Rox Does Yoga

Yoga, Wellness, and Life

Quote of the Day: Compassion Meditation April 29, 2014

Filed under: meditation — R. H. Ward @ 3:17 pm
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Today I wanted to present a quote from the book I’ve been reading. I myself haven’t had any time to try to practice this meditation, but I wanted to make sure I had it saved here on the blog for future reference. It sounds like a beautiful practice. Maybe reading about it will help someone else out there.

“So… let us meditate on compassion today. Begin by visualizing a person who is acutely suffering, someone who is in pain or is in a very unfortunate situation. For the first three minutes of the meditation, reflect on that individual’s suffering in a more analytic way–think about their intense suffering and the unfortunate state of that person’s existence. After thinking about that person’s suffering for a few minutes, next, try to relate that to yourself, thinking, ‘that individual has the same capacity for experiencing pain, joy, happiness, and suffering that I do.’ Then, try to allow your natural response to arise–a natural feeling of compassion towards that person. Try to arrive at a conclusion: thinking how strongly you wish for that person to be free from that suffering. And resolve that you will help that person to be relieved from their suffering. Finally, place your mind single-pointedly on that kind of conclusion or resolution, and for the last few minutes of the meditation try to simply generate your mind in a compassionate or loving state.”

– His Holiness the Dalai Lama, quoted in The Art of Happiness: A Handbook for Living, page 129

 

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!

 

Yoga Workshop at the LepreCon March 31, 2014

Filed under: music,yoga — R. H. Ward @ 10:10 am
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Two weeks ago I had a great opportunity to give a yoga workshop at my church. Every year the youth group holds a retreat/sleepover over St. Patrick’s Day weekend (they call it the “LepreCon”, haha). My friend Warren, a social worker and therapist, was giving a workshop on meditation, and he asked if I’d be interested in giving one on yoga (later I found out that Warren had done both last year and his yoga portion had been semi-disastrous, so I was doubly glad I’d agreed to help out!).

I only had half an hour, so I began by talking a little about the benefits of yoga (physical, mental, and emotional), emphasized how a yoga pose should be both comfortable and steady, and described how to use your breath as a guide to where you are in your yoga practice. Then I led the group through a brief series of basic core postures and through a guided relaxation. Warren then took over and led us through several meditation exercises: diaphragmatic breathing and three-part breathing, staying focused in the present moment, and a four-part loving kindness meditation, in which we sent forgiveness and compassion first to ourselves, then to a loved one, acquaintances or strangers, and finally to someone who has hurt us. It was a really great experience, both leading the yoga portion of the workshop and participating in the meditation exercises.

Here’s the sequence of yoga postures I taught:

  • Basic Warm-up: < 5 minutes
    • child’s pose
    • cat/cow
    • down dog
    • standing forward fold
  • Standing Work: 10-15 minutes
    • mountain pose
    • 2 half salutes
    • 1 salute low lunges
    • 1 salute high lunges
    • warrior 1
    • warrior 2
    • triangle
    • standing poses other side
    • tree both sides
  • Cool Down: < 5 minutes
    • seated forward fold
    • knees to chest
  • Savasana/Guided Relaxation: < 5 minutes

And here’s the playlist I used. In planning the workshop, I was torn on whether to include an extra song or two just in case; I decided to leave them out, so as to help me stay on target with timing, but as it turned out I could’ve used an extra two minutes of music. So this is the playlist I wish I had used. It runs about 29 minutes.

Song Title Artist
Cherry Ratatat
Jahta Dance DJ Drez
Runaway Beats Antique
Drop Cornelius
Katamari Stars Katamari Damacy Soundtrack
Bliss Yogini
 

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’s 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.

 

Bandhas February 27, 2014

Filed under: yoga — R. H. Ward @ 12:39 pm
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At the end of the workshop I attended at Dragonfly Yoga last week, we talked about bandhas. I studied bandhas in my YTT (including reading the definitive book on mula bandha) but it’s not something I usually think much about.

In the workshop, Alexis explained that bandhas are a physical lock we can engage in the body that work to channel the flow of energy (or prana) in the body. The most important bandha is the mula bandha, or the root lock (see the link above). Other key bandhas are the uddiyana bandha in the stomach and the jalandhara bandha at the chin/neck.The uddiyana bandha is engaged by pulling in the stomach, trying to pull the belly button in toward the spine. Jalandhara bandha is engaged by tucking the chin and lifting the sternum, feeling the throat pull back toward the spine.

Engaging the mula bandha stops the energy that is naturally flowing downward and out of the body, channeling it back up and into the body to be used. Engaging the uddiyana bandha keeps that energy flowing up and into the chest; engaging jalandhara bandha stops the energy at the throat, like putting a cap on a bottle. The effect is that energy swirls around in the body in ways that normally don’t occur. There are a wide variety of reasons that this is a positive thing. Practitioners of kundalini yoga work intensely with this energy both physically and spiritually.

What interested me most in the bandha discussion was that Alexis mentioned how people who move their bodies with a lot of grace and strength are using their bandhas. I know this is true in yoga: engaging a bandha in a pose, or not doing so, has a big effect on my energy level while holding that pose; I can hold a pose longer and stronger if I’m using my bandhas. However, Alexis also related this to other disciplines like dance. One of the other students who had a dance background said that this is totally true and ballet dancers are constantly “pulling up” in order to move the way they do; she said that, when a male dancer lifts a woman, she’s so “pulled up” and strong through her core that she’s practically holding her own weight. I’d imagine that bandhas are used in other physical areas as well, like sports and martial arts, even if they’re not called by that name.

On the drive home, I found myself singing along with the radio and realized that I had my uddiyana bandha engaged! Not with the full stomach scoop shown in the link above, but still, more than just tightening my abs. As soon as I noticed, this began to make perfect sense – I had some training as a singer when I was younger, and that core strength is so important to holding and sustaining a note; it makes sense too from a yoga theory perspective, because the uddiyana bandha channels energy upward, just as the singer is channeling breath and sound up and out into song. Of course the voice will sound stronger and purer with the energy generated by uddiyana bandha fueling it! I was so excited. I hadn’t thought of this when I was learning about bandhas in my YTT; it was Alexis mentioning how bandhas are used in other fields that made me notice. Now I have a stronger understanding of what uddiyana bandha is and what it does in the body.