Saturday, August 31, 2013

Saturday Sadhana & Refreshing Honesty

Normally on a Saturday morning I'd be at Karma Kids Yoga's Peace In Studio, teaching the coolest group of pregnant ladies ever some prenatal yoga and prenatal Pilates.  Being the holiday weekend, however, we're closed!  So instead of sleeping in (I made it to 7:50!) I decided to get up and do something I haven't done in way longer than I want to admit - I practiced yoga and meditated here in my own apartment.

I've been very disconnected from my own practice lately, as I've written about here and there the last almost-year, and which is probably evident in my lack of inspiration of blog posts a lot this summer.  I've been getting caught up so much in my job of yoga (and managing) that I've lost touch with my practice of yoga - it's been hard to distinguish the two.  Usually when you get home from work, even if you love your job, you seek a respite from it.  I was finding the yoga of work and the yoga of home too similar to remember what it was to get peace and comfort from sitting and meditating.  Also I've become a massive adult-onset ADD New Yorker who is addicted to her iPhone, which makes sitting in meditation seem like almost a waste of time because I can't get over my desire to make a schedule, check facebook, or I suddenly remember 47 things I need to add to my to-do list.

This morning, though, was lovely.  I found a nice 30 minute yoga session on YouTube (still haven't done a self guided asana practice in awhile - that'll come, I'm sure) and then did a little pranayama and meditation for a few minutes.  It wasn't earth-shattering or revelation-filled, but man it was nice.  I'm not putting any big expectations on myself for the next two and a half weeks - as it will be my honeymoon soon! - but I'm hoping very much that I can rebuild my practice-muscle and my discipline and my desire for my own practice.  It can't do me anything but good.  When things get crazy this coming fall at Karma Kids, I need to remember that 30 minutes of legs up the wall and meditation after a long day are going to go a lot farther in relaxing and unwinding me than 60 minutes of Master Chef (but oh my god, that show is awesome - and I haven't seen this week's yet, so no spoilers.)

To close, I want to share a link that I saw a couple yogi friends post on facebook that made me laugh.  Some of these I relate to, some of these I think a lot, and some of them I don't relate to so much, but they're all fun:  Things Your Yoga Teacher is Dying to Tell You (but probably won't)

Happy holiday weekend, everyone!

Friday, August 23, 2013

Fly like an Eagle

First of all, I apologize to everyone for getting that song stuck in your head.  However, it's the first thing that popped into mine for a title because today I'd like to talk about Eagle Pose - aka Garudasana.  This pose is translated in English to "eagle" but according to almighty yogajournal.com, it literally means "devourer."  Garuda was the vehicle of the god Vishnu, which was purportedly identified with the, "all consuming fires of the sun's rays."  You learn something new every day!

It's easy to see why this pose is associated with something all-consuming, though.  You're double-wrapping your legs and arms around each other, and in advanced variations, folding over on yourself.  For some, it's an extremely challenging pose.  Aside from having to balance on one foot, and remember which is right and which is left long enough to get the correct knee and elbow stacked on top of the other, this tremendously challenges the flexibility of the upper back and shoulders, the hips and thighs, and builds strength in the ankle.

I teach this pose a lot in my prenatal classes for women who suffer from pubic symphysis pain, general pelvic pain, and tight shoulders (the latter usually affects all my students, pregnant or not!).  It can also feel very nice for anyone suffering from sciatica.  This past month I've also been practicing it a lot at Bikram Yoga NYC .  I don't regularly practice Bikram (I have some big differences of opinion - not to mention issues with the founder himself) but I do enjoy it from time to time, and Eagle pose is always one of the poses I look forward to the most in the practice.  Although I disagree with the teaching and alignment of some of their poses, I think Eagle is usually taught quite well in a Bikram class.  These photos are both from Bikram students/instructors practicing the pose

To come into Eagle Pose, start by coming into utkatasana, usually known as chair pose.  To do the right side, lift your right leg up and cross it over the left, like you were crossing your legs in a chair.  The right foot can touch the floor if you're still working up to the full balance.  Regardless of where that right foot lands (most advanced variation has it wrapping around the left calf), keep squeezing the knees toward each other, making sure the hips stay level.  Feel like your outer hips are squeezing in toward each other.

From there, keeping your gaze steady on something eye level or higher that's not moving, wrap your left elbow on top of the right.  (Right leg on top, right arm on bottom.)  Squeeze the elbows together.  If the shoulders and back are extremely tight, the hands might not touch, and that's perfectly okay.  Eventually you'll be able to press the backs of the hands together, and then finally press palms together.  In Bikram, they also work toward getting the elbows down so low that the fingers are below the face (pictured right).

Finally, if you're feeling steady, you can carefully shift your gaze toward the floor and come into a forward fold, making a C with your spine and curling in on yourself.

Unwrap your arms and legs, and take the other side.  It feels so delicious afterward!  You've challenged, stretched, and/or strengthened nearly your body - stand in Mountain Pose, tadasana, and notice the effects.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Moms & Babies!

Happy gorgeous gorgeous Wednesday everyone!  A short entry today - again.  I have to admit, I haven't been feeling very inspired to blog the way I always thought I "should" be blogging.  When I started this a few years ago I had a very definitive idea that I'd have brilliant musings and insights on all things yoga every single week and that I'd be brimming with ideas and creativity...and yes, there are times when I have more ideas than I have time to write.  Everything comes and goes in waves, though, and I'm just having more of a fallow season I guess!

The good news is that I have something awesome to share on the blog today!  ABC News came to Karma Kids a couple of weeks ago to film one of Shari's Mom & Baby classes and their story is now up and available for viewing here.

I happened to just come from teaching a Mom & Baby class at The Yoga Room in Long Island City this afternoon.  Today most of my regular moms weren't there but I had a whole bunch of brand new moms - including one who had just moved to New York from Amsterdam.  I also teach a Friday morning class at 9:15 at The Giving Tree, and I sub Mom & Baby at Karma Kids whenever the opportunity presents itself.

Mom Catherine and baby Raphael (Rafa) chill out
in Legs Up the Wall at the end of class at The Giving Tree
This class is easily one of my all time favorite of all of the different populations I teach.  There is something so particularly rewarding about seeing moms connect with each other, relax in a safe environment where no one cares if their baby screams the whole time, and maybe even grab one or two rare moments of zen.  They leave feeling stronger and usually sure that they'll get a great nap out of their baby after class!  From the selfish end of things, I know teaching a baby class is a guaranteed way to lift my spirits if they're sagging for whatever reason.  It is absolutely impossible not to be in a wonderful mood after teaching a Mom & Baby class.  Interacting with all the different little ones and seeing how extraordinarily fast (too fast!) they grow and creating my own little bond with them is unbelievably rewarding.

If you have any friends who are expectant or new mommies, no matter where you live, see if you can find a Mom & Baby Yoga class in your area.  It's something that has brought so much to so many new moms I've seen and worked with!

Friday, August 9, 2013

It's Science

Big shoutout to the lovely Cassie Naatkgeboren for not only having the coolest last name ever, but for providing me with a link for today's blog!  Also, bonus points to anyone who can tell me the preceding sentence to the Anchorman quote ending in, "It's science" that inspired this post title...

I had planned a big, contemplate-y post about the amazing Orange is the New Black (but I'm only on episode 4, so no spoilers!) and the character of Yoga Jones.  She says some really interesting things about impermanence in the first episode, but alas, as is wont to happen to me these days, time has gotten away from me.  How is this happening - it's August, for goodness sakes!  Time is supposed to be growing on trees.  Oh well - just got to go with the flow, I suppose.

What's really cool about this link is that instead of just being written by any old schmo with a blog (like yours truly) there are some really fantastic scientifically based images and explanations around these ten pieces of advice that we've all received, and probably given, a zillion times over.  It puts it all in a different perspective.

Enjoy, everyone, and happy Friday!

Friday, August 2, 2013

My Prenatal Guru

This brilliant woman has been one of my heroes since I started my yogic journey - specifically when I started teaching Prenatal Yoga.

In honor of my 4 Prenatal classes I'm teaching tomorrow, I'd love to share some of her wisdom with you.  Ina May Gaskin is repeatedly described as the "mother of modern midwifery," and she truly is.  She's the author of several life changing (to me) books (my favorite being Ina May's Guide to Childbirth; her latest is Birth Matters which is an unbelievably important read!) and helped found The Farm Midwifery Center, which is the place where if I had my druthers, I'd have all my future babies!

There's so much I love about Ina May, but one of the main things is her dogged determination to quell fear and ignorance with knowledge and humor.  Birth is a wonderful, horrible, peaceful, excruciating experience depending on who you are and what your experiences are (sometimes all of those things at once!).  The more you know about it, whatever your experience winds up being like, the better off you'll be going into it - and the better prepared you'll be to throw all preconceived notions out the window when the time actually comes.

Obviously, for me all of this is second hand.  While I haven't yet experienced this for myself, and so in a sense am as ignorant as can be, I hear birth stories from my students constantly, as well as from my own mother and mother-in-law (both of whom are strong advocates for epidurals!)  From my students I hear experiences that truly run the spectrum - natural, epidural, c-section, wonderful, terrible, challenging, a breeze.  Each one is as unique as the woman who lived it.

I always encourage my students, as my teacher Juliana encourages me, to never take anyone - even Ina May's! - word as gospel and to always find their answers through as many avenues as possible.

Spare about 15 minutes to watch this - and get a load of the staggering statistics toward the end comparing the national US C-section and instrumental delivery rate versus the rates from births on The Farm!