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?


Pond House Part 2 June 4, 2013

Filed under: reflections,yoga,yoga lifestyle — R. H. Ward @ 1:17 pm
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Last week, F and YB and I traveled to Rhode Island with some friends for the Memorial Day holiday, and stayed at the same house where we all stayed two years ago. The house was just the same, but things have certainly changed for our group of friends: last time, there were seven of us (three couples and a solo friend), and for this trip we had the same core group but also brought along our friend’s new partner, two babies, and one more on the way. It was fun to go back to the place where we had such fun two years ago and see our family of friends growing and changing and welcoming new people to love.

And we had some yoga on this trip too. We didn’t lay our mats out by the pond again, but three of us ladies snuck off to the attic room on a chilly Sunday morning, pushed back the furniture, and had a nice yoga practice while the dads watched the babies. It was great to see my pregnant friend developing such a nice yoga practice – two years ago she had only a little experience with yoga, but nowadays she gets to class twice a week and is feeling great in her second trimester. Our other yoga buddy was the mom of the other baby in the house, and it was nice to see, together, that we haven’t totally lost our yoga practice (or our figures) in our new motherhood. I was so glad to have the opportunity to share this practice, and this vacation, with my friends.

The trip also reminded me again of how lucky I am in my amazing daughter. YB is such a happy kid, always smiling even on rough days. We took the train home on Tuesday, and what should have been a five-hour ride turned into an almost eight-hour ride because of Amtrak delays. YB had a tough time, and so did we, but she was a real trooper and found things to laugh about even in hour 8 of traveling. And when we finally got home, she was so happy just to be there, laughing and clapping and banging on the table. I had to put aside my own tiredness and frustration and just be there with her, in the present moment, glad to be back home.


Happy Mother’s Day May 14, 2013

Filed under: reflections,yoga lifestyle — R. H. Ward @ 2:00 pm

For Mother’s Day this year, I wanted to share just a few of the things that inspire me about my mother, Diane. My mom has been struggling with a chronic illness for the past 25-30 years and has had three major surgeries, as well as countless unpleasant procedures and medication regimens. She’s had long periods of remission, but also long periods when her illness flares up and causes her frequent bouts of debilitating pain. She’s had to make drastic changes to her diet and other habits in order to keep her disease in check – it’s something she manages on a daily basis.

But what I want to share about my mom isn’t the disease that life has handed her – it’s her refusal to let that disease define her life. When I was a kid, Mom went back to school part-time to earn her associate’s degree, and later her bachelor’s and master’s degrees, all while working, taking care of her family, and dealing with her illness (she had two of her surgeries during this period). I get my respect and love for education from her. She also jumps at every possible opportunity to see and experience the world and just have fun. She loves to travel, always makes time for her friends, and will drop everything to hang out with her granddaughter. She always has some project going, like repainting the bathroom or digging a pond in the backyard. Everyone I know is inspired by her wild holiday decorations. As a teacher, my mom has inspired many students to achieve their best, all while pretending she doesn’t really care. Mom is passionate, enthusiastic, and has a great sense of humor, and rarely do people realize how much of what she does is done in the presence of great physical pain. Mom accepts what is but lives in the moment, never letting hold her back from living her life. I may be a yoga teacher, but I can learn a lot from her attitude.

Happy Mother’s Day, Mom.


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?


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.


How to be a calm parent March 14, 2013

Filed under: yoga lifestyle — R. H. Ward @ 1:10 pm
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A friend sent me this great article: How to be a calm parent. I love this long list of ways to keep yourself calm when your children are inspiring not-calm. I’m going to file this away for future reference when YogaBaby becomes YogaKid. What things do you to keep calm in tough parenting situations? (Or any situations!)


Joyful Things March 7, 2013

I’ve been writing a lot lately about making resolutions and overcoming bad feelings like guilt, shame, and fear. I even have another post or two in the queue along these lines. When you think about it one way, you might see these as positive posts, reaffirming our ability to take action and make change – but looked at another way, I’ve been kind of a downer lately. So, in honor of the impending springtime, here are some wonderful things, things to rejoice about and be grateful for.

  • I have a poem published in the current issue of UU World magazine. This is exciting for several reasons: it’s the first time I was solicited for poems. As a Unitarian Universalist, it made me happy to see my work in a magazine that so closely aligns with my values, and which reaches such a wide audience of readers who share those values. And it’s the first time I got fan mail from a reader who liked the poem!
  • I work in a job where my group’s VP and product director care about meeting new hires and getting to know their people. I had lunch with our VP a few weeks ago, and our product director scheduled a group lunch for next month. Overall I feel listened to and supported at my job. And I have the ability to work from home when I need to.
  • I just realized that this January marked ten years since I started practicing yoga. Ten years! I took my first yoga class during my last semester at UNC Greensboro. It was an ashtanga-based power yoga class at lunchtime, Tuesdays and Thursdays, and I was really confused at first, but I loved it. I still love it ten years later. How cool that it’s become such a part of my life!
  • F and I celebrated a special anniversary last week: six years since our first kiss. It amazes me to think about how my life has changed as a result of that moment and all the wonderful things that came from it.
  • Speaking of wonderful things that come from kissing, YogaBaby is clapping her hands, waving, and trying to stand up at every opportunity. She’ll hold onto our hands and walk across the room now. When handed a photo and asked “Who’s that?”, she answered “Dada.” (And we were able to repeat this event three times.) She also says “mamamamama” now, but only under duress when she’s upset. Predictably, I come running when I hear it. Overall she’s pretty much a joy to be around.
  • F’s sister came to visit last week. It was wonderful to see her, and she stayed in with the baby one night so F and I could go out for a nice dinner.
  • When our entire family unit was down with a stomach bug a few weeks back, I had reason to be grateful (1) that I did not in fact die lying on the bathroom floor like I thought I would; (2) that F and YB didn’t get it as bad as I did and in fact YB had the mildest case; (3) that YB still felt sick enough that all she wanted to do was nap and cuddle, which was about all we could keep up with; (4) that I have the kind of husband who will go to the store for medicine at 1 am (with a bowl on the seat next to him just in case) and then will change the baby’s jammies and sheets when she throws up at 3 am and I literally cannot move; and (5) that my parents were willing to come over with ginger ale and jello the next morning to take care of us.
  • I’ll be covering the prenatal yoga class at East Eagle Yoga starting next month when Sarah, the current instructor, has her baby. I’m excited for an opportunity to teach again, and I love prenatal. More on this in April!

The Inner Light February 14, 2013

Filed under: reflections — R. H. Ward @ 1:52 pm
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My husband F and I have been watching our way through every episode Star Trek: The Next Generation. F had never seen it before, and I hadn’t seen it since it originally aired. Right now we’re almost done with season 5, which is some of the best Star Trek I’ve ever seen. And the other night we saw “The Inner Light”, one of my all-time favorite episodes.*

In this episode, the Enterprise encounters an ancient alien probe, which emits a strange energy beam, rendering Picard unconscious. In the space of about 25 minutes, Picard lives a full, long lifetime on a long-dead alien world. The people of Kataan knew that their world was dying; they didn’t have the technology to save themselves, but they were able to create and launch this probe, intended to share with one individual their culture from the perspective of a native.

There are a few interesting things here (at least, from a yogic point of view; there are lots of interesting and wonderful things about the episode!). The people of Kataan could have chosen to put any number of things on their probe: books, musical recordings, works of art. How about computer files containing the sum of their race’s scientific, artistic, and literary accomplishments? But they knew that this wouldn’t truly represent them; they knew that life, culture, art, and emotion have to be experienced and lived in order to be understood. No amount of book learning or data could communicate who they truly were as a people, so they found a way to give someone that experience for himself.

And that’s the other thing. The probe was only good for one go. It shared Kataan with Picard, and then its systems terminated. The people of Kataan hoped that their probe would reach someone wise, a teacher who would share their culture and way of life with others. They hoped that by giving this gift to one person, they would live on. They weren’t trying to share their entire history with another race as a whole – they shared one man’s life and memories, with one person.

And what did Picard learn from Kataan, besides how to play the flute? Several times during the episode, the importance of living in the present moment is emphasized. It’s what Picard tells each of “his” children: to seize the moment, embrace love or pursue their passions now. The experience of life on a dying world made him more aware of the present moment. And, along with the hopes, dreams, and loves of an entire lost civilization, that’s what he brought back to the Enterprise with him.

(* Tied with “Darmok”, also in season 5, which is an awesome episode for two reasons: the idea of a species that communicates entirely in metaphor, which makes my English major’s heart go pitter-pat, and the fact that Picard tells the Gilgamesh story, which I adore and have blogged about before here. And what do these two episodes have in common? Picard gets hijacked by a strange race, and Riker nearly ruins everything by being overly aggressive and trying to rescue him! Seriously if there’s anyone you could trust to handle himself well under strange circumstances, it’s Picard [with the exception being the time Picard was kidnapped by the Borg, which was one time Riker was well justified in his rescue attempts]. Riker almost screwed up two of the best episodes in Star Trek history. He could definitely use a dose of Zen.)


Mornings November 20, 2012

Filed under: reflections — R. H. Ward @ 1:00 pm
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Yesterday YogaBaby had her four-month doctor visit and some vaccinations, which didn’t agree with her, so she was up every two hours fussing during the night. I’ve adjusted to a lot of the changes of motherhood, but not the lack of sleep, especially when I feed her at 5 am, drift off again at 5:15, and wake up with the alarm at 6. I spent a good amount of breakfast time whining to my husband, who had given up on sleep after that 5 am feeding and gotten up, and who had to be at least as tired as I was. The baby, of course, was peacefully sleeping.

After breakfast I went into the bathroom. The sun was just coming up, so I left the lights off, and looked out the window at the brightening sky behind my neighbors’ houses, and the bare tree branches silhouetted against the dark gray sky overhead. It reminded me of how I used to exercise in the early morning: yoga on our enclosed porch, watching that sky brighten through the big windows as I saluted the sun, or jogging in the cold crisp air, getting acquainted with the colors of the trees and the rabbits, squirrels, and sometimes deer in my neighborhood. Feeling my feet connecting, first thing in the morning, with my mat or the sidewalk or the beaten trail through the park. How solitary I had felt, how good and strong.

If this were fiction, this is the part where I’d realize that giving that up for now is all worth it in my new life as a mother, and I’d leave the bathroom window refreshed by my memories and with a renewed sense of purpose. But this is real life, and I am tired. I miss being outside in the cool air; I miss feeling flexible and strong and powerful, in touch with my own breath and my inner spirit. I miss being by myself. I took a long shower and washed my hair. Then I went in to feed the baby, and she looked up at me with her big grey-brown eyes, full of trust, and she gave me her big good morning smile. And I smiled back.


[Note for my future reference, and for those following the ongoing sleep saga: this post was hand-written last Thursday morning, after a doctor visit on Wednesday evening, and it took a while to type up. Since then the sleep has gotten worse, and even worse, and then last night slightly better.]


Baby Meditation August 8, 2012

Filed under: reflections,yoga lifestyle — R. H. Ward @ 9:00 am
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At one month old, my baby is a lot more wakeful, and much more alert, now than she was before. She’s awesome, and I love watching her discover the world. The flip side, though, is that hanging out with her can get a little monotonous. Don’t get me wrong, being with her is amazing and every flail of her tiny arms is miraculous, but watching her flail for an hour straight when she doesn’t feel like sleeping? Even as I hold her and rock her and talk and sing to her, I keep finding my mind drifting. When will she nod off so I can wash those dishes? I just got the schedule for the monthly lecture series I went to all last year – will I be able to go to any this year with a baby at home? I half-wrote this post in my head at least three times before I was actually able to get to the keyboard. And the baby knows she doesn’t have my full attention. When I one-handedly check my phone, she fusses, even though I’m still holding her and rocking her. I catch myself getting distracted and it bothers me – this is likely to be the only period in my or her life when I have uninterrupted time to devote to nothing but her, and I don’t want to cheat either of us of that. Yes, laundry and dishes are important, and so are my other projects, and I can do those things while the baby sleeps, but when she’s not sleeping? Other stuff should fall by the wayside and she should get priority.

But that’s easy to say and harder to put into practice. I know every mom must get distracted from time to time – moms have a lot of things to juggle – and I’m not going to beat myself up about that, but I do genuinely want to enjoy this time with her. And it occurred to me: I can treat spending time with my baby as a meditation practice. I have the perfect object to center my attention in the present moment. I can’t sit in a traditional meditation position, since I have to follow the baby’s lead and shift positions or walk around as I hold her, but I can still focus my attention and try to avoid distractions.

Yesterday I tried it. The baby had slept all morning, and by the afternoon, it wasn’t doing either of us any good trying to get her to nap because she wanted to be awake. I decided that, rather than forcing her to sleep so I could follow my distractions and do something else, it might be better just to do what she wanted, so that’s what I did. I challenged myself to stay focused only on her for half an hour. I kept catching myself trying to do other things, wanting to check email, worrying about the future, even just reaching for my water glass or wanting a snack. It was incredibly difficult to sit and pay attention only to her. But it was also pretty awesome. She was calm for that entire 30 minutes, no crying or even fussing really. She looked at me and gurgled and flailed and kicked, and I looked back. By the end, I was counting down the minutes, but putting in the effort to be truly present with her was something we both enjoyed. I don’t know if Zen masters would recognize it as meditation, but it was excellent practice at focusing my attention in the present moment.