Rox Does Yoga

Yoga, Wellness, and Life

Holiday Yoga Class Sequence and Playlist December 27, 2013

Filed under: music,yoga — R. H. Ward @ 11:37 am
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Hey there, friends and fans of yoga. With all the holiday cheer going around lately, I haven’t had much time for blogging. So here’s a quick update:

My holiday themed yoga class on December 17 went wonderfully well! My Tuesday night class has not been particularly populous since I started teaching it in October, so I was hoping I might get five or six people – about that many had emailed to say they were coming. And then on the 17th, it was snowy and slushy and cold, and I worried no one would feel like going out. Well, my five or six people showed up, and then a few more people arrived, and then there were five more people coming up the stairs, and we packed the room! It turns out that the yoga studio at Wellness on Park can fit about 14 people (15 if the last person is Donna and she squeezes herself into the corner by the door without a mat), and sadly we even had to turn away a few latecomers. It was fantastic! We had a great friendly group that included three mother-daughter sets, which I absolutely loved. The class was a lot of fun to teach and everyone seemed to enjoy the holiday energy.

Here’s the sequence I taught (I had planned on a few more things but I had to adapt and think on my feet since some things, like legs up the wall, were obviously not going to work with the number of people we had in the room):

Warm Up

  • Child’s pose
  • Cat/cow
  • Thread the needle
  • Downward dog
  • standing forward fold
  • mountain pose

Sun Salutations

  • 5 half sun salutes
  • 2 salutes with lunges
  • 2 full salutes

Standing Sequence

  • warrior 1
  • warrior 2
  • triangle pose
  • revolved triangle
  • extended side angle
  • revolved side angle
  • pyramid/head-to-knee pose
  • prasarita
  • Repeat sequence on the other side

Balance!

  • tree pose
  • quad stretch
  • dancer pose
  • repeat balance sequence on the other side

Cool Down: Seated

  • Garland pose/squat
  • Staff pose
  • Seated forward fold
  • Upward plank
  • Janu sirsasana
  • Janu sirsasana with a twist

Cool Down: Reclining

  • happy baby
  • bridge pose
  • reclining twist
  • savasana
  • Brief meditation

I tried to focus on heart-opening poses and on centering and balance poses. When it’s cold out, we tend to round the shoulders and hunch down into ourselves just when we most need to open the heart; I wanted to include an element of centering and balance because the holiday season is tough on the body and drains energy, even if we love all the celebration. I wanted people to feel relaxed and refreshed and ready to tackle all the gift wrapping and caroling and parties to come.

And here’s the playlist for the class’s music. A few of these songs I might cut for future classes – “The Winter Solstice” by Sufjan Stevens in particular didn’t work for me – but overall I was really happy with the effect.

Song Title Artist
all that I want The Weepies
Maybe This Christmas Ron Sexsmith
Wintersong Sarah McLachlan
What A Year For A New Year Dan Wilson
anorak christmas Sally Shapiro
The Winter Solstice Sufjan Stevens
Everything’s Gonna Be Cool This Christmas eels
Christmas with the Snow Marah
Holiday Vampire Weekend
The Christmas Song The Raveonettes
Hey Guys! It’s Christmas Time! Sufjan Stevens
Christmastime Smashing Pumpkins
12.23.95 Jimmy Eat World
Snow Loreena McKennitt
Snowman Suddenly, Tammy!
The Peace Carol John Denver & The Muppets
Sweet Secret Peace Neil Finn
Song For A Winter’s Night Sarah McLachlan
Christmas In The Room Sufjan Stevens
The Atheist Christmas Carol Vienna Teng
Hilli Amiina

I hope all of you are having a wonderful holiday, no matter how you celebrate.

 

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?

 

Special Holiday Yoga Class on Tuesday 12/17 December 9, 2013

Filed under: yoga — R. H. Ward @ 7:39 pm
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On Tuesday December 17th, I’ll be offering a special seasonal all-levels yoga class at Wellness on Park! Some people love the holidays, while others may feel alone or just hate all the fuss. Whichever you are, we can all use a little extra care at this time of year. On 12/17 we’ll focus on heart-opening poses and centering poses to get us in balance and prepared for the season, with some eclectic holiday tunes to keep us moving. Only $10!

Also, NO CLASS tomorrow (Tuesday 12/10) and no class on Tuesday December 24 and Tuesday December 31. Happy holidays!

 

And this is why it’s awesome when ballet dancers do yoga. November 26, 2013

Filed under: Miscellaneous,yoga — R. H. Ward @ 1:22 pm
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This is really beautiful: Phillip Askew & Lydia Walker – Variations On Surya Namaskara:

(Reblogged from here.)

 

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.

 

Yoga in the News: Last Night’s Episode of The Voice November 19, 2013

Filed under: TV,yoga — R. H. Ward @ 12:22 pm
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My husband F and I have been noncommittally watching this season of The Voice – we never have time to sit through a whole episode, but it’s fun to watch, Cee-Lo’s clothes are hilarious, it’s seemingly always on, and even when it’s not on it’s available on demand, so even if we only have 15 minutes to sit down and relax, we can see what’s happening in the competition. So last night we were watching from 9:00 to 9:30 or so, and what a nice surprise it was to see Christina Aguilera making one of her contestants do yoga – and it was even normal yoga, not space-cadet woo-woo celebrity yoga! Christina had noticed that this singer was really tense, so she brought in her own yoga instructor for some stretching and relaxation. The one stretch they were shown doing was a seated twist, with the intention of opening the chest and opening up space in the lungs – which totally made sense, both as a description of the action in the pose and as an appropriate pose for this singer to be doing. How nice to see yoga presented in a realistic way as a practical solution! Kudos to Christina, who has, to be honest, been surprising me all season with how smart and down-to-earth she is. I don’t know if I’ll be adding “Genie in a Bottle” to my next yoga playlist, but I might just check out her next album.

 

Kids’ Yoga Deck November 12, 2013

Filed under: yoga — R. H. Ward @ 3:00 pm
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The Kids' Yoga Deck: 50 Poses and GamesWell, this looks like fun for all the little yogis in our lives: The Kids’ Yoga Deck. It’s a set of brightly colored, heavy duty cards featuring fifty yoga poses. From A Mighty Girl’s Facebook Page:

Designed to teach kids the basics of yoga in a fun and engaging manner, each card features a pose named after things kids are familiar with such as cats, flowers, airplanes, and gorillas. The cards are color coded to make it simple for kids to select cards to create a string of poses, including a warm-up string, sleepy string, and friends string. With an emphasis on building strength, flexibility, balance, and mental focus, this set of cards is highly recommended for ages 3 to 10.

I’m definitely filing this away for future reference to check out when YB is a little older! (And honestly it sounds pretty useful for me too – color coded poses for easy sequencing? Yes please!)

 

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