Saturday, March 15, 2014

Getting better ... Sometimes

Sometimes I feel like I am getting better on the mat and other days not so much. I was MIA for a week due to a crazy schedule and not feeling quite right. That first day back on the mat felt wonderful. I could tell I was out of practice but it was not like starting from day one.

I started writing about my yoga practice here, but then an opportunity came up to share my thoughts on Shine Yoga Studio's blog, where I go for classes. For my most recent entry for Shine I wrote about leaving our competitive nature at the door when it comes to yoga. 

"When we practice yoga we focus on the positive, being happy about where we are and finding our own limits rather than where we think we should be. Replacing those negative thoughts, those feelings of, I will only be good, achieved, a master when I ... is replaced with positive thoughts and feeling about yourself, your body and skill by realizing what you are doing in that moment is fabulous.How often do you get to say, what I am in this moment is fabulous and is exactly where I should be? Not often. And I think we could all use a little more, I am fabulous as I am, in our lives!"

Monday, January 13, 2014

Easing Back to the Mat

Saying I had to ease back to the mat this week after only being a student for a few months sounds a bit strange until you hear why I was AWOL for over a week. I had the flu. I joked the other day that I would rather have a cold than one of my migraines, and well, I got one heck of a cold and flu. Note to self- be careful what you wish for!

A few sad attempts at working punctuated a week spent taking hot baths, sitting with a heating pad set on hot and lots of sleeping.  At least once a day I tried to spend some time on the mat. Poses that stretched the back and shoulders were a great relief for tight, twisted muscles that ached and joints that seemed to crack like brittle wood. Moving, stretching and getting away from the sick bed and sofa for a few moments on the mat where I feel energized and strong helped me feel healthier.  Finally, Monday, I made it to a class and it felt wonderful! Felicia reminded me that I only have to do what I can. If it is a short morning routine on the mat at home, sitting on the mat for ten minutes, even thinking about yoga- it is all good. You do what you can.

You do what you can. Why is that such a hard lesson for us to learn? We want to push ourselves. We want to present, with a puffed out chest and slight weary look on our faces, our laundry list of what we accomplished for the day. Why? Yes, there are things that must be done but to what cost do we push ourselves to get it all done plus ten-fold more in one day? I am certain if I listened more to my body and rested earlier in the week the illness would not have lingered so long.

Yoga teaches us to take small breaks in our practice, if only for a moment. We learn to take a deep breath, push ourselves a bit, but not to go to the point of pain.  We should carry that forward to the rest of our day.  

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Short, Sweet and Restorative

It was only a half an hour, but that time on the yoga mat this morning was exactly what I needed. Yoga mat spread out by the Christmas tree for the last time, snow coming down outside the picture window and a cup of hot coffee close by; it was a slow, gentle start to the day.

I had a two hour yoga class yesterday! I will admit I was a bit apprehensive about tackling two hours, but new friends and wonderful teachers made for a fabulous class. I was reminded (I wonder how long it will take to really learn this lesson) that it is not how much you do, it is just the act of coming to class and doing your best.

After class and a fun gab chat at the coffee shop with two new friends, I was out of commission with one of my worst migraines ever. I cannot complain, or perhaps I should not complain considering I used to get them a few times a week. This one was a whopper and it left me feeling very sore and worn out this morning. It's like getting hit by a truck. So I took it slow this morning and already I can feel the tension in my shoulders and neck melting way and the hurt from yesterday's migraine dissipating.

After a morning of photography at the park and writing, I think a slow 30 minutes on the yoga mat will be in order this afternoon to keep the muscles relaxed and limber and correct from hours spent sitting at a desk.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Learning to Think the Truth

Felicia started today's class with a reading from Eckhart Tolle. She read and spoke about understanding the difference between thoughts and facts- what is an what we create in our mind. I read Eckhart Tolle many years back during a transitional period in my life. What I found particularly helpful is his conversation about Ego and understanding how we react and what we are thinking is often not truthful. Many times what we think and feel about a situation is not based on the situation at hand but on what is happening now plus how we are still dealing with past events, trying to guess what the other person is thinking or feeling, our own doubts, insecurities and fears and a slew of other emotions all swirled together and attributed to the situation at hand. Whew... Needless to say, what we are thinking and feeling is not the truth about the situation at hand. There's just too much baggage muddling our thoughts and feelings. 

Here's another way to look at it. Sometimes on our hikes there is someone who feels defeated because she is the slowest or takes the most rests climbing a steep hill. She may say- I am horrible at this, I am just not a hiker.  That's her thoughts, her mind interpreting, to her detriment, its impression of the facts at hand. Fact: she is hiking a long hike, maybe 12+ miles. Fact: it is a STEEP hill. Fact: most people don't walk a mile more less take on a fast paced hike with others who hike weekly. Fact: she is simply tired, pushing herself harder than ever before, a bit out of practice...  But she is a hiker, because she is hiking. 

Instead of seeing the positive and the accomplishment of the day's hike, if she lets her thoughts rule her heart, she will see the day as a failure instead of the wondrous day it truly was spent outside, with new friends, in the woods, getting a heck of a good workout and a well deserved post-hike beer.

In my yoga classes I am trying to take this one step further. I do not want to compare myself to the other students and risk judging my own progress based on what they are accomplishing with the posses. Nor do I want to get lax and think to myself, well at least I am here. The honest responses I think should be, this is hard, this was easier, I feel weak here, oh, I feel strong here, look my foot is flat on the floor!  I want my practice in yoga to teach me to think and feel in direct relationship to what I am doing on the mat in that moment. And that is all. 

Art: Serene, by Bella Dos Santos

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Morning Prayers and Shaking Off Bad Dreams

Some dreams leave me laughing and scratching my head and others slightly annoyed; like when I dream I am up dressed, showered and ready for work only to wake up to realize it was a dream and I have to do it all over. Arghh. At least I know what to wear. Then there are those that leave me sad. They are strong dreams; dreams that take hold of me and follow me around the morning like a dark cloud.

There is so much to do today and tomorrow morning, plus work, that I wanted to get up and start knocking things off the list. Then I saw my yoga mat. Reluctantly I sat down and tried to ignore my nagging to-do list and my grey dream cloud. It's Christmas Eve, a day of rejoicing, peace and new beginnings. I needed to get my balance back.

I did a little yoga, just a few poses, and I prayed. I sat quietly and said a prayer of gratitude and pictured warm, bright light illuminating my dark dream cloud. 

I really cannot speak too much on what Yoga is; I am far too new to the practice. I do know that classes are infused with time for finding balance. Sometimes it is guided meditation, sometimes it is holding a pose and just being in that moment. In my Sunday morning class we begin our time with some wondrous insights and words of reflection by Karen, our teacher, and we conclude class with quiet meditation.

Is't that prayer? It is to me. In the quiet times of classes I pray. 

This morning my yoga mat reminded me to stop, let my body and mind awaken and spend time in quiet prayer. 

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Insulting, but to Whom?

I hear a lot of reports of Nativity scenes being removed, Christmas concerts in which the words Jesus and God are edited out and people saying it is offensive to say Merry Christmas.  
So who are we really offending? I say it is far more offensive to tell a Christian, who is putting on a Christmas concert in which Christmas songs are sung not to say the words Jesus or God. That's the point of the concert, the meaning around the concert, the birth of Jesus.

Instead of playing the offended card every time someone does or says something you don't agree with or does not follow your faith, remind yourself that this nation, under God, was created by many fleeing from religious persecution. They created a nation where are all welcome to practice their faith. Saying to others, do not speak of Jesus, do not say Jesus or Merry Christmas, do not sing of Jesus unless you are in your Church is not too far from-- remove that steeple, the cross from the doors and the Bible quote on your sign- those may insult someone walking by. Better yet, practice in private, in a basement where no one can hear or see what you are doing.  

Are you not comfortable with that? Then leave here to establish a new nation where religion is tolerated and you are free to praise God as you see fit. Oh wait- did't we do that already?

If my neighbor wants to place symbols for the Jewish holiday in our building lobby I say, please do. They are celebrating faith and spreading love. 

The core of most faiths is love. Treat others as God would want you to treat your brother or sister. Show kindness before anger and hate. Bring no harm unto others, practice compassion and forgiveness.  All those who practice that belief, in peace and with love, are welcome to share their faith with me, in my country, under God.

Merry Christmas

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Merry Christmas, Yes I Said it

Are we having this debate again?  Happy Holidays? No, it's Christmas. I say Merry Christmas to each person I meet and who comes into the shop where I work.

Merry Christmas- a wish, a blessing of love, good cheer, happiness and peace. If you are offended by such a wonderful, kind, positive sentiment then I say Merry Christmas again because it would appear you need a bit more love in your life.

When I am wished Happy Hanukkah or Kwanzaa or another such sentiment, I say thank you, and same to you!  That person is sending to me thoughts and wishes, perhaps a prayer for joy and happiness and I will take all I can get.

Are you still offended and angered by Merry Christmas, get over it and put your need to be offended to something that is offend worthy- like songs which drop the F-bomb and degrade women, governments declaring their desire to kill an entire race or nation, people harming children, animals and the defenseless.

Step back, take a moment and see that when we say Merry Christmas, it's a good thing,it is love.