Sunday, February 26, 2012

Sydney's Resilience

I learned a very valuable lesson from my dog this week: resilience. My youngest puppy....well, I really can't call him a puppy. He's going to be 14 years old this year. My youngest dog, Sydney, had a very trying experience. He developed an infection in one of his eyes. Without going into the gory details, that infection, in just a matter of hours, ended up creating a hole in his cornea, thereby leaving him with no site in that eye. He had to undergo surgery to remove the eye entirely. He is home now recovering from his ordeal.

While going through this traumatic experience, not once did Sydney show any signs of remorse, grief, or agony. Although is was a bit lethargic after his surgery, he continued to persevere and get stronger by the hour. He seemed to simply accept what was happening. If you re-read what what I wrote above, I used words like "gory," "ordeal," and "traumatic." Those are MY words. If Sydney could speak, I don't believe he would use these words at all. He just looked up at me with his one eye and solemn face and seemed to say to me, "I'm going to be ok. Don't worry. I'm still here. What done is done. Let's move forward." Thank you, Sydney.

So, I sit in gratitude with my resilient Miniature Pincher. Sometimes we just need to take a moment and be grateful for all that we have: our healthy, out family, our job. Don't dwell too much about the past. Accept what IS. Move forward with strength and determination. I invite you, therefore, to just sit for your home yoga practice. Sit (in Easy Pose or a simple cross-legged position), close your eyes, and recall all that you have, all that you are. Be grateful for the moment. Be IN the moment. Be with your Breath. BE the Breath. Life is too short to get stuck in the worry and concern. Take it from Sydney, even in the darkest moments, there is still light.


Friday, February 17, 2012

Wring It Out!

Ever have those weeks where you are just absolutely filled to the rim? You've done SO much during the week that you feel like you can just burst! There's been business meetings, taking the kids to basketball practice, PTA meetings, committee deadlines, grocery shopping, eye doctor appointment, working out at the gym. Shall I go on? The list grows and grows. It can seem endless sometimes. So, what are you doing about it? These things really can't go to the wayside. You can't always call out, "Calgon! Take me away!" (I just tried it, and I wasn't whisked away to a hot bubble bath with rose petals and soft lighting.)

Well, since we cannot always escape the daily grind, at least we can take a few minutes of the day to release some of the tensions that can build up due to heavy schedules. The pose this week will feature a twisting posture: Revolving Triangle. I like the idea of twisting postures. When I teach them, I have my students imagine they are a wet sponge: full, dense, and heavy. In order to be rid of that excess water, one needs to wring out that sponge. We can do the same with our bodies.

Revolving Triangle
Start in Mountain Pose. Set your intention here. Take some deep cleansing breaths to bring your body and mind to the present moment. Also, think a bit about the fullness you've experienced the last few days and the desire to release some (or all) of that heaviness.

Step your right foot forward on your yoga mat. See how wide you can take your feet. See if they can move relatively close to the edges of your mat. Have your right foot pointing directly forward on your mat while the back foot is more at a comfortable angle so the entire foot is planted on the mat. Make sure both legs are straight. Place your hands on your hips and be aware of the alignment of your hips.

Now, while holding onto your hips, imagine you're holding onto a big pitcher of water that you're ready to pour. Tip the pelvis so that the right hip drops and the left hip lifts as if you're pouring water out of the pitcher down your right leg. Tip as far as you can go while maintaining a nice alignment in the hips. (The right leg should remain straight.) You may begin to experience a stretching sensation in your right hamstring. Allow the torso to match the angle you've created in the tipped pelvis. Now, extend the right hand toward the floor (it doesn't have to touch the floor; perhaps the hand rests on the inside of your leg) and reach your left hand toward the ceiling. You are now in Extended Triangle Pose. Now we are ready to wring it out!

As you exhale, rotate your torso, maintaining an extended spine, so that your left hand is now reaching down toward the floor and your right hand extends up toward the ceiling. This is a challenging yoga pose, but very effective. (If you need a block to place your hand on, please use one.) In this pose, you're not only experiencing the twist in the abdominal region, but also you're gaining flexibility in your hips, legs, and spine. Hold the pose for 5-10 breaths. When you're done, carefully unwind and return to Mountain Pose and prepare to repeat the pose on the other side.

Remember, while holding this posture, think about that wet sponge that you are now wringing out. It may take several breaths (particularly the exhales) to move into this pose deeply and to wring out the sponge completely. When you return to a neutral posture, experience the lightness in your body - having released some of the tension and heaviness your body has been holding onto. The Revolving Triangle Pose can be your own Calgon experience!


Friday, February 3, 2012

Celebrate Your Victories

In my yoga classes this week, I have been teaching a pose that I've been calling "Victorious Warrior." It's not a real yoga pose, but it's a posture that helps generate strength and stability in your core. I combined the posture with the concept of Ujjayi Breathing. Ujjayi means "victorious" in Sanskrit. The idea of the yoga sessions was to find and experience the victories in your life.

That can be the intention for your home yoga practice this week: to take a moment and call to mind your personal successes and victories that you've experienced this week. Be proud of the moments when you made great achievements. Give yourself a pat on the back for accomplishing something you've been working on. Celebrate!

Ujjayi Breathing
Start in Mountain Pose. Be sure your feet are firmly planted on the floor with your toes pointing directly forward with your feet about hip-distant apart. This will establish a strong foundation. Stand tall with strong legs and extended spine. Feel the energy rising up through your body through the crown of your head. Just standing here can give you a sense of feeling victorious. Mountain Pose can help you feel majestic, proud, and confident.

Close your eyes and focus on your breath. Breathe slowly and deeply. Use the muscles of the throat to engage the Ujjayi Breath. With each inhale, experience how the breath rises high into the chest, expanding the lungs, chest, and opening the heart. Maintain this vibrant, intentional breath by engaging the abdominal lock (i.e. draw the belly button in toward your spine.) This will allow the breath to remain high in the chest space rather than "falling down" into the belly. This way of breathing creates that uplifting, victorious sensation in your body. Take 10-15 breaths here. Celebrate the stillness, celebrate your victories, celebrate the moment.

Victorious Warrior
As mentioned, their really is no such thing as Victorious Warrior, but a variation of Warrior II and Side Angle Pose combined that generates strength and stability in the core body.

Come to Warrior II. Start with you right foot forward. Bend that leg so it is just about 90 degrees. The back leg is straight with the foot firmly connected to the mat. Be sure your right knee is stacked directly over (or slightly behind) the right ankle. The arms are extended out to the side (with hands reaching toward the front and back of the room.) Engage your core by scooping the pelvis under so that your tailbone is pointing toward the floor. By tilting the pelvis in this manner, you create more opening and alignment in the hips, a release in the low back, and an engaged low abdominal region. Hold this posture for a few breaths with some emphasis on the exhale so you are able to hold the posture. Experience the energy and strength generated in this pose so far.

Now, keep your right hand right where it is while reaching the left hand up over your head. The upper body will shift a bit toward the front knee creating a 45 degree angle with the floor. Be careful NOT to shift the lower body too much. It's just an upper body movement. If you shift too much energy into the front knee, you might experience a release of the core engagement. For this particular pose, you want to remain strong and connected to the core system. Keep the arms extended and even form a "V-shape" with the arms (turn your hands so your palms are facing each other.) This is what I call Victorious Warrior. The longer you hold this position, the more intense it may feel. Here, be reminded of your inner strength that it took to meet your goals, to be successful, to be victorious. If you can, hold for 5-10 breaths. Return to Warrior II, then do the other side.

By practicing these two yoga poses, we can be reminded that it can take great effort to achieve our goals. And once the goals have been met, you have every reason to celebrate.