My challenge officially comes to a close tomorrow. And I have lots of sore muscles and a few new discoveries in my practice to show for it.
few observations from my month of consistent practice. To start if off, here's a quote that stuck out to me over and over though out this month:
As a yoga teacher, I firmly believe that incorporating a steady practice can and will benefit your life for the better. That being said, even after embarking on this challenge, that I would be lying in bed trying to go to sleep and realize that I hadn't "practiced." For the purposes of this month, I went ahead and did some chill out in bed (or on couch) yoga. Supta Virasana or Viparita Kirani being the two favorites. One thing that yoga does whether you like it or not, it opens you. It opens muscles of course, but also it opens your subtle body, your hidden most feelings and desires and failures. All of that can and will someday come pouring out on your mat... and to be honest... there are some days where I just couldn't deal with the possible unraveling of myself. And that's okay. While this avoidance isn't advisable long term... it's okay to let something marinate and to not release it just because you don't want to. That's your choice. But know why you are making it. And remember that your problems will be there waiting for you with or without practice, so someday you might need to "bite the bullet" so to speak, and face those feelings and start to unravel some of the knots of your subtle body.
In that same breath - yoga doesn't solve everything. It simply gives you the tools to ride out the waves that life hands to you. Yoga will not increase your paycheck, get your roommate to finally clean the bathroom, keep your boss from aggravating you, stop your mom, dad, brother, sister, boyfriend, or girlfriend from nagging you about that one thing that just sets you off. But what it will do, is give you the tools of awareness and breath to guide you through those experiences. No one is perfect and we all can, and will, react to things with displeasure when they happen, but yoga can give you that chance - that chance of a second breath to realize while you have no means to control the actions of others, you can and are more than able to control your own actions.
Yoga is more than asana. While asana (the physical expression of yoga poses) is what brought me to this practice, as it does so many of us, yoga is anything you want it to be - it is bringing your breath, body and mind into harmony. And, as I briefly touched on, sometimes "yoga" needs to be the exact opposite of asana. Sometimes it is just sitting and appreciating your breath, letting the melting pot of this world continue to swirl around you without your hand in the proverbial pot.
Lastly, and probably the most important thing I am taking away from this experience, is that a practice can be anything you choose it to be. You do not need to practice 90, 60, 30, or even 15 minutes for it to count. If swinging your legs over the edge of your couch for 5 minutes calms your mind and deepens your breath... that's a practice. Anything that brings you closer to your authentic Self, the Self that is there despite of any external expectations or illusions that might be present in everyday society, is a practice. Above all I hope this is the one thing I take away from this experiment, and if anything I hope it can serve helpful to any readers out there. A yoga practice needn't be long or particularly difficult, or even effort-full. It is something you absolutely can incorporate into your life with minimal time and dollop of presence of mind and effort to do so.
Even as this month closes, and thus completes my challenge, it is my goal to continue to post here photos, stories or any other little something that comes up as I continue to maintain a practice on a daily level. Please feel free to let me know if you have any questions, comments or suggestions as I move forward with this blog. I appreciate your reading and wish you nothing but light and love.
"You'll never know if you don't try."
Now, I am generally not one to employ cliche motivational sayings... but, as luck would have it today that is just what I have to write about.
This week I had the opportunity to help a fellow yoga teacher, the lovely Brenna Matthews, with a yoga photo shoot. The photographer, one of my dearest friends, Omar Robinson, who has done many shoots for me so I invited myself along for the ride under the guise of helping direct Brenna's poses and holding big shiny reflectors to help Omar control the light. As Brenna and I chatted about the poses she was thinking of doing, I began to realize she was planning on doing poses I was no where close to getting. Which is fine, as a teacher I am able to explain a lot of poses that I cannot yet execute but, because of my understanding of what needs to happen, have had my students do so.
I must have told Brenna how one pose in particular, chin stand, had eluded me. I have had many students rock out in class and, I have to admit I have attempted to get into it a few times, and failed spectacularly. After that chin stand got put into a little corner in my mind, the one where I keep many other poses that I have deemed as something that just doesn't work for me and my practice at this point. Brenna shook her head at me - "you can do chin stand" ... I shook it off saying "well I guess I will have to come to one of your classes so you can teach me how to do it" and left it at that.
The next day while I was practicing in my room before teaching, I heard Brenna's words echoing in my mind and I figured - what the heck... can't hurt to try. I came into down dog, extended my right leg and rolled forward into three legged plank. Keeping the right leg high I tapped my chin down on the floor and took a few hops with my left. By the third hop I was shocked to realize - I was balancing. without a wall behind me. Sometimes all it takes is just a bit of space from a difficult pose, and after a month or so checking back in... and you might be surprised. But, you'll never know if you don't try.
One of the most encouraging and amazing things about a yoga practice is that it is always evolving. With a consistent and steady practice little by little your body will open, strengthen and prepare you for your future practice. Even if you don't constantly practice inversions or arm balances, by working more "simple" poses like plank, down dog, and warriors with precision and intention you may be surprised the next time you check in with those more "advanced" asanas.
So take a chance, yeah you might look silly but so what? At least you tried and who knows... maybe you will sur
Random side effect of practicing asana every day, even your dreams start to become steeped in yoga. Last night I dreamed of doing astavkrasana on a mound of rocks... maybe it is some sort of foreshadowing to some upcoming photos I will be doing in the next week or so... We shall see. In the meantime, here is a photo borrowed from the Yoga Journal website :)
Monday gets a tough rap. Usually for a good reason, it's the end of the weekend and the start to, for many of us, an arduous week ahead.
After a long day of teaching and riding my bicycle around town this is the one pose that can bring me back to life. Viparita Karani "legs up the wall pose." A very fitting Monday practice me thinks.
(Sorry for the less than amazing picture... I'm working on it...)
If you have been in my classes you probably know by now that this is by far my favorite restorative pose because... it's just AWESOME! It provides all of the benefits of an inversion such as head stand or shoulder stand with much fewer risks. For the full info on this pose check out the Yoga Journal page.
This pose can also be done laying in front of your couch with your knees bent over the edge, talk about ease! For maximum stress relieving benefits, hold the pose for 3-5 minutes.
Or until your cat decides it's time for you to pay attention to them... (my cat, Apollo, kindly demos).
Over the last few months a few friends of mine have taken it upon themselves to do a 30-classes in 30-days sort of yoga challenge. I have always been intrigued and a little in awe over their incredible dedication but I never chose to partake in one myself. Part of my concern for "30 classes in 30 days" doesn't account for my physical and emotional time needed to chill after a particularly strong practice or even just the plan lazies, when going out of the house seems more monumental than one could bear. Because let's face it, we're all human, there are some days that all you want to do is sit on the couch and watch a Law and Order: SVU marathon... or is that just me?
So here is my twist on this little experiment: what if it's not a class every day but a practice every day for the entire month of August? I know what you are thinking - you are a yoga teacher... don't you practice everyday already? And for me, the answer is a bit in the gray area between yes and no. Yes, yoga is on my mind every single day. There is a point during my day that I am thoughtful about my breath (pranayama), and some sort of physical (asana) practice comes out whether I mean for it to or not. That all being said, for the sake of this "challenge" I am going to turn things up a notch.
So starting tomorrow, August 1st, I will start this experiment and document it along the way - check back often for ideas on how to incorporate yoga into your daily life. In the meantime, feel free to send me any questions, comments or even advice you might have on what you would like to see incorporated into this challenge.
With light and love,
Yoga Teacher based in Boston, MA. Teacher of Yoga Teachers. Committed to teaching anatomical, alignment & action based yoga asana that is rooted in mindfulness, skillfulness, & specificity.