Adventures in Meditation – Learning to Stay

meditationmedication

 

My mama said
Baby don’t ride that crazy horse
And my mama said
You must push with much force
And my mama said
Go get all that you’re after
And my mama said
That love’s all that matters

But I’m always on the run,
Always on the run,
But I’m always on the run ( on the run )

– Lenny Kravitz ‘Always on the Run’

 

Sometimes meditation just- sucks.

It ain’t been so easy the past week. Sitting still has been a struggle. I’ve been grasping at frustration and physical pain. Added to that are the thoughts that I should be headed down a different path than the one I’m currently on.

But I’m sticking with it.

This morning while walking Dakota I was listening to Pema Chödrön (as I am wont to do when I am feeling a bit out of sorts). I pulled up any track. Pema was talking about learning to stay. My facetious face reared its snarky head. Oh great. I listened anyway.

In meditation there will be bad days. But if I can learn to be with the thoughts and stay compassionate with myself, it’ll be okay. On the days that I’m feeling growly is when I most need this. It’s on these days when seconds pass like hours that I learn the most. The space in between the seconds is my opportunity to open my heart a little more. Acknowledging feelings of hurt, frustration or fear during a sit helps me move beyond instead of running away.

Yes Meditation, you are a crafty vixen but I see you.

Namaste y’all.

 

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Kayak Yoga – Fall Seven Times, Stand Up Eight

free kayak

Maybe it’s the yoga, maybe it’s because I’m getting older, maybe it’s because I have a newfound sense of freedom since I got my bike- but I’ve been up for trying new things.

This was not always so.

I wasn’t a fan of change and in fact- I didn’t like it. Not one bit. Round peg, round hole is how things should fit.

At least that’s the way the Dr. Seuss version of me thought of things.

But I caught up with a friend last Sunday and took a dive into the unknown.

Don’t get too excited. I didn’t climb a mountain.

I went out on a kayak.

Hey- baby steps, people. Baby steps.

We rode our bikes to Hoboken from Jersey City and parked at the Hoboken Cove Boathouse. We signed a sheet of paper and got to kayak for free. Right? Free. No strings. Just free. How did I not know about this? They had free kayaking all summer long? This is what happens when you don’t explore, you miss out on good shit.

So- I hopped in my kayak and had a blast. It’s also quite an arm workout.

And because once I dip my toe,  I tend to go whole hog I decided to try a stand-up paddle board.

‘Just keep paddling,’ I was told after a brief lesson.

Off I went.

Look Ma! I’m doing it! Yoga was great prep for this- using the core and feeling the movement of the water to stay steady was a lot less difficult than I thought.

And then, a wave.

Things slow down before the body takes a tumble. I could feel the entire thing. The space-time continuum halted like in an episode of Fringe. I half expected to see bizarro Oneika rise from the water (She better not have a better ass than me, and I do not want her hair longer). But she never showed up and I was snapped my to my merely average  ass swaying to and fro on a paddle board.

The wave came and I could feel the balance shift. I didn’t even fight it, because there was nothing to fight. I was going in the water and that was that. I should say that I love the water and love to swim etc..etc… so this wasn’t a huge thing, but it wasn’t exactly warm and I was hoping to keep my clothes dry.

Ah well. In I went. All the way under. Completely soaked. My head popped the surface and I  exclaimed, ‘THIS IS AWESOME!’ Maybe I was bizarro Oneika? An interesting twist. I glanced at my butt- still the same. No matter. I felt freaking awesome.

I got on the board and fell off again. And again I giggled. I kept thinking I wish I had known about this during the  heat wave because I would have ‘slipped’ over and over.

Eventually I got back in the groove and headed back in. Once back on shore the guy asked if I was okay and I said I was great, it’s about getting back up.

I had to give a mental fistbump to  Dandayamana Dhanurasana- aka Standing Bow Pulling Pose in the Bikram series.

The pose is about falling, in the sense that once you fall can you pick yourself back up and try again- without judgement, maybe even with joy.

There’s one last weekend of free kayaking next Saturday. You can bet I’m going to be back on that stand up paddle board.

Fall seven times, stand up eight.

Paddle board yoga. Namaste y’all.

Renewing Your Spirit – 5 Ways to Do It

“Delicious autumn! My very soul is wedded to it, and if I were a bird I would fly about the earth seeking the successive autumns.” 

– George Eliot

There’s something about autumn that I love and loathe. As a kid I loved the crisp mornings getting excited because I knew that I’d soon be able to break out my new sweaters. Warm weather still peeks through the day and it’s cool enough at night to get a morning chill. Fall is associated with renewal and that makes sense. We can shed old ways or reconnect with our pre-summer selves. Once the kids are back in their routines and beach days are gone we begin our own version of molting.

 

Here are 5 ways that I get back to me:

1. Reconnect with my practice

September is a big fitness season. As the family calendar takes over we get back to the business of health. For some this means actually working out again (you know who you are) and for others it means switching up the routine. I’ve never run outside in cooler weather, so I’m doing a little homework.

Fall is a time when I take a look at my practice. The change in seasons wakes up different parts of my senses. My asana practice took place mostly in the evenings. Since I teach most evenings, it was scattered. But I’ve sat my butt down to plan out my practices a few weeks out at a time. Incorporating

2. Jump start healthy eating

Eat seasonally!!! Eat seasonally!!!  My cooking shifts from grilling to roasting. I swap out fresh tomatoes for squash and mushrooms. Quinoa begins to make regular appearances and what I love most of all, SOUP SEASON!!! There is nothing like a hearty soup to make me giggle like wanda the witch from Sesame Street (which is creepy and cool at the same time). Renew your love of the kitchen by pulling down the crock pot and making soup. Crowd pleasers and freezer friendly. This fall and winter you’ll see a bunch of soup recipes  so get ready.

I’m now meatless every day of the week, but before I was I started participating in Meatless Monday. I’d say it was the first thing that really helped think about my carbon footprint.

3. Read a good book

All of the best books come out in fall!!! If you are a book nerd like me, this is your time to find a stack (or queue) of things to get you through the cold winter months. Reading is great stimulation for the brain and a soothing activity. Kids who see their parents read are more likely to read themselves.

4. Make time to make time

Did you know that a 2006 study said that meditating can be better for you than sleeping? Taking even a few minutes to collect your thoughts is great for you and others. I love early morning when I walk Dakota. It allows me to set intentions for the day and reflect on where I am. Take a minute in the shower just to pause can be beneficial. I’ve actually been thinking about my time in the Catskills surrounded by silence. I’ve gotten away from finding a few quiet moments to let go. Seems like the right time to re-commit.

5. Don’t sweat the small stuff

“Don’t sweat the small stuff, because it’s all small stuff…” Cliche and overused, maybe. That doesn’t mean it’s untrue. Maybe it was the heat and  (and don’t get me wrong I’m a summer kind of chick) but the little things were getting under my skin. The cool crisp air of fall allows me to exhale.

How do you welcome fall into your life?

Namaste y’all!

Ding Dong Goes the Inversion Practice

door-bell

I zipped downstairs to an early hot power vinyasa practice with friend Jessica Ashen. She’s a yogi and founder of Spiritual Pretzels Yoga. Jessica brings donation based yoga all over Jersey City. It’s awesome and so is she. Her classes are a mix of being playful and learning how to challenge your body in new ways. Jessica teaches from a place of love that is tangible. As a result, I leave her classes lighter in the heart. I love this because that’s something I used to only get from my hot practice.

Anyway, back to this morning.

It’s great taking classes with a teacher who knows that you teach. They tend to be gently relentless about form and adjustments. I’ve been getting a bit lazy when it comes to stacking my hips over ankles in Uttasana.

No slackin’ with the stackin’ in Jessica’s class. It was what I needed.

Roll  the weight forward onto the toes, roll the weight forward onto the toes, roll the weight forward onto the toes. 

Jessica made an interesting observation about me being in between my vinyasa practice and my hot practice. In hot classes the weight is back in the heels a lot.

Shifting the weight forward into my toes and engaging the low belly and feeling my heels lift,  my body yearned to go higher.

It was my brain that was talking me out of it.

Jessica mentioned Christina Sell and how I need to check out her approach to handstands. I found this video, which is fantastic. She points out that many seemingly unrelated poses connect to turning the body upside down. It’s worth the seven minutes. Check it out.

We did handstand practice again the wall and it felt great. Jessica showed me an exercise that Christina Sell uses called Ding Dong.  As you kick up you alternate tapping feet on the wall. I sort of powered through that and felt good.  Inside my active mind, I thought back to my earlier fold and rolling the weight forward so one day can lift into handstand.

One day I can do it, I thought.

And then…we moved onto practicing Pincha Mayurasana against the wall. It was horrible.   hard.

Oh hello Ego, I didn’t see you sneak into class behind me. Seriously? It’s early, I thought you’d be upstairs asleep with Dakota, or getting coffee down the block waiting to pounce on me later riding my bike to class.

Form matters. It was tough activating my triceps, pushing down and engaging my abs. Sure she could have had me just kick up and play, but there is something to be said for doing it right.

Ugh. Hard work.

“Perfect we have something to work on next time!”, she said.

Groan is what I did.

“Be excited! It’s a new adventure!”

Damn if she wasn’t right. It is a new adventure. Something else I get to explore.

I left with a lighter heart, ready to open the door to the unexpected.

Better still, I reconnected with the foundation of yoga, uniting body and breath.

Yoga keeps reminding me that I can go home again (and again) and that more importantly, I must.

Yoga sweet yoga.

Namaste y’all.

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Adventures in Yoga- When Writing and Yoga Collide

writing yoga

However, a few weeks ago I spent an afternoon with Kathleen Kraft- poet and yogi.

Kathleen hosted a workshop where we were able to spend time connecting body, breath and words.

I can’t tell you how many times that I have been moving through my asana practice and I have wanted to jot down a thought or feeling.

While this may speak to some of my other issues of staying present I’d prefer to focus on the workshop.

This gave me the chance to do just that.

We moved through a sequence and were then given a prompt. Using the prompt wasn’t mandatory but it did offer a jumping off point.

Some of the thoughts I wrote down were hokey or obvious, but it did help me unblock quite a bit.

Here’s a snippet of one that I tweaked a bit.

 

Swan Dive

Into something new
it’s what I do
Inhaling a memory
Exhaling a dream

No stopping and starting
during asana practice.

Life passing me
Off my mat
Exhaling down, arms spread wide

I catch the tail end of my latest…
Whatever.

Inhaling, reaching up
Looking up stretching

I feel safe from me
On my mat

Vinyasa flow
Moving up and down
But never out

Always here
In the now.

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This workshop was a wonderful way to explore another part of my yoga.

I take different kinds of classes for various reasons.

Hot yoga is my support group.

Vinyasa feeds my soul.

Structural yoga feeds my mind which in turn feeds my soul.

And my asana practice helps me live a fulfilled and productive life off my mat.

Being able to combine my asana practice and reflect in the moment was a unique experience. It’s one that I’ll definitely do again.

It left me feeling stretched and for that I couldn’t be more grateful.

 

Namaste y’all.

Adventures in Yoga – Bike Yoga

new bike

*(I debated whether to go ahead and post this since the bike is gone, but it doesn’t change how I feel about riding my bike. Stay tuned for New Bike Day Part II…)

New Bike Day was a few weeks ago and it was incredible.

My butt is sore, but it was worth it. I picked up the bike and rode in my hood before heading to Liberty State Park.

I haven’t been this excited about something in such a long time. I smiled as I pedaled through the park- the wind was pretty rough but I couldn’t be stopped.

Then it occurred to me, why not stop?

So I did.

Breathing consciously makes you pause and stay in the moment.

I say this every time teach. Every. Single. Time.

But on New Bike Day the physician healed herself.

I pulled out a book and read for a bit. I took a few photos. I thought about a few things. I even spaced out.

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At first I was feeling hesitant to ride, now I’m wondering how I can ride and stay warm during colder months. I’m hooked. Visions of bike rides and watching the leaves change dance in my head.

Namaste y’all.

Bicycle Yoga

bike yoga sunset

Life is like riding a bicycle, to keep your balance you must keep moving.

– Albert Einstein.

I bought a bike a few days ago.

Sweet.

I’ve been talkin’ smack for weeks (months) about getting a bike.

I’m beyond excited.

Grove Street Bicycles was really helpful. M, the salesperson who helped me saw my look of confusion and walked me through the basics. I was able to trust but verify my findings with the assistance of my Dad. He’s one of those guys who masters sports with uncanny ease.

Uncanny ease.

There isn’t a sport he hasn’t tried, but cycling has been stuck with him for the long haul. His tips were invaluable.

M measured me, asked questions about me and bike goals. After a lesson about proper mounts, dismounts and stops I was off for a test ride.

Aw shucks….. Memories whooshed by as I pedaled.

Instantly, I was transported to the 70s cruising down the street with a wide grin like a dog hanging out the side of a car window.

This bike was fast- but solid. I changed gears…

In another moment it was 1988 and I was with my high school best friend, making a 12 mile ride from home to New Hope, PA. Even back then it was a cool artsy town.

I had to have this bike.

Despite being a yogi, I’m still a not so secret fan of instant gratification. Show me a bike shop, I’ll show you an Oneika who wants to walk out with one on the same day.

It doesn’t work like this- who knew?

But I will be picking it up this week!

Cruising from classes and to clients should be a breeze. And zipping to the green markets? Forget it! Stoked.

I have a feeling the town will seem different on a bike.

Just like lots of things these days.

Dig it.

Namaste y’all.

Relocation Frustration aka Moving Yoga

moving truck backs

I had this plan that I would smoothly transition from my old place to my new place.

Ha. Cue raucous laugh track.

My move was more than just a new place to sleep. It was symbolic of a new life. Though I’ve been teaching yoga and working on a business plan to be a yoga entrepreneur, the new home would make it official.

At least it would feel that way. I began this blog to document my new start, and this relocation seemed like just that.

In my head everything was timed like clockwork.  The movers would come- I’d cheerfully direct them! They’d laugh. I’d laugh- we’d do a few yoga moves in my empty living room. After namastes all around they would declare that this was the most tranquil move they ever did.

Ah- but life had other plans. It was a mess.

A bloody diasaster. And not in a cute British accent way. I’m talking real f@cking horror show. At least it felt like that in the moment. I could hear people screaming out like the aliens had arrived. Flames were shooting up from manholes, the masses were running for cover declaring that this was indeed the end of the world.

Well, that’s what it felt like.

The whole delay was a few hours. It felt much longer, mostly because of me and the gravity I gave the situation.

We all do that I guess, make things more important than they are. A minor impasse is distorted to mountain-sized road block.

This happens with poses. A point of resistance becomes a place where push happens. A more effective response is to breathe. This allows for release. I can feel it now even as I type- I feel a space where it seems like I can’t get deeper and after a few deep breathes my entire body falls into place.

On my mat I know this is how it works.

Off my mat, I need reminders.

I didn’t deal as effectively as I would have liked.

As I watched my things file out of the old space, I was happy.

After every storm the sun comes out. Nothing is forever. This too shall pass etc… etc..

More importantly though, I realize now that nothing is that critical. Because in comparison with the age of the universe, we are only here for a second.

And I, just like the stress that seemed so finite and so lasting is temporary.

My next part of the chapter awaits.

 

Namaste y’all.

Don’t be Sorry, Be Yourself

Oneika Tree

It seems like when you get down to it when we’ve lost our peace we should go look in ego’s backyard. It’s sure to be lounging under a tree with an overfed belly and head full of worry.

A few days ago I read a great post, 3 Things Yoga Students Need to Stop Saying.

My favorite was #3- saying I’m sorry.

Students apologize. Despite constant conversations about non judgement, students (and teachers) can get caught up in ‘I’m sorry’. Which is really saying I’m not enough, I’m not worthy. Put one more way it’s all about ego.

And it’s hard not to judge sometimes. I must remind students (and myself) not to do someone else’s practice. For as many reasons as we come to our mats, we have as many different practices.

Trying to match someone else’s outside won’t mesh with your inside.

Let it go.
Simhasana-I-BKS
It’s one of the reasons I love teaching a long, slow meditative savasana.
With the eyes closed its easier to let go of judgement.
It’s easier remember how to love yourself when the gaze isn’t dialed into an external picture.
Sometimes if I’m feeling a lil off I let go of anxiety as I release a body part into the mat.
I let the back of my head melt into the mat and release any thoughts of feeling anxious. 
When my hips let go I release lurking feelings of inadequacy. 

 

By letting go of the body and the feelings I can open myself up to drift with looping thoughts or excess chatter.
Sometimes it works like a charm. Other times, it’s a struggle.
But it is always my yoga.
And that makes me feel peace.
This is yoga. Do you, yo.
Namaste y’all.
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