Thursday, March 31, 2011

Day #17 - Repeating Old Patterns

As humans we have a tendency to repeat patterns in our lives. Some of these repetitions, or habits, are healthy like brushing our teeth before bed or kissing a loved one goodnight. Then there are the the unhealthy ones. We all have them. Sometimes we are able to see them clearly and other times we simply enjoy the marry-go-round ride.

In yoga the repetition helps us evolve. Doing the same posture over and over again helps us to build muscle memory and strength. However, what if we do the posture over and over again in a way that tweaks our knee? It is eventually going to cause a injury. Your body will say enough is enough. Does the same thing apply to life? Are our good habits helping us to evolve? What about our "negative" ones? Are they eventually going to cause destruction?

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Day #16 - Choose Wisely

Today I found my musical yoga groove with some new music I purchased from iTunes. I highly recommend Rare Elements from Ustad Sultan Khan. It will get your body moving and grooving! LOVE IT.

My physical yoga groove, however, was a bit illusive today. I'm still not feeling 100% so I decided to go easy on the yoga practice. I choose a 20 minute flow from Shiva Rea's Daily Energy DVD. The flow I picked was called Shanti, which means peace. I watched it on fast forward before I choose it and I looked perfect for a relaxing/recovering practice. I was wrong. For my body, today, it might as well of been titled War.

My body seemed to be fighting every pose. Hip openers like pigeon (here's a great instructional video on how to do pigeon) were like torture. Although the sequence was beautiful, and should have been very calming and relaxing, it was a struggle for me to even finish. When I was done I felt drained instead of energized.

This is another perfect example of not listening to what my body truly needed. When I started the DVD with an energizing, or solar, warm up my body was loving it. However, when I switched to the lunar, or passive, flow it felt all wrong. By trying to protect myself from overdoing it I created unnecessary struggle.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Day #15 - Exhale

I am continuing to feel better. Today it got late before I got to my mat. I ended up doing some gentle floor postures before bed. As I breathed deeply into them I could "see" a dark haze being expelled from my lungs with the exhales. Releasing, yes!

Monday, March 28, 2011

Catchup - Days 11-14

I'm a bit behind on my blogging since I caught a nasty cold. Days 11-14 included a hostile take over of my body by germs. They came in with a vengeance and are not leaving without a fight. Other than some very gentle stretching, yoga has not been a priority.

I'm always fascinated by illness. There are a lot of metaphysical books linking illness to mental and emotional symptoms. In other words, saying that illness is the physical manifestation of mental and emotional distress. While I believe that this is true, I don't believe it is clear cut as some people say it is. I think that there can also be external factors that play a part in it.

I think there are three possible explanations for my illness this week.
  1. I've been doing a lot of yoga. I fully believe that yoga clears old emotions from my body. It could be that all of the clearing needed a physical expression to fully release. I've had this happen a few times before. It feels like in some way the fever is burning out the old habits that no longer serve me.
  2. Another theory that I've been thinking about is Japan. I know right? Japan is so far away how could that be affecting us physically? Well, thanks to Facebook, I've noticed a lot of other people are sick right now. It's like a massive illness, in the form of a cold, has rapidly spread throughout our country. While it could just be spring colds (see below) it could also be a sign that all of us are connected; that the tragedy and tremendous loss in one part of the world is being physically processed by people in other parts of the world. I wish there was a way to research this. I would be interested to see if more people are sick this year than usual.
  3. Spring cleaning. It seems like lots of people get colds during the spring. I could be a spring cleaning for the body; out with the old, preparation for the new.
Since I'm not working right now I was lucky enough to be able to stop and completely relax and let this illness run it's course. In the past I've usually try to fight through it. Go to work so I don't create guilt by staying home sick. Etc., Etc. It was great to be able to just feel 100% crapy and hide from everything for a few days. Thanks to my amazing man for his help and care during this time.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Day #10 - Urdhva Dhanurasana

Today was a running day. I didn't do a very good job of eating before I ran. By the time I hit the gym I was tired. I ran two miles on the treadmill but was seriously exhausted afterwards. My stomach was cramping and my heart was racing from the Chocolate Chai I had earlier in the day. I came home and grabbed something small to eat and downed some water. Afterward, I took about five minutes for savasana and focused on evening out my breath. It helped quite a bit. However, this was a great reminder for me to take care of my nutritional needs before I push myself too hard.

Later, I decided some yoga was in order. I used my intuition to pick which video sequence to do. I was drawn to a chakra & heart opening flow that culminated with Urdhva Dhanurasana or wheel pose. I have always loved bridge pose which is a preparation pose for this. The full expression of this pose has been out of my grasp off and on for years because of wrist issues.

I hadn't done this pose in years. However, I was feeling strong, and my wrists felt okay in the "reverse" angle, so I went for it. I pushed up into fairly easy. As I held it and breathed I remembered the absolute joy and freedom this pose brings me. My entire body rejoiced in the full opening. It was amazing!

This pose takes a lot of courage. You are arching your body up into the unknown. It can be scary at first and it also takes a good amount of core strength. I highly recommend having a professional yoga teacher assist you the first few times you try it. I still battle a little fear as I begin to press up into it. However, that fear is quickly replaced with freedom and strength.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Day #9 - Emotions :(

There is a point when I start to practice yoga where my emotions start to release. This is the point where I usually give up. All the sudden I don't have time to do yoga. It's amazing how many times this pattern has shown up in my life.

I should not be surprised that yesterdays deep hip openers brought an emotional roller coaster today. Sadness mostly, with a little desperation thrown in so I didn't get bored. When I caught myself wallowing in the sadness and using it as an excuse not to go to the gym to run (along with the fact that it's like 35 degrees outside!) I made myself unroll my yoga mat. I spent about 45 minutes practicing. It was a rough practice. The kind where you just can't get into your yoga grove. I felt struggle and awkwardness in my body.

All I can say is that there are days like this. I am NOT going to give up this time. I will not let excuses stop me. My theory is that as if I can push through the emotions, and keep practicing, they will start to even out. I will be healthier and more flexible in my body. I will keep you posted on how this turns out.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Day #8 - Opening Limitations

I have to admit I was extremely excited about my yoga practice this morning. I woke up looking forward to it. I can't even remember the last time I've felt this way. It was like one of Shiva Rea's DVDs was calling to me. This Free Flow Vinyasa was all my body wanted. The funny thing is I have only done this DVD once before. I remember it being amazing but I didn't remember any of the details.

My hips are one of my "problem" areas. They are usually tight, and with the running I've been doing they have been even tighter. I've been experimenting on my mat trying to get deep enough in the hips to feel that tightness release. However, nothing was doing the trick... until today. This DVD is the best hip opening practice I've done in a long time. My joints feel mobile and energized.

The DVD is different from the other Shiva DVDs I have. It's a recording of a class so it flows very nicely. The other DVDs have lots of segments that you can put together in any sequence you like. I love the options they offer but it the experience can seem a bit choppy. This one, however, takes me back to practicing with Shiva in training. My body comes alive as she seamlessly guides me through a practice filled with preparation for change in life.

I highly recommend this DVD for anyone that wants to branch out in your yoga practice. Your hips will thank you. Happy hip opening!

Monday, March 21, 2011

Day #7 - Demons

I have declared war against the demons in my head. You know the ones I'm talking about. They are the negative voices that keep me small and unhealthy. They love phrases like "You CAN'T do this", "this isn't safe", and "just who do you think you are?"

In metaphysical studies these voices would be referred to as the ego... the part of us that is afraid and doesn't want us to shine. The part of us that doesn't think it is safe to succeed or be healthy. There are books upon books about the ego. You could spend a life time examining it. It was originally there to keep us safe, a coping mechanism for life. However, at some point it takes over and is no longer our friend. It turns on us and we begin to be held back by it.

The truth is I am tired of analyzing my ego. I honestly don't care what caused me to create the psychoses I did. All I care about is silencing those voices now. I know that they were created for reasons throughout my life... but I don't need to feed into them and analyze them with my mind, for they are my mind. Analyzing keeps me wrapped up in them. It keeps them in control. "Oh, look at me! See me! Why am I here? Who would you be without me?" they say. But I'm telling you it's a trap! Do not fall into their open snares.

Instead, I am choosing to give them the silent treatment. Which is not easy. For example, this morning I got up and was struggling with whether or not I should go to the gym. The facts are I've been feeling much stronger since I've been going. I am running a 8K in less than a month. I need to train and it's good for me. However, the voices started in saying "Do you really want to go to the gym? It's such a long walk? If you only had a car to drive there. Who are you kidding? Even if you had a car you wouldn't drive there. Look at your hair. You don't look good enough to go to the gym. It's such a long walk! You can't go. Are going to leave the dogs? You should just go for a walk with them. What is wrong with you? Why is this such a hard choice? You can't do this. What are you thinking?"

The voices are armed and ready to fight. They always seem to bring their A-game. They present persuasive arguments. However, there is another place inside me. A place that is able to let them spew their negative thoughts and still do what I need to do anyway. This part of me is growing stronger and stronger. This morning, while the above thoughts were running on the treadmill of my mind, I kept moving. I got dressed in my workout clothes. I threw my hair into a ponytail. I grabbed my jacket and purse and walked out the front door towards the gym.

As I headed towards the gym the voices continued, but I just kept walking. When I started on running on the treadmill, they started in with a new slew of insults. The voices said "You can't do this. You are too tired. You didn't eat breakfast. You are going too fast. You are going to fall face first on this treadmill. Wouldn't that be embarrassing? Who do you think you are? I bet you can't even run a mile. What are you thinking?"

I kept running. As I continued, I realized "What are you thinking?" was an extremely valid question. I was totally in my head! My body? Hmm... I'm not sure what it's doing... let me check... oh, yeah, that's right it's running on a treadmill. I was giving too much focus to my mind chatter and not enough to the wisdom in my body. I shifted my focus. I started "listening", or should I say, feeling my body. Turns out I was fine running. My body felt good and strong. We ran for a mile without even feeling tired. Not too much longer after that my knees began to ache and my legs started to feel heavy. I listened to this and slowed down after running 1.5 miles.

I spent a few moments stretching then started the mile trek back home. The voices started again. They where a bit softer now but just as insulting. This time they were staying things like "Why didn't you run two miles? I bet you could have done it. You just don't have the determination, do you? What is your problem?" That was it. They were still nagging me. THEY didn't even want me to go to the gym. Now THEY were telling me I didn't do enough. You have got to be kidding. Finally, I told them "That's enough!" And amazingly that was enough. They were silenced for the moment and I had a fairly peaceful walk home.

I know that this war will continue. That they will keep on trying to trick me. I also know that if I continue to ignore them, and tell them that I'm okay, they will loose strength. The will soften and quiet themselves. Day by day, step by step, I will continue to fight and they will continue to retreat.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Day #4 - Blah

Today I felt even worse. I sat on the couch all day and watched TV. No movement for me. I'm sure I will feel better tomorrow.

Day #3 - Going With the Flow

Don't you just love being a woman? I started my period today and have not felt like moving, let along doing yoga. The idea of doing traditional yoga is exhausting to just think about. Instead of forcing myself to practice, and go against what my body needs right now, I decided to do some simple breath and energy exercises. (I also indulged in the yoga of eating... mindfully gobbling up a spoonful of yummy extra icing that I had froze. Not traditionally healthy, but my body in it's current state delighted in the sugar!) I think days like these should involve honoring your own inner flow. As a woman, take some time for yourself. Do something to pamper yourself!

I also thought I would include a video with today's entry. This shows the simple breath exercises that can help balance your energy.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Day #2 - Outward Expression

Today we hit 60 degrees in Chicago and it felt fantastic! I walked to the gym, which is a two miles round trip, ran on a treadmill for two miles, then came home and took the dogs for a long walk.

I also did a 30 minute yoga practice this evening. I flowed with what my body needed after all of that walking and running. Worked on releasing tension and old patterns from my body with a verbal practice. By this I mean I say whatever comes up for me as I move through postures. This is done with the intention of letting it go. I say "I choose to release ______." Then move on. Sometimes the replacement for the energy comes up, then I say "I choose to replace this with ______." It is a beautiful practice. It feels very honoring. There is great power in my voice; using it in this way is very helpful for me.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Day #1 - Finding My Flow

I have many reasons for creating a solid yoga practice right now. I have time to do it. I will be going to school full time starting this summer so now is a great time to create a new habit. I have tons of Shiva Rea DVDs to use. I need to gain flexibility while I strengthen my body. And the list goes on and on.

However, this morning those were not the reasons that brought me to my mat. My motivation was bigger than just me. I wanted to cultivate qualities through my yoga practice that the world needs right now. By the world, I mean Japan in particular. They are in a state of emergency that I can not even fathom. And quite honestly, do not want to. I would much rather send energy out to this crisis than take energy in from it.

I started my yoga practice today with a goal of cultivating stability and surrender. The people of Japan are in a situation where they need both. The must surrender to the power of Mother Nature and they need stability within the ground they walk on, within themselves, their families, their communities, and their country.

The DVD that called to me this morning was Fluid Power. It's one of my favorites even though I haven't used it in years. As I began to practice it was like my body magically incorporated the above qualities. I was able to clearly understand movements and sequences that seemed forced to me before. I could feel the global heart beat. I could feel the movement of the water within my body swelling and receding. I could feel the loss of life and more importantly, feel them joining our ancestors - becoming part of our history. It was the most connected I have felt in a long, long, time. And, although, there is a ton of sadness and devastation out there right now, that is NOT what I felt. I felt a strong sense of hope and strength. Life will continue.

Monday, March 14, 2011

21 Days

I'm sure you have heard it before. It takes 21 days to create a habit. I will be running, yes running, a 8k in a little over 21 days. I am not a runner and just started training. I realize that this is not the best plan and I should have started training weeks ago. However, it's cold in Chicago. Even though I've seen lots of runners braving the weather all winter, I am not one of them. I figure worst case I end up walking the 8K. I know I can do that.

Training, or should I say starting to train, has inspired me to start doing yoga regularly. Here's my plan for the next 21 days. Every other day run - gradually increasing my distance. On running days I plan on doing light yoga. On non running days a solid yoga practice. Even though I ran today... tomorrow will be Day 1, starting with a yoga practice.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Working Out

I am always surprised at the absence of stretching and yoga at organized gyms. I joined a gym this week to help me train for a run that we are doing next month. The membership came with one free personal training session. The trainer had me do various activities for about 30 minutes, gave me the talk about how personal training can help, and that was it. No stretching? Was I missing something?

My body aches for yoga after working out. An exercise session doesn't feel complete without it. My muscles long to be relaxed and integrated after my work out. So why is it that Americans separate working out and yoga so much? What are our bodies gaining by this? Do we all long to become muscle bound and inflexible? Is that what our society teaches is good, sexy, and strong? Why do Americans seem to gravitate towards the microcosm and completely ignore the macrocosm?