Sunday Jitters Yoga

“I am an old man and I have known a great many troubles, but most of them never happened” –  Mark Twain

I shared an article from the Elephant Journal on facebook. Seems that many of us think about worry quite a bit. The article had a video clip by well-known Buddhist Monk Pema Chodron and a Buddhist diagram about worry.

It’s great advice. Don’t worry. But in a world where we live with one foot in the present and another in the future, worry seems that it’s a fact of life. The word ‘worry’ is derived from Middle English worien, from Old English wyrgan; akin to Old High German wurgen to strangle (my emphasis), Lithuanian veržti to constrict. How appropriate, the feeling of worry can feel like strangling at times. Worry beads, prayer beads and rosaries have been around for thousands of years to help people attain peace. There are actions you can take day-to-day to help with worry.

Mental Health America has a list of 10 tools to help combat everyday worry.

1. Connect with others. People need people, people! So get out in the world!

2. Stay positive. Ever heard the expression fake it ’til you make it? It can take awhile for your mood to catch up with the faking, but there’s something to be said for seeing the bright side. Wasting energy on a feeling that can’t help you takes away from your ability to focus on what you can do.

3. Get physically active or do nothing. Staying active can become a moving meditation that allows you to relax. According to the Center for Disease Control, only 35 percent of American adults over the age of 18 engage in regular physical activity and 33 percent of adults participate in no activity at all. People who aren’t healthy have more anxiety. The next time you have a bout of the jitters a good workout may be just what you need to get you back on track.

I teach a 6pm Sunday class and it’s probably my favorite. There’s something grounding about yoga ending the weekend. It also is a great way to clear the mind for the upcoming week.

If getting your sweat on doesn’t mellow you out, maybe taking some time to be quiet will. Sitting still for even a minute or two breathing in and out can have a powerful impact on stress.

4. Help others. Doing good is good for you. It may also help you take your mind off of your current troubles. Whether it’s working at your local soup kitchen or helping a friend grocery shop, extending a hand creates positive energy.

5. Get enough sleepThe National Sleep Foundation says the the average person needs about 7-8 hours sleep each night. (Having trouble? Check out our article on welcoming the Sandman)

6. Create joy and satisfaction. Simply put- get a life. Hobbies and social outlets allow us to enjoy our time on this planet. Laugh, read, paint, sing, dance, cook, play, skip or whatever it is that makes you smile.

7. Eat well. This can’t be overstated. You are what you eat. If your food can go bad it’s probably good for you. If your food can’t go bad it’s probably not good for you.

8. Take care of your spirit. Many people attend religious services to nurture their spirit. You don’t have to be religious to take care of your spirit. But it is important to take time to breathe and collect your thoughts. Eating well and staying healthy are ways that many  care for their spirit.

9. Deal better with hard times. The fear of the problem of often worse than the problem itself. Confronting issues head on gives you some control over what happens next. This cuts down on anxiety.

10. Get professional help if you need it. The National Institute of Mental Health says, “if you or someone you know is feeling especially bad or suicidal, get help right away. You can call 1-800-273-TALK (8255) to reach a 24-hour crisis center or dial 911 for immediate assistance.

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.

Vegan Diary Confessions 21 Meals $35 (Days 13-14 and Final Thoughts)

Hummus-details

I’m really happy to get back to my old food shopping habits.

I wanted these recipes to be so much better than they were. But I found myself avoiding having to cook. It wan’t fun. This isn’t normally how I feel about food.

Cooking relaxes me. I enjoy preparing meals and breaking bread with friends. This wasn’t merely a a situation of having to make do with what I had because I hadn’t made it to the store. Unwittingly, I found out for a few short weeks of what it’s like to not have what you want or need.

Now don’t get me wrong, I in no way experienced what it is like for so many families to go without. But the malaise isn’t what I was expecting.

On the last two days I enjoyed ate my oatmeal for breakfast and had leftovers for lunch and hummus sandwich wraps for dinner.

This wasn’t the fun experiment I thought it would be. And the admission of this, makes me a little embarrassed. I realize now that I many have inadvenrtantly been trying to slum it- that makes me feel shitty because that wasn’t what I intended. Pema Chödrön says that everything we do is on the path to enlightenment. I figure this is a step in the right direction.

What I learned:

1. Eating healthy on near nothing is really hard.

2. That said (#1), you can find a healthier way to eat on near nothing. Frozen veggies, dried beans and and shopping the aisles of grocery stores provide opportunities to eat a healthy, tasty diet. It takes planning and some research (blogs and Youtube are GREAT help) but it can be done. Soup, yo. It’s the way to go. Soups and stews can be hearty, healthy and delicious. Better yet, they can be made in bulk, ahead of time and freeze well.

3. That is of course provided you don’t live in a food desert. I can’t help but wonder about the mixed message that we send to kids who live where fresh food isn’t easily available. We tell them about the food pyramid and send them home in neighborhoods that have nothing but fast food or in rural areas– nothing.

4. As a society, food deserts plague urban and rural environments. There are too many parts of the country where people are at least a mile away from a grocery store and don’t have a car.

5. It’s not hopeless. Communities can rally together to start food co-ops. Creating awareness about hunger through initiiaves like Hunger Action Month lets gets the message out. And lastly corporate citizens are stepping in to take responsibility. The CEO or Trader Joe’s is testing an idea that takes slightly expired food and bruised produce to the marketplace and deeply discounted prices. Food expiration dates ahve been debated because more often than not expiration date

I was reading an Old Rebelle wellness article that talked about the idea of Nutrition as an act of revolution.
Yes.
Yes.
Yes.

We should, no, we must realize that when parts of our country are hungry we are all hungry. There is too much food wasted and too many easy we can start to tackle this issue. This temporary change has permanently changed me. I cannot go back to thinking about food the way that I did.

Nutrition should be an act of revolution.

Check out this story from NPR. The CEO of Trader Joe’s is launching a test store that sells slightly bruised food and food that is past the expiration dates. Food will be sold at deeply discounted prices. Foods will also be prepared as meals and the most important part? It won’t be in a cushy ‘hood down the street from a Whole Foods, it will be in a neighborhood that needs it.

Bra-vo. Nutrition should be an act of revolution.

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.

Adventures in Yoga- Me and My Big Trap

holderWeb

A good neck warm up matters, yo.

Forgive me- I’m watching The Killing as I write and I love me some Holder.

The Killing has to be one of the most depressing and compelling shows I’ve watched.

It starts slow and builds to this point where you want more and more.

Actually it’s a lot like yoga. Seriously, yo. I know I say that about everything- but in this case it’s really true.

I need to back up for a sec and talk about my traps. Excuse me, my trapezius muscle.

My upper trapezius gets tight right quick. It’s one of those annoying injuries- it happens once, and you are doomed to have it happen quite a bit.

I can sleep incorrectly and boom- stiff.

A stiff neck makes me a lot less fun not the least of which is how it cramps my asana practice.

That my friends is not okay.

I’ve found though that by warming up mindfully (and slowly) I can avoid being a pain in the neck.

traps

Rodney Yee offers a great series of postures to stretch out the neck and shoulders. While he presents it as desk yoga- it seems perfect for any time. And really, can you go wrong listening to his soothing voice?

Stephen Holder offers his own brand of yoga.

Namaste y’all. Or as Holder might say, namaste yo.

Adventures in Yoga – Trust Me and Surrender

yogastudio

I talk a lot about  the idea of letting go.

And the truth is I really mean what I say, but saying it over and over again can sound at best repetitive and at worst, disingenuous.

It got me to thinking- what do I really mean when I say let go? Do I mean that or am I trying to say something else?

Hmmm….

Let go…

At first, I think I meant letting go of control.

Last week, I found my deepest expression of ustrasana.

Oddly enough it was on a day that I didn’t feel particularly inspired to practice. In fact, I had to really slap myself around to get motivated.

I had spent a few days out of town and was beat. Every step toward the studio made me feel more put out than the previous one. I was rolling my eyes at myself (useless really…who loses when that happens? Silly rabbit) as I swiped my card to get on the train.

With headphones on and Esthero blaring the two sides of myself battled.

Can’t move on
But I can’t go home
And I’m not so strong
But I make my way
To the place I know
Inside my heart
Where I used to go
To get brave and
I don’t wanna be lost anymore

Hurumph. I’m tired. (Just shut up and go to class. You’ll be so happy when you get there)

Who needs class? Not me. (Yes you do, when you don’t want to go is when you most need your mat) 

Alas, the smarter side of me won. I got to class.

When I sat on my mat in the darkness I realized I had no fight in me. Maybe it was being tired from travel. Maybe it was lack of sleep. But I was able to turn myself over to my practice.

It was in a word, magnificent.

And while I found my new expression of ustrasana, I was more elated about my discovery.

It’s not about control. It’s about trust. 

I surrendered my body and breath to the pose. I didn’t let go with a ‘what if’ I can’t do it. With my chest lifted and hips moving slightly forward I bent backwards. There was no worry about whether I could. There wasn’t baggage about the last time I tried. Maybe it was because my brain was fried I wasn’t screwing around in my head.

There is a difference between letting go and complete surrender. Well there is for me.

The act of letting go doesn’t implies trust but doesn’t require it.

I can let go and stay in my skeptical shoes, but when I surrender it means that I’m turning myself over.

And that’s where trust comes in.

I’ll just say it- this is a big deal for me. The whys of this story aren’t as interesting as the now.

Yoga builds trust. It builds trust between your body and breath. Each complimenting each other working in unison to create harmony.

Yoga builds trust between me and the world. With a better breath my heart expands and with that I let more and more in.

This is yoga, and I surrender.

Namaste y’all.

oneika stripes

African warriors, dancers and cobras

Do you know about the Africa Yoga Project? If not, please go right now and check them out!

Namaste y’all.

Yoga & Joyful Living

Sometimes you come across ideas worth sharing. This is one of them.

Thanks to the Africa Yoga Project over 250,000 Kenyans a year get to practise postures that can not only transform your body, but your mind. The project’s 52 teachers roll out their mats everywhere – yes, really. Everywhere. In prisons, schools or special need centres. They also teach members of HIV support groups, pupils at deaf schools and travel to rural villages.

So why is the language of yoga universal?

Because yoga’s language is the language of universal postures which speak to all of us, touch this very special, sacred space within us. No matter if we’re clad in Lululemon practising in NY or in a wonderful red traditional dress performing side plank in Kenya. But then, words are just words, and nothing illustrates the project’s impact better than – exactly, photos.

(All images…

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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!

What I Learned from 108 Days of Yoga

magiczone

Here is a list of the things I had done for more than 108 days in a row:

1. Smoke
2. Quit smoking
3. Breathe
4. Eat
5. Sleep

It’s not a very impressive list.

I didn’t intend to do 108 days of yoga. It was something that I had planned for later in the year. But we never get to plan our greatest lessons.

After doing 45 days of hot and vinyasa I decided to keep going. So overwhelming was the thought, I wasn’t ready to get into the details. It was more personal than I anticipated.

Now that I’m done and have taken some time to reflect, I may have learned a little somethin’.

1. Flexibility

I’m a reformed partially reformed control freak. When things go as I plan, I’m okay. When I expect things to go awry, I’m also okay. But when things go okay and I expect awry, I’ve been known to fuck bring unnecessary chaos where it wasn’t needed. When things go awry and I expect okay I can also get a bit stubborn. While my body is flexy, not all of me is always so willing to stretch.

Work in progress…

I got sick during my 108 days. Panic set in- all I could think of was missing a practice. Fortunately, I’m not all crazy, so there was a side of me that said chill out.

What is yoga anyway? It’s a uniting of body and breath. Maybe your yoga is to do a few restorative poses that foster healing instead of going balls to the wall in 105° heat. This thought didn’t come until after I had practiced two days with no voice in the heat, but like I said I’m a work on progress.

Change happens- it’s the one thing I can count on. 108 days taught me that I can always breathe through it.

Learning to breathe cultivated my flexibility more than any asana.

2. Commitment/Trust

I may or may not be known to twitch just a smidge when it comes to commitment. We all have out shit. This is mine.

But when you show up every single day for 108 days, you learn to trust the process. I wasn’t sure what was going to happen at the end.

Maybe nothing.

Maybe everything.

Regardless, I wanted to see it through. On the days that I really didn’t want to go, I learned the most. There were also days that when I hit my mat and felt like a rock star, only to be humbled, a crumbled sweaty mess.

But fall down seven times, stand up 8.

3. Peace

Say hey, doing 108 days of yoga is a row is hard. But, I did it. The act of practicing daily became meditative, down to the way that I prepared my yoga bag the night before. There was a sense of calm that I took with me once I left my mat.
I think I’m most grateful for this.

I realize that while coming to my mat each day is pretty much given- what will happen in that moment is unknown. That is a little scary. And a lot of fun. But no matter what, I can be with whatever happens.

This is yoga for 108 days and beyond.

Namaste y’all.