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.
 

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!

 

Practicing Satya and Ahimsa at Work January 16, 2014

Filed under: yoga lifestyle — R. H. Ward @ 1:30 pm
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Lately I’ve been thinking about my own behavior and wanting to get better at practicing kindness, and going along with it, the intersections of satya and ahimsa. Back when I first began my yoga teacher training journey, I thought a lot about satya and ahimsa, but then the topic sort of fell off my mind’s back burner and I hadn’t considered it in a while. Lately, though, I’ve been noticing myself engaging in some inappropriate behavior and comments, especially at work.

For example, one of my colleagues in my office – we’ll call him Larry – has a droning, lengthy way of talking that makes him difficult to listen to, and he’s in a position where he periodically conducts trainings, all of which seem to do in an hour what could have been accomplished in 20 minutes with time for questions. This would be bad enough, but Larry is also not a very friendly or nice man, and my friends who have worked with him more closely report that he’s also not very good at his job. However, not even all of this taken together is justification for making fun of him behind his back. I’ve caught myself saying some rather cruel things about Larry when he comes up in conversation, just for the purpose of getting a laugh. No one deserves to be the butt of a joke – who knows what’s going on in Larry’s life that makes him act the way he does? And all of the things I’ve said about Larry may be technically true, but did they need to be said? Or did they need to be said that way? Practicing satya demands that I be truthful, but it doesn’t demand that I say every truth out loud; practicing ahimsa means not letting violence into my speech. This is one of those instances where, if I don’t have anything nice to say, I shouldn’t say anything at all.

One of my colleagues at another company, Bob, sent an email asking about a project. I had told Bob about the project back in May and we’d even paid Bob’s first invoice for work on this project, so I got annoyed. Instead of just giving Bob the information he needed, I dug up the earlier correspondence and forwarded that along too, and then sent an email to another involved editor at my company, basically saying “That Bob! He needs to get his act together!” Now, maybe Bob did need to get his act together – it seems that there was something incorrect in his records, which was why it didn’t come up when he looked for the project – but there was no need for me to act the way I did. Everybody makes mistakes, and Bob is no exception. I should have just given him the information he needed in a non-judgmental way. And the extra email to my coworker was completely out of line. Again, practicing that balance of satya and ahimsa would have helped me here – delivering the truth and no more, in a kind and compassionate way.

I think part of this issue stems from my own uncertainty in my job. I was moved to another group last summer, and we’re still shaking out some of our roles. Sometimes I have a lot of very important time sensitive work to do; other times I am processing invoices or doing other basic work because our group doesn’t have an editorial assistant; still other times, I am waiting for work to be given to me. I am supposed to have my own projects, but because of my boss’s deeper involvement in the overall product, much of the workflow is still tied up around her and has to go through her first; often I feel like I am waiting for her to give me tasks to do, which is frustrating because I’m used to working independently. I think I’ve been taking this frustration out on others – putting down people like Larry and Bob to make myself feel more secure and more important.

But the office isn’t a playground, and this behavior is childish. What I need to do instead is to open myself to learning new things – if I can learn more about what my boss does on our overarching product, I’ll be able to work more autonomously and will be able to help her more with her heavy workload, balancing out the work between us. Opening my heart and practicing humility on the larger scale, practicing satya and ahimsa in the short-term – these will help me to navigate these challenges and respond to my colleagues with the compassion they deserve.

 

The daily struggle to be a better person January 2, 2014

Filed under: wellness,yoga lifestyle — R. H. Ward @ 11:29 am
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To start the new year off right, I wanted to share this quote from Cheryl Strayed’s Facebook page:

Is there ever an end to the daily struggle to be a better person? I’m not asking this rhetorically. I’m wondering if there’s a time when you reach it, when you say “I can no longer think of any way to be a better person.” (Or maybe there are people who do not ponder every day how they can be a better person?) When I say “better person” I don’t mean that I constantly tell myself how awful I am but rather I’m very aware of the ways in which I could’ve done better as a friend, as a mom, as a spouse, as a sister, as a writer, as a woman with some serious aspirations for this thing called “balance” (ie: time for exercise, lounging, sex, thrift-store shopping, voracious reading). On a pretty much daily basis I think of how I’ve failed in many of these areas. It’s not a self-hate thing, but rather a deep desire I have to someday fall asleep thinking, “Well done, Strayed. You’ve got it down.” I’m reflecting on this as the first day of 2014 comes to an end here on the west coast of America. Not thinking “Well done, Strayed” but thinking instead, “Maybe next year. Maybe tomorrow. Keep going. Keep walking. Just try to do better in every action, intention, thought and deed.” Happy new year, my friends. I hope 2014 is a revelation and a firecracker for you.

I LOVE this. Strayed is a writer I really admire, both personally and professionally, and I think she really hits the nail on the head here. May we all keep striving to be better people in the coming year.

 

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.

 

Update September 4, 2013

Filed under: checking in — R. H. Ward @ 2:10 pm
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Things have been crazy in RoxDoesYogaLand lately. Here’s a quick update:

  • I finished all my 15-minute sequences! I wrote ten sequences, practiced almost all of them (still haven’t done Strength), and posted them all here. Very happy about this. Now I need to print them out for quick reference so I won’t have to flip through my notebook to find and decipher the hand-scrawled version. Details, details.
  • I went to my first yin yoga class last Monday and LOVED IT. Luscious!
  • My family member is home from the hospital and feeling better. Possible surgery in the future, but we won’t think about that now.
  • YB was on again off again with that fever all through that weekend, poor kiddo. I think we were probably just teething something awful. This has been affecting our sleep schedule, sadly, which therefore affects my yoga schedule. This morning was the latest in my ongoing series of fresh starts – I hadn’t gotten on the mat in a week. My back, hips, and calves are back to being problematic – and the yin had been really great for the hips, too. Sigh.
  • This weekend I got the chance to celebrate at the wedding of one of my oldest friends – I’ve known Sam since she was two, and now she’s all grown up and married. (And I learned this weekend that she’s a regular reader of this blog!) I’m so incredibly happy for you – congratulations, Sam!

The rest of September for me will include one neighborhood yard sale, two business trips (one day trip, one three-nighter), and a family long weekend in Cape May, plus two fun yoga events. I think it’s going to be the sort of month where I have to hang onto the seat of my pants. I’ll update when I can, but I’m giving myself permission to slip off my usual twice-a-week schedule for this month. Whee!

 

update August 23, 2013

Filed under: checking in — R. H. Ward @ 8:03 am
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I missed my sequence post yesterday because I spent the day visiting a family member in the hospital and trying to work from “home” on my laptop while I was there. I meant to make up the missed post today, but today YB has a fever – not so bad that it affects her behavior or energy level really, but just enough that we can’t really send her to daycare. So I’m working from actual home this morning while F hangs out with her, and then swapping him for the afternoon so he can make some meetings at his office. The upshot: the last two 15-minute sequences will be posted next week. I have them written, I swear, it’s just a matter of getting them typed and posted. Sigh. Life.

 

The Latest Fresh Start: Holidays, “I Should Be Better” Syndrome, and the Power of a Good Routine July 16, 2013

Filed under: reflections,yoga lifestyle — R. H. Ward @ 2:00 pm
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Last week I was feeling a little down: angry, overwhelmed, the works. In mid-June I had (re)started my daily yoga practice and it had been going great, even when I could only manage 5 or 10 minutes a day. I saw myself become more productive in other areas of my life, too: at work, on the blog, and I even finished a writing project that’d been hanging over me for months. And all of this while YB was having a rough phase of sleep! I was so impressed with myself. But last week things got away from me. The July 4 holiday weekend meant a break in our routine; we had some houseguests, one of whom stayed an extra few days longer than planned, which was wonderful but also outside of our usual routine; and we threw YB’s first birthday party, which was a lot of fun and a lot of work. At first I hung onto my yoga practice and even took time for a good long asana session on July 4, but soon I was only getting in some seated stretches on the floor during YB’s playtime – which isn’t necessarily bad, but isn’t what I want to do every day, either. And then Wednesday and Thursday last week, I missed my yoga practice entirely. After fitting it in every day for 20 days in a row! I felt so angry at myself, even though missing yoga gave me the chance to catch up on some much-needed sleep. I also began feeling a bit overwhelmed at work, particularly in light of my upcoming job transition and all the things I need to accomplish before handing off my projects to other editors. When I feel overwhelmed by my projects, I sometimes cope by procrastinating and doing nothing at all, which is a terrible coping strategy and just makes everything worse. And Thursday night I fell down the emotional rabbit hole: I’ll never have a steady yoga practice again, I’m a bad mother, YB loves F more than she loves me, I can’t even water the garden right. You know how it goes. Another flare-up of “I Should Be Better” Syndrome. And thus did it happen that I neglected my blog all last week.

On Friday morning, I dragged myself to my mat, and after keeping my practice going over the weekend and catching up on some things at home, I’m feeling better now, but as I well know,¬†“I Should Be Better” Syndrome is a chronic condition. It’ll be back at some point. So what have I learned this time around that can help me to deal with the problem next time? First, there’s the value of sticking to a routine, even on holidays and weekends, even when disruptions are occurring, even when I’m tired, because it makes a big difference in my mood. If I can stick to my routine and keep my practice going when things aren’t on a normal schedule, maybe it’ll give me the stamina to get through that non-normal more gracefully. And if I can stick to my routine in the long term, the practice might prepare me to deal better when life gets derailed on a larger scale.

And, as always, it doesn’t do any good to lay blame. There were certainly some events and issues in the past two weeks that I could have done a better job of handling, some behavior I could have improved and some yoga I could have done more of. But the past is in the past. Instead of laying blame on myself and looking backward, better to assess where I am right now and what I need to do to fix the situation and move forward. A friend of mine loves the saying “It is what it is,” but as F mentioned to me last week, “It was what it was” also holds true. No use worrying over what it is or what it was, since that can’t be changed; I may have some input into the future, but “it will be what it will be” is also an accurate thing to say. All I really can change is my attitude.

 

goals in mainstream fitness May 7, 2013

Filed under: wellness,yoga lifestyle — R. H. Ward @ 1:12 pm
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Earlier this week, Heather turned me on to this interesting post: It’s Time for a Makeover of Mainstream Fitness, by Ruthie Streiter. When Heather read it, it reminded her of the identity-based habits I was talking about earlier this year, and I agree completely.

First of all, I love that Streiter is advocating that people really think through their body’s particular needs and problems before embarking on an exercise program. So often, people take up a diet or fitness regimen just because it’s the latest fad, or it worked for a friend, but every body is different and has different needs. What is fantastic for one person’s body could be catastrophic for another, and result in no change at all for someone else. Planning out your exercise program in a thoughtful way can help you to save time and ensure that your actions will result in positive change – after all, who wants to spend hours on vigorous exercise if you don’t enjoy it (which is how most Americans feel about working out) and if it’s hurting you?

And Streiter’s article fits in well with the idea of identity-based habits. Remember, identity-based goals are the opposite of appearance-based goals (like “I want to lose ten pounds” or “I want a flatter tummy”). With an identity-based goal, you’re thinking, “I want to be a healthier person”, “I want to be a balanced person”, and, starting from there, you work on making healthier choices, day by day. Just starting out with that frame of mind could make the difference and keep you from throwing yourself into an exercise regime that’s not right for you. You’re not focusing all your energy on this one small aspect of yourself (your weight, your tummy), which could go wrong so easily; instead, you’re working on gradually changing your whole identity to that of a more healthful person, so you’ll naturally think in more holistic terms. And when you set an identity-based goal, the changes you make will last longer because you’re not only creating a new habit, you’re reinventing yourself, reimagining yourself, as a healthy sort of person, so your behavior will naturally come more and more in line with your goal.

A new month has just begun, and spring is springing up all over. It’s a great time to go play outside, enjoy the fresh air, and pick up the season’s first fresh produce at the farmers’ market. It’s a great time of year to think back on your New Year’s resolutions and recommit to working toward a balanced, healthy lifestyle in the way that’s best for you.

 

Beginning Again… Again March 19, 2013

Filed under: yoga,yoga lifestyle — R. H. Ward @ 1:15 pm
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Recently I wrote about how I was starting to get my yoga practice back by carving out some practice time early in the mornings. Well, soon after that post, the entire family – F, YogaBaby, and I – all came down with a stomach bug. It took us days to recover. Then a family member visited from out of town, the entire family caught a low-level cold, and finally the disaster that is daylight saving time hit us hard. Any parent can tell you that “springing ahead” wreaks havoc on a small child, and it wasn’t too kind to F and me either. And so my yoga got off track again. I know that life is what’s happening when your plans get derailed, and maybe someday I’ll look back fondly on the vomit, screaming, snot, and exhaustion of the past month, but¬†let me tell you it was not exactly fun to live through.

One of the worst things about a month like this, to me, is that I always seem to lose my yoga time right when I need it the most. Last week, for example, when YB was still adjusting to the time change and refused to go to bed for the fourth night in a row, I set her thrashing, howling little body in the crib, went to another room, and yelled and punched the floor. (Yes, the floor.) I felt frustrated, angry, and helpless, and knowing that none of it was YB’s fault just made me angry at myself for not having more patience. These are the feelings I count on my yoga practice to help me control; having that quiet time to check in with my body and spirit and to center myself helps me so much to be a calmer person.

My challenge at times like this is to find that calm center on my own, without the framework of an asana practice. That night I couldn’t find it. But YB cried for less than ten minutes before rolling over and falling asleep on her own – I was upset for a lot longer than she was. No amount of singing and cuddling from me could help her to do that, that night: she had to find it herself. The bedtime routine has improved steadily since then, and last night I had my sweet snuggly baby bedtime back. I appreciated it even more after the rough nights.

After a relaxing weekend and the chance to catch up on some of our lost sleep, F and I have started setting the alarm clock early again. We’ll gradually work backwards until we’re getting up at 5:30 again, but we started with getting up just ten minutes early yesterday. I did five half sun salutes in my bathrobe, then sat quietly on my meditation cushion for a few minutes. It’s a start. What’s important isn’t how many times you fall out of the routine – it’s being able to start fresh and begin again, and again, and again.