Tree in the Shower!

IMG_1384Years ago, one of my students shared her experience of practicing tree pose as soon as she got out of the shower every morning. She had been struggling with the pose in class and was amazed at how much easier it became when there was skin to skin contact. Especially when the skin was still a little moist from the shower.

Gradually, other students took up the practice. I, for some reason could never quite remember to do it at that time. About a month ago, I began having trouble with tree. Couldn’t figure out why I could no longer stick my foot on my thigh! It just seemed to be slippery….was I using too much lotion on the winter dry feet? Was it the pounds I gained over the holidays? Was it some kind of ear or ankle issue? Whatever it was, I just wanted my Tree back!

So one night (yes, another of my 3 AM practices) I tried the pose as usual. Nada–no luck without using the wall for support. So I tried taking off my jammie bottoms and VOILA! A beautiful tree grew stable and blissful.  That became my tree practice for a while.

In the meantime, the subject arose again in class and someone mentioned that they actually do the pose IN THE SHOWER. I thought that was pretty radical and would stick to my nocturnal bliss….until this morning when I had an urge to try once the shampoo was rinsed.

WOW! It was GREAT…..so much easier than ever. Next time, I’ll have to turn off the faucet before going up so there’s not so much water wasted. But really, it was cool. Try it and let us know how it went for you.

 

January Meditation

1990WNYwriter-in-residence2015– Spend some quiet time relaxing, allowing intentions for the year to surface. Preferable, you will have at least an hour, more is better.  I go in and out of this meditation through a day or a couple of days thinking of the coming year and who I want to be during the year. There are no strings attached if I don’t actually become this person or fall short of my intentions. Only kudos for where I DID move. The actions I took were part of an intentional strategy — that’s what’s important. WHO DO YOU WANT TO BE….WHO IS THE TRUE YOU…..Reach deep….go for the juiciest self that arises! Look fear in it’s face and write it down. How cool is that!!!!!

You can do this anytime, not just at the new year. How about during the first semester of college or grad school? Or when starting a new job, or moving, or after giving birth? It’s always a plus to re-group and re-align with that true self.

Sunset Meditation, Your Beautiful Self

Spending an evening enjoying a sunset is yoga in action!

Sit or stand quietly with a long spine, and the soles of your feet grounded. With every inhalation, breathe in the beauty of the sky. Invite the colors of the sunset, clouds, and sky to fill you. Feel the beauty within you.

With every exhalation, breathe out, imagining that beauty inside the people in your life.  As you think of each person, visualize them spending their day beneath the very same sky as you. Different colors, but one sky.  Think of how each person embodies  beauty.

As the practice becomes more familiar and easier, include not only the friends and family whom you love, but also folks who aggravate and annoy you. Fill your mind with something beautiful about each person.

When you are done, take a deep in breath and wish beauty for every person in the world, without exception.

Take a long slow, deep breath as you again return your thoughts to the lovely sky and appreciate being your own beautiful self.

When will I get it?

New students often ask, “When will I get yoga?”  implying a time frame, say in a year.   New students in the studio often show up saying that they are “experienced” yogis and they are ready for an advanced class when, in fact, they’ve only taken one session with another teacher.  Fast results are the American Way! It’s a part of our mindset, for better or worse. The new student signs up for one class per week and believes she’ll look like Christy Turlington in no time.

The reality is that though many students of this ancient art experience life/body -changing moments after only one or two classes, many more find results of practice only after several months of  dedicated effort.  The results are often stunning, don’t get me wrong.  But they do take time and effort.

I like to think of my yoga practice operating  on a geologic timescale.  B.K.S. Iyengar, who practiced five hours per day until he died at 95,  “Got it” after many many years of rigorous daily practice.  Above is a video from the Ann Arbor Y in 1976, thirty-eight years ago when Mr. Iyengar was 57! Below is an interview thirty years later,with Charlie Rose.  If you scroll past the George Clooney interview, you’ll reach Mr. Iyengar’s inteview.

Mr. Iyengar died today after giving the world his body and mind.  I’m saddened by his passing,  but endlessly grateful for the insights and teachings he shared for so many years.  They’ve changed my life in deep and dramatic ways.

If you have a pain in the butt . . .

If your pain is located smack dab in the center of your buttocks cheek, and is giving you trouble sitting and going up stairs, you very well may have a tight or inflamed piriformis muscle.  It is a deep muscle that enable external hip rotation.

Here is a video by the posturedoc that explains a way to relieve the symptoms of a tight piriformis. It’s  how to do Chair Pigeon Pose correctly. If you are my student, you will know this is highly recommended since we go over it in class frequently.  Even if you don’t have a tight piriformis, it”s a great pose to stretch the hips.

 

A consistent practice of stretching that muscle (including  Happy Baby, Thread the Needle, and Pigeon) will go a long way towards preventing further occurrences.  As always, though, get advice from your medical practitioner and Don’t OVERDO!

Here is a video stretch by an osteopath from UK that demonstrates clearly two stretches. Though he does not call them by their yogic names, I can tell you that the first is (don’t laugh) Gas Relieving Pose, and the second is the third part of Supta Padangusthasana that is not often taught and if it is, is taught in a slightly different version called, Rock The  Baby.

Siren Call of Retreat

A SWIRL OF WHITE FLOWERSWho says you need to go someplace expensive to re-center and refresh yourself? Who says a monastery or ashram is needed?

After traveling in Europe that involved some intense genealogical study, I have embarked upon a one week retreat. I did take breaks while overseas and I meditated a lot while traveling. Click on the following links if you would like to read further how I practiced away from home:

I chanted Lovingkindness mantra for myself and others in need.

 I practiced gentle yoga everyday.

I even went on a little pilgrimage, and 11 mile hike, chanting lovingkindness most of the time. Afterwards, I needed a backbend.

After I returned home however, I found I wanted to bring those practices into my everyday life, not just my “traveling” life. The siren call of retreat rang in my soul.  It’s a time to re-group, re-center, and reconnect with my life. And yes, admittedly, I want to detox … that German chocolate, wine, and bread needs to go. I need to return to a more vigorous practice. OUCH! My body needs to adjust.  And that can’t be rushed or I’ll end up injuring myself.

The game plan is to spend more time exercising, yoga-ing, including daily savasana,  reading or listening, art-ing, writing.  Cutting back on socializing and going out.  Even talking is on the back burner! Sounds luxurious, doesn’t it?

For five days,  I’ll try to post daily to let you know how it’s going.

Perhaps you’d like to join me? If even for a day or an hour. It’s a tried and true yogic practice and in my experience, yields delicious rewards even better than German chocolate!

 

 

Meditating on-the-go

Meditating on train in Germany
Meditating on train in Germany

I love meditating while sitting on a public conveyance, such as a plane or a train.  In some ways, it’s easy to minimize distractions.

For the past year or so, I’ve been practicing Metta, or Lovingkindness meditation.

I sit up tall, with my feet planted on the floor, close my eyes, and begin to chant.  Sitting with eyes closed, folks usually don’t try to interact with you. This is not necessary, but when I’m in public like this, I usually do lower my eyelids to minimize visual distractions,

The mantra can be done for oneself  (very important!!) or for another person.  Since I noticed that I had defaulted to berating myself in my self-talk, I’ve been doing the mantra A LOT for myself to try to create more love within me, knowing that how I treat myself mirrors the way I treat others.

As a reminder, then, here is what I might chant:

May I live without fear.

May I live in physical health.

May I live in mental health.

May I live a life of ease and abundance.

The transformation has begun! For one thing, I cannot remember the last time I called myself a name such as Stupid, or Idiot.  Hopefully, my heart is opening with greater compassion for others as I think of them with less negative language.

 

Supported Backbend

Supported Backbend on bed
Supported Backbend on bed

After hiking the St. Wendel pilgrimage trail for a ways, then the Teiffenbach Pfad in St. Wendel, Saarland, Germany, a bed backbend was a must! This works after a hard day of gardening or whenever the back feels achy. Backbends raise energy, so be prepared for a surge of energy afterwards. Be sure to exit the pose carefully, drawing the knees up towards the chest and rolling on your side to release the spine. You an use a footboard or headboard during this maneuver to assist your return to standing.

 

Hot Yoga!

(c) 2014 barefootphotos
(c) 2014 barefootphotos

With the temperature tipping 97 degrees Fahrenheit in Mannheim,  and no AC in our apt. , a cooling pose like supported shoulderstand on the couch really helped. Not only did it take the swelling out of my feet, it deeply rested and cooled my body and mind. Ahhhhh…