Rox Does Yoga

Yoga, Wellness, and Life

Yoga Link Round-Up August 1, 2014

I’ve been collecting links for a while, so here’s a link round-up!

  • Mother and 4-Year-Old Daughter Take Impressive Pictures Of Their Yoga Poses: I linked this in a¬†recent post about practicing yoga with YB, but I just can’t get over this. It makes me a little teary, actually. I love these photos: I love the joyful looks on their faces, I love the little girl’s obvious commitment to each pose, I love their matching pants. I would love to do a photo shoot like this with my YB someday, but clearly I need to step up my game because there are some arm balances here that I just can’t pull off. ūüôā
  • A Selection from the Hammer Museum at UCLA’s Contemporary Collection: Katie Grinnan’s Mirage: To create this fascinating sculpture, Grinnan “cast multiple molds of her body executing a sun salutation”. I find the piece exhilarating, exciting, and also a little creepy.
  • The Strength-Building Yoga Pose That Tons of People Do Wrong: Related to sun salutations, I love this informative video from superstar yogini Kathryn Budig on how to chaturanga properly without hurting yourself.
  • Bending the Rules to Offer Yoga With a Beer Chaser: My father-in-law sent me the link to this NYT article about yoga classes in breweries, offering a beer tasting after class. While I love both yoga and craft beer, I’m really not sure how I feel about this. I find that yoga, like running or dancing or working out, makes me feel fresh and healthy and connected to my body; afterwards I typically want a glass of water, a banana, a salad, a smoothie. I just don’t feel like beer would taste¬†right after a yoga practice – but believe me, I’d try it! And I think it’s fantastic that classes like this are leading people to yoga and helping them build a practice that can extend beyond the brewery.
  • Yoga Every Damn Day: My husband sent me the link to this piece about how, when we’re dealing with other issues in our lives and can’t make it to the yoga mat, we’re still practicing yoga every damn day. I don’t know Angela Arnett but I admire her strength and calm in this piece.
  • Pope Francis Reveals Secrets of Happiness: Can I tell you how much I love Pope Francis? He seems to be so full of kindness and peace, focused on loving and helping and supporting people. Everything he lists here is also discussed by Matthieu Ricard, former scientist and Buddhist monk, in his book Happiness, and seems to be in agreement with everything I’ve ever heard or read from the Dalai Lama, including the concepts discussed in The Art of Happiness. When the Catholic Pope and the Dalai Lama¬†agree about how you should live your life, I feel like there’s something right happening.
  • And finally, for your giggle for the day:¬†Men in Yoga Pants.
 

Toddler Yoga June 26, 2014

Filed under: books,yoga,yoga lifestyle — R. H. Ward @ 9:18 am
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Bagel salutesSomething that happens more and more often lately is the YB (who hasn’t turned two quite yet, so can still be called “Yoga Baby”) will pull out the mats and ask to do yoga. For a long time her favorite part of the process was simply rolling out the mats – and always mats, plural, because she insists on having one of her own instead of just practicing on mine – but now she’s starting to actually do poses with me.

I don’t have any training in children’s yoga beyond a 15-minute presentation one of my YTT buddies gave a few years ago, and it is hard to figure out what asanas to show her! Her favorite is downward dog, of course, because she can do it super-easily (with her head on the floor, but still). But you have to do more than just down dog all day. At first I was doing half sun salutes, because she liked how I would peek at her during the up and down and it mostly kept her attention (at left is YB doing a bagel salute last month). Lately, though, she’s been wanting more.

What’s been surprising me is that she mostly wants poses on the ground. I tried tree pose, and then just “let’s stand on one foot”, and then anything resembling a wide-legged warrior stance, and she just couldn’t figure out what to do with her feet, got frustrated, or did something else entirely. Maybe her coordination just isn’t quite there yet? Instead we’ve been doing some poses on the floor: boat pose (which she can do beautifully if Mommy holds her hands to give her some balance), cobra/sphinx and locust (all of which we’re just calling “snakey pose” for now), happy baby (although I don’t think she believed me that it’s a real yoga pose), and cobbler (“butterfly”). She can’t stand up and step one foot forward and one foot back, but she can sit down and press her little feet together. I’m brainstorming other ideas of floor poses that can have animal names that we can do together. (Happy to take suggestions here too!)Babar's Yoga for Elephants

We’ve also experimented with some partner poses. She loves climbing on my back when I’m in child’s pose (or any pose where I’m low to the ground, really). She also LOVES yoga flying. We’re nowhere near the point of being able to do anything like this, but maybe in a few years!

One thing that has helped more than I expected is Babar’s Yoga for Elephants, which I didn’t think we’d use till she was older. This is the only Babar book we have, a gift that a friend from my old job spotted at a yard sale and scooped up for me. The level of the text is still a little beyond YB for me to read to her, but she loves looking at the pictures of the elephants doing yoga. We flip through it together looking for poses we can do.

I still have some more continuing education to do to keep my Yoga Alliance registration current. At this point it would be more than I could handle to try and do some sort of children’s yoga training, but I am looking at different books to read, and I’m considering downloading a webinar or two from Yoga U Online. (I’ve downloaded some of their free ones, and listened to an interview with a children’s yoga teacher so far, but I’m not yet ready to pay them money for their content just yet). I figure if I need to clock¬†some hours anyway, I might as well do it on activities that will help me share yoga with her. And overall I’m just really enjoying practicing yoga with my little girl.

Double Down Dogs

 

Books: The Art of Happiness, by H.H. the Dalai Lama and Howard C. Cutler May 27, 2014

The Art of Happiness: A Handbook for LivingThe Art of Happiness: A Handbook for Living¬†is based on conversations that Howard C. Cutler, MD, a psychiatrist, had with the Dalai Lama over several years. The¬†author’s introductory note states that the purpose of the book was to collaborate “on a project that would present the Dalai Lama’s views on leading a happier life, augmented by [Cutler’s] own observations and commentary from the perspective of a Western psychiatrist” (ix).

Cutler chose to organize the book’s content thematically. The topics include the following:

  • Part I: The Purpose of Life (hint: it has to do with happiness)
  • Part II: Human Warmth and Compassion
  • Part III: Transforming Suffering
  • Part IV: Overcoming Obstacles
  • Part V: Closing Reflections on Living a Spiritual Life

Each part except for Part V is comprised of three or four chapters discussing related topics. Cutler will often introduce a topic by giving a brief overview of the Dalai Lama’s thoughts, then will delve into the psychology behind the issue before returning to H.H.’s viewpoint and suggestions for dealing with the issue.¬†Overall I feel like Cutler¬†succeeds in meshing the sometimes very different viewpoints of Tibetan Buddhism and Western psychiatry, and I enjoyed the stories that both of them had to offer, but there were times when Cutler just didn’t seem to get what the Dalai Lama was saying and vice versa. In those instances, I was more interested in hearing the Dalai Lama’s viewpoint and just wanted Cutler to stop harping on whatever it was already, but overall this was pretty rare; I tended to enjoy both viewpoints.

One thing that I found interesting was how the Dalai Lama talks about eliminating negative states of mind. Just as in Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, the Dalai Lama agrees that one of the best ways to eliminate these states of mind is to think of positive ones instead. For example,

“When talking about eliminating negative states of mind, there is one point that should be born in mind. Within Buddhist practice, the cultivation of certain specific positive mental qualities such as patience, tolerance, kindness, and so on can act as specific antidotes to negative states of mind such as anger, hatred, and attachment. Applying antidotes such as love and compassion can significantly reduce the degree or influence of the mental and emotional afflictions” (239).

This passage comes in Part IV, Overcoming Obstacles, in Chapter 12, Bringing About Change. This view fits in so well, to me, with Patanjali’s words in Sutra II.33: “When disturbed by negative thoughts, opposite [positive] ones should be thought of.” I was really impressed and excited that Buddhist thought on this topic meshes so nicely with the yoga sutras.

The Dalai Lama’s wisdom is practical and straightforward; you can tell that he himself practices the same techniques he recommends. The book also includes instructions for several meditation practices (like this one), written in the Dalai Lama’s own words from transcripts of his talks. These are scattered throughout the book, as this isn’t intended as a meditation manual, but it’s nice that they’re included in places that make sense thematically.

Overall, I really enjoyed the opportunity to learn more about the Dalai Lama, one of the holiest and most revered people alive today, and to understand his perspective, his kindness, and his compassion.

 

Train Travel Woes April 25, 2014

Filed under: yoga,yoga lifestyle — R. H. Ward @ 2:19 pm
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One Monday last month, I got all my stuff together to go to a yoga class downtown on my lunch break from work. I packed my mat and yoga clothes into my yoga mat bag and even remembered to bring it with me on the way out the door! Unfortunately, I didn’t remember to grab it when I got off the train – I left the bag in the overhead rack. As soon as I got to the office, I realized what I’d done. I called Lost & Found right away and gave them a report, and I stopped by the Lost & Found office in the train station twice over the next week. No luck. My beautiful handmade yoga bag, my favorite tank top, and the fairly new pants that actually fit were all gone for good.

It’s such a small thing, but the whole experience has been kind of heartbreaking in its way, and really put me off my yoga for several weeks. (For starters, obviously I didn’t make it to class at lunch that day!) ¬†I felt too stupid and sick about the whole thing to even start investigating replacements for my lost things for a while. The pants I should be able to replace with a trip to Old Navy, luckily. The top, not so much – it was a prAna brand top, but they don’t have one like it in their current collection; I only had this top to begin with because of a great sale that made it affordable. I’ve now signed up with prAna’s discount program for registered yoga teachers so I’ll be ready to order a new top as soon as they start selling one. But the yoga mat bag! The Etsy seller whom I purchased it from no longer seems to make them, and after scrolling through options for hours, I haven’t been able to find a comparable one. For now I’m settling on a bag from Gaiam just to get me through, but I think I’ll always dream of my lost bag.

The mat itself wasn’t terrible to lose; I’d had it since 2002, sure, but it was old and worn and I’d already ordered a new mat just for fun. It would’ve been nice to have some time to break the new mat in, though, and not have to pull it into circulation right away. Now I have a brand-new mat that isn’t sticky at all and that I slide around on. I’ve looked up some tips for breaking in a new mat, and I thought I’d share them here!

I’m planning to shower with mine and give it a warm water rinse. If that doesn’t work, then I’ll try the salt scrub – it seems like a great idea. For the rest of it, I’m just trying to practice non-attachment¬†and living in the present moment – what’s done is done. If my things are gone, then they’re gone, and I have to let them go and not cling on to my regret. Hopefully someone somewhere is enjoying the bag, and maybe¬†the clothes were given to charity!

 

Starting Over Again: Springtime Edition March 25, 2014

Filed under: checking in,yoga lifestyle — R. H. Ward @ 10:06 am
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This has been a hard winter. A really, really hard winter: snow, cold temperatures, more snow, daycare closings, illnesses, more snow and more daycare closings, coughing and snot, a fire at daycare, a stomach bug that necessitated four changes of crib sheets in one night and sanitizing the entire bathroom. Probably more that I can’t remember. It was a season of hunkering down and waiting for… not even spring, just not-winter. F and I have been so tired it’s been hard to do anything except keep going: feed the toddler, wash the dishes, fall into bed at 9 pm and do it all again tomorrow. I’ve said no both to plans with friends and creative opportunities because I just didn’t have it in me to do anything extra.

And I lost my yoga practice. So did everyone else, apparently – no one has come to to my Tuesday night yoga class for almost two full months, so I can only guess that everyone is feeling as worn out as I am. I’ve been wanting to get back to my practice; I’m achy and sore, my hips and calves are tight, my arms feel weak, and I get winded running up the stairs. Worse, my mood has been affected: sure, anybody would be grouchy after this much winter, but I’m less patient, more prone to be cynical and depressed, more likely to throw up my hands and say I just can’t deal with this. I don’t like myself when I’m feeling this way, and I’m not a good person to be around, as a mom or a colleague or a friend. But the thought of starting over – of waking up early, of finding time to focus on something just for me – was overwhelming.

And then I read this infographic, which states (among other things) that a mom’s satisfaction with her life has more impact on the development of a child’s social and emotional skills than a variety of other factors, including the mom’s education level, income, employment status, or how much time the child spends in daycare. If mom is happy, then the child is more likely to be well adjusted. Now not only my own physical and emotional well-being depend on restarting my yoga practice – now it’s integral to my daughter’s healthy development too? Great. No pressure or anything.

Last Tuesday morning I got up at 5:35 am and was on my mat at 5:42, in my bathrobe. I did some basic seated poses for 20 minutes. Afterwards I felt less like crap than I did before I started. I did it again on Thursday morning, and yesterday I worked from home and did 40 minutes of yoga on my lunch break. I’ll just aim for baby steps, making things a little bit better one day at a time.

 

Link Round-Up March 12, 2014

Filed under: yoga,yoga lifestyle — R. H. Ward @ 9:38 pm
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For today, here are some interesting recent links:

  • An Antidote for Mindlessness: I love seeing scientific evidence to support meditation and mindfulness practice – and this one is in the New Yorker!
  • A Happy Life May Not Be a Meaningful Life: This article looks at a recent study comparing people’s perceptions of a happy life with those of a meaningful one. People tend to perceive the expected sorts of things as bringing happiness: good health, a carefree lifestyle, having enough money. However, those things don’t give our lives meaning – things like spending time with loved ones, putting in effort even on mundane tasks, and giving to others make our lives meaningful.
  • Here‚Äôs Looking at You: Yoga, Fat & Fitness: I love this writer’s attitude about bodies practicing yoga! I’d love to take a class with her.
  • 20 Ludicrous Things Said by Yoga Teachers: This made me laugh SO HARD. There are some things yoga teachers say that no one else would ever think of. But I love the thighbones as rainbows spiraling outward, and I’m totally stealing “Shine your collarbones”.
  • 7 Things Your Yoga Teacher Wants to Tell You: I love these tips from yoga teacher Kathryn Budig – a fun quick read. My favorite is what she has to say to people who think they need to be flexible to do yoga – I’m totally stealing this response!
 

Bacon Update March 5, 2014

Filed under: yoga lifestyle — R. H. Ward @ 1:26 pm
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On Christmas day, I made an exception to my usual vegetarian practices and had some bacon. I did this last year, too, only last year I only let myself have one piece; this year I decided to have as much bacon as I wanted. Interestingly, this led to a much different bacon experience.

Last year, that one piece of bacon melted in my mouth. I remembered how much I had loved bacon before; confirmed that abstaining from bacon had not changed my perception of its flavor (yes, still delicious); and enjoyed the heck out of every last morsel. This year, without a one-piece restriction, I didn’t feel the same need to treasure every sensation. I still enjoyed the bacon, but I also had the freedom to notice the imperfections: this piece was too crispy, that piece, too fatty and chewy. I noticed how the bacon seemed greasy after it cooled. Don’t get me wrong, there were definitely a few perfect pieces that I gloried in, but overall the experience served less as a reminder of what I’m missing out on as a vegetarian and more as a confirmation that I’m on the right path.

This year I felt a little conflicted about my choice to eat bacon on Christmas. It occurred to me that, if my reason for practicing a vegetarian lifestyle is because I don’t want to participate in violence against other creatures or to fuel my body with that violence, then how could it make sense to break that practice on Christmas Day, a holiday I love, dedicated to peace and harmony and joy? My husband F told me I’m thinking too much, but even so, I feel that Christmas of all days is a day to stick by my principles. But Christmas is also a day for indulgences, and the holiday week is a good time for reflecting and renewing commitments, which certainly happened for me this year. I may or may not have bacon next Christmas, but I’m glad I did it this year.