Thursday, June 26, 2014

Sports + Yoga = World Cup Success

Big Life News is coming up, but it's not in a place yet where I can put it up on a blog.  Call it superstition, or call it hippie paranoia over Mercury's Retrograde, call it what you will - hopefully by next week I can talk about the thing that will likely be inspiring most entries this summer (except for course for the entries inspired by my sister's upcoming twins!).

In the meantime, my most public Big Life News is THE WORLD CUP!  The US lost to Germany (inc case you're living under a rock and didn't know) but we're advancing to the next round!

In honor of that, an article on our intense new coach - including a tiny little mention of his introduction to yoga to the team.

Go Yoga - Go America.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Mental Movies

Whenever I read a book, I have to cast all of the characters as either actors or people in my life.  I need a "mental movie" going in my head along with the story or I can't delve into it as deeply as I want.  For most of my favorite books, I could tell you exactly who plays what part.  (And chances are, Matthew McConoughey will be in it)  As a movie addict from the time I was a tiny tot, the language of "mental movie" is something I can easily connect to, and now that I work with kids and with adults for whom meditation is new, it's a really effective way to start introducing visualization techniques.

As so many of us do, I tend to worry.  At the moment, there are a lot of uncertainties going on in Marc's and my life and we've been playing the waiting game a lot in the last two or so months with regard to family, finances, and our apartment.  It's been a constant battle to quell the mental movie of disaster - the worry - and just try to stay focused on the present and the fact that most of this is out of our hands.

Last night, I attended an Inversion & Arm Balances Refresher Course at my good ol' Karma Kids Yoga.  The event was for KKY Trained teachers to help us refresh us on how we can better teach these challenging poses to the kids we work with and how to work with them in our own personal practice as well.

My boss, KKY Director Shari Vilchez-Blatt, is addicted to these poses!  She is always up for a new challenge and for working on seemingly impossible and crazy physical feats, including quite a few that either blow my mind or just scare the bejesus out of me.

Handstand fever at one of our KKY Playdates (aka a "Staff meeting")
from February.  I'm third from the left, Shari's last on the right.
For me, the big challenge lay in two particular poses - tripod headstand (a pose I've struggled with and hated forever!) and jumping into crow from downward dog (which she makes look so damn easy and impossible at the same time).

After reviewing some of the elements of jumping into crow for a bit, she had us stop and just sit for a minute to ground ourselves.  She guided us through a simple but powerful and effective "mental movie" meditation.  She had us sit, breathe, and watch a movie of ourselves doing the pose.  Gliding into it as if it took no effort, as if it were as easy as walking.

And for the first two minutes of this, my mind showed a very clear mental movie of me......breaking my wrists.  Falling on my face.  Breaking my arms.  Somehow, impossibly, even breaking my neck.  I had to stifle my laughter because it was just so ridiculous and so typical of my worrywort brain.  How revealing this was that I sit with a full intention of visualizing success and I visualize immediately violent failure.  After a few minutes I was able to shift the movie, and I got pretty darn close when we went back to trying the pose, but I've been thinking about that ever since.

I worked on positive visualization later on when she was helping me into my dreaded tripod headstand and was struck by how much of my struggle in that pose is mental and a result of all the mental movies of myself breaking my neck in that pose.  Instead of defaulting to an inspirational movie, I default into a horror movie!  As yoga so often does, it gave me a massive insight into how this mirrors my "off the mat" life.

Whether you practice yoga or not, this so-simple and so-powerful tool is a must for us to practice in life.  Visualizing yourself doing a challenging yoga pose or physical feat will be incredibly helpful toward reaching it, and more than that, visualizing a positive outcome for something in your life whether it's in your control or not is so good for your brain, your stress level, your emotional well-being.

We spend so much time and energy visualizing things going wrong, consciously and unconsciously.  If we work hard at visualizing the positive outcome, we might still wind up disappointed if it doesn't work out, but at least we haven't made ourselves suffer in the interim.  I can't remember who, but someone once said that when you worry about a problem, you experience it twice - once in the worried anticipation, and once when it actually comes to pass.

There's enough in the world to worry about, but we have the power to choose a positive thought and shift our energy in the other direction.  With time, with practice, with consistency...who knows what kind of seemingly impossible feats will suddenly become possible.  I'm working on switching my mental movie from horror to inspirational, and plan to keep chasing that jump into crow.  I'll keep you posted on how it goes!

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Three Minutes

If you "Like" Elizabeth Gilbert on Facebok, then you probably don't need to read any further.  If you don't...start!  Her short essays, musings, whatever you want to call them on almost a daily basis are so inspiring and somehow so grounded.  In honor of "throwback Thursday," she has shared a brief interview (barely 3 minutes of your precious time) about integrating spiritual lessons she learned after four months in an Indian Ashram into her daily life.

Inspiring + Grounded = Elizabeth Gilbert.  I don't have anything that could hold a candle to this in me today, so enjoy!

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Attitude Schmattitude

I remember as a kid that nearly every single classroom would have some variation of a cheesy laminated poster that would invariably have a slogan about Attitude!  Attitude is everything!  It's all about Attitude!  Have a Positive Attitude Today!

And because as a kid I so very often prided myself on being, as they say, too cool for school, I always found them embarrassing and dumb.  For no particular reason, of course - it's just that I was a kid and found most everything that could be put into cheerful poster form at school to be terribly cheesy.  Attitude schmattitude.  Bo-ring.

It's very strange how in some ways, kids are the big cynics and adults are the big open-hearted softies, and it others it's exactly the opposite.  Understanding, valuing, and respecting the massive importance and power of a positive attitude is something I have only come to understand as an adult.  It's also only as an adult how much I've come to understand that attitude is 100% a choice.  It's not always an easy choice, especially when your mind is in a continual habit of having a negative attitude or simply not exercising any power of altering your attitude, but it is a choice, every single damn time.

One of the many benefits of yoga is that as you practice watching your thoughts and detaching yourself from identifying solely with your thoughts and emotions (which change with the breeze), you start to gain an understanding of that choice.  With practice, it gets easier and easier.

It's a continual challenge for me, and some days go better than others, but I always appreciate reminders that it truly is all about attitude - attitude is everything.

I'll close with a quote from one of the many birth stories that has been reminding me of this fact.  In anticipation of the newest members of my family being born soon (but not soon enough for me!), I've been reading bits and pieces of the birth stories at the beginning of Ina May Gaskin's masterpiece, Spiritual Midwifery.

It's amazing for so many reasons - for one, the hippie lingo of the era is truly something to behold - but one of the most common threads I find in these stories and in the philosophies Gaskin and her team of midwives espouse, is that you can choose to have a good experience or a bad experience.  You can choose to identify as pain or sensation.  The mind is more profoundly powerful than any of us know, and so many of these stories are proof of that.  Obviously they deal exclusively with childbirth, but if they can apply these principles to childbirth - how much more easily can we apply the lesson to every other trial and tribulation life throws our way?

This is an excerpt from a woman named Linda's birth story, "Rear Entry," describing the first breech birth performed at The Farm (as opposed to the local hospital).  Dr. Williams, local OB and great partner to the midwives at The Farm, was skeptical about the possibility of a drug-free breech and was attending the birth to be on hand in case of emergency.  Here, Linda is talking about the pressure she felt leading up to the birth.

"I got emotional and teary again, and later Ina May and Margaret came over and said they wanted to know where I was at, because both times Ina May had seen me I had been upset and crying.  Ina May said that The Farm women had a really good reputation with the local hospital because of how they had their babies, and if I started blubbering at everything, how was I going to have a baby without anesthesia?  I realized right then that I had to stop being self-indulgent and straighten up.  I promised them right there that I was going to do it right and they trusted me.  I really believe that any woman has the option to chicken out or not.  I felt like I had made a vow to have a good time at my birthing, and I knew a month ahead of time I was going to have fun.  That left the rest of my pregnancy to look forward to it."

Spoiler alert:  She does indeed have fun.

How amazing is that attitude?  How many people these days do you ever think stop to check themselves and stop being self-indulgent and "straighten up?"  I love it and look at it as a challenge to live up to.