Love Unconditionally and Don’t Forget to Breathe

Love Yoga-2

I’m sidelined from my asana practice until my wrist heals. It’s annoying, but it’s also a chance to pause and reflect.

I love my practice without any conditions. When I can’t get to my mat it doesn’t mean that I’m not doing yoga, it simply means that I’m not doing asana. Yoga is not just about handstands and working on fancy arm balances (though they are fun). My practice loves me back. It has no expectations, no judgements. Yoga accepts me as I am whether I am feeling strong or weak.

My yoga is more than what happens on my mat. Yoga is a way that I get through ups and downs.

Yoga is how I work through pain when I am hurt. I’m given a way to move more slowly and listen to what part of my being is calling out.

It’s a chance to say to my body, I hear you. I am listening. Things don’t always go the way I want, but things occur the way they do. Yoga is my way to acceptance of how things are, not how I wish them to be. In this moment, I am restricted in movement. Rather than fight or deny it, I’m being with that idea, because it is so. Acceptance opens up a path to healing. How can I not love this? Yoga has shown me that I must love all of the time, no matter the circumstances.

Most importantly though, yoga is how I breathe. Yoga is how I love.

Yoga is life.

Namaste y’all.

 

 

Don’t forget breathe. Keep head your above water, but don’t forget to breathe.

-Alexi Murdoch

 

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Adventures in Yoga – Back on the Mat

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I’ve been thinking a lot about what it means to live yoga. Yesterday was my first Jivamukti practice in six weeks. My abdominal myomectomy was becoming a memory and though I had been practicing a smattering here and there, I hadn’t yet returned to my regular asana practice. Truth be told, my body was telling me to take a class last week, but I was feeling a little chicken.

Thoughts loomed…whatifmybodyisn’tthesamewhatifigettiredwhatifwhatifwhatif

My ego was ruling me. Whether or not I could do a handstand doesn’t determine my worth.

Wait- I want to be say that differently- while I can measure some progress and identify certain things about what’s going on in my life based on my handstand but shouldn’t judge myself if it doesn’t go as I planned. Unfortunately, judging is what I’ve been doing. The fear wasn’t really about the handstand I was subconsciously deciding whether I was still a good person. I needed to crush that negative ego talk and get back to my practice pronto. The asana practice is the beginning- not the end.

So…I put on my big girl yoga pants and headed to the 12pm Open with Cassandra. In hindsight, this was a crazy girl move. It was like going from swimming in the baby pool to walking off a 20 ft platform to do a 4 and 1/2 somersaults in a tuck position.

But you know, that’s how I roll. Not really, but that rolled off the tongue so I went with it.

Cassandra’s classes are challenging. The first time I took her class we were kicking up to handstand 15 minutes in.

I said in my head, ‘Oh, that’s how we get down in this class? Ok, cool.’. I was hooked. And it’s not just the sequencing. Cassandra’s no-nonsense approach applies to her metaphysical teachings too. I love her realistic approach to how we live. She talks about her own struggles but then loops it back to you- how can I apply what she said to my asana practice? To my life? And so Saturdays at noon became a chance for me to push myself a little further both physically and emotionally.

So while it was jumping into the deep end after not practicing for almost six weeks- was a bit of an overreach…it was now or never.

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I arrived to class early and chatted with Bobby and Austin the owners trying to quell jitters (silly, I know). But it was nice to be back at the studio. Certain studios instantly feel like home. I think it’s a combination of the feeling of community, the warmth of owners and the spacious yet cozy vibe of the space. I exhale whenever I’m inside. Even when I couldn’t practice my spirit was drawn there.

I digress- back to the matter at hand…

My fears were unfounded. Class was sweaty and wonderful. My body felt solid and engaged. Tears poured from my eyes a few times in child’s pose so I knew that I was okay.

Crying no longer makes me self-conscious, but it did make me wonder about living my yoga off of the mat. I know that the asana practice opens up chakras and energy lines and had thought that my daily meditation was keeping me grounded. While I’m sure it was (and is), it’s clear that moving my body is also a critical part of living my yoga. But I can’t help and wonder how I can get to a place where I feel post-practice without practicing? Is it even possible? Things to ponder.

In any event, knowing that I know so little is a step in the right direction.

I am so grateful.

Namasta y’all.

National Stress Awareness Day – Life Yoga (5 Tips to Reduce Your Stress)

nsad_logo2010     Today is National Stress Awareness Day. For real though, we don’t need a day to remind us that we have stress. It’s everywhere. On some days it seems that the stress starts from the second we wake up and doesn’t stop even when our heads hit the pillow at night. Stress dreams can plague sleep leaving you to wake even more tired than when the night began. That’s life though. Right? It’s how we live. No big deal. Everyone is stressed. But listen carefully, if you aren’t careful stress will kill you. When stressed, we kick off the flight or flight response in our bodies. It protects us from mortal danger. Here’s the rub, when our brains tell us to fight or flee our organs respond by creating adrenaline and dialing up the engines of our organs. In today’s society many of us function like this even though our bodies aren’t in mortal danger. This isn’t healthy. In fact it’s dangerous. Sure, it’s not like stepping on the third rail dangerous but it is like playing 10,000 games of Russian Roulette and never getting the bullet. The odds keep increasing that one day…bang.

  Here are some facts from the Global Organization for Stress

  • The Stress in America survey results show that adults continue to report high levels of stress and many report that their stress has increased over the past year – American Psychological Association.
  • 75% of adults reported experiencing moderate to high levels of stress in the past month and nearly half reported that their stress has increased in the past year – American Psychological Association.
  • Approximately 1 out of 75 people may experience panic disorder – National Institutes of Mental Health.
  • Stress is a top health concern for U.S. teens between 9th and 12th grade, psychologists say that if they don’t learn healthy ways to manage that stress now, it could have serious long-term health implications – American Psychological Association.
  • 80% of workers feel stress on the job and nearly half say they need help in learning how to manage stress.  And 42% say their co-workers need such help – American Institute of Stress.
  • Stress levels in the workplace are rising with 6  in 10 workers in major global economies experiencing increased workplace stress.  With China (86%) having the highest rise in workplace stress – The Regus Group
  • Alarmingly 91% of adult Australians feel stress in at least one important area of their lives.  Almost 50% feel very stressed about one part of their life – Lifeline Australia.
  • Australian employees are absent for an average of 3.2 working days each year through stress.  This workplace stress costs the Australian economy approximately $14.2 billion – Medibank
  • An estimated 442,000 individuals in Britain, who worked in 2007/08 believed that they were experiencing work-related stress at a level that was making them ill – Labour Force Survey.
  • Approximately 13.7 million working days are lost each year in the UK as a result of work-related illness at a cost of £28.3 billion per year – National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence.
  • Depression is among the leading causes of disability worldwide – World Health Organization
  • Fewer than 25% of those with depression world-wide have access to effective treatments – World Health Organization.

– See more at: http://www.gostress.com/stress-facts/#sthash.DCEnJa4d.dpuf

 

However, it’s not all doom and gloom. Just as easy as it is to live a life under stress we can take small steps to reduce it.   Here are some tips that you can take to slow it down and live longer:

  1. Breathe. Take a deep breath in for a count of four and an exhale for a count of four.
  2. Yoga. Any physical activity for 30 minutes a day will help reduce stress. I’m of supporter of yoga for stress reduction because yoga itself is the idea of yoking our body, mind and breathing. In yoga we talk about moving through the asana practice with steadiness and ease. By controlling how we breathe as we increase intensity we are training our bodies how to deal with stress off of our mats.
  3. Laugh. Check out the benefits courtesy of the Mayo Clinic: A good laugh has great short-term effects. When you start to laugh, it doesn’t just lighten your load mentally, it actually induces physical changes in your body. Laughter can:
    • Stimulate many organs. Laughter enhances your intake of oxygen-rich air, stimulates your heart, lungs and muscles, and increases the endorphins that are released by your brain.
    • Activate and relieve your stress response. A rollicking laugh fires up and then cools down your stress response and increases your heart rate and blood pressure. The result? A good, relaxed feeling.
    • Soothe tension. Laughter can also stimulate circulation and aid muscle relaxation, both of which help reduce some of the physical symptoms of stress.
  4. Eat well. When we fuel our bodies with good food we are better equipped to thrive. I love what Michael Pollan says about a healthy diet, “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” Keep it simple.
  5. Sleep. Set a bedtime and stick to it. Keep your electronic devices out of bed. Keep the TV off (ideally- don’t use one). Keep the bedroom a sanctuary of peace.

Today take a minute, take a second and remember that it’s okay even when it’s not. But by managing the stress we can make better decisions and live a better life.

 

Namaste y’all.

Adventures in Yoga Teaching – Epsom Salts

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Now that I’m teaching and have a daily asana practice, I’ve noticed that my muscles get sore from time to time. It’s perfectly normal. However, rather than blow it off as I would have in times past, I pause and investigate. This is to prevent major injury.

Aside from it being practical (c’mon who want to take a class with a teacher who is hurt?), it’s important to honor and respect your body.

Oh- and if you’re hurt you can’t teach- so there’s that. And since you use money to buy food and stuff- it’s kind of important.

Just about any problem can be solved by a hot bath. I have always loved a hot bath, but now it’s a part of my routine as preventive medicine. Lately, my hamstrings have been little tight, okay they’ve been drum tight, there I’ve said it. Enter epsom salt and my tub.

*Marvin Gaye voice* ‘Ooooh child things are gonna get easier….

Baths are a magical happy place. And epsom salts work.

Don’t tell my mother, but she told me about using epsom salts years ago, but I blew it off because like so many I tend to ignore my mother’s advice. A few years back out of desperation I tried them. Miraculously, my muscle aches disappeared. I soak once a week at least and more if I’m feeling extra achy.

Mom, you were right! Hmm, makes me wonder about all the other bits of information that have be bestowed upon me over the years. Seriously- please don’t tell her.

epsom salt

Because I’m not content to leave well enough alone slightly skeptical, I had to do further research on this whole epsom salt thing. I mean, why isn’t everyone aware of the miracle of epsom salts, or have I just been living in an epsom salt free world oblivious to the joy on the other side?

Fact: Truth is stranger than fiction.

I found an article that discusses this very topic ad nauseam. Seriously, Paul Ingraham spends over 8,000 words delving into epsom salts, wives tale or really medicinal? (I know it’s 8000 words because it states the word count in the summary. This should have served as a warning)

In my fantasy world you care as much about this as I do and we discuss how crazy this guy must be for writing such an extensive article on epsom salt.

I hear your exasperated tone, ‘Epsom salts do they work or not, Oneika? Get to it, we have got things to do.’

According to the Epsom Salt Council (there is a lobby for everything, c’mon who else is going to make sure the voice of epsom salt is heard in DC *eye roll*)

They work. The magnesium from the salts gets absorbed in the body, in as little as 12 minutes.

Sweet.

So give yourself a soak.

This is yoga, submerged.

Namaste y’all.

To My Yogis and Yoginis who Practice when Sick

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I had a dream last night that I was eating sandpaper. More accurately, someone was trying to shove sandpaper down my throat.

Sorta weird I guess, but this comes from the chick who dreams entire episodes of  television shows. Episodes that never actually aired- I make them up in my sleep.

So…now that we have that piece of crazy out to examine…

Sandpaper. Ugh. I was choking and there was a bright light in my face.

Sweet dreams are made of these….

I opened my eyes with my hands rubbing my neck.

Swallowed once. Ouch. Sore.

4:30am.

Trance like I pad in comfy socks to the kitchen. Must. Drink. Tea.

Oh no- what’s that I feel? Fever?

No. way.

Vitamin C. Zicam. Green tea. Garlic pills. I was moving full steam to stop this thing in its tracks.

(I was moving as a snail’s pace, as it was 4:30, but you’re gettin’ my drift)

The guilty party? My hot yoga studio if I had to guess- there were a few sick people in class the day before. You could hear them cough during pranayama deep breathing.

Coughing up into the air and not into an elbow. That, mixed with pools of sweat and open pores- I was a human petrie dish. Come on in germs!

Listen- keeping it real- I practice when I’m sick. And since I’ve made this transition to teaching yoga- short of a house sitting on my chest Wizard of Oz style, I’m showing up for class. Period.

But there are precautions I think everyone should take if they head to the studio less than 100%.

You should stay home if you can. A sick body needs time to heal. But realistically, 30 day challengers, yoga warriors and teachers show up.

I wish we could agree on a Yogis Code of Conduct for illness:

  • Thou shalt not cough into the air, hot room or cold
  • Thou shalt wash my hands and use hand sanitizer before touching anything or anyone
  • Thou shalt cough into the crook of my elbow if I must cough
  • Thou shalt tell my teacher if I am sick, this way my teacher will not touch me and transfer germs onto my fellows yogis
  • Thou shalt tell my class if I am sick (teachers) and not make hands-on adjustments

Life must go on even when we aren’t feeling up to it- but as good yogis let’s try and do our best to keep our fellow passengers safe.

This is yoga. And sometimes it gets the cooties.

Namaste y’all.

What’s Needling Me? Acupuncture Adventures

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The thought of acupuncture scared me, but becoming a yoga teacher has opened me up to the idea of alternative medicine. This is mostly because I am doing more yoga than I have ever done in my life. When I wake sore I wonder if it’s from too much yoga or if my qi is out of whack.

I did a little homework and figured out the best teacher is experience. With an appointment made I waited for the needles.

Acupuncture wasn’t what I expected. After a consultation about my health I was told to undress. The acupuncturist said that  I could expect to feel warm on certain parts of my body. The whole process of of the needles took about 5 -10 minutes. She centered the needles around my neck, specifically my left trap because it’s been giving me some pains. Needles were also placed at my ankles and wrists. Inserting the needles felt like tiny pin pricks.

And quietly she left. Laying face down I felt…oddly splendid. My eyes were closed and it felt like the world went a little darker. Within about a minute or so I felt warmth radiating in the center of my back, neck and shoulders. It reminded me of laying out in the sun. After a quick check-in to make sure that I wasn’t too hot, once again I floated back to the sunlight.

30 minutes later I emerged feeling mellow, balanced and relaxed. It was suggested that I come back for weekly sessions to get the best benefits. I wasn’t that sold but I glided off to 2+ hours of hot yoga.

Looking back, I can’t say whether it was a good or bad idea to got straight to yoga after the acupuncture. After my first 90 minute class I thought I’d be spent.

I wasn’t. The second class was downright delightful.

Seriously. Seriously. Seriously.

I don’t know if it was the endorphins or the acupuncture. I’ve never done 2+ hours of hot yoga before nor had acupuncture.

I’ll be doing both again but not back-to-back. I think I may want to enjoy the relaxing mellow vibe of post acupuncture.

This is yoga. And when it needles me, it still feels good.

Namaste y’all.

Gettin’ Your Flow On at Home….

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How dreamy is is this space? Ooh la la…

Like lots of people, I first tried yoga in the comfort of my own living room.

My first yoga experience was around 12 years ago with Rodney Yee (I know, who wouldn’t get hooked on yoga?). I loved his style and the DVDs (or I should say VHS tapes) were pretty challenging. Then I discovered Inhale with Steve Ross, also pretty awesome.

I liked the privacy practicing at home provided, but I didn’t feel like I was moving as fluidly as the folks on TV. Studios though, seemed intimidating.

I had the notion that one must be good at yoga before gracing the doorway of a studio. Visions of people twisted like pretzels and incense floated in front of  my third eye. Because I thought myself to be inferior, surely I would be chanted out of the studio my mat and water bottle slung over my shoulder like a hobo pack, kicking rocks, head hung low while the Charlie Brown theme song taunted me all the way home.

I know, I have a flair for the dramatic. But people the world over feel this way, I’m sure of it.

It’s similar to the line of thinking that before one gets a personal trainer, one must get in shape. But I’ll save the talk about my ego for another day. I want to try and keep this post at a reasonable length.

With teacher training under my belt and a pretty solid practice, I’m looking to develop my home flow. I don’t feel quite ‘aware’ enough yet to do my own class and feel like I worked my body out (I’m sure it’s in my head).

But I also don’t feel like a DVD is what I need.

Enter Yogaglo. It’s a website that lets you stream classes from a player or your Mac.

Perfect!

It takes the idea of home practice to a new level. You feel as if you are in the class. For someone who has a solid practice and wants to pick up a few extra classes here and there, it’s a great addition. I don’t know if I suggest learning yoga this way…

Taking classes and getting adjustments is too important. Not to mention the community aspect of yoga which changed my life.

This is what the yogaglo classes look like. It's really as if you are in a class. Super cool.
This is what the yogaglo classes look like. It’s really as if you are in a class. Super cool.

But, this certainly fills a void. And from the comfort of home. With space heaters pointed at me, I was sweaty and happy. I picked a class that focused on hip openers because I’d been feeling a little stifled and needed to open up, or more accurately restore some balance to my 1st chakra. Seane Corn’s hip opener class was just what the guru ordered.

After a 90 minute class I was whooped and feeling so much better.
This is yoga. In my living room. And I love it.