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.
 

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.

 

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!
 

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?

 

Stop Worrying April 4, 2013

Filed under: wellness,yoga lifestyle — R. H. Ward @ 12:49 pm
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I was impressed with this article: The Most Surprising Regret Of The Very Old — And How You Can Avoid It. The author, Karl Pillemer, asked hundreds of older Americans what they regretted most, and the answer was often that they regretted the time they spent worrying. Here’s a quote:

Their advice on this issue is devastatingly simple and direct: Worry is an enormous waste of your precious and limited lifetime. They suggested training yourself to reduce or eliminate worrying as the single most positive step you can make toward greater happiness. The elders conveyed, in urgent terms, that worry is an unnecessary barrier to joy and contentment.

The implications of Pillemer’s research are clear: don’t waste time on worry. Instead, go out and live your precious life! The article includes three tips for how to accomplish this, including focusing on the short term instead of the long term (present moment!), and practicing an attitude of acceptance. This strategy fits right in with what Patanjali tells us in the Yoga Sutras: when negative thoughts arise, positive ones should be thought of instead. For more ideas along these lines, check out my past post on Yoga & Emotions: Worry.

What do you think? What are your techniques to reduce how much you worry?

 

Goals versus Resolutions* March 5, 2013

Filed under: books,yoga lifestyle — R. H. Ward @ 1:53 pm
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I recently reread Gretchen Rubin’s¬†The Happiness Project, and I came across this passage that I found interesting, particularly in light of my recent posts on identity-based habits and resolutions*:

I’d noticed idly that a lot of people use the term “goal” instead of “resolution,” and one day in December, it struck me that this difference was in fact significant. You¬†hit a goal, you¬†keep a resolution. “Run a marathon” makes a good goal. It’s specific, it’s easy to measure success, and once you’ve done it, you’ve done it. “Sing in the morning” and “Exercise better” are better cast as resolutions. You won’t wake up one day and find that you’ve achieved it. It’s something that you have to resolve to do every day, forever. Striving toward a goal provides the atmosphere of growth so important to happiness, but it can be easy to get discouraged if reaching the goal is more difficult than you expected. Also, what happens once you’ve reached your goal? Say you’ve run the marathon. What now – do you stop exercising? Do you set a new goal? With resolutions, the expectations are different. Each day I try to live up to my resolutions. Sometimes I succeed, sometimes I fail, but every day is a clean slate and a fresh opportunity. I never expect to be done with my resolutions, so I don’t get discouraged when they stay challenging. Which they do.

РGretchen Rubin, The Happiness Project, page 288

I like how Rubin has differentiated here between goals and resolutions – I think you can push the idea further and explore related or nested goals and resolutions. For example, the goal to run a marathon could be one part of a larger resolution to exercise more or live a healthier lifestyle. As Rubin notes, thinking about her resolutions every day helps her to live up to them, but a goal in tandem can provide additional focus. If the resolution is to exercise three times a week, adding a goal to run a marathon can help to keep you focused and in the habit. And resolutions can help us to achieve larger goals. For example, a resolution to show up on time for work every day can contribute to a larger goal of earning a promotion. Even Rubin’s resolutions all push her forward towards a goal: feeling happier in her life.

I think Rubin’s conception of resolutions (both in this passage and throughout the book) also fits in well with those identity-based habits we’ve been talking about. As part of her happiness project, Rubin identifies areas of her character she doesn’t like and uses her resolutions to change them. Rubin wants to be “happier”: she wants to laugh more, have more fun, and be less snappish with her husband and children. Throughout the book, resolutions like “Laugh more” or “Sing in the morning” encourage her to change her self-concept to encompass more humor, more goofiness, in small ways on a day-to-day basis. And it works!

*[While I recognize that the annual time of resolution-making has passed now that January is over and in fact it’s March already, I think it’s in the spirit of this blog to keep exploring the question if I want to. (And I keep seeing things that make me want to.) As Rubin notes, you don’t have to wait to start a happiness project – you can do it anytime – and this blog is all about exploring things that lead to happiness. Don’t postpone joy! So I think resolutions are fair game for any time of year and I shall post accordingly!]