Friday, December 17, 2010

40 + 90 + 14 = 26

This past weekend and week were both very special for different, yet oddly related reasons.

I had the awesome opportunity to take Prenatal Yoga teacher training this past weekend with Juliana Secches, a physical therapist, yoga teacher, Mom to beautiful little Bruno, and an excellent teacher with a wealth of information about the birth process, pregnancy, and the body and soul of prenatal and post-natal women!  It was so eye-opening in so many ways, and I am so eager to continue delving into the process of empowering moms-to-be through yoga.

And then speaking of birth...

It was my birthday on Monday, and Marc's on Wednesday.  I taught my Community Yoga class at Karma Kids, which is usually full of rambunctious boys.  Only one boy showed up that day, however, and when I asked him to guess how old I was turning, these were his answers:

"40!"

"A little lower."

"90!"

"A little lower..."

"14?"

I can't express how much this deeply tickled me.  It was a very classic, "Kids say the darndest things" moment.

It also really got me thinking about the saying that you're only as young as you feel.  And all the other 800 sayings that basically say the same thing in a different way.  As cliche as it is, it's so true.  I don't feel 26, but what does 26 really feel like?  Some days I feel as giddy and silly as a 14-year-old (I was a particularly silly 14-year-old) and some days I feel very adult and responsible - perhaps closer to a 40-year-old.  But then again - I'm still me.  I like to hope that when I'm 40 I'll still have access to the giddiness and silliness that is (almost) as much an accessible part of me now as it was when I was younger.

It's all a balance, I suppose.  Juliana said repeatedly over the course of the training weekend that you need both the Ha and the Tha - Sun / Moon, Light / Dark, Strength / Flexibility, Effort / Ease.  It's the key to a successful yoga and meditation practice as well as a balanced life.  I hope I don't ever let the "grown-up"-ness completely take over my silly supply.  It's my hope for everyone, in fact!

And now I'm off to prepare for one of many wonderful holiday celebrations at my friend's cozy, probably-warmer-than-mine apartment.  Next week, if I'm able to write, I'll be coming to you from Grandma's in Florida!  Happy holidays, everyone :)

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

It's a yoga practice, not a yoga perfect

That's something we say to kids at Karma Kids if there's ever anxiety or jealousy about not being able to do a pose as well as they'd like to, or one they "can't" do.  Honestly - I think we adults need to hear that far more often than the kids!

I feel like this is my first week back after The Cold That Would Not End, and I've been feeling some stress and pressure about being back in the game.  Momentum is a powerful thing, and I've been feeling very much like mine went missing at Thanksgiving and is stubbornly keeping itself from being dredged back up.  I've been teaching a lot at the Matrix gym by my apartment, I had a challenging but very fun class at Karma Kids, and I'm setting up as many Thai Yoga Massages as my calendar can handle.  The momentum is coming back, slowly but surely, along with my confidence.

One of my favorite teachers in the world, Joe Somodi, started his class yesterday by talking about this time of year.  The first biting freeze of winter, the beginning of all manner of holiday madness, and the speeding rush to the end of the year.  For me, this time of year (which also happens to include my and my boyfriends' birthdays - the 13th and 15th) causes absolute mental chaos.  So many parties and appointments to keep track of, so many cards to write, presents to get, travel plans to finalize.  Pair that with the fact that I'm physically just starting to settle back into my normal strength and stamina, and I've been feeling a little bit like a crazy person this week.

Normally in Joe's Tuesday class, I'm his assistant.  I get to go around the room and assist all the students in various postures as he teaches.  Last night, however, there were only a few of us and he looked over at me and asked if I wanted to practice.  He must have sensed how badly I needed it, and I said yes!

He offered a class of forward folds and twists - designed to energetically to ground the body and bring the mind into a one pointed focus.  It was slow, deliberate, low-key, and absolutely beautiful.  It was just what I needed and suddenly I felt like a yogi again!  I was so down on myself this week for getting stressed, but the de-stresser I needed was always right there in my breath and my body - and it always is.

The practice is everything.  Theory and pontificating (and even writing) will take you only so far, and the amazing feeling you get from a class probably isn't enough to keep you grounded and peaceful for the whole rest of the week.  Practice as much as you can, even if it's just 3 minutes in child's pose.  Practice doesn't mean breaking a sweat or mean that you have to make it last for a long time.  Grab what you can, when you can.  If it's a tough day and you just don't feel it - give yourself a break.  If you're in a class and a challenging pose you've recently mastered is suddenly out of your reach for some reason, don't sweat it.  It's a yoga practice, not a yoga perfect.  Our minds and bodies go through so many spectacular changes during a day, a week, a month, a year.  You will never have the same mind and body in one moment as you will the next moment.  We're in a constant state of change.

So off the mat, what does this mean?  Take a deep breath before getting stressed about December and all its joys and parties and time with old friends and family.  Give yourself a break if you're just too tired to go to one more holiday party, and kick back and take care of yourself instead.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

The hard part of "Listen to your body"

If you attend yoga classes, you've no doubt heard the phrase, "Listen to your body" once or twice.  If you attend regularly, you've probably heard it a billion times.

It's the kind of thing that I find I hear so many times, I run the risk of letting it go in one ear and out the other without really hearing it - and more importantly, really listening.

As somewhat of a vinyasa junkie in my yoga practice, I've become accustomed to being highly physically challenged in my yoga classes.  Always working toward the next seemingly impossible pose, always working toward going upside down in new and exciting ways.  There's nothing wrong with that, by any means, but it does get you into the habit of pushing yourself.  That's a habit that's really important to learn how to break at certain times - most importantly, when you're sick.

The day before my favorite holiday, Thanksgiving, Marc and I both got head colds at the exact same time.  As I sit here writing 8 days later, I'm better, but frustratingly, still not 100%.

Let me start out by saying - it could have been a LOT worse, and I added that to my long list of Things I'm Grateful For This Year.  We could have had pneumonia or fevers or the stomach flu (god forbid!) or been so ill we were bedridden.

But as active people, it's really frustrating.  What made it particularly frustrating was that I had planned to offer a free Thai Yoga Massage to any willing member of the LeVasseur family I could get my hands on to offer metta and to give myself a chance to practice and stay sharp in my technique.  Needless to say, no massages were given.


It didn't kill my yoga practice, however - it just changed it.

This is where the "listen to your body" comes in handy.  Off the mat, it forced me to lay down instead of running around the kitchen making a more elaborate dinner than necessary the other night.  It made me listen when my very generous boss at Karma Kids let me go early on Tuesday, lest I cough on the children and make myself and others worse.

On the mat, it changed my home practice from a juicy vinyasa exploration of poses and my limits, to, well...a kind of blissful 45 minutes.  (Many poses taken from my earlier blog post, Take it Easy) Being a compulsive planner, I decided the best way to save myself from going overboard and chasing down more challenging and stimulating Sun Salutations would be to plan out my practice.

15 minutes - Very mellow free form vinyasa.  On my back, hands-and-knees, and a couple of low lunges and on-my-belly backbends.

7.5 minutes - Supported fish pose with legs in supported bound angle (butterfly) pose.  This opened up my poor lungs and chest and helped wake me up a little.  In a really restful way, of course.

7.5 minutes - Supported Paschimottanasana (seated forward fold).  I put a pillow under my knees, a blanket under my seat, and stacked blocks up until I could fold forward, resting my forehead on the blocks, with comfort and the gentlest of stretches in my hamstrings.  This is a pose where I tend to have anxiety and overdo it, and I think this was one of the most enjoyable poses of the bunch.  Having my forehead supported was soothing and kind of massage-y, and it helped encourage me to relax my belly, which has been endlessly contracting the last week with the all the business of coughing and nose-blowing.

15 minutes - The queen of restorative poses, in my opinion - Viparita Karani, or legs up the wall.  My legs wanted to bend before the 15 minutes was up, which often happens for me, so I alternated leg positions for the last 5 or so minutes.  I also found I was kind of ready to get up and write before the 15 minutes were up - I can't decide if that's a good sign or a sign that I need to work harder to quiet my thoughts.

The moral of the post:  LISTEN TO YOUR BODY.  Be good to it.  It probably feels good to get a little sweaty or a little adrenaline rush if you've been laid up with a cold for a few days, but you're just going to prolong your recovery.  Use the opportunity to CHILL OUT, something I know I rarely do.

Perhaps not the most revelatory or original moral, but it's one that bears repeating and re-listening.

There's plenty more going on in my yoga-verse, but for now I'm going to listen to my body and call it a day.

Namaste and take care of yourselves!  Fight cold season with all your might!