Thursday, February 28, 2013

Meditative March

My personal mini-resolution for myself for this past month was to be a better partner.  To get a jump start on being a great wife, on the honeymoon phase, and probably most importantly, to keep my tendency to get defensive and a wee bit controlling in check.  I had high points and low points, but overall I kept my resolution in mind and was able to stay mindful, even when I wasn't being successful.  (At least I knew it when I failed!)

It's glaringly obvious what my body, mind, stress level, and soul desperately need from me this month, and in particular these next 22 days - more yoga!  I wrote essentially the same thing last week, but I've been thinking a lot about it and can't seem to shake it from my mind...hence, here it appears on the blog!

The deeper I've gotten into my career as a teacher, the harder it seems to be for me to let myself focus and really drop in to my meditation, to really focus my mind in a class, and to truly listen to my body instead of forcing it to conform to how I think it should be able to perform on a given day. Yoga used to be my savior - now it's my every day routine.

Just as it can be easy to take a friend, partner, or family member for granted, I am so very guilty of taking yoga for granted and forgetting what it really means to me and why I turned the entire direction of my life around for it.  How it inspired me, emboldened me, changed the way I thought about myself and the world around me.  As the years have passed, although I've definitely opened and grown in many ways, I've also allowed new walls to come up and it takes a hell of a lot more work to stop composing emails and grocery lists in my head when I first sit down to practice.  I'll draw attention to my breath...and immediately manipulate it instead of letting it be.  I'll bring my hands together in front of my heart...and immediately remember something I have to pick up on the way home.

Although I think a part of this has happened because yoga has become so everyday, the opposite is also true.  Yes, I teach and talk yoga constantly, but I don't practice nearly as often or seriously as I used to.  Part of it is just the nature of the beast.  When you teach a lot, you're likely teaching when other yoga classes you might take are going on.  Similar to when an actor gets cast in a show, they suddenly have much fewer opportunities to see other theatre.

So this month, whether it's taking the time to get myself to The Giving Tree for a full, glorious 90 minute practice or devoting myself to a 15 minute YogaJournal video, or even - gasp - a completely solo practice, I want to bring more yoga to my daily life.  My overly busy mind needs it desperately, and I must obey!

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Coming in like a lion

March isn't even here yet, and I am more than feeling swept up in wedding madness.  By wedding madness, I don't just mean thinking of the details and planning, but in all of the unbelievably intense emotions it's bringing out in me, in Marc, and in our families.  There have been dizzying highs and absolutely emotionally crushing lows that have really been coming up particularly since the start of 2013.  Ah, family.

In making all of the time for the to-do's, the weekend trips to Boston, my amazing shower weekend where I got to spend time with my wonderful mom & sister, and also picking up extra work when I can to make up for the big ol' chunk of time off I'm going to be taking next month, my yoga practice has been really squeezed out.  I've been keeping time for running and for Refine classes (that dress is a bit tight, after all!), but somehow yoga has been getting the short end of the stick.  What gives?

I think part of it, even aside from the old "no time" excuse (whether it's legitimate or not) is that it's a little scary to sit still and go inside these days.  It can be scary to stop my productive momentum when I'm on a roll, and it can be scary to stop and sit when I'm going through major emotional stress.  I don't necessarily want to be still and present when my heart is hurting, and I bet you don't either!

Yes, keeping extra busy - whether it's throwing myself into my classes or into cleaning my apartment - is a great way to lift your spirits when you're feeling down or release any stress (whether it's from feeling way too high and excited, or feeling overwhelmed).  However, it's just as important to slow it down.  I keep hearing my teacher Joe Somodi's mantra in my head - Steady in the midst of change.  That's just what I need these days!

Amidst everything else, making space for my yoga practice is definitely going to be a high priority on my list to carry me through the next 29 days.  I plan to have it carry me through forever, of course...but sometimes it comes a little less naturally and it's good to set a mindful intention to make it happen.

As I often do, I found a nice article on YogaJournal.com from their holiday issue that also has some great advice for when life feels a little busy or overwhelming.  Check it out, and have a wonderful last week of February!

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Happy Valentine's Day!

I've always, always loved Valentine's Day.  Despite the fact that I've spent WAY more V-Day's single than coupled, and despite the fact that my first major relationship ended very close to Valentine's Day, I've always looked at it as a beautiful opportunity to celebrate the loves in my life.  My family, my friends, and on about 5 (I think) occasions, a romance.  I'd write cards to my friends, give chocolate, make cookies - it's probably my second favorite holiday after Thanksgiving.  Food and Gratitude, Chocolate and Love.  How could it possibly get any better than that?

The answer to that question - yoga!


My neighborhood yoga studio in Astoria, The Giving Tree Yoga Studio, is offering a fantastic Partner Yoga and Massage Workshop this Saturday night from 5:30-7:30.  It doesn't have to be a romantic partner - grab your best friend for a super fun, beginner-friendly, delicious experience that's sure to leave you both glowing.  Marc and I did it two years ago and we're so excited to be able to attend this year!

To sign up for this workshop and to check out all of the other great events The Giving Tree has going on this month, click here.  Even if you're not an Astorian, it's well worth the short trip on the N train.  Again, it's this Saturday night, Feb 16th, at 5:30pm.

Whatever your plans, I hope you enjoy this day as an opportunity to appreciate the love you have for your friends, family, the world around you, and most importantly - you!  Happy Valentine's Day, Internets!

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Pranayama Power: Nadi Shodhana

I thought I'd make this week's entry about one of my very favorite yogic practices - pranayama!  A much beloved teacher made a point to emphasize this practice at the beginning of class on Saturday night, and it made me realize how often I forget about it in my own practice.  There are so many ways to explore this branch of yoga and a million different techniques to practice.

The easiest, simplest way to explain pranayama is to describe it as breathing techniques.  More specifically, "prana" is translated to "life force energy."  Prana isn't limited to our breath, although that's probably our most significant form of life force - it could apply to food as well.

I wrote about another form of pranayama, known as Kapalabhati Breath, a couple of years ago, and this week I'd like to write about Nadi Shodhana (some yogis refer to it also as Nadi Suddhi).

This technique is quite simple.  Using a particular hand position, or a mudra (an example is pictured right - some people prefer to tuck the middle and index finger in to the palm rather than touching the third eye point), plug your left nostril while inhaling through your right.  Then plug your right nostril and exhale out of your left nostril.  Inhale through the left nostril, then plugging the left nostril, exhale out of the right.  Lather, rinse, repeat as often as you like.

The fun thing with this practice is that you can gradually start to introduce breath retention - holding the breath for a few seconds on the inhalation or exhalation.  It's a wonderful way to cultivate stillness, peace, and focus.

I always feel like my brain got a mini spring cleaning after I practice this breath for a few minutes.  It's hard to describe the feeling you get after focusing on breathing through one nostril at a time.  This breath is not only great for creating calm and focus but some people also find it helpful if they're struggling with motion sickness. Give it a try and notice what it does for you!