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“love life, engage in it, give it all you’ve got. love it with a passion, because life truly does give back, many times over, what you put into it” ~ Maya Angelou

We have options when it comes to how we live life. As we all know, life isn’t always smooth and simple, nor is it always exciting and stimulating. Sometimes we have to work a job that we don’t like, we need to use up weekends for chores, we need to commute to work. We encounter traffic, unreasonable bosses, lulls in love life, tears and anger. Yet, it is still our life, and it’s ours to live. I can’t say I understand anyone’s pain, or boredom, or despair, or discontent; but I can advise to live fully, in whatever life you have. You are the captain of your ship.

We can choose to engage, or disengage. We can choose to act, or to float through. We can participate, or watch by the sidelines. We can interact with those around us, join yoga classes, make connections; or disconnect and isolate. And just like in life, we can do so in our yoga practice.

“You must live in the present, launch yourself on every wave, find your eternity in each moment.“ ~ Henry David Thoreau

So today, check in throughout your yoga practice. Are you watching, or living? Is every muscle participating in your warrior I? Is your mind present and listening to your body through sun salutations? Are you enjoying yourself? It’s impossible not to check out every once in a while; but our challenge with yoga, as in life, is to train ourselves to resuscitate the light inside.

“I will live this day as if it is my last.

Each hour of this day will I cherish for it can never return.  Each minute of this day will I grasp with both hands and fondle with love for its value is beyond price. What dying man can purchase another breath though he willingly give all his gold? What price dare I place on the hours ahead? I will make them priceless!

I will live this day as if it is my last.“

~adapted from The Greatest Salesman In The World by Og Mandino

Pose of the day: Utthita Hasta Padangusthasana. Yes, it’s a mouthful. The mere mention of this pose sends me into a downward spiral of anxiety and negative thinking. In English, this is Extended Hand-to-Foot pose. It’s about balance, it’s about hamstring and hip flexibility, it’s about leg strength. And it is intense. You can read up about the pose in a detailed article here, and see a quick picture here. As the article states, you can practice this pose laying on the ground with a belt around your tops foot, as an option. In fact, this is my FAVOURITE pose. But bring it vertical, and I feel it.

In this class, we did this pose standing, but with a belt at the wall, as the picture to the left shows. Easy? No. If you’re doing it right, you are WORKING. You are engaging your legs (ESPECIALLY that bottom leg), you are feeling the burn, you are standing tall, and you are feeling ALIVE. Tips to help you engage:

  1. Make sure that your bottom foot (on the ground) is pointing towards the wall, at a perfect 90 degree angle to the wall. It will want to turn out. Don’t let it.
  2. Keep that standing leg STRAIGHT. I’m not saying to hyperextend the knee, I’m telling you to work it. It’s tougher than you think.
  3. Have someone check your position (or use a mirror). Your legs should form a perfect 90 degree angle to each other. Make sure that standing leg is not too far away from the wall- as this is cheating. 🙂 You most likely want to thrust the pelvis forward, especially on the side of the leg that is on the wall. Push the hips back to the middle of the room. Square off your hips to the wall. And NOW tell me you don’t feel it.
  4. Your upper body is standing tall and straight. Don’t lean back – you are not driving a horse and carriage. Make the side body is tall and long.
  5. Smile. This may be the hardest part. If you feel it, it means you are engaged. You are alive… celebrate this. And celebrate tonight with a hot epsom salt bath. 🙂

Note: This is a class from the past. I am letting go of my procrastination today, and catching up on my yoga blog. I have skeleton posts in place, which I will try to fill in the best I can. However, I’m also trying to let go of my other “p” default pattern: perfectionism. So please practice understanding and forgiveness for any non-sensical entries. You will gain some insight into how my mind works…

Learning is a treasure that will follow its owner everywhere.  ~Chinese Proverb

This summer, I have had to learn and relearn A LOT. Studying for board exams, you realize that though nothing you are reading should be new, there are going to be things that seem new. So, instead of reacting with stress and frustration, I have chosen to react with celebration. Thus, in celebration of learning today, we are looking at yoga as a learning experience.

Be a student so long as you still have something to learn, and this will mean all your life.  ~Henry L. Doherty

In life, we are constantly learning. We are also constantly making mistakes, making choices, meeting people. Learning helps us to grow, and it helps satisfy a deeper need to grow and evolve. One who stops learning completely is one who loses their spark. You can see evidence everywhere of our efforts to find new things to learn: joining a new sport, meeting a new person, researching a new “useless” factoid. We are a fantastically curious species.

Which brings us to yoga. Why do we come, week after week, to our mats? We come to our mats to retrain our bodies- to learn and RElearn healthy patterns in our muscles, our posture, and in our minds. We come to train our muscles through muscle memory- gaining strength and stability to take out into our lives. We come to remind our spines how to extend upwards, our limbs how to align in a natural way, our feet how to ground. We come to observe our minds when given the time to just be, when we put our bodies in challenging positions, challenging predicaments. Finally, we come to learn how to bring all of this knowledge off the mat.

There are some things you learn best in calm, and some in storm.  ~Willa Cather

Today, let us regard our mats as our own, individual classrooms. Learn about your left knee, the furrow in your forehead, your breath, your strength. We are also going to take some extra time teaching our bodies the best, most life-affirming posture to take off our mats.

Pose of the day: The most common posture problems are usually a slouched upper back (excessive kyphosis) and  excessive curve (lordosis) in the lumbar spine. Today, our focus was retraining our spines into healthy position. A simple, but effective pose to gain back some awareness in the spine is Cat-Cow Pose (or Marjaryasana and Bitilasana). One might think that this would only EMPHASIZE these two curvatures in the spine; however, what is emphasized depends on the practitioner’s focus.

In Cat pose, as we are puffing our backs up towards the sky, we have to bring our attention to the LOWER back. Pulling the belly-button towards the spine (note, I did NOT say “sucking in the stomach”) and imagining puffing up your kidneys (they lie closest to your back, under the last set of “false ribs” at the level of the 12th vertebrae). Don’t focus on your upper spine: your upper, or thoracic, spine knows exactly how to attain this position, as it has a natural curvature in this direction.

In Cow pose, the opposite happens. Here, instead of focusing on overdoing the curve of the lower back (the lower back, or lumbar spine, knows innately how to do this) we bring attention to bringing the shoulder blades together and melting the heart towards the earth. We should be stretching out the heart area, the pectoral muscles that shorten and tighten as we slouch, and activating the muscles that pull our shoulder blades back and down.

Doing a few cat-cows every day will bring awareness to your spine, activate your muscles, and stimulate blood flow. It’s just one simple thing to do to re-learn good posture and learn a few things about your own patterns. Not only that, but its also a great way to wake up!


Just me…

2010 Journey

November 2011
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