Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Living a Yoga Life: Cultivate Opposite Virtues


When you start the day, what are you facing? Do you consider the feelings you have as you get yourself, and possibly your kids, ready to leave the house? Do you dread preparing meals that picky family members might refuse to eat? Do you stand in front of the closet and hate what your choices are? Do you anticipate a stressful commute? A meeting with colleagues that you're nervous about? Are you looking ahead to a task or chore that makes you feel miserable? Are you worried about that person you'll run into at a playgroup or in the break room at work?

Then there are the unexpected things you might not have on your radar: an accident that harms someone you love, feeling jealous over some one's accomplishments that they share with you, or being caught off guard by someone asking you to do something you're not prepared for.

So many emotions are experienced throughout the day. Some of our responses are automatic, and some are habitual. For example, let's say you accidentally touch the hot stove while preparing dinner. Your body automatically draws your hand away before you even have a chance to think. On the flip side, maybe you habitually roll your eyes and sigh audibly when your kids bicker for the billionth time in one day.

To cultivate opposite virtues means to consider all the experiences you may have in a day, and prepare to feel the opposite of what may come naturally. Maybe you need to make a tangible list of the things on your schedule. Write down the response you usually have to all the tasks, and thoughtfully decide to feel the opposite.

Wake up early: feel irritated you didn't get to sleep in.
-Opposite virtue: be respectful of who you're getting up early for (your children, your boss, your self).

Big meeting at work: feel anxious about how it could go.
-Opposite virtue: feel calm because you made it this far, and feel brave as you continue to show what you're capable of.

A friend announces news that she accomplished something she's worked hard for: feel jealous it didn't/hasn't yet happened for you.
-Opposite virtue: feel acceptance that someone else's accomplishments do not diminish your own. Be content with your own life.

You're in bed at night, unable to sleep: feel anxious about how many hours until the alarm sounds and you have to get up.
-Opposite virtue: feel gratitude that you're physically resting at the end of the day, and feel peace that eventually you will sleep.

Do those examples help illustrate what I mean by cultivate opposite virtues? It's about retraining the mind. Instead of just reacting blindly to experiences, we thoughtfully respond. And not just respond, but anticipate our response.

Try it at the beginning of the day. Try it while in bed, snoozing the alarm. Try it while in the shower. Try it while seated at your desk with your to-do list sitting in front of you. Try it in the car on the drive to work.

Eventually, you can train yourself to thoughtfully respond to stimuli instead of instinctively or habitually reacting to it.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Yoga for Busy Moms - Live on Udemy


It's happening, friends! My online course, Yoga for Busy Moms, is available for purchase on Udemy!

If you want 50% off the list price of $35, head over to my Facebook group Liv Namaste to get the details. It's super-easy to get the coupon, so don't miss out. It's currently listed on Udemy's front page in the "New and Noteworthy Yoga" section, so it's off to a great start! Getting five unique yoga practices for just 17 bucks is insane, so don't miss out!

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Self-Practice Journal, Week 9

For one of my RYT classes this semester, I'm required to keep a weekly self-practice journal. This is for yoga practices I do on my own, not guided in a studio, gym, or via video. Each week I'll have a post that details at least three of my self-practices.

Week 9
Practice 1
Date: March 11, 2-3p
Intention: Practice for leading a group of runners next week. Aim to challenge them physically, but to also help them slow down.
Content: Standing warm up- Half sun salutes (5x, progressively opening the front of the shoulders), chair with leg raises to roll the ankles, chair with bow and arrow, sunflower side-to-side lunges (6x each)
Moon Salutation (Chandra Namaskar)
Goddess Pose
Star Pose
Warrior II
Side Angle
Pyramid
Low lunge
Wide-Legged Forward Fold
Squat
Wide-Legged Forward Fold
Low lunge
Pyramid
Side Angle
Warrior II
Star Pose
Goddess Pose
(Repeat 3 times with progression)
Static side lunges
Half-Monkey stretch, lizard, sage twist, prone T-arm stretch, prone half-knot arm stretch, supine spinal rolls, pelvic tilts (with invitation to try bridge), happy baby, knee rolls over the chest, supine pigeon
Savasana
Reflection: This practice feels like it can help a group of athletes slow down and check in with their bodies. I want to show a few variations for the lunges so they can be aware of their knees and hips and still feel successful even if they're feeling tight in those areas. Holding the poses for more breaths will be challenging on different levels, and will give them a chance to find the best version of the pose for them. I think there are a number of poses that will help open their hips and shoulders to counteract the posture they may assume when running. And hopefully the stretches will speak to their hamstrings and calves in a positive way. I'll be teaching this the day after the full moon, so I think it's fun to do Chandra Namaskar and go with that theme.

Practice 2
Date: March 13, 1-2p
Intention: Practice for teaching at LocalYOGA, and create a sequence for all-levels.
Content: Standing warm up- Half sun salutes, chair with leg lifts for ankle rolls, forward fold, chair with bow and arrow, forward fold with supported twist (hand on block), sunflower with lunges.
Moon Salutation
Tadasana
Standing baby back bend
Forward fold
Low lunge left
Revolved lunge
Downward Dog
Plank
Chaturanga
Baby Cobra
Plank
Downward Dog
Low lunge right
Revolved lunge
Forward fold
Standing baby backbend
Tadasana
(Repeat 4x, progressively)
Gomukhasana
Half-Lord-of-the-Fishes
Thread the needle, prone T-arm stretch, child's pose, supine rolls, legs-up-the-wall, happy baby, supine spinal twists
Savasana
Reflection: Using the blocks, I think this will be a very accessible practice. The pace will be slow since that's still something I'm focusing on lately.

Practice 3
Date: March 16 7-7:15p
Intention: Practice truthfulness/satya (I'm only practicing after a long day because I need one more for this log!)
Content: Seated warm up- neck rolls, gentle seated twists, seated forward fold with knees bent, wrist rolls, ankle rolls, cat-cow with leg extensions to stretch calves, cat-cow with lateral bends, child's pose to kneeling plank (repeat 4x), downward facing dog (pedaling the feet).
Supported side plank left, gate pose
Downward facing dog
Supported side plank right, gate pose
Downward facing dog
Plank
Child's pose, kneeling to stretch wrists (palms and backs of hands to mat, alternately), shoulder rolls, supine rolls, supine spinal twists
Savasana
Reflection: I didn't want to practice, but I'm glad I did it anyway. I felt less grumpy and a little more energized so I could spend time with my husband after he put the kids to bed. WORTH IT!

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Self-Practice Journal, Week 8

For one of my RYT classes this semester, I'm required to keep a weekly self-practice journal. This is for yoga practices I do on my own, not guided in a studio, gym, or via video. Each week I'll have a post that details at least three of my self-practices.

Week8
Practice 1
Date: March 6, 9-10p
Intention: Non-stealing
Content: Half-salutes 4x, standing lateral bends, star to goddess 8x, goddess with lateral bend, wide leg forward fold, folded lateral stretch.
Lunge left
Downdog
Lunge right
Downdog, plank, cobra, child's pose
Supported side plank, L & R
Downdog, plank, cobra, child's pose
Lunge left
Lunge right
Wide leg forward fold, wide leg downward dog
Repeat 3x
Child's pose, thread the needle, prone shoulder opener, fish pose with blanket under the spine for support, spinal twists, happy baby.
Savasana
Reflection: I'm trying to focus on not going too quickly. I want to give each pose an appropriate amount of breath. I'm getting better at mentally counting to remind myself to keep inhales and exhales even.

Practice 2
Date: March 8, 9-9:30p
Intention: Non-stealing
Content: Child's pose to cat-cow (repeat 5x), chair to forward fold (repeat 5x)
Chair, lunge left and fold over left (lunging leg) 5x
Revolved lunge
Downdog
Chair, lunge right and fold over right leg (lunging leg) 5x
Revolved lunge
Downdog, three-legged dog, three-legged plank (2x), three-legged plank crossing opposite knee to elbow (2x)
Child's pose, thread the needle, pigeon, legs-up-the-wall, knees-wide supine twists, bound angle pose.
Savasana
Reflection: Moving at a slower is getting a little easier as I've focused on it the past few weeks. I don't always have to consciously count in my head to ensure my breathing is slow and steady. Hopefully this will lead to different experiences when I'm in a pose longer than I'm used to.

Practice 3
Date: March 9, 4-4:20p
Intention: Non-stealing
Content: Standing lateral bends, half-salutes 9 (5x)
Surya Namaskar A (5x)
Surya Namaskar B (5x)
Child's pose, thread the needle, Half-lord of the fishes pose, legs-up-the-wall pose, happy baby, wide-leg supine spinal twists.
Savasana
Reflection: Today I needed to focus on the counts of my breath to ensure I didn't rush. With a familiar sequence like Salutations, it can be easy for me to fall back into old habits. But I didn't want to take away from the benefits of the poses by rushing through them.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Living a Yoga Life - Letting Go

A few weeks ago I had a very powerful experience with a meditation practice from Erich Schiffmann's book, Yoga: The Spirit and Practice of Moving into Stillness (affiliate). And not only was it very emotional for me in the moment, but I ended up crying in one of my teacher training classes as I related the experience to everyone else.

The exercise is to count the breath. Starting at 50, and working toward zero, each breath corresponds to a count. The even numbers are on the exhale, with the odd numbers on the inhale. Once twenty is reached, only the exhales are counted. Once zero is reached, the natural flow of the breath resumes, and the counting ceases.

When I started this meditation, it immediately reminded me of when my second-born was colicky. He always screamed from about 5pm until 10pm or later, every night. If he wasn't nursing, or being held, he was screaming. Sometimes even being held wasn't enough, and he would only be soothed if I bounced on the edge of the bed, or on an exercise ball, while holding him. My husband worked incredibly long hours during our son's colicky stage, and was often gone well into the night. Even when he was home, our son would scream for up to an hour if dad tried to soothe him to sleep instead of me. So I bounced our son endlessly. And while I bounced, I counted. Each bounce was a number, and I'd force myself to close my eyes and count until at least 100 before I'd allow myself to peek and see if my baby was finally asleep. Some nights I'd count to 100 dozens of times.

This meditation exercise brought me back to the year+ I spent bouncing and counting with my son. Back to when I only slept for 4 hours, sitting up, in every 24-hour period. Back to when the screaming never seemed to stop. Back to when I felt I was neglecting my first-born just so I could keep the baby from crying until he was blue in the face. Back to when I was constantly anxious and depressed and wished I no longer existed.

this is helpings
 But, as I breathed and counted per Schiffmann's instructions, I tried to let go of all that. By the time I counted down to eight, I started crying. I felt a release. A weight lifted from my chest. My son is 2.5 years old now and sleeps through the night. He no longer screams if someone other than me holds him. I'm no longer afraid to leave the house, or leave him in the care of someone else. I survived.

And hopefully this means rhythmic counting will no longer hold the negative association it once did. Hopefully I've put some of that trauma behind me.

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Self-Practice Journal, Week 7

For one of my RYT classes this semester, I'm required to keep a weekly self-practice journal. This is for yoga practices I do on my own, not guided in a studio, gym, or via video. Each week I'll have a post that details at least three of my self-practices.

Week 7
Practice 1
Date: February 4, 9-10p
Intention: Focus on lines of energy

Content: Standing Warm Up: Neck rolls, half salutes - rolling up from fold, chair - raise and lower, rolling ankles // Utkatasana
Chair - Bow and Arrow (4x)
Sunflower lunges (6x each)
Chandra Namaskar (3x, progressively going deeper into poses)
Goddess Pose // Utkata Konasana
Star Pose
Side Angle Right // Parsvakonasana
Pyramid Right // Parsvottanasana
Low Lunge Right // Alanasana
Wide-Legged Forward Fold // Prasarita Padottanasana
Squat // Malasana
Wide-Legged Forward Fold // Prasarita Padottanasana
Low Lunge Left // Alanasana
Pyramid Left // Parsvottanasana
Side Angle Left // Parsvakonasana
Star Pose
Goddess Pose - with lateral stretches // Utkata Konasana
Half-Moon Pose right // Ardha Chandrasana
Goddess pose // Utkata Konasana
Half-Moon pose left // Ardha Chandrasana
Lower to lunge and move into stretches
Monkey Pose Prep Left // Ardha Hanumanasana
Lizard Left // Utthan Pristhasana
Pigeon Left // Kapotasana
Sage Twist
Monkey Pose Prep Right // Ardha Hanumanasana
Lizard Right // Utthan Pristhasana
Pigeon Right // Kapotasana
Sage Twist
PRONE: T-arm stretch, half-knot/full-knot stretch, child’s pose // Balasana, supine spinal rolls, supine twists, Savasana

Reflection: I recently had some suggestions for correcting my alignment in Ardha Chandrasana (in Yoga III with Mary), and I wanted to try a practice to incorporate them. When I became more aware of my alignment and the positioning of my limbs, the pose changed drastically for me. I've always enjoyed it, and now it's more challenging because I have to do it differently than I've done it for years. I try to envision the lines of energy more efficiently extending from my center, without being misdirected by an extra curve in my lumbar or collapse in my side body.

Practice 2
Date: March 2, 4-5p
Intention: Experiment with awareness and alignment when approaching Half Moon Pose
Content: Neck rolls, half salutes - rolling up from fold, chair - raise and lower, rolling ankles // Utkatasana
Chair - Bow and Arrow (4x)
Sunflower lunges (6x each)
Chandra Namaskar (only 1 time through each side, using a block)
Goddess Pose // Utkata Konasana
Star Pose
Side Angle Right // Parsvakonasana
Pyramid Right // Parsvottanasana
Low Lunge Right // Alanasana
Wide-Legged Forward Fold // Prasarita Padottanasana
Squat // Malasana
Wide-Legged Forward Fold // Prasarita Padottanasana
Low Lunge Left // Alanasana
Pyramid Left // Parsvottanasana
Side Angle Left // Parsvakonasana
Star Pose
Goddess Pose - with lateral stretches for upper body // Utkata Konasana
Half-Moon Pose right // Ardha Chandrasana
Goddess pose // Utkata Konasana
Half-Moon pose left // Ardha Chandrasana
After Yoga IV today, I decided to add a second Ardha Chandrasana pose with Trikonasana as the approach instead of the more subtle shift I had tried from Goddess (of course, I basically went into a Trikonasana with my body after Goddess, but I wanted to be more deliberate). So Goddess, then Trikonasana, then Ardha Chandrasana (on each side)
Lower to Trikonasana, lunge and move into stretches
Monkey Pose Prep Left // Ardha Hanumanasana
Lizard Left // Utthan Pristhasana
Pigeon Left // Kapotasana
Sage Twist
Monkey Pose Prep Right // Ardha Hanumanasana
Lizard Right // Utthan Pristhasana
Pigeon Right // Kapotasana
Sage Twist
PRONE: T-arm stretch, half-knot/full-knot stretch, child’s pose // Balasana, supine spinal rolls, supine twists, Savasana
Reflection: I think it's important to be very deliberate with entry poses. As a long-time practitioner of yoga, I can understand what shifts of the body I should make in order to move from Goddess to Half Moon. But less experienced yogis may need more basic cues- like we discussed in Yoga IV today: going into Triangle first to position the body better before Half Moon. I can see the alignment benefits because it relates back to the foundation we want to give people when they practice yoga. Rather than get into the pose and adjust, adjust beforehand and find a more effortless entry into a pose. I do still like to mix it up in my personal practice, though! It's helpful to experience and experiment with different sequences.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Self-Practice Journal, Week 6

For one of my RYT classes this semester, I'm required to keep a weekly self-practice journal. This is for yoga practices I do on my own, not guided in a studio, gym, or via video. Each week I'll have a post that details at least three of my self-practices.

Week 6
Practice 1
Date: February 19, 9-9:45p
Intention: Move with the breath, but slowly.
Content: Seated warm up- raise the arms with breath, neck rolls, arm circles, lateral stretch.
Cat-cow, cat-cow with leg extension, supported side plank, gate pose, Downward Dog, Hero's pose for wrist rolls and shoulder rolls. Child's pose.
Forward fold
Tadasana
Sunflower
Half-Salutes (3x)
Sun Salutation A (4x)
Sun Salutation B (2x)
Warrior II (with lifts on the inhale)
Reverse Warrior to Side Angle (4x)
Forward Fold
Tadasana
Repeat other side
Tree Pose
Squat
Boat
Bound Angle Pose
Sage Twist
Half-Lord of the Fishes
Staff Pose
Spinal rolls
Supine twists
Legs to chest, circle knees and hips
Supine Bound Angle Pose
Savasana
Reflection: I know I usually breathe too quickly (and shallowly) when I practice on my own. So I created a sequence that asks me to move with my inhale and exhale to make me more aware. If I was zipping through it, I knew I wasn't breathing deeply enough. If I felt like I was deliberately moving between poses, I knew I was breathing deeper and slower. It was a good exercise in mindfulness.

Practice 2
Date: February 21, 11-11:50a
Intention: Slow the breath and hold poses for a number of counts.
Content: Seated warm up- raise the arms with breath, neck rolls, wrist rolls, lateral bends.
Cat-cow, cat-cow with leg extensions. Child's pose.
Forward Fold
Tadasana
Sunflower
Half-Salutes
Sun Salutation A
Sun Salutation B
Lunge
Warrior II
Reverse Warrior
Side Angle
Forward Fold
Tadasana
Chair
Lunge Left
Warrior II Left
Reverse Warrior Left
Side Angle Left
Forward Fold
Tadasana
Tree Pose
Squat
Boat
Bound Angle Pose
Sage Twist
Half-Lord of the Fishes
Staff Pose
Spinal rolls
Supine twists
Legs to chest, circle knees and hips
Hand-to-Big-Toe Pose (each side)
Supine Bound Angle Pose
Happy Baby Pose
Savasana
Reflection: For this practice I wanted to remember to breathe more slowly, and to hold poses for 4-5 breaths. I felt good about my earlier practice of moving slowly from one pose to the next (with inhale and exhale) so my challenge was to breathe more deeply without moving and linking with poses. I benefit from making myself hold still. I benefit from reminding myself to breath "into the belly" when I usually just breathe into my chest.

Practice 3
Date:February 22, 9:35p-10:15p
Intention: Prep for supported headstand
Content: Half-Salutes (4x), Chair, Standing Bow and Arrow (4x each side), standing lateral bends, Star Pose to Goddess Pose (8x), Wide-Legged-Forward Bend with lateral stretch each side. Lunge left and right, followed by Downward Facing Dog.
Plank
Chaturanga
Cobra
Child's Pose
Kneeling Plank
Supported Side Plank, Left and Right
Downward Facing Dog
Plank
Chaturanga
Cobra
Child's Pose
Side Plank, Left and Right
Downward Facing Dog
Revolved Lunge, Left and Right
Wide-Legged-Forward Bend to Wide-Legged-Downward Facing Dog
Prep for supported headstand- pad the mat with a folded blanket, cradle the head, place the elbows (using couch behind me for additional support).
Child's Pose
Thread the Needle, and prone shoulder opener
Fish Pose on blankets
Spinal twists
Happy Baby
Savasana with blankets to open the heart
Reflection: I enjoyed doing a flow, and then workshopping a little with the supported headstand prep we learned in class recently.