Tuesday, April 27, 2010

21-27.04.10 Classes with Twee Merrigan

Wed: 90 min guided class; Thurs: 30 min personal, 60 min teaching; Fri: day off; Sat: 2 hr guided class (Twee), 1.5 hour assist; Sun: day off; Mon: 2.5 hr guided class (Twee); Tues: 20 min personal

So a majority of my yoga time over the past week has been in the bodymindlife studio with Twee. Almost 5 hours of my past week has been in that room with her, and I'm grateful for the time I spent there. I went into the classes not knowing anything about Twee, her teaching, or her personal philosophy. I took a chance on her class on Saturday, and felt my life changing in the class. I felt ignited and empowered. I found my inner superhero. And I'm pretty sure I bunnyhopped my hips right over my head (at least once!).

Her class left me feeling inspired as a teacher. I wanted to study more and learn more because of my experiences in that room. I also wanted to experience another class with her. So I also went to her Monday night class--a flowing meditation. This class was much more subdued, and didn't ignite anything inside of me. But it did open me up to myself and my emotions. While I didn't "like" the meditation class as much as the igniting class, I learned from it.

After the long meditation class last night, I was tired. I was still tired when I got up and went to an early meeting this morning. After the early meeting, I got bad news professionally. It was all I could do to make it back to my apartment later that afternoon. As soon as I got inside, I laid in my bed and spent an hour crying. After my cry, I went to the gym and then came home and practiced some yoga. I found myself returning to child's pose and putting my forehead to the floor, asking the universe for what I wanted, as we had done in last night's class. I offered myself to my practice, and thought about what else I could offer out into the world.

The first thing I did after that practice was walk in to hug Billy and thank him for all of his help and support. I thought of how I wanted to offer more of myself to him before I offered more to the rest of the world. He deserves the best of me, because he is always giving his best to me.

Reflecting back on my day, and what I made of it, I'm astonished at the way I was able to give into my emotions, experience them, and then move through the rest of my day and think about giving, instead of focusing on what I felt like I wasn't receiving. I think part of that is because of my daily practice, but I also think that the intense meditation last night was influential in my experiences today. Thank you for your guidance, Twee.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

19-20.04.10 Experiencing Disappointment

Mon: 30 mins personal; 1 hr teaching; Tues: 15 mins personal

I'm so tired. It's only 8pm and I slept nine hours last night. I have no reason to be so exhausted, but I am. It was certainly reflected in my half-hearted attempt to practice yoga this morning. I did a few sun salutations, tried some hamstring and back stretching, attempted some handstands, felt so tired I went to the floor for some reclining poses, and then just had to move to rest.

I intended to teach a class tonight and two tomorrow night. The two tomorrow night were part of a new organization's yoga start up. And someone else who was considering teaching for the organization was going to teach a class tonight and I was going to cover her old class this evening. However, today the new organization decided not to offer yoga classes. Thus, the other yoga teacher didn't need her class covered tonight. That meant I had a sudden night of freedom. But that's not how I saw it.

It was really hard for me to deal with this disappointment today. I have spent so much time investing in getting hired and ready to teach for that organization. Since I was so physically tired, I didn't want to practice more yoga this evening to help ease my disappointment. So instead, I challenged myself to think about my yoga-related disappointment from a yoga standpoint. The following thoughts resulted:

I don't have control over most things; I need to accept what is here and now. The disappointment is over. It has occurred and is in the past.

I have the ability to explore what I'm feeling inside and recognize, accept, and experience these emotions. It is uncomfortable to fully experience unpleasant emotions. But being present through all of my emotions is important in acknowledging my place within my world.

I need to be kind to myself as I wait for guidance to come from within. Tomorrow may bring new opportunities if I am open to them.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

13-18.04.10 Highlighting Paschimottanasana

Tues: 30 mins; Wed: 1.5 hour guided class; Thurs: 1 hr guided class; Fri: 30 mins personal; 1 hr teaching; Sat: 1.5 hour assisting (personal practice day off); Sun: 1.5 hour Mysore

The reason I try to blog every day is because I learn from each day of yoga. Each time I practice, I realize new things about myself or about the world; each time I assist I appreciate new things in myself and others. I am sad that I haven't had a chance to blog for almost a week because so many things have presented themselves to me.

However, I noticed something really interesting tonight since I was forced to think about the past week of yoga, instead of the past day or two. There has been a central theme to the yoga I've practiced this week: paschimottanasana (seated forward bend). All of the guided classes I took this week had people performing adjustments and helping the participants get further into asanas. Oddly enough, I received an adjustment in paschimottanasana on Wed, Thurs, and today (every class I attended). I feel the need to explore the roots of this asana some in my blog tonight, because I feel like there must be a reason for this asana's theme in my life.

Going to Yoga Journal's description, I learned that the following are benefits:
  • Calms the brain and helps relieve stress and mild depression
  • Stretches the spine, shoulders, hamstrings
  • Stimulates the liver, kidneys, ovaries, and uterus
  • Improves digestion
  • Helps relieve the symptoms of menopause and menstrual discomfort
  • Soothes headache and anxiety and reduces fatigue
  • Therapeutic for high blood pressure, infertility, insomnia, and sinusitis
  • Traditional texts say that Paschimottanasana increases appetite, reduces obesity, and cures diseases.
And, maybe not-so-ironically, I was having significant trouble with some of these very things this week: stress, mild depression, menstrual problems, anxiety, and fatigue (yes, it has been a rough week!). I suppose that I could find that I need cures offered by most asanas. But other asanas were not central to my body this week. Paschimottanasana was.

I don't think that those symptoms have been cured because of the practicing of paschimottanasana. But I do think that the repeated assists that I've received this week are highlighting my need to pay attention to these symptoms.

We can all learn by paying attention to cues and clues in our yoga and in our world... I'll be on the lookout for my "next" paschimottanasana.

Monday, April 12, 2010

9.04.10-12.04.10 The upside-down cure

Fri afternoon: 1hr teaching; Sat: 1.5 hr assist; personal day off; Sun: 25 mins; Mon: 30 mins

So I'm about 99.9% sure that my lowered mood over the past few days is due to my swiftly approaching period. I actually hate admitting that, because I don't think that people should allow the act of menstruating to dictate what they can and cannot achieve. But over the past couple of years, I've noticed that I have a significant increase in number of episodes of agitation and sadness in the days approaching my period; my hormone levels are increasing or I've become more sensitive to them. While I don't like these effects, I know that they are natural and normal and that they are part of my body's response to being fertile. And I'm grateful for that and for the fact that I can recognize the emotional responses that I am experiencing.

All weekend I've been self-medicating, mostly with exercise, though I've also sprinkled in friends and treats. However, out of the numerous things I did and tried, only one had a significant impact: upside-down-ness.

Teaching Friday afternoon was one of the highlights of the weekend. Three young women attended the class I was covering. One was pregnant (probably 5-6 months), and I was pretty anxious about making the class a positive experience for her as well as the two other participants. I racked my brain to change the class plan over and over and add more options so that the woman who was pregnant could better participate. I noticed throughout the class that the other two women were both relatively inexperienced with yoga (though they both said they practiced regularly) and relatively unwilling to try things they hadn't tried before (as they stared and smiled as I suggested trying different options). Near the end of class, I decided to try to challenge them a little and suggested that while the woman who was pregnant took her legs up the wall, that I teach the two of them to do headstands. They were both hesitant (and made sure to tell me that they couldn't do them), but I took them through the steps and had both of them up in headstands within a few minutes. Neither of them verbally said anything about going into the headstands, but I could tell by their body language and energy that they were thrilled with their attempts. Once the class had ended, I was left with a little anxiety about what else I could have done to facilitate full class involvement at certain points. But I was also beyond ecstatic at the success of the headstanders. I left the studio smiling and couldn't stop. I told Billy all about the class as soon as I met up with him for dinner afterward.

The other highlight of my weekend was the numerous handstands I attempted and the few I succeeded at holding for a few or several breaths. Of course the wall was there, but since I've only been able to get my hips over my head for a little over a week, holding handstands against a wall is still super exciting! I worked on handstands Saturday with Martine, Sunday, and then today. My wrists actually began hurting this morning after all the time I had been spending with my weight on them, so I finally rested on the floor and massaged my wrists and hands.

So every time I got excited or was able to feel better this weekend, it was due to inversions. Shifting my perspective literally cured my premenstrual mood swings over and over. Good to know.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

09.04.10 Seriously

Thurs: 1 hr with Martine; Fri: 20 mins

Yesterday morning I had a beautiful practice with Martine and I felt rejuvenated afterward and was able to finish a huge amount of work that I had to finish. I worked until past midnight on things last night. Today I was depleted and out of gas; when I woke up and tried to work, I felt stuck. My mood was low and I was still feeling very stressed.

I went to the gym this morning and then spent 20 minutes doing some yoga. I tried to kick my energy up by focusing on some backbends. Then I worked on my handstand. I must've tried kicking up a million times. I knew I was close, because I kept feeling my hips catch. I've never kicked up and stayed up by myself; just with someone standing there to help me catch my hips (and only that over the past week!). All of the sudden, there was nothing else I wanted to do . I couldn't move on; I couldn't try something else. I KNEW I could do it, but I felt really frustrated. I just wanted to get my legs over my head! I had to stop and rest a few times. After resting one of those times, I started to laugh at how serious I was being, at how hard I was pushing. The next time I tried, still laughing, I kicked right up. I stayed upside down for several breaths, smiling and still laughing at myself.

What a good lesson for the rest of my life. Sometimes I just need to back off a little, relax, and then ease slowly back into it.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

07.04.10 Vacation and Un-vacation

Fri: 20 min; Sat: 40 min with Billy in park; Sun: 60 min in park; Mon: 40 min in park; Tues: 25 min; Wed: 25 min

Fri through Mon was a long weekend. We drove to Coff's Harbour for the weekend and stayed in a hostel there. We spent most of our time exploring, but I also got to spend time exploring my yoga practice in a beautiful location. Each day that I was in Coff's Harbour, I practiced in a park right next to the ocean. I could see, hear, smell, feel, and even taste the sea around me. I love practicing outside, and especially next to the ocean. I feel like I'm connected to the earth when all of my senses are experiencing it as I practice. It is so easy to get into a practice and to feel connected with everything around me.

Since I've been back, I've felt overwhelmed, though. I've been trying to get a lot of work done, haven't had time for a long yoga practice, and haven't been able to make it to a yoga class at my favorite studio. I feel like the yoga I've had time for has been stressed as well: I'm trying to cram it in, enjoy it, and find time to reflect back on it as well. Sometimes it is hard to carve out spaces of time for everything I need and want to do in a day.

To counteract my hurried feelings, I tried to pause several times throughout my day for mini-vacations. I took a few opportunities today to reflect, meditate, and breathe. Even though I only did this a few times, I noticed the effects pretty significantly after each attempt. Incorporating yogic philosophy throughout my day (not just during asana practice) seems hard when I think about it as another task. But it turns out it's pretty easy: it takes the "un" out of un-vacation, even if just for a few minutes.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

01.04.10 Frustration, relieved

1hr class with Martine; 45 minutes personal practice with Martine

Can I just say, "OMG!"??? Because that's what I feel like today: pretty freakin' excited. I've been working on "breaking" my handstand for quite a while. I definitely did not "break it" today, but I had a breakthrough! I kicked my legs up over my head to the wall--and got them to stay up! All thanks to Martine's trick: bend my second leg as I kick up so that the weight of the straight leg doesn't pull me back down.

I have never been good at getting my legs over my head. When I was in gymnastics as a pre-teen, I had lots of strengths, but cartwheels (one of the "easier" tricks) were never one of them. I went through all of my childhood, adolescence, and adult life without ever completing an actual cartwheel. There is some mental block that keeps me from kicking my legs over my head. I've been able to tackle headstands, but that doesn't involve any kicking. So kicking my legs up over my head today was a (if I may borrow a now infamous quote) big fucking deal.

As Martine and I sat meditating and sealing our practice, I began to cry. I think the tears resulted from relief of a lifelong frustration. Although I recognized that I had been upset by not achieving a handstand yet, I didn't realize how much it had been bothering me until the frustration was relieved. The weight that was lifted left me feeling softer; like I could care for myself and ease other frustrations in my life.

Tonight, before blogging, I was talking to a friend about some disappointments in my life. Now, as I write this and reflect back on my day, I see (again) how lessons from my yoga practice translate and are applicable to everything I do. I'm so thankful that I'm able to practice every day, because where would I be without my practice?

Stuck standing on my feet instead of my hands, that's where.