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.

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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.

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.