Rox Does Yoga

Yoga, Wellness, and Life

Things to Do in Life December 16, 2013

Filed under: reflections,yoga lifestyle — R. H. Ward @ 11:30 am
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I was, just a few moments ago in the ladies room and as I often do, pondering the Things I Want to Teach My Daughter. You know, the things that if somehow she grows up without ever learning them properly I’ll feel like I completely failed at being her mom no matter how awesome she otherwise is; the things that, if she grows up knowing them, I hope will enable her to get a head start on doing a better job of life than her mom has after spending 30+ years figuring them out. So I thought I’d share. I hereby present you with a brief list of The Things I Consider Important to Do in Life (Some of Which May Overlap):

  • Love wholeheartedly and unashamedly. (This goes for loving humans, other creatures, events [like parties or Christmas], and activities [like painting or dancing or using your EZ Pass to go through the tollbooth or wearing your yellow raincoat on rainy days]. It even goes for things [like your yellow raincoat or your favorite shirt or the art bought on your honeymoon], although loving living things should always come first.) Be full of love.
  • Be kind and compassionate to all creatures, including yourself.
  • Find the work that’s yours to do in the world, and do it the very best you can.
  • Leave the world a better place than you found it.
  • Understand that you are whole and complete and wonderful just as you are right now; never stop striving to educate yourself and become a better person.
  • Have a sense of humor, particularly about all of the above.
  • The world is beautiful; be present in it and enjoy the hell out of it.

I’m probably missing some obvious things here – it’s only seven bullet points as compared to all of life, after all, and I already realize I left out gratitude but seven bullet points seems much stronger than eight, and if you’re loving and compassionate and present in the world then hopefully you are also grateful – but I feel like this covers most of the bases pretty well.

My further thought is that, while all of these points can be applied on a lifetime scale, which may be the obvious way to use them, they perhaps would be most useful when applied on a daily basis. Did you leave the world a better place than you found it today? Yes, I put up my holiday decorations and cleaned out the sink. Did you work hard, did you try to improve yourself? Yes, but I was tired and skipped my yoga practice, so maybe I can do more there tomorrow. Did you love wholeheartedly today? Were you kind and compassionate today? Well, maybe I yelled at someone this morning, so I will try to make it up to him or to pay it forward with extra love tomorrow. Did you taste your good food, appreciate the feeling of the child in your arms, and notice how blue the sky was? Yes. Yes I did. 

What are your top things to do in life?

 

Managing Poor Me November 21, 2013

Filed under: yoga lifestyle — R. H. Ward @ 5:20 pm
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The other day I had what I decided to call a “poor me” day. A colleague in Europe keeps scheduling meetings at 8 AM EST, when I usually get to the office at 8:35, and with YB it’s hard to change my morning routine to come in any earlier. Why can’t the folks in Europe have meetings at 3 PM their time instead of 2 PM? My office just went through a restacking process and most of the employees had to move seats, and because I was switched to a new group last summer, now I’m not sitting with my friends from my old group anymore. And why is no one coming to my yoga classes? Well, I know why, and I need to do more marketing, but it’s so hard! And I want to see friends and family more often, but it’s hard enough just keeping the three of us washed and fed, never mind that F was just sick for a month straight and there’s piles of things all over the dining room table and the office upstairs and toys all over the porch. When are we supposed to do our Christmas shopping? It’s just hanging over me like an anvil of holiday disappointment; no one’s even scheduled any holiday parties or anything yet and I’m already feeling the pressure. What’s the running theme here? It’s so hard! Poor me! When I get in a funk like this, there are two things I try to do.

First, I try to look at all the things worrying me in an objective way. Yes, work can be tough sometimes, but I have an interesting, challenging job working with people all over the world on exciting products I really believe in. Would I want another job? No way. And I love teaching yoga. This is my passion – it’s worth the work to market my class, and it’s not going to happen overnight. As for friends and family and holidays: poor me, I have all these wonderful people who love me and want to spend time with me! Every time we make the time to connect with friends and family, it’s totally worth it and I’m always so glad we did. And as for that biggest time eater, the one who makes all of the above more challenging – well, I’m sure not giving HER away. It’s hard to be a mom, to make sure she’s clean and dressed and warm and eating something remotely nutritious, and to keep her entertained and content and learning, but she brings me joy every single day. I love watching her explore the world; she makes all the work worthwhile.

The other thing I think about is that all of those “poor me” statements are passive. “Look at all the bad things happening to me and making my life so hard!” they’re saying. This kind of mindset ignores the fact that I chose my life. I chose to live in this city, to accept this job, to have this child – my life and my responsibilities didn’t just happen to me, I chose them freely. And I have the power to make other choices that affect my daily life. I can talk to my colleagues about meeting scheduling and try to actively develop a better plan; I choose to make a big deal out of Christmas because I love it; and if I’m truly overwhelmed, I have the power to say no and sign up for fewer things. I have choice and agency in how my life unfolds, and I have the power to make change happen. Keeping this in mind when I start to experience the “poor mes” will help me keep a yogic attitude and get less frustrated with the little details of my amazing life. I don’t have to get attached to the little frustrating things – I can let them go and focus on what’s really important.

 

On Mirrors November 7, 2013

Filed under: reflections,yoga,yoga lifestyle — R. H. Ward @ 2:03 pm
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Lately I’ve been thinking about the role of mirrors in a yoga class. The studio where I’m teaching now (Wellness on Park! Tuesdays at 7:30!) doesn’t have a mirror wall, and neither does EEY, but I’ve practiced at plenty of studios that do, and if you’re taking yoga classes at a gym, the fitness room will almost always have a mirror wall. Mirrors can be great for yoga practice because often, catching sight of yourself while in an asana will lead you to immediately correct your posture – dropping your shoulders, twisting farther, standing up taller, straightening your arms. Seeing what you look like can help you fix issues you can’t feel.

But just as often, mirrors can lead you to being overly critical. Practicing without a mirror, you might feel like a rock star, which pretty much instantly dissolves when you catch a glimpse of your belly or your tush. Especially as women, we get so used to hating certain parts of our reflections, which makes it hard to see the whole – which in a yoga class is you, strong and powerful.

Looking in the mirror can lead you to compete with others, trying to make your posture match that of the person beside you, regardless of whether your level of ability matches that of the other person. It’s so much easier to compare when we see ourselves side by side with someone else in the same pose. We forget that what’s natural and healthy for her may not be good or even possible for us. And when there’s a mirror, it’s hard NOT to look in it, which changes the focus of your whole practice, keeping you constantly peeking instead of focusing your mind on your mat.

In recent years, I’ve come to prefer practicing without a mirror. I lose those valuable visual cues that could improve my asana, but I’m less apt to compare myself to others without that visual reminder that I’m not actually a rock star, and I’m better able to focus on my own experience of the pose, what the pose feels like to me and whether it feels right for my body. My experience of the asana can become internal, rather than external. This is what I want to share with my students: every person’s yoga practice is unique, and uniquely beautiful, because no two bodies are the same. My warrior 2 is not better than yours or anyone else’s. Keep your mind on your own mat, and be present here, now.

 

Election Day Special: Please Go Meditate Before Voting November 5, 2013

Filed under: yoga lifestyle — R. H. Ward @ 1:04 pm
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In honor of Election Day, here’s some spiritual/political news that I’ve been meaning to share for a while (for once it worked out perfectly that I forgot to share a link!): Moments of Spirituality Can Induce Liberal Attitudes. Researchers in Toronto found that people express more politically liberal feelings after practicing a spiritual exercise like meditation. Richard Schiffman also shares some interesting commentary on this study over at HuffPost. I find the results of the study interesting but, like Schiffman, I think more research needs to be done to draw any real conclusions. And, humorous blog post titles aside, I appreciate the researchers’ conclusion: that both right and left are necessary in society. Conservative viewpoints are important for setting common rules and boundaries and preserving valuable traditions, while those with liberal viewpoints focus on equality and social justice. Both sides are needed, and while I know which candidates will be getting my vote at the polls today, hopefully I’ll remember that when I hear the election results tomorrow.

 

How Yoga Changes Your Body October 31, 2013

I’m loving this roundup of information from HuffPo on how yoga improves health and well-being. Click on the infographic for more information!


yoga infographic

 

WTH, Toys R Us? October 28, 2013

Filed under: Miscellaneous,yoga lifestyle — R. H. Ward @ 8:31 pm
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So there I was on Sunday evening, relaxing and watching a little TV with my husband, when this commercial comes on:

At the beginning of the commercial, there’s no indication of what exactly this is an ad for. Based on the setup, I thought this guy was taking a busful of children to a forest someplace, where, although they didn’t know it yet, they would learn about how wonderful nature is and it would be the best field trip ever. I believed him. I got a little excited for the heartwarming goodness that was sure to follow.

And then they went to Toys R Us. Cue scenes of running up and down the aisles in a frenzy of joyous commercialism. I was furious and horrified, and I obviously still can’t stop thinking about it.

Raz Godelnik, who wrote about this commercial for TriplePundit.com, agrees with me:

I find this ad irritating because it tries to communicate a message that is inherently unsustainable to both children and their parents. To children it says that true happiness lies in buying new toys and the subtext is that their wishes should be focused on asking their parents for new toys. To parents, it says that if they want to make their children happy they should buy them toys because this is what they wish for. This ad perpetuates everything that is wrong with the current unsustainable economy – from the notion that more stuff means more happiness to the idea that the holidays are about shopping to the idea that learning about and interacting with the environment is tedious and unimportant. I was even more irritated that this ad portrays a field trip to the forest as a boring experience for children that has nothing to do with fun or joy.

Here’s the thing, Toys R Us. Forests are way, way more fun than whatever you’ve got. Forests are fun for everyone, and if kids start liking forests when they’re kids, they can keep on liking forests for their whole lives, unlike Barbies and Elmos and whatever else you’re showing in this commercial that I refuse to rewatch and break my heart over again. Forests are not just about “what kind of leaf is this, oh it’s not an oak it’s a maple”. Forests are about growing and listening and being quiet, and forests let you learn about something much larger than yourself. My one-year-old knows that outside is way better than inside, and I’m going to do everything I can to help her keep that worldview.

 

Body Image, Body Love, Part 2 October 22, 2013

Filed under: wellness,yoga lifestyle — R. H. Ward @ 5:06 pm
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I recently saw some articles responding to this photo by Maria Kang. If you google “Maria Kang What’s Your Excuse” you’ll see quite a few articles on the subject, but here are the two I read:

I really like the first article by Jule Ann because she doesn’t lecture Maria Kang and finds a way to turn off blaming and really think about how she views her body, and she comes to some positive conclusions. And I like the second article because the writer looks at the issue from several different angles. I like her application of the “no excuses” concept to other things like tuba playing and her analysis of how the body image issue is different, is internalized, is something we are made to feel guilty about. And I like her recognition that Kang’s photo was posted for a specific community and has been taken out of context and applied to a wider audience.

Overall, I think the dust-up over this photo points to a lot of different issues, but here’s what I want to highlight: Maria Kang is a mom and is beautiful and she makes fitness a priority in her life, and that’s fine. Jule Ann is a mom and is beautiful and doesn’t make fitness a priority right now, and that’s also fine. Different things work for different people, and no one way is applicable to every person.

 

Link Round-up: Body Image, Body Love September 12, 2013

Filed under: wellness,yoga lifestyle — R. H. Ward @ 1:59 pm
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I’ve read some really excellent articles this week, all somehow revolving around the concept of body image, and the recognition that there’s a human person living in that body you’re looking at:

  • What People Really Look Like: A look at bodies from the perspective of a massage therapist. I love this because I don’t get to see what my body looks like on a massage table. I love this writer’s sense of reverence and joy in his work.
  • These Are the Lines of a Story: This piece about a woman’s body after giving birth brought me close to tears twice (the part with the hair, and then the story she tells to her son). For the first time, instead of feeling thankful and proud that I have no stretch marks, I feel a little sad that I have no visible marks to share with my daughter when she’s older.
  • To Me, Mean Pictures Aren’t Funny (Even the Really Funny Ones): A nice reflection on kindness and compassion to reflect on the next time you get one of those email forwards with photos of people at Walmart in horrible outfits.

Here’s another one  that I didn’t read this week, but that I’ve been thinking about all week as the other articles above came across my screen:

  • When Your Mother Says She’s Fat: I love, love, love this piece and I think about it often. I remember how beautiful my mom was when I was little – I mean to say, she’s still beautiful, but I remember sitting on her bed and watching her and just knowing with little-kid certainty that she was the most beautiful mom there ever was. My heart breaks for the little girl this writer was, seeing her beautiful mom in that suddenly  harsh light; my heart breaks to think about YB having a realization like this. I am consciously trying, even now while YB is so little, to be careful about what I say to her about my appearance. If I practice now, it will come more naturally later on when she starts to understand more. When I’m feeling particularly down, I tell her, “Doesn’t Mama look so pretty today?” It makes me feel better, because it reminds me that to her, I am what beautiful is.
 

Yoga Plans August 8, 2013

The other day it struck me that I completed my yoga teacher training over a year and a half ago. I’ve been a registered yoga teacher since December 2011! What hit me, though, is a practical concern: yoga teachers have to fulfill certain requirements for teaching and continuing education every three years to keep our registration current with Yoga Alliance. That means I have a year and a half left to meet my requirements to stay registered – that seems like a long time, but with a full-time job and a little one at home, I need to start planning now if I’m going to get there.

The good news is that I have some of the work done already. Specifically, I have to teach 45 hours of classes: I’ve been keeping track and I’m more than halfway there (which is really reassuring, considering I took a huge break from teaching when I had YogaBaby). Clearly, though, I need to get back into a teaching groove somewhere in order to make the remaining hours.

I’m also required to complete 30 hours of continuing education: at least 10 “contact” hours, in a room with an actual instructor, and up to 20 “non-contact” hours, which can be met in a variety of ways like reading books, writing articles, or attending webinars. The good news here is that I’ve got a decent number of non-contact hours already, just from my reading and work on the blog. The bad news is that I have no contact hours yet, so that’s 10 hours of classes I need to find somewhere with an actual instructor. Luckily I really like taking classes.

If I’m going to make all this happen, I’ll need to get my own practice in good shape first. I’ve been pretty solid with staying on top of my daily 15-minute practice, but I feel like I’m losing momentum – doing the same poses every day, not feeling excited about yoga but just checking it off my To Do list. One thing I plan to do to fix this situation is to write some new short sequences that can be done in a 15-minute period. These will be themed (like “Balance”, “Energy Burst”, or “Gentle Wake Up”) and will use different poses so I won’t get into such a rut. I’ll put them all on a card that I’ll keep in my yoga space, so that when I’m sleepy at 5:45 in the morning I can easily hook into a set sequencing, won’t waste time trying to think of what poses to do next, and won’t just go back to the same poses over and over. And, of course, I’ll post each sequence here for you!

I’m really excited about this new project. It makes sense that, if I’d plan in advance for a yoga class to teach, I should also plan in advance when I’m only teaching myself! And writing the sequences is an interesting challenge because I don’t usually think about my yoga practice in such a focused way – it’s fun to brainstorm poses good for specific purposes and then figure out how to make them flow together.

So (if we’re thinking in terms of goals, resolutions, and habits), my overall goal is to maintain myself as a registered yoga teacher. My next major milestone date for this goal is December 10, 2014. That’s the three-year anniversary of my YTT graduation (Yoga Alliance counts by my anniversary date for registering with them, so if I count by my graduation date that will give me a little extra time to get everything into their system). In order to achieve this goal, I’m following my resolutions to cultivate a daily yoga practice, to continue to grow my practice by educating myself, and to explore teaching opportunities. Here’s what I’ve done lately to further those resolutions, and here are my specific plans for forward movement:

  • I’ll write ten short 15-minute asana sequences that I can use to keep my personal practice active and varied. I’m planning to have a few little rules for myself with how I use these sequences (for example, I’m thinking I won’t be allowed to do Gentle Wake Up more than once a week and will require myself to do Energy Burst at least once a week and Strength at least once every other week), but I’m going to see where the actual sequences lead me after they’re all written.
  • To keep myself accountable, I’ll post each sequence here on the blog, starting on Monday August 12. I’ll post ’em daily, Monday-Friday, for two weeks. This will interrupt the usual Tuesday-Thursday flow of the blog, but I’d rather post each sequence and have them all done than let it trail on. I want to have ten sequences written to choose from for my practice, and I don’t want any excuses for procrastinating on writing them!
  • I’ll be going to the Philly Wanderlust Festival on Saturday September 7 with the lovely Sarah Trout. This will be a great way to connect with the yoga community here in Philadelphia, meet some local teachers, and get my yoga groove going. Maybe we’ll see you there!
  • I’ve sent out email queries to a few local studios that offer continuing education workshops. So far, I’ve decided that I’ll be taking at least one workshop on hands-on adjustments with Amy at Yoga with Spirit, and I’m hoping to take the three-workshop series that she’ll be offering this fall. She’s also considering offering some anatomy workshops in the winter too; winter is not my best time of year, so I’ve put this on the calendar already in hopes that it’ll give me something to look forward to!
  • I’m also going to look into some meditation classes, since that would count for continuing education contact hours as well. I may explore options to travel for a long weekend next summer (maybe at Kripalu or the Himalayan Institute?). That’s pretty far off, but we’ll see what develops!
    • In terms of continuing ed and contact hours, I’m most interested in classes that will help me step up my teaching – learning more about anatomy and hands-on adjustments, for example, which is why Amy’s workshops sound so perfect for me. I’d love to do a real prenatal training, if the right one came my way, but that may be a project to postpone for a few years. Chair yoga and yoga for older people are topics I’d like to explore, but that may need to wait until I can bring more anatomy knowledge to the table.
  • I’ve ordered some new books and I plan to look into webinars offered by Yoga Alliance and other organizations.
  • Finally, I’m going to get serious about finding teaching opportunities. Short-term, I’m going to try to get back on the sub list at Awaken and EEY (where I think I am still on the sub list, actually, but they just don’t need subs very often!). Long-term, after Wanderlust, I’m going to explore options for classes that I can attend downtown on my lunch break or right after work, and I’ll go from there in looking for a an opportunity for a regular class to teach.

In summary: Plans! I have them!

 

Food Update: Life with a Garden August 1, 2013

Filed under: yoga lifestyle — R. H. Ward @ 1:09 pm
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This summer, F and I have been enjoying, and being challenged by, the produce coming out of our garden. We have the same two raised beds we had last year, but F planted them with different things: this time around the raised beds have eggplant, mexi-bell pepper, arugula, basil, strawberries, and three kinds of tomatoes (heirloom, yellow grape, and red grape). We also have an herb bed on one side of the house and a few zucchini and corn plants scattered in the flowerbeds. This arrangement has been working out well for most of the plants. The zucchini has been gleefully happy, and the tomato plants are so huge that three cages can’t contain them. Things haven’t worked out for the arugula, and something keeps eating the strawberries before I get any (next year: fences!), but overall, the garden has done extremely well this year.

Which has brought its own challenge: what to do with all these veggies! We’ve had sauteed zucchini a few ways: mixed in with pasta, in a wrap with hummus and cheese and spinach, and as a side dish by itself. We’ve had zucchini and tomato frittata, zucchini black bean quesadillas (which were such a hit with everyone that we had it twice), zucchini bread, and zucchini muffins. Then we got creative. We had a friend over and made zucchini “crab” cakes (minus the crab) on a recommendation from one of my coworkers, and they were awesome – YB was so excited to eat hers that she burned her mouth. We had a zucchini tomato bake, and I made another loaf of bread. Twice we’ve had caprese salad, and – lest we forget the eggplant – we had an eggplant parmesan that was pretty tasty. My helpful coworker also sent me her caponata recipe, so that’s on the agenda for the next eggplant. And none of this includes all the raw veggies we’ve been munching while we cook or between meals, the leftover grated zucchini that didn’t get used in a recipe being incorporated into the rare non-garden-inspired meal, the fresh-off-the-plant tomatoes YB happily chomps when we’re outside harvesting. (She’s always trying to bite the whole zucchinis but we won’t let her; I’m pretty sure she couldn’t eat the whole thing.) F and I have each taken a load of tomatoes to our offices to share with our colleagues. And there’s still more growing.

I feel grateful for all of this wonderful bounty! It’s the perfect time of year to be a vegetarian. If you had my garden, what would you cook up?