Rox Does Yoga

Yoga, Wellness, and Life

Pose of the Month: Double Boat Pose October 31, 2011

Filed under: Pose of the Month,yoga — R. H. Ward @ 1:06 pm
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Since we’re talking about yoga and sex this month, I’ll be bringing you a few fun poses you can do with a partner!

Pose Name: Double or Partner-Assisted Boat Pose

Sanskrit Name: Navasana

Steps:

  1. Sit facing your partner with your knees bent. Reach out and clasp your partner’s hands or wrists (clasping hands will give you a little more room to work with your legs, but clasping wrists gives a little more stability).
  2. Lift your right foot off the ground while your partner lifts her left foot off the ground. Press the soles of your foot against the sole of your partner’s foot. (It will help if you’re able to keep your right knee inside your arms.) Begin to straighten the right knee.
  3. Repeat on the other side, lifting your left foot and pressing it against your partner’s right foot.
  4. Once both feet are up, you can work on straightening the legs. Make sure to use your core muscles to hold you up as you would in regular boat pose.
  5. Work playfully with the pose, have fun, and don’t forget to breathe.
  6. Come down slowly, one foot at a time, and release your hands.

Benefits:

Boat pose really strengthens the core muscles and stimulates the abdominal organs. In terms of our ongoing yoga and sex series, boat pose is great because it warms up the core and gets your energy flowing!

Practicing boat pose with a partner can give you added stability and support to straighten the legs while you work the core. Plus it’s fun!

Contraindications:

Contraindications for boat pose include asthma, insomnia, diarrhea, heart problems, low blood pressure, and pregnancy. Those with neck problems may want to practice boat pose at the wall (so you can lean your head back and rest it against the wall).

This isn’t a contraindication, but if you’re practicing double boat with a partner, it will be trickier to do if the two of you have different leg lengths (i.e., someone short practicing with someone very tall). See the photo below: my legs are longer than Stacey’s, so my knees are slightly bent. However, I can still move much further into the pose with a partner than I can on my own! If you and your partner are differently proportioned, try the pose anyway and just have fun with it. Be ready to laugh!

My Experience with Boat Pose:

Long have I hated boat pose. It’s one of those poses where I just never seem to improve. My core isn’t strong enough, it’s hard to straighten the legs, and even my arms get sore. So I was excited to find this fun modification of boat that can be practiced with a friend. You still get a core workout, but without all the disappointment. Instead, it’s a great way to share yoga with your partner and get warmed up together!

 

Partner-Assisted Boat Pose

Thanks to Stacey for helping me model this pose!

 

Meditation: Minding the Gap October 28, 2011

So I’m not making a lot of progress in reading Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche’s The Joy of Living, because every three pages he says something amazing and I want to go write a blog post about it. Today, what inspired me is the idea of minding the gap.

In London, there’s a gap between the subway platform and the train, such that when you get on the train you have to pay attention as you step over the gap. There’s also a gap between one thought and the next thought in our minds. Most of the time, we coast right along from one thought to the next to the next, not even noticing the gap in between, just the way that a frequent subway traveler steps right onto the train without looking at her feet. But the gap is still there, and being mindful of it can help us be safer on the subway and more present in our daily lives.

Rinpoche tells us that it can be a form of meditation just to notice the gap between our thoughts. He writes,

Watching thoughts is a bit like running to catch a bus. Just as you reach the bus stop, the bus is pulling away, so you have to wait for the next bus to come. In the same way, there’s often a gap between thoughts – maybe it lasts for just a split second, but still, there’s a gap. That gap is the experience of the complete openness of natural mind. (163)

When we meditate, we can just rest our minds in conscious awareness. Thoughts will come and go – there’s no way to stop them. We just pay attention to the thoughts and notice the gaps between them, and see what it feels like in that gap. The complete openness of natural mind! Sounds nice. Rinpoche goes on to say that, when you practice paying attention to that gap, you can start to extend it, to put a little more time between one thought and the next, spending a little longer resting in your natural mind. Like any other type of meditation, recognizing and resting in the openness of our natural mind will help us develop calm, peaceful attitudes that we can carry throughout the day.

Rinpoche uses another metaphor that I like a lot: that of watching TV or a movie. He writes, “On the TV or movie screen, lots of things may be going on, but you are not actually in the movie or on the TV screen, are you? There’s a little bit of space between yourself and whatever you’re watching” (165). In the same way that movies and TV shows (and commercials!) play on our TV screens, thoughts play across our minds. We can become very wrapped up in our thoughts, just as we’d get wrapped up in a good movie, forgetting that we’re not actually part of the action. Then we hear a noise, the phone rings, or we run out of popcorn, and suddenly we’re back in the living room in the present moment, not a part of the movie after all.

Our thoughts sweep us up and carry us away in the same way that movies do, but if we’re able to take a step back from the Thought TV and come back to the present moment, acknowledging the gap between our thoughts and us, we can avoid getting all worked up. After all, movies are really fun to watch, but they can be intense, scary, and upsetting too – and it’s the same with our thoughts. Sometimes part of the fun is getting caught up in all the emotion, but our goal in meditation is to keep our minds calm and peaceful. That doesn’t mean we have to stop having thoughts and emotions, or stop enjoying the thoughts and emotions we have. We’re going to have thoughts and emotions no matter what. But if we can mind the gap between one thought and the next, between our thoughts and ourselves, we can learn to live with a little more peace and calm. It’s one more technique we can use in our meditation practice and our yoga practice.

 

Yoga for Great Sex, Part 2 October 27, 2011

Filed under: yoga,yoga lifestyle — R. H. Ward @ 1:30 pm
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Last time, we talked about yoga’s physical benefits for your sex life. Today we’ll talk about the mental, emotional, and spiritual benefits of yoga and how they can help improve your connection with both your partner and with yourself.

First, yoga opens the heart. Practicing yoga increases our capacity for love and compassion. Having a more open heart allows you to connect more deeply with your partner. It also allows you to be more compassionate with yourself. Many people, especially women, are overly critical of themselves in sexual situations, constantly thinking about their bodies in a negative way, worrying about whether they’re doing it “right”, but developing more compassion can help such people to let go of that negativity and worry and just enjoy themselves.

For many people, yoga leads to increased confidence. You have a healthier, stronger, fitter body, so you feel more confident and more attractive. Yoga also helps us become emotionally stronger and more in touch with our true Selves, leading to an inner confidence that shines forth. And confident people are sexy!

Yoga and meditation teach us about awareness and mindfulness, and help us develop the ability to be present right now. This is a really important skill in the bedroom, too. For the person who has a tendency to worry about how she looks or what she’s doing during sex, focusing on being present right now can help her to set those worries aside and just enjoy the moment. And for the person who is easily distracted (who finds her mind wandering off, thinking about what she needs to get at the store tomorrow), cultivating that mindful awareness can bring her attention back to the present moment where it belongs.

Yoga also reduces stress by helping us to truly relax. Stress is one of the major factors that keeps us from wanting to have sex in the first place, and from fully enjoying it when we do have it. But in yoga, we consciously relax the body and release tension. When we’re able to do this in the bedroom, that enables us to have more fun and build a better connection with our partner.

Later on, I’ll post about some specific yoga poses that have hidden power to benefit our sex lives (I’ve already covered Cobbler Pose), as well as a sample sequence you can do to get warmed up for a fantastic romantic evening. For now, here’s a quick sampling of some common types of yoga poses and what they can do for us:

  • Heart-opening poses, like cobra, camel, or bridge, help us to develop compassionate hearts
  • Standing poses, like the warriors or triangle, contribute to the overall health of the body and help to build strength, heat, and energy
  • Balance poses help us learn to focus on mindfulness and being present
  • Poses that involve squatting strengthen the pelvic floor
  • Relaxing poses like child’s pose or legs-up-the-wall help us learn to calm our minds and relax
  • Savasana, of course, is the most important pose in yoga as well as for improving your sex life, because savasana teaches us how to relax, how to be in the present moment, and how to be comfortable with the stillness within yourself, which is what will allow us to connect deeply with another person

In yoga, we learn that true happiness comes from within. When you’re practicing yoga, you’re in touch with your spirit and able to open your heart and share yourself with another person. Sex then becomes much more than an experience of momentary physical enjoyment, when two people are able to share not just their bodies but their true Selves.

 

Yoga for Great Sex, Part 1 October 26, 2011

Filed under: yoga,yoga lifestyle — R. H. Ward @ 1:41 pm
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It should come as no surprise to my readers here that yoga can improve your sex life (after all, it improves just about everything else!). But what might be surprising is just how many of yoga’s many benefits do translate to the bedroom. It’s not just about flexibility and physical fitness: there are a myriad of other physical benefits, along with mental, emotional, and spiritual benefits. The truth is that all the things in yoga that prepare us for meditation also prepare us for great sex and for connecting deeply with another person. This blog series will discuss the many benefits of yoga for sex and examine how some familiar yoga poses can pay off in the bedroom.

First, let’s look at the physical benefits.

  • We all know that yoga improves the body’s strength, flexibility, coordination, muscle control, and overall health and physical fitness. People who are physically healthy, strong, and flexible will be able to perform better and have more stamina in the bedroom.
  • In addition to overall fitness, yoga specifically targets core strength and works the muscles of the pelvic floor, which are the muscles used during sex (see my recent post about the pelvic floor to learn more about how these muscles work and why they’re important). Having strong, flexible pelvic floor muscles will lead to a good sexual experience for both partners!
  • Doing yoga also gives you more energy. When you’re holding a difficult yoga pose, powering through it even though you’re struggling, you’re using tapas, which builds heat and energy in the body. Also, yoga opens and balances the chakras throughout the body, which leads to a better flow of energy. And more energy equals more passion!
  • The flip side of having more energy during the day is getting better sleep at night. Studies have shown that people who practice yoga do sleep better. Getting the sleep your body needs means that you’ll be well-rested and ready to do other things in the bedroom besides sleep.
  • Yoga also promotes self-knowledge, including a better knowledge of your own body. There are two consequences of this:
    • First, you become more aware of physical sensations in the body, which can lead to just plain enjoying sex more!
    • You also develop a better understanding of subtle physical movements. When we learn how to make tiny adjustments in the body in order to perfect our alignment in a yoga posture, we can then use that knowledge to make the same sorts of small movements during sex, which can turn a good sexual experience into a great one!

Next time, we’ll start talking about the mental, emotional, and spiritual benefits of yoga and how they apply in the bedroom (or, as was suggested to me during my presentation, wherever you might choose to get frisky!).

 

Yoga and Emotions: Laziness October 25, 2011

Filed under: yoga lifestyle — R. H. Ward @ 1:40 pm
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Next in our yoga and emotions series, we’ll talk about laziness. I actually feel like I talk a lot about laziness here on the yoga blog (at least three times in the last two months!), and sometimes I worry that that might not be all that fun for you, dear readers, but I’ll tell you a secret. I write about laziness so often and so strongly because I feel like laziness is a major problem for me in my life, one that I’m constantly battling against. When I write here about laziness, most of the time I’m really trying to encourage and inspire myself in addition to all of you. I figure that we all have this tendency to be lazy – if I feel like I’m constantly fighting against it, you might be too, and maybe writing about it here will help all of us on the journey.

So what are some yogic techniques for dealing with laziness? Patanjali would tell us to think of the opposite of laziness, which could be activity or movement (i.e., get up and do something!). When we feel lazy, we need to get up and do something productive – while it is okay to be lazy sometimes and take some time for relaxation, we can’t make that a life habit, or we’ll never move forward with our goals and dreams. Anything from taking a walk to calling a friend to making dinner can be something we can do to get moving. It doesn’t have to be something big, as long as you do something! Sew that missing button back on your jacket, read that interesting-looking article you clipped from the newspaper two weeks ago, or write that letter to your friend far away – even something that feels sedentary can be a way to move past laziness, if it’s something you want or need to do, and then you’ll feel a sense of accomplishment once it’s done that may inspire you to do more.

But maybe you feel stuck there on the couch. How do you actually get yourself in gear? Another opposite of laziness could be discipline/tapas. If you make a disciplined plan for yourself and then stick to it, you’ll be less likely to fall back into laziness.In the Yoga Sutras, Patanjali writes, “Practice becomes firmly grounded when well attended to for a long time, without break and in all earnestness” (I.14). This to me is the definition of discipline. (I wrote this sutra on an index card and I carry it around with me.) Making a plan for yourself, carrying it out day after day, and putting meaning into the work – this is the way to conquer laziness, because this is how to form a healthier new habit. The first week you try to be disciplined with yourself will be hard; the second week will still be difficult, but it might be just a little bit easier. Two months later, it’s become a habit, and two years later, it’s not even something you think about anymore, just a part of who you are.

When working to fight against laziness, it’s important not to be too hard on yourself. Sometimes we all fall a little short of our goals, and when that happens, don’t beat yourself up about it – be gently and understanding. We forgive other people all the time, so why not ourselves? Remember that yoga teaches discipline and practice and hard work, but also non-violence and compassion. It’s our job to find a balance: working hard but not so hard that we hurt ourselves, acknowledging our errors and failings but keeping an attitude of compassion.

 

October Teacher Training Weekend October 24, 2011

Filed under: teacher training,yoga — R. H. Ward @ 1:22 pm
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Teacher training this weekend was a lot of fun. This was presentation month, so each trainee gave a presentation on the topic of our choice. My topic was “yoga for great sex”, and my presentation went really well – everyone had a good time and a lot of laughs, and I got to share a lot of good information. Over the next few weeks, I’ll be posting all that info here for you!

Other presentation topics included yoga for natural childbirth, yoga for lower back pain, yoga for athletes, yoga for children, devotional music, yoga for anxiety and depression, yoga for post-traumatic stress disorder, yoga for martial artists, and the chakras. Everyone did a really fantastic job of researching each topic and presenting what they’d learned. Each of us could easily have done a 30- or 60-minute presentation instead of just 15 minutes!

At the end of Saturday’s session, we spent some time going over specific yoga asanas and talking about proper alignment, common problems, and how to help a student with those problems. We did this once before, last spring, and it was just as helpful this weekend as it was back then. I’ve practiced yoga for over eight years but there are still poses I don’t fully understand, and even for the poses I do know well, I don’t necessarily know the problems that a beginning student or student with limited mobility might have. These things are really important to know! Now I feel a lot more comfortable teaching basic poses like wide-legged standing forward fold or head-to-knee pose.

Our homework for this next month is to read the Upanishads and to keep track of any questions we might have as we read. N says that we shouldn’t try to sit down and read a bunch of them; it’ll be more effective to read just one upanishad and then take a break. They’re not thematically linked (well, other than they’re all about experiences of higher consciousness) so we don’t need to read them all at once, and it’s better not to, to give the material more time to sink in. We also have to do two posture write-ups this month, just on any pose we want to learn more about.

Since I probably won’t have a lot of posts to make about the Upanishads until later in the month, this works out well for the blog – I’ll finish up our series on yoga and emotions and also get started on all the fabulous yoga and sex material! I’m so excited to share this with you!

 

Yoga and Emotions: Worry October 21, 2011

Filed under: yoga lifestyle — R. H. Ward @ 1:58 pm
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Today in our series on yoga and emotions, we’ll talk about worry. On the surface, worry seems primarily like an action, a verb – we all worry sometimes. But worry is also an emotion and a state of mind. How do you feel when you’re worried? Tense, stressed, maybe short of breath? And it’s not as if worrying is an action or task we can complete like washing dishes – when the dishes are clean, you’re done, but there never seems to be a natural time to finish worrying. It can fill our minds and consume our energy for hours or even days. And worry, unlike dishes, is all in our minds. It may not feel like it, but we have control over whether or not or how much we worry. Let’s consider some tactics to free ourselves from worry.

Much like fear, worry can be combated with faith. If we have faith that things will turn out as they’re meant to, then we don’t have to worry about them. Also, like fear and anger, worry can be soothed with breathing. Calm, deep, conscious breathing will slow us down and help us relax when we’re all worked up with worry.

When we worry, we get caught up in concerns about the future. Therefore, a good way to combat worry is to focus on the present moment. Bring your attention away from what could happen and notice what’s actually happening right now. Go for a walk and really pay attention to the air on your skin, the color of the sky, what plants are blooming on your neighbors’ yards. Cooking and gardening are good practical tasks that help us stay in the present moment because we have to pay close attention to what we’re doing right now – otherwise we’ll burn dinner or pull up the flowers!

Try a little meditation to help with worry. It may take a while to calm your mind or feel like you’re getting anywhere, but meditating is the ultimate exercise in living in the present moment. A tranquil meditating mind has no room for worry!

If you have children, go play with them. Play is a wonderful way to bring yourself into the present moment, because you can’t play well at any game if your mind is elsewhere. A physical activity like joining a sports team or taking a dance class can be helpful for worry, too: our bodies need physical activity, and getting that activity from playing soccer or tap dancing introduces some play and fun that help us to relax. Plus you’ll make connections with other people – talking with someone can certainly help to reduce worry or put it in perspective.

Trying some of these tips can help you to worry less, and may even make your days feel happier!