What do you do when you’re forced to take a rest that you hadn’t planned? How do you like to spend your sick time in bed?
This is a scary post to write. I'll be honest. I'm sharing very private feelings with you in a very public forum, but I believe these are important conversations that we are failing to have with one another. This post is not a cry, it is an acknowledgment that you might be working through these feelings as well and you aren't the only one. These feelings are uncomfortable, and that doesn't make them bad, in fact I want to get cozy with them so that I will understand. I want to understand these sharper edges of life, explore the dull ache telling me that something is not right, and dig into the quiet knowledge that there is another way. As a yoga teacher I think and talk a lot about Alignment in the physical body. My goal is to help students move into postures that allow them to make space in their bodies. The hope is all of our extra space in the body will create extra space for our souls to breath, explore, create, enjoy and handle what the world throws at us.
After feeling generally not good yesterday I started to think about how maybe not feeling good is a sign that I'm out of alignment not within my body, but out of alignment with a deeper place. My soul and spirit feel stuck and stagnant. If I'd covered up my feelings, with various different distractions, I wouldn't have come to that conclusion.
In yoga it can take us years to find the right physical alignment in yoga postures. I don't think the spiritual space and alignment I'm looking for is going to happen overnight, just like it won't in our physical practice. It will take more than getting over my cold, a few fifteen minute meditation practices, or hot soaks in the tub (although those things do help!). Finding the alignment I'm looking for might be unattainable, but the first step is acknowledging a problem even if I can't tell you exactly what that problem or solution is. What I do know first hand is that the physical practice of yoga is a long bumpy journey. You don't ever perfect or arrive at a pose, they are new each day. Some times a pose that normally feels magnificent in all the right ways suddenly feels painful. If I'm looking for alignment in my spirit and my soul then I'm sure it will be a bumpy journey to find what feels right for me.
This journey for a deeper spiritual alignment has begun because now that I know there is a problem there is nothing else to do but start walking.
On the surface there is nothing wrong with my life, in fact there is an abundance of greatness. Greatness includes but is not limited to my wonderful partner, my deep and caring friends, the community that is growing at my studio, the colleagues I work with at my day job, and of course my family. Once you get past the surface I can tell you there is a storm brewing and it needs to be addressed. I have a hunch that coming into alignment might take some courage, it might take big steps and leaps of faith, and require me to make big decisions that I'm not yet ready to make. Maybe I'm not ready to do it all at once, but I'm ready to explore.
I don't plan on inviting you into my thoughts every time I'm thinking this over, I've got much more interesting content I intend on sharing here. Yet, as I ponder this journey for personal alignment, I'll check in once in a while and let you know what I'm doing to find the deeper alignment in my spirit and soul.
This is the second post in my series on beginner yoga poses. to recap...Recently I’ve gotten many questions about good poses or asana’s for beginners. I’d like to first say that I don’t think there is any substitute for going to an honest to goodness beginner class. Finding a teacher who is in the same room with you, looking at what you are doing, making sure that you aren’t doing something that could cause an injury is critical. A teacher who is being present with you, listening for your breath, sensing the energy of the room is worth their weight in gold. That said I know it’s not always possible to get to a class. I’m going to do a series of posts in the next four weeks of my favorite beginner poses. Try them out. See how they feel in your skin, release self judgment, release the idea of thinking these postures need to look a certain way. I promise they don’t need to look a certain way. It only matters how they feel in your body. If you can go find a class! Go find a good teacher, just use this as a supplement.
You don’t always need an hour to practice, try starting with 10 minutes a day right when you get up or right before you go to bed. Listen to your body! If something hurts don’t do it! Yoga should never ever hurt! Find your edge and don’t push past it. You are the only one who knows how things feel in your body, honor that. Yoga is not a competition not even with yourself. These are just suggestions. Get curious about what is going on in your body and in your mind. Use this practice of yoga to start a love affair with yourself.
The next five poses I'd like to introduce are mostly standing poses.
1) Standing Forward Fold and Standing Forward Fold with Shoulder Opener: Stand at the top of your mat, feet directly underneath your hip sockets. Toes of both feet point towards the top of your mat. Let your upper body fold forward over your legs. don't lock your knees especially if you have tight hamstrings. This pose will help stretch your hamstrings, but sometimes you can get a deeper stretch if you put a little bend in the knees. Let your head be heavy and hang down. You can let your arms dangle hanging down or you can grab your elbows and hang forward or you can swing the arms back and forth. The point is to let gravity do the work. Let the low back relax, don't try to hold anything. If you want to try the shoulder opener which is great if you sit at a desk all day, simply interlace the fingers together back behind you and fold forward trying to open the arms to where ever they go. Don't push past your edge. Hold each pose for at least 10 breaths.
2) Downward Facing Dog: This is one of my top three all time favorite poses. This one is sneaky because it's also an inversion! Surprise your head is below your heart, so not only are you getting a ton of benefits already you also get the benefit of an inversion! You might even say it's an advanced pose, but it's a foundational pose and you should try it. This is basically an upside down V. You are stretching, strengthening and in some cases taking an active rest when you play in downward facing dog. This is a pose that takes me home to my body. This pose will also stretch your hamstrings, it will strengthen your arms, it's great for your back, arms and legs. Try coming up to the pose from a table top position (knees under your hips hand planted on the ground under your shoulders). Then tuck your toes, lift your hips and behind up towards the ceiling. You are pushing back with your arms. You are spreading your fingers wide out on the mat. Try to evenly distribute your weight between your arms and your legs. Let you head be very heavy don't try to lift it up, let it hang. Let your vertebra relax, find space in the spine and the low back. The point of this is not to make your back flat. you want to keep the curves in the lumbar as well as the neck. If you are new to this pose try hanging out for 5 full breaths, work up to 10 or 20. There is so much that you can do with this pose. You can pedal your feet. You can be still. IF you are new to down dog this will not feel good at first, it will be hard and that's ok. Breath into the shape, some day it will just click and it will start to feel magical with all of the benefits it brings to your body. Make this posture your own.
3) Wide Leg Straddle and Wide Leg Straddle with a Twist: This is a fun pose that will bring strength to your legs with the benefit of an inversion and if you add the twist it feels great. Open your legs wide on the mat 3-4 feet apart with feet pointing straight out. The sides of your feet should be parallel to the sides of your mat. Lift arms up and then fold forward. If your hands touch the ground place your hands directly underneath your shoulders. Legs stay as straight as you can get them. Your feet should be firmly planted. If you feel grounded and strong try the twist. Take your right arm over to the left ankle and lift the left arm to the sky. Then repeat on the other side. Try holding each variation for 10 breaths. To come out, come back to the wide leg straddle without the twist. Bring your hands to your hips and lift half way. Pause for 5 breaths and then come all the way up. Heal-toe the feet together into the middle of your mat and wait for your blood pressure to come back to normal.
4) High Runners Lung: This pose will test your balance and strengthen your legs: From your standing forward fold plant your hands down on either side of your feet and step your right foot back. You will be up on the toes of the right foot. Front Knee should be directly over top of the ankle and you should be able to see the big toe on the inside of the left knee. Eventually you will want your front thigh to be parallel to the ground. Lift arms up over head and lift the rib cage away from the hips. Keep the back leg as straight as you can get it. Start with 3 breathes in this pose and work up to 10 or 20.
5) Squat: Ok, the benefits of squatting are innumerable, but as my teacher taught me I'll tell you. The cultures that squat do not have the digestive and reproduction issues that americans have. We need to squat more! Squat down, plant your heels down on the mat if they will touch (mine don't as you can see, but maybe yours will!) take your elbows to your knees and hands together at heart center. hang out for as many breaths as you can and work up to a LOT! Don't forget your smile!
To review last week's beginner pose check out this link
Let us know how your practice is going. Is this helpful. Is there anything you would add after trying? We'd love to hear from you!
Weekly wrap Up Worked 27 hours at Lincoln Taught 5 yoga classes 7 days of personal meditation practice 2 days of personal yoga practice 6 days of morning pages Ran 16 miles worked on studio marketing Made enchiladas with Tumbleweed on saturday evening fun photo shoot with Lululemon saturday bought and had a toilette installed had a lovely brunch with friends had a fantastic massage had an ice-cream cone at ben and jerry's gave two work presentations penned 5 yoga poses for beginners penned The sound of Joy Is worked on writing prompts from The Desire Map by Daielle Laport finished the book How Yoga Works started reading the Love letters between Carl Sandburg and his wife fun wine and cheese evening with leadership GSO friends at Scuppernogs attended a City Council meeting went to Natty's with Leadership GSO friends Weekend Wish Long Run have dinner with tumbleweed spend time with tumbleweed teach yoga at GCY ride my bike take a nap