Monday Yoga- When a Cigar Isn’t a Cigar

 

 

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A few weeks ago I was pretty sure I had hurt my hamstrings. As I get older I find that I’m not as flexible as I use to be, yet I let my ego get the best of me and go deep when perhaps I shouldn’t. It’s tough because it’s not like I have serious pain or there’s an ‘oh shit’ moment that I can blame.

You know the OS moment. You’re in class feelin’ groovy, loosey goosey and juicy. Instead of recognizing these moments as a time to hold back because you are too open, I take it as a sign to go HAM. Bad idea. This is my modus operandi. The next day I’m a lil’ sore but never left feeling ‘injured. But a few weeks ago something happened.

I should back up.

The past three months have been intense and exciting. I’ve been in massage school full-time and planning how to combine massage and yoga. School and teaching at night has been a bear. On the love front I’ve made some choices about the things I really want and deserve. All of this has required processing old hurts that I have both caused and received. Unrelated (or so I thought) I began to notice a tightening in my hamstrings after class. Not gonna lie- on many days my ischial tuberosities (you may know them as butt knuckles) hurt like a mf, but never the hammies.

Fast forward to a few weeks ago. Before a 4pm class I let my teacher know that my I may have injured my hamstrings. But even as the words came out of my mouth I wasn’t so sure that was accurate. I was at Jivamukti taking Julie Kirkpatrick’s class (I think she’s a compassionate and brilliant teacher). The focus of the month is karma and reincarnation. Whether you believe or not isn’t as important as understanding that unless  we heal the old wounds we can’t move forward and receive all that life has in store.

So here I am saying I may have a hamstring injury, but honestly, I’m not in pain per se. No shooting pain, no tearing, no searing, no ripping. Just a sense that things are tight and uncomfortable. Julie gave me a couple of really thoughtful suggestions and I decided to dive into class with an open heart. The more I moved, the more I started to think about my past. Fleeting memories and a flurry of feelings seemed to creep up the backside of my body. But my range of motion was unaffected. I had the same depth that I normally do.

Thant’s when it occurred to me. I’m not physically injured. I’m working through some psychic shit. Old wounds that need to be healed. Feelings of insecurity that I thought had been long processed (thanks therapy!!) were trying to get out. From a body wisdom perspective it’s said that we process old hurts through the back of the body. In class the more I moved and was present with what I was feeling I didn’t feel tight. It was amazing a little unnerving. While there are times when an injury is an injury a sense of self-awareness and ability to listen to the body is critical.

Yoga has taught me not to run. Yoga has taught me to trust myself even when I’m not sure what is real. What things am I grasping? What could happen if I let go? If I take a moment to pause and look deeper, I have the answers. And if I don’t have the answer I know what questions to ask.

Namaste y’all.

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Touch Your Toes. Or Not.

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The journey is the destination.

There is no there, there.

There is only now. This moment. This breath. This movement.

When I’m lucky, blessed or aware- whatever you want to call it, I catch myself living in the present without any expectations. And you know what? It’s f*cking amazing.

So go ahead, reach for your toes. Shoot for the stars. You may not get there, but who cares.

Namaste y’all.

Health Yoga- Signs You May Be Falling Off the Wagon

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Making life changes can be empowering. Taking control of a an issue or situation and finding a solution is gratifying. I think this why I love watching shows where people triumph over adversity.

In the TV show that is my life, I’ve worked hard to become and stay self-aware. It keeps me healthy, both physically and mentally. But mastering my own emotional blueprint can be a gift and a curse. Once I have figured out why I do something and deal with it, it’s almost impossible for me to do that behavior without having my conscience rear her knowing head, eyebrow raised and finger wagging. The adventure of quitting smoking was blast inside that large dome that is my mind. Alas, another story for a rainy day.

I’m going to keep it real…

While backsliding does happen- it’s important to do recognize the signs. I like to think of it as becoming less present. When I’m distracted from being in the moment, I lose connection my center and ultimately my peace. As a result, I can feel off-balance, anxious, angry, nervous or empty. Instead of investigating the whys and breathing through the icky feelings my ego tries to convince me to cover it up or fill the hole with bad behavior or stuff. C’mon level with me, you know you’ve been there. 

I’m human. And you are too.  Distraction happens. But staying distracted is not the way to live a satisfying life.

Fortunately, there are red flags that let me (and all of us) know we may be about to veer off course.

 

Signs that you may be about to fall off the  wagon

The first six months of any major change are critical. It feels like the change is permanently made. If it is, great! But for many of us, we can unconsciously slip back into old patterns. Stay alert.

We all have triggers right? The stressors that send the signal to make us (insert bad behavior here). Before you know it you’re asking yourself, ‘How? How did I get here?”

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1. You start to slip up in your  routine. One missed yoga practice turns into a week. You know who you are. It’s happened to me and I teach. I know that something is up when I notice that my meditation practice gets sloppy.

 

2. You start to rationalize bad eating habits. There’s noting wrong with the ocassional splurge. Life is meant to be enjoyed. But when the end of the work week brings empty pints of Ben & Jerry’s, it’s time to stop and evaluate.

 

3. You have less energy. I’m not talking about full blown fatigue. If you are feeling full blown fatigue for more than a week or two you should be talking to a doctor. I’m talking about that sluggish feeling. Maybe you’re lacking your regular up and at ’em energy. (Perhaps because you missed a workout, asana practice or after dinner walk or two?)

Being honest with yourself isn’t as scary as it sounds. We are programmed to beat ourselves up. That can lead to denial. Instead admit it. You’ll feel better about taking control back.

 

What to do?

1. Create a plan.  More than likely you made a plan to reach success in the past. It’s time to do it again. Outline the thing you need to do in order to get on track.

2. Talk to someone. Do you have a friend or yoga buddy? Someone you workout with? Give them a call. Talk to a supportive friend or family member. Sometimes saying the words out loud is all we need to get the ship back in the right direction. Other times a good conversation with someone who knows your health goals (and possible past struggles) can help you pinpoint a place where things started to go awry.

3. Write. It. Down. Ah, accountability is a tough but loving vixen. Pull out a journal and start scribing. This may help you identify what caused the slip in the first place. Old school notebook not your thing? Download an app. During HealthMinder Day at the BlogHer12 conference I listened to a lot of women talk about apps that really helped them stay on track and accountable. RunkeeperiMapMyRun, and Nexercise all have free versions of apps you can use. I keep track of my meditations on Insight Timer. It’s a really basic app, but I love it because it has a journal feature. Find what works for you so it becomes routine.

4. Forgive yourself. You made a mistake. One key to sustained success is the ability to let the stuff you don’t need go. Holding onto to bad feelings helps you how? Exactly. 

 

All that talk we hear about making lifestyle changes is true.

For me, yoga isn’t something to do it’s a way to be. Yoga has changed my life. And with this glorious yoga life comes bumps, lumps and the occasional mountain to climb.

And you know what? That’s okay. There’s no there, there. But the more I stay in this moment and honor my true self, I see that I’m right where I’m supposed to be.

Namaste y’all. Keep truckin’.

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.

Adventures in Yoga- Don’t Go Chasin’ Yoga Waterfalls

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Dear Gorgeous Genius…

Your holiest pain comes from your yearning to change yourself in the exact way you’d like the world around you to change….

Your sweet spot is in between the true believers and the scoffing skeptics….

-Rob Brezsny

Today I stopped myself from chasing the yoga dragon.

When I first started yoga, my asana practice was physical and was what most mattered. I was keen on finding the shape rather that breathing into the space of it.

Besides understanding that most of yoga happens when I’m off the mat, I’ve learned to let my practice be whatever it’s supposed to be.

Usually. (That’ the goal)

You may know what I mean- you may not.

There’s the first time that an asana practice cracks you open.

It’s like rebirth, sex or a damn bursting. You are inside a pose and make a slight adjustment.

Then. Crack.

The rush of feelings is overwhelming…

You say to yourself, This. Is. Awesome.

It happened to me in Camel Pose. And I loved it. Sometimes I felt euphoric.

Sometimes I felt incredibly sad. But then it left me. Leaving me to feel- elated.

Once I burst out in tears.

Once I felt like a warrior.

Mostly I feel peace.

Sometimes I’m cranky.

It can start to feel like you need to go after a feeling.

As someone who never thought she’d give up smoking I know of what I speak.

My asana practice has helped me through dark times. I remember days when making it my mat was therapy.

But yoga can be addictive. I can get addicted to feeling good.

In extreme cases, an asana practice replaces living life.

I’ve danced there. When I was really into my practice, I did nothing but practice and practice.

There are times when it’s appropriate to push. But when life becomes about the pushing and not what comes after- we begin to wade in murky waters.

When your asana practice becomes all there is- you’ve got to do some investigation.

The fancy, technical term for this is called- hiding.

Sorry I’ve wandered.

Let’s float back to earlier. Take my hand I’ll guide you back to my class.

I warmed up. I could feel that I was a little tight, but my breathing was light.

As my practice was winding down I set up for Ustrasana. My mind was feeling cloudy. Both consciously and unconsciously I wondered if I pushed just a smidge (harder than I needed to) maybe I’d find something- awesome.

The thing about yoga is…it’s important to be in the moment- no need to chase waterfalls.

That’s what my yoga is about.

This was a big aha for me- recognizing that going for feeling awesome may not be what I need in the moment.

So I stayed. And it was what it was. Which is exactly what it was supposed to be.

Baby steps.

Namaste y’all.