Monday Yoga- Every Passing Minute is Another Chance to Turn it All Around

passing minute

 

 

Psst. You don’t have to fear Monday. For many years I used to suffer from ‘Sunday Night Jitters.’ Sometimes it was well-deserved. I may have been blown off homework and was cramming to get it done. As an district manager, Mondays meant heading to the office for non-stop calls with my team, the corporate office and my boss. Though I loved, loved working in the world of books, at the end of Monday it sometimes felt like I had worked a whole week.

However I’ve learned that Mondays can be a day of inspiration. As soon as I’m up (these days before the sun) I sit and meditate. Most weeks, I welcome the new beginning. The Monday Campaigns, the folks who started Meatless Monday and Move It Monday had interesting stats on how our society views the first day of the work week.

 

Monday has a special significance in our culture as the beginning of the week, which influences our mood and health outcomes

The 7-day week and the meaning we associate with the days of the week is a social construct, and not based on biological or planetary cycles.  Yet a range of negative health outcomes, such as heart attacks and strokes, happen more frequently on Mondays as people transition back to the structured routine of the week.[i]

While 27% of people report that Monday is the day they experience the most stress, 58% of people see Monday positively, as an opportunity for a “fresh start” and a day to “get my act together.” [ii]  FGI Research (2014).  Online panel of 1,000 respondents.

 

And guess what? Monday happens all day, if inspiration doesn’t come bounding out of bed with you- so what!! Every passing minute is another chance to turn it all around.

Go for it. Embrace Monday.

Today I’m going to think about what it means to be more vulnerable and compassionate with myself. My evening meditation will focus on compassion. And before I hit the sack I’ll spend time in a therapeutic pose that opens my heart.

The best part? If my plans get sidetracked- I have Tuesday to try again.

Namaste y’all.

 

Advertisements

Adventures in Yoga Teaching – Riker’s Island (Liberation Prison Yoga)

10649591_10204655708579336_2598489662852500840_n

I really like Tuesdays. However, this week I was cautiously optimistic about what would take place in 3 South A, the sentenced women’s dorm. Last week had a shaky start but seemed to end on a high note. I was hoping that I’d see some new faces in class.

I felt fantastic despite the rain and made my way to the 5th floor of the 800 Bed Annex. I was chatting with Ms. Gregory for a few minutes and headed to the dorm with the cart  packed with mats and blocks. I saw heads peeking around the corner and someone said, ‘It’s her, she’s here.’ When I got buzzed in people were waiting. This was definitely a change Normally, I come in and announce that yoga was happening. To have students waiting is a great sign.

We didn’t write this week, but we did have a great discussion about meditation being a way to calm the mind. Everyone listed ways that meditation makes them feel better. This list was a way to come back to a sense of peace and stillness when future bouts of anxiety surfaced. After our conversation I talked about pranayama. We did a few rounds of Kapalabhati and everyone commented on the change they felt in their body.

I’m noticing the level of focus increase over a short period of time. When I first started teaching we were doing some of the basics but didn’t have a full flow class. Each week the classes get longer and I’m adding a bit more. There are still lots of women who watch and do poses from their seats, but each week the floor is getting full of mats (I even see the COs sneak a look inside the class to see what’s going on). During meditation, everyone is quiet. After class a young woman asked me if there were poses that she could do that would help her relax when she had a headache. Right after someone else asked if there were poses to do for cramps. I’m encouraged that there’s a connection being made between yoga being a way to feel better and not just as a physical activity. I made a mental note to incorporate the therapeutic benefit of poses in classes from now on.

After I packed up- I took a gulp and headed downstairs to 3 South A. I wasn’t nervous, but I was bracing myself for the noise. It makes me want to cry thinking about it. If I had to live with that much noise all of the time, I’d lose my mind. Honestly.

I made my way in and announced that it was yoga time for those who were interested. Eight women came over. Someone turned off the TV. I tried to be cool and not dance around like a clown. But I was dancing on the inside.

dancing gif

Yes. Yes, I was dancing like this on the inside. But back to class.

I asked everyone’s names and if they had ever done yoga before and many had. We had solid class and worked fairly hard. Meditation was very long and got a bit noisy with a spirited game of spades going on but I could feel the stillness of the group, and that’s what mattered. And after class someone asked about poses that help with back issues and cramps.

I think it’s clear that there’s a desire to use yoga for self-care and that’s great. Next week should be interesting.

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.

20130805-092409.jpg

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.

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.
keep-calm-and-savasana-

Adventures in Yoga (Part Two)- Love, Sweat and Tears…The Sweat Lodge Ceremony

Do-one-thing-every-day-that-scares-you.

You are coming
You are coming among us.
We have everything prepared for you
and we are waiting.

– From  The Lakota Ritual of the Sweat Lodge: History and Contemporary Practice

My silent retreat in the Catskills was proving to be an amazing experience.

There was much to be learned when I shut my mouth. I think my biggest revelation was that not everything had to be fixed.

Being in the quiet with my thoughts helped me see that I was talking the talk of being happy but maybe there was a piece of me that was still insecure about my recent life choices.

If a steep (a steep a**) hike could help me be more at peace with every piece of me, what would a sweat lodge ceremony bring?

The night before we attended a Q&A with the leaders of the sweat. Both Sarah and Salvador followed the Lakota tradition of the sweat ceremony.

The sweat ritual would take place in a traditional inipi- it was a structure that had an igloo shape. Inside we would assemble in a circle around the stones that had been heated in a fire right outside of the inipi.

The Lakota see the inside of the inipi as a representation of the inside of Mother Earth’s womb. There are other interpretations but the idea is to cleanse and purify the soul.

sweat_lodge_22

You may be thinking sweat ceremony? Didn’t people die in a sweat ceremony?

I can’t speak about that experience, but I can say I felt really safe and comfortable with Sarah and Salvador.

They explained:

  • We would be dressed modesty (no nudity)
  • The ceremony consisted of four doors
  • The first door we were to let go of what was holding us back (fear, shame, guilt, past hurts, etc)
  • The second door we would focus on what we wanted to have
  • The third door was the pipe ceremony- no drugs. Salvador made it pretty clear that the pitch black, heat, steam and your own mind was plenty to deal with- drugs are not necessary.
  • The fourth door we show our gratitude

After each ’round’ or door, the door would physically open. So, you’re not sitting in the dark heat the entire time.

If it ever got too hot you could ask for the door to leave.

Yeah, yeah you’re saying.

We entered the inipi on all fours and said “Mitakuye. Oyasin”

Salvador asked if anyone was scared- I broke my silence to squeak, ‘ A little.’

He handed me some cedar to sprinkle on the first seven stones that were brought into the inipi. The stones are carefully chosen and are important to the Lakota because of all that they have seen.

After the rest of the stones were brought in the door closed it was dark and Salvador said, ‘It’s gonna be a ride!’

We all laughed- because we were thinking- uh-oh.

But Oneika, what was it like?

In a word- hot. How hot? Not sure- hotter than hot yoga- not so hot that my insides cooked.

In one more word- it was dark. Can’t see your hand on front of your face dark.

It was hot. And I was uncomfortable. I cried. Not a lot.

But enough.

And then I smiled. I hummed along with the songs.

Sharing the darkness with 15 other people and connecting with what they were feeling was a powerful and intimate experience.

It’s a very individual and personal experience.

On Sunday when we entered back into speaking we swapped a couple of experiences. I felt like the fourth door was the the hottest- almost about to call for the door hot.

Some other folks swore that the second door was unbearable. Which I thought was an otherworldly groove. So…

At times my hair was too hot to touch.

I laid down (which is hilarious to imagine because there isn’t much room and it’s pitch black) at one point to touch a space of cold dirt.

It. Felt. Awesome.

I didn’t see a wolf or feel a need to go on a vision quest. I’m not being funny (well maybe a little) but I did leave (on all fours, out of respect- and because I was exhausted) feeling peaceful.

I’m not here to recommend or dissuade anyone from participating in a sweat ceremony.

I think spiritual journeys are a very personal decision. This worked for me.

My hot yoga practice is also pretty intense so I think that may have also helped me deal with the heat element.

But as we shared stories we all got out of it what we needed.

And that seems like it is more than enough.

I’m grateful for the safe and transformative experience that Sarah and Salvador gave me.

Namaste y’all

Stay tuned for the last post on the retreat tomorrow!

Adventures in Yoga – Silent Retreat in the Catskills (Part One)

Menla retreat

Silence is a true friend who never betrays.

– Confucius

When I heard about the Silent Retreat with Yoga to the People last year, I promised myself I would attend the next one.

This year when it was announced, I thought of reasons not to go.

I couldn’t think of one.

Silent retreat here I come.

A weekend in the Catskills with cool peeps.

The weekend would include, hiking, yoga and a sweat lodge ceremony – all while sipping on nothing but Master Cleanse juice.

Sound insane? Looking back maybe it was a little crazy- but it was bad ass fun.

Day One 

After a 3 hour ride in the rain we arrived at Menla Mountain.

The grounds were beautiful and I couldn’t wait for the rain to leave to walk around a bit.

I changed my clothes and headed to do some yoga and a Q&A about the sweat lodge ceremony.

Here’s the thing- I’m sort of socially awkward. Not creepily- just incredibly, painfully shy.

You wouldn’t know it and spending the better part of two decades in retail does a lot to mask that.
I’m the kind of person who always mostly bulldozes through what scares me.
This pushes fear aside without having to deal with it.
A silent retreat seemed like a perfect way to deal  avoid my shyness.  More on this later.
Let’s get back to it…
At the top of our class we had a ceremony that led us into silence.

As soon as the silence set in it was clear that I had not been listening to my surroundings or even myself.

Class started and no joke, MY THOUGHTS WERE SO LOUD that I couldn’t hear the teacher guiding us in a low tone. It took about 20-30 minutes to adjust. At one point I relaxed in balasana (child’s pose).
I used my breath to gently tell my mind shhhhh…. there will be time later, for now just let the body do the asanas.
It was as if the volume turned down in my mind and the teacher’s voice increased. I think by acknowledging that I would deal with whatever came up I was able to release it.
What an amazing practice. There was a tea light on the floor that we could blow out as we left the studio.
I sipped my cleanse drink and headed to bed excited for what the rest of the weekend held.
Sleep came easily.
Day Two 
Sun Menla
I popped up at 5:30 and decided to relax a bit more.
At 7:30 we would get our cleanse drink and find out the schedule.
There was a 2 hour steep hike and then my group would leave for the sweat ceremony.
After the ceremony there was an optional 90 minute class- then more cleanse drink a 60 minute class, a bonfire, then bed.
It was interesting to get the first drink and see folks from the night before. Everyone seemed to mill about comfortably. I smiled but wandered around a bit to check out the grounds.

 

Time for the hike.

 

Steep hike was an understatement. Holy f*cking shit.

 

So steep that midway, I had an Arrested Development moment and said to myself or course (because we’re in silence) I think I’ve made a huge mistake.

 

I huffed. My legs hurt. It was steep. The group was moving- quickly. I huffed. My legs hurt. It was steep.

 

The mind can fuck with you. It can tell you that you can’t do something that you actually can. My heart was pounding like crazy. I wasn’t gasping for air. My legs hurt. I was tired. I hadn’t physically pushed myself like this in awhile. I was uncomfortable, not dying.

 

Let me be clear- this was really hard for me.

 

But, how could it be a mistake? The hike was only two hours we were already 20 minutes in. I’m in fairly decent shape for crying out loud. And before I knew it we were at the top.

 

It was at this point my mind suddenly shifted to thinking about my shyness (It’s funny how our brains and emotions work).
I had a rough time with the hike. I have a rough time with being shy. I don’t  have to get over everything. Some things get dealt with in the moment. Not everything has to be handled, fixed or squashed.

 

Some things can just be.

 

This is the thing about tough times- if you aren’t careful you can miss the lesson while it’s happening. At the top- the sun was through the clouds. I was still thinking- wtf, this climb was hard but I was smiling.

 

As I caught my breath covered in sweat I took a look around at the group and the view.

 

On the way down I realized that the hike was definitely a bit much for me- I had fun getting down eventually- but the first few hundred feet there were a few drop offs that made me think of the nightmares you have about walking across bridges…

 

One foot in front of the other.

 

I thought two things- sthira and sukha.

 

That and Dory from Finding Nemo- just keep swimming.

 

I made it down.

 

It was a really big deal and was grateful for the experience.

 

Only 10:15am and I was already feeling more alive that I had felt in a while.

 

I went off to get changed for the sweat lodge ceremony.

 

Stay tuned for tomorrow’s on Love, Sweat and Tears….

 

Namaste y’all.
Hike