Life Matters

Lately I’ve been fighting off the flu bug that half the population seems to have right now. Yesterday I went to lay down for a nap and my husband snuggled up beside me. Achy as I was, it felt so good to have my hair rumpled and his arm around me. Laying there with my head on his chest, it occurred to me that these little moments are really the best part of life.

Yet how many times do I take this guy, the love of my life, for granted? How many evenings am I caught up in things I have to do: laundry to be done; work to finish, emails to answer? How many times are we there with each other, but mostly caught up in our own tasks and life concerns that seems so important in the moment? Do we really make enough time to have just being with the other person?

This above quote is my mantra for 2013. When I’m feeling caught up in being busy and preoccupied and frustrated, I’m working on taking a deep breath and asking myself, “Am I making time on what matters most?” And while work and doing the dishes and running errands are all important things that have to be done, that which matters most shall never give way to them.

Tonight was a bummer. It was a close game and rough loss for San Francisco fans. Yet there was another part of watching the game that mattered a lot more.

reading

Auntie Megan with her favorite little people

Tip Tuesday: Find Delight in Your Yoga

Tip Tuesday is a weekly feature where I offer a few yoga tips that have worked for me in the hopes that they can help you too.

How do you find delight in yoga? I’m not talking about mild enjoyment, “Sure, that’s a nice stretch. Yes, my body feels less tight.” I’m talking joy, excitement, and aliveness surging through you.

Finding delight in yoga is a theme we frequently explore in Forrest Yoga classes. At first, delight might seem elusive, especially when you’re in the middle of a touch sequence of abs or holding bridge pose for what feels like an endless amount of time. In fact, suffering might seem more like it. So where do you even begin cultivating delight in your practice?

It helps me as I’m starting my practice to close my eyes, breathe, and reflect on what brings me joy. It might be a person or a particular place or maybe just a time in my life where I felt an overflowing sense of happiness. For me, this might be: visualizing my good friends, the high I felt after skydiving for the first time, sunbathing, or the warmth of my kitties sitting on my lap. You’ll have your own joys to draw upon.

As you connect to this joy, get a visceral sense of what it feels like in your body. I notice my body brightens up, I get a little smile on my face, and my shoulders feel lighter. Feel what’s true for you and breathe in this experience of joy.

Now comes the trickier part–keeping this feeling of joy as you go through the yoga practice. Sometimes this is easy. Hitting child’s pose after holding onto dolphin pose for a long time feels like a glorious rest! However, when it comes to a particularly challenging or dreaded pose, our first instinct is to often go into survival mode: I’ll just hold on in the pose, hate every second of it, and hope that the end will come soon.

Instead, what can you find to like about a pose? Now I used to really hate abs, especially elbow to knee pose. My abs weren’t all the strong, I had a hard time getting the breathing right with the movements, and we seemed to move agonizingly slow. I gritted my teeth and looked forward to the moment where we could release the pose. So I tried to think of how I could find something to like about abs instead of being miserable (after all, there’s always abs in Forrest Yoga, so might as well start finding enjoyment in them). I observed that elbow to knee gave me more energy in my core and I felt more awake (even if my abs were sore). Even if I disparaged myself for not getting the pose right, I had to admit I liked the fact elbow to knee forced my brain to be focused. As I continue to practice, I find I begin to appreciate more subtle aspects of the pose such as the opening in my inner legs and release in my hips.

You can of course find delight by doing your favorite poses. What poses get you excited and how do they make you feel in your body? One of my favorites is dolphin strut (video link). It makes me focus on my balance, gives me a terrific hip opening, and juices me up. I love how powerful and non-self-conscious it makes me feel. Consider what poses you love to do and why and then go and do them.

Just like we can develop our proficiency in yoga poses, we can hone the skill of finding delight in the practice. Why settle for just enjoyment? Let’s go after the delight!

Tip Tuesday: Don’t Be a Yoga Robot

Image credit: Watercolor painting by RandomHappenstance on etsy

Tip Tuesday is a weekly feature where I offer a few yoga tips that have worked for me in the hopes that they can help you too.

You might be a yoga robot if…

…Your body is on the mat, but your mind is floating elsewhere
…You aren’t at all aware of your breath during the practice
…You don’t ever consider taking a variation, modification, or deviation of any pose
…You do the poses just to do them without looking at how they feel in your body.
…Yoga is an item you cross off on your to-do list

Robots are not all bad. They are usually good at doing what they are told and getting automated tasks done. But a robot can’t go beyond their programmed behavior. Yoga robots will get their practice done, but miss out on the chance to experiment, fall, challenge, and sometimes having that juicy breakthrough on the mat.

Ways to de-program your robot:

Breathe. When you find your mind wandering, focus your breath into where you feel the pose in your body. If it’s a hip-opener pose, direct your breath into your hip. Feel for how much space you can create with your breath.

Find your feet. Press into the balls of your feet and lift and spread your toes. This little action will help ground you and re-focus your attention back to your body.

Take a variation. If you’re in downward dog, try a 1-legged dog, shift your hips, pedal the feet, send the leg out to the side. Play with different movement and see what it feels like. Don’t worry if it’s not the traditional “right” pose. You could stumble upon a creative new variation you’ll want to repeat.

Try a mantra. A short chant or phrase can help keep your mind focused and calm. It can be as simple as “inhale” and “exhale”. Even humming along to music during your practice can have have a centering effect as you experience the vibrational effect of the notes. Who knows, it could even be this song: