Too good not to share…
Too good not to share…
Back bends seem to be really polarizing in class. Some people love them and drop back with ease while others feel scared, rigid, and closed in when attempting back bends. I think there is an element of working through fear in our back bends. It requires an openness in the front of the body that we often avoid in daily life. We have to work through feelings of fear as we fully expose the front of the body or take the head back.
When I haven’t been practicing deeper back bends for a while I forget how amazing it can feel afterwards. I can feel a brightness in my mood and length through my whole spine. I did some deeper back bends this week, with a lot of focus on lengthening the spine, and am reminded just how integral a part of the practice they are.
I found this video as well which has some inspiring poses in it. The ever-underwear clad and terrific Briohny Smyth shows us how it’s done. She reminds us to create length in the lumbar spine, use core engagement, and find space for our back bend in the middle/upper back. If you are afraid of back bends, maybe try them at home in your smalls 😉
Dead body pose. Corpse pose. Savasana.
For some of us this seems to come so easy. Lie there and be still. Relax. Release. Give over to the moment. Ahh
But for so many, this pose is hard. I don’t want to close my eyes. Why Am I laying here? This is a waste of time. My face itches. I am hungry. Are my shoulders in the right place? I wish the teacher would stop talking. I’m bored.
We resist change and transformation because something has to die in order to give birth to the new. We must ‘die’ in the moment of savasana to let the new being take shape. I think the fear is that if I let go of what I think I am, what I think I know, then who am I?
Letting go is one of the lessons that we get from death. We realize that we actually have so little control after all. Not one person in the history of the world has escaped it yet, and none of us ever will. So how does one take this lesson of dead body pose and turn it into something less morbid and depressing?
I recently re-watched Steve jobs’ Stanford speech, posted through TED on “How to live before you die”. Well, he certainly did. Watch the video below for his full speech, even more prophetic now he has passed. In a nutshell: Trust your gut. Follow your heart. Be led off the well worn path…and trust that the dots will connect in the future. Never settle, and do what you love. Lastly, ask yourself each day, “if today was the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?” And if the answer is no too many days in a row, you have to change what you are doing.
When you live with the knowledge of your own death, you have nothing to lose.
So die to the moment. Give yourself to savasana. Let go of what does not serve you. And wake up to the new you, the best you every day.
I was cycling home today and I saw a girl on a bike nearly run over an older couple. She yelled at them because she had a green light and they were in the road when they shouldn’t be. The man told her she was going too fast. And she got angry with them. Here is a perfect example of where needing to be right is just so wrong. When did our humanity become prostrate to being right? Let it go.
Let it go. Let something die in order for something else to take shape. Give yourself the five minutes you get in savasana. And live before you die.
I got an email the other day for a product called the YoFoMat. And I have to say I am rather intrigued!! I am tempted to order one of these origami, travel anywhere, eco mats. It folds away to the size of a book (or ipad box apparently) so you can carry it in your purse or bag.
Does anyone have one of these things? It’s being sold by a company called Khataland. I can’t tell if it is clever and functional or if it is a home shopping network disaster. Needless to say, I must have one. It appeals to me because I cycle everywhere and find that it is too cumbersome to travel with my yoga mat and my usually crammed full Osprey flapjill messenger bag. But then again I just can’t tell if it is a good mat with all gimmicks aside.
Moving on into the realm of the techy. A rather interesting iPhone/iPad app was brought to my attention. Michael Gannon, the self branded ‘Yoga Dealer’ has come out with the first ever Ashtanga app. Now this I have tried and tested, and I do approve! There are beginner and advanced options with useful pictures, info, and direction.
Lastly, I am a sucker for anything made by Yogitoes. I am obsessed with the uStrap. It looks like they are coming out with a new Skidless towel. The brand is called Prism with Brock Cahill as the poster yogi. It is made from recycled polyester and represents the glow of the chakras! I think it looks great. And I love the Walle esque ad campaign.
“When you wake up in the morning, Pooh,” said Piglet at last, “what’s the first thing you say to yourself?”
“What’s for breakfast? said Pooh. “What do you say, Piglet?”
“I say, I wonder what’s going to happen exciting today?” said Piglet.
Pooh nodded thoughtfully.
“It’s the same thing,” he said.
-The Tao of Pooh
Breakfast has become my favorite time. I sit in our conservatory looking in the back garden at the birds and the neighbor cats that wander through our cat trails. I drink a coffee that was made from a pod and eat a croissant covered in butter. The day hasn’t really started at this point and I resist the urge to open my computer for as a long as I possibly can. Because once I open it I can’t get back to this first moment of the day again. The morning is a fresh, unspoiled place to just sit, meditate, or think of nothing, and to savour the first cup of coffee.
What could possibly happen in the course of the rest day that could be better than this time? I suppose everything, and nothing. It is this time in the present moment that the birds are enough, the sky is enough, the sunshine is enough, my croissant is enough. The moment is complete. And for the rest of the day there might be glimmers of this, but mostly I will be reaching, working, planning, plotting, thinking, grasping, accomplishing, relaxing, and so on. But this morning, the completeness seems to linger.
“‘When you are inspired by some great purpose, some extraordinary project, all your thoughts break their bonds: Your mind transcends limitations, your consciousness expands in every direction, and you find yourself in a new, great, and wonderful world. Dormant forces, faculties and talents become alive, and you discover yourself to be a greater person by far than you ever dreamed yourself to be.”
I noticed recently my own resistance to change. I always thought of myself as a person who embraced change. I like new scenery, new adventures, and non-traditional employment. I also noticed, that all new things, if they remain in our lives long enough become habitual, systematized, and squashed into place. What was once new and free to expand can become something that needs to be understood, labeled, and filed away. There are new things flowing into our lives all the time, we need only open our eyes to them. These new things can be an expansion of our truest nature and they can also be a diversion from that path. How do we open ourselves to expansion and still protect ourselves from the scary trek down the wrong path, or almost worse, getting ourselves stuck in a rut?
1. We don’t get to keep what we have by squeezing it more tightly. We only risk squashing the very spirit of what made it beautiful in the first place. If you love it let it go? Perhaps this is true for many things: Sports, hobbies, jobs, people, animals, projects, businesses, clothes…Is any of it really ours to have anyways? We constantly can feel the pains of loss when we have squeezed something very tightly and seen it slip away. When we love something we can let it grow, and we can only do this by knowing that it is not ours to keep anyways. It is a gift, or a moment, or something that is temporarily in our care. And in this way, life is beautiful, and not one moment to be taken for granted.
2. Life is filled with signposts. At one point I read Deepak Chopra’s book on Synchrodestiny. It has to do with the connectedness of things and beings. The idea is that the universe communicates to us via coincidences and synchronicity. When we start to look for the coincidences we see even more of them and they are the illuminations along life’s path. Seek and ye shall find. Then your own creative process in life happens to be a joint project between you and universal energy. Can’t say I dislike the idea. Here is a really nice post on synchronicity and creativity from KCThreads.
3. Don’t worry. Your ‘path’ always has a way of finding you. Things seek the path of least resistence. Occam’s razor: The simplest answer is usually the correct answer (my over simplified definition of course). A rut is only a rut if you sit there and get stuck in it. Otherwise it is just some water molecules’ path of least resistance.
We have to grow, and let go, and look for signs to make room for change in our lives.
Yoga doesn’t hurt either.
Weddings have been on the brain. With a royal wedding behind us, and my own wedding before me, I can’t stop thinking about them. Not to mention I happen to live in the new royal couple’s dukedom.
I have been thinking that yoga is the perfect fitness regime. Not surprising that I think that. It tones the body, stretches muscles, calms nerves, and gives you a positive outlook on life.
Why do bridal boot camp to get fit for one event, when you can do yoga and feel good, well, forever? I was thinking I would write a segment on my blog about yoga tips for brides. And instead of the focus being on one day in a life it can be about over all well being for the rest of your life.
Here is a silly picture of me in a field of ‘cow parsley’, now ruled by Duchess Kate, doing Utthita Hasta Padangustasana. Why not get in to the spirit of love…
I have always wondered why handstand is referred to as Adho Mukha Vrksasana in yoga, or ‘downward facing tree’. It certainly doesn’t look like tree pose turned upside down. It is more like upside down utthita tadasana, extended mountain pose.
I have been a real handstand junky as of late. And it was through this handstand immersion that downward facing tree suddenly had meaning to me.
It is in the architecture of the pose that we mimic a tree. Rooted down to earth with strength, the tree rises towards the sky.
Handstand is all about preparing the base of support and then building the pose from the ground up.
And they are fun to do anywhere. Tara Stiles does them in the concrete jungle…where do you do down face tree?
This lovely flowchart, made by Alison Hinks, demonstrates the 8 limb path of yoga. Patanjali laid these steps out in the yoga sutras and thousands of years later we get a handy flowchart. I think most people work well with visuals.
Asana is clearly the limb we most dwell in, and sometimes with a healthy marriage of pranayama. I have always found the first two limbs fascinating: the restraints and observances, yamas and niyamas. They bring up thoughts of discipline, habits, and behaviour. Soucha, cleanliness, seems to justify my need to declutter. Ahimsa, non violence, I find beautiful and challenging.
As one moves up this tree, each limb seems to be a gateway for the next. The times I have found pratyahara and dharana to be at my fingertips, have been when my yoga practice is regular and consistent. In fact, I think the only way to understand yoga is to immerse yourself in it. Practice often. I say that as my very own practice is currently inconsistent. Perhaps a lack of Tapas? Return to ‘go’.
Pattabhi Jois says, “yoga is 99% practice and 1% theory”.
Time to get back to it. There are limbs to explore…