits) the mental benefits are even greater. Taking several breaks during the day to refocus your attention interally, think about your breath, and do some nice gentle stretches means you’ll be less likely to fly off the handle, or get impatient and frustrated.

So why is it so hard to listen to my own advice?

It’s rare for me NOT to take many mini breaks during the day. First of all, forward folds just FEEL GOOD. So I’m the weird person in the grocery store who, rather than crouching down to grab a can of black beans, bends in half, takes a couple of deep breaths, and then stands up – can in hand – much happier. Uttanasana is GREAT.

All of my friends think it strange but it makes sense to me. My body needs a stretch, so I do it. I do the same thing with side stretches (standing up, legs strong, curving to right or left) pretty much at any time in any place. Occasionally I believe it embarrasses my husband. I say, “Hey- it’s not like I’m waving my arms overhead. Or using Ujayi breath. I’m not making a SCENE! I’m just stretching in the middle of Home Depot!”

What happens, though, is that I get so used to doing those little things at various points that I don’t think of them as practice. So when I don’t do a full hour or hour and a half, I feel like I haven’t DONE anything. Even though I know logically that it’s not the case.

Yesterday I did some stretches in the morning (spinal twists while lying in bed are one of my faves), some stretches during the afternoon, some three part breathing when my husband was making me CRAZY while we fixed our flooring, and more little stretches before bed. And even though it doesn’t add up to an hour, it still counts – you can ask my husband, who noticed a dramatic change in my frustration level during our project. ;)

There is no competition in yoga. No competition with others, no competition with yourself. Whiile things like WoYoPracMo are great to help people refocus their practice, they can also bring that competitive nature to the forefront, or a tendency to think negatively about one’s ability to meet the goal.

Smile. Breathe. It still counts.

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Happy 4th of July!

Tonight we drove downtown to see the fireworks. Our dog, Piper, did not like the fireworks. Luckily we were far enough away that it dulled most of the big booms and kept her from jumping out of her skin.

I am frequently reminded – today especially – that I am incredibly lucky to be living in the U.S. For all the faults of my country, it also provides a shelter for those who need it and a system to protect the rights we hold most dear. Most importantly, there are those who take up the charge of military service to help ensure those rights. If not for them, none of us would be here. Many thanks to all those who have served.

Apropos of pretty much nothing other than my committment to blog, I thought I’d talk about Balasana (Child’s Pose).

There are many variations on balasana and most people (in my experience) love it. I really don’t.

It took me a while to like balasana. When I initially started practicing, I thought “I’m not getting anything out of this position.” It *is* good for a rest but, I thought, so is just taking a break. It turns out there are a number of things you can do to change balasana at any point in time. Again, Your Mileage May Vary.

My basic balasana: knees slightly wider apart than hips, toes pointed toward one another, arms extended forward.

Variation 1: Tilt the pelvis backwards (like cat stretch) to provoke more lower back release.

Variation 2: Bring weight into the outside edges of the hands and lift VERY slightly for more of a chest stretch.

Variation 3: Hands out at 45 degree angles or fingertips pointing back toward toes/ankles.

Variation 4: Bring the knees closer in (rather than creating a “V” with the lower legs, make them parallel).

Variation 5: Lower the chest toward the floor, tighten the abs. Alternate the direction in which you turn your head.

If none of those things work for you, you can also try Puppy stretch. Keeping the shins parallel to one another and the hips stacked above the knees, lower onto the forearms. Slowly walk the hands out, lowering the chest to the floor and keeping the hips in the air.

The most beneficial thing in any of these positions is taking smooth, deep breaths.

Have a great weekend!

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I’ve got some exciting yoga news – well, exciting for me – coming up so I’m going to JUST manage to get in under the deadline with a post about Ardha Chandrasana (half moon).

There are a number of ways to come into this position, but I’ll use a supported version. I’m a big fan of any sort of props you can use to help you ‘feel’ or ‘get’ a pose even if you don’t have perfect form. In this case, you need a wall. Mat is optional.

Stand with your right shoulder gently touching the wall. Hips and feet point directly forward, then slide the right hip to the wall and press in deeply. Bring your right ankle and knee in line under the hip joint.

Keeping the hip and right leg still, open the rest of your body toward the room (away from the wall. Maintain a long line in the spine and adjust right foot position to comfort. Lift the left leg away from the floor and press the left heel back into the wall. Shift all weight onto (and directly above) the right hip. Hinge from the hips to lower the chest parallel with the left leg. Press the entire back and left leg into the wall, keeping the chest open to the room. When you find a balanced position, reach the left hand up the wall (palm facing the room). Right fingers may be lowered to touch the floor or a block, as needed.

With the back of the body pressed into the wall, keep the right leg strong (rotate thigh open) and grip into the floor with the toes, mound below the big toe, and pinky side edge of the foot. Point the left hipbone toward the ceiling and press the left leg into the wall. Flex the left foot so that the entire left leg stays active.

Tighten the abdominal muscles to keep the core strong and lift the chest, rather than allowing the chest to collapse toward the right leg. Keep both shoulders pressing into the wall and pull the shoulder blades down the back away from the ears.

Reach out through both sets of fingertips, spreading fingers wide, and squeeze the shoulderblades just *slightly* toward one another, in order to keep the entire chest active.

Try to find a floating balanced position. Take a couple of deep breaths. Come out of the position by reversing how you got in. Switch sides.

Personally, I tend to focus finding my balance on one leg before opening the pose. It’s really important NOT to lock the knee – if you even suspect that you might be, focus on making a microbend in the knee and that will solve the problem. It may fatigue the legs faster in the short term, but it will create better results over the long term.

I’ve heard people describe the full expression of half moon as ‘floaty’ but it never feels like that for me. It feels completely grounded, but airy – strong legs but light chest. Possibly not the best descriptors, but it’s what works for me. YMMV. ;)

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I like the idea of WoYoPracMo (World Yoga Practice Month) but I already do yoga almost every day. I love the idea of encouraging people to ramp up their practice, be it frequency or intensity, and especially to engage people who are maybe a little intimidated by yoga.

My WoYoPracMo plan? I’m going to use July as another type of motivation – one, to lengthen my practice and two, to blog a yoga asana every day. As with any explanation of asana, Your Mileage May Vary. Keep what you like, discard what you don’t. ;)

Since it’s day one, I’m going to start with an exercise that I frequently use in classes to illustrate that you have control of your practice.

I tell each and every class that you can make each asana, in each class, as easy or as difficult as you want. It’s all about muscles. Engaging more muscle makes the asana more active, more work. Engaging less muscle makes the asana more passive, more relaxing. Active and passive are not judgment terms, simply a reflection of the amount of work your body does.

Our studio typically starts classes with legs up the wall (Viparita Karani).** By its definition, it is a very relaxed and relaxing posture. But it doesn’t have to be. Here’s how:

Begin with legs, arms, abdominal muscles relaxed. Flex feet. Point your toes and then flex the foot as though you’d stand on it. Press out through the heels, try to draw the toes back toward the body. Keep the feet flexed and active, try to keep the heels pressing into the wall. Notice that it makes your calves work. Imagine you’re going to lift your legs away from the wall, flexing the quadriceps (front of thighs) as though to make that motion, and keep the thighs active. You can do the kneecap test to see if it’s working.***

Engage the abdominal muscles. Adjust your pelvic position- tilt the pelvis backward, trying to draw the tops of the hipbones toward the bottom of the ribcage. This lets your lower back press more firmly into the floor. You can also reverse this- tilt the pelvis forward. This recreates a natural arch in the lower back and changes how the stretch in the back of the legs feels. Keep the feet, legs, and abs active.

Extend the arms out into a T position, palms facing up. Keep the shoulderblades flat on the floor. You can engage the shoulders by trying to draw the shoulderblades toward one another- not a squeeze, just making them active. Reach out through the fingertips, stretching and widening the gaps between the fingers. If you want to make it more work, lift the backs of the hands slightly away from the floor. Keep the feet, legs, abs, arms, and hands active for a couple of breaths.

Then, with an exhale, relax all those muscles.

That is the difference. That’s how you control your practice. That’s how you decide to work. From the bottom up, every single time. I run through this exercise in each class because it doesn’t seem to occur to a lot of folks. When a student tells me that they don’t get anything out of a class, it tells me a lot about the student. If something isn’t working for you, speak up- that’s what we’re here for. If something is painful, DON’T DO IT. Ask us for other options. We’ve got them. We practice ourselves *and* we got training, for that express reason.

One of the things I love about yoga is that it is a constant learning process. Every single day I learn something new about my body and how it works, or how I can make it work. I love that it is process oriented rather than goal oriented because I like the nuts and bolts of things. I also like that it helps you change how you think about things (see above asana) because that means you’re not just learning but you’re also learning about yourself and how you have limited your paradigms. That kind of learning makes us better people.

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