Tag Archives: practice

Day 30: Switching it up

Well, I don’t know about you guys, but Day 30 really snuck up on me.  I guess that’s what happens during this time of year!  But the yoga has been a great reminder to slow down and be in the moment, even if only for a few minutes each day.

Last night I was trying to decide what I should do for my last day of the challenge.  I knew I wanted to go to a class and not just do a Yoga Today class here at the apartment, so I checked the schedule at The Yoga Room.  The Astoria location listed a hot flow and an Iyengar class.  My first reaction was, “Darn, why isn’t there just a regular Vinyasa flow?”  But then I thought about it and realized that this is, after all, a challenge.  I should go outside of the box.  I decided to go to the Iyengar class.

For those of you who are unfamiliar, Iyengar is a form of yoga developed by, you guessed it, B.K.S. Iyengar.  It is extremely precise and alignment-based and often utilizes props in order to help the body maintain proper alignment in each asana (pose).  My older sister Rebecca practices Iyengar almost exclusively; I have taken a few classes with her over the years and have discovered that, to put it mildly, it’s just not my cup of tea.  I find it to be too slow and choppy; I prefer more movement and flow (which, conversely, my sister absolutely dreads…but I’ll get her to a Vinyasa class one day :)).  However, you do end up learning a ton about your body in these classes, which is why I’ve said in the past that I couldn’t practice Iyengar exclusively, but it’s good to go occasionally for a tune-up.

"Seriously, Rebecca, vinyasa flow is awesome, you'll love it!"  :)

“Seriously, Rebecca, vinyasa flow is awesome, you’ll love it!” 🙂

It had been a while, which is why, upon rethinking my game plan for today, Tzahi’s Iyengar class sounded like a good idea.  Of course, within the first five minutes, I was quickly reminded why this is not my typical practice.  The focus for today was the movement of wrapping the inner thighs to the back of the body, of which we were constantly reminded as we stood in tadasana, urdhva hastasana, and parsvottanasana.  Times like these are when I just want to yell back to the teacher, “I AM wrapping my thigh!” or “I have NO idea how I’m supposed to do that!”  But then, it was as if the universe winked at me when he directed us to the wall to practice our full arm balances (a.k.a. handstands).  Sweet!  I went up a few times and felt pretty good, although my arms are definitely tired from all of the practicing.  Not to worry, however, because next thing I knew, the universe was giving me a huge hug when we were cued into Sirsasana (headstand) and Tzahi hooked up some straps to the rope wall and showed me how to hang…upside down.

You can pretend one of these people is me. :)

You can pretend one of these people is me. 🙂

Yes friends, the one thing that Iyengar has that vinyasa classes do not is a rope wall.  There are many ways it can be utilized, but up until today I had never used it for any inversions (though I had watched in awe in previous classes when fellow students easily strapped themselves in and let it all go).  Since I had told the teacher in the beginning of class that I wouldn’t be practicing headstand, he seamlessly set up the straps for me while I was resting after handstand.  It was a little nervewracking at first, but he guided me into it and before I knew it I was hanging upside down with zero pressure on my neck…total bliss!

I reluctantly came out of the pose and finished the class–which included more mind chatter about how much longer we’d have to hold a pose, but also a lovely supported savasana in supta boddakonasana (reclined bound angle pose).  All in all, I left class feeling more open and definitely more aware of my inner thighs.  Plus I’ve gotten a dose of Iyengar that should last a few months at least…

And that completes my 30-Day Challenge!  Of course, that doesn’t mean I’m going to stop yoga (or blogging).  I’m formulating a new challenge for myself already, probably for the beginning of the year.  Until then, I’ll continue to share insights into my yoga practice, delicious treats and whatever else strikes my fancy.  Let me know if you have any great recipes to share or thoughts for my next challenge!

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Filed under Goals, inversions, Non-Judgement, Practice, Yoga, Yoga Snax

Days 26 & 27: Turning Upside Down Part Deux

Hello Friends!

I had every intention of posting last night, but I ended up being preoccupied with decorating this new addition to the apartment:

I downsized this year, but he's a cute little guy.

I downsized this year, but he’s a cute little guy.

Nevertheless, I am really excited to tell you about the Inversion workshop yesterday at The Yoga Room.  It was taught by one of their teachers, Marko, and I think he did a fantastic job.  He began with a dharma talk that was all about the importance of process over final product; that, as much as we want to be able to do a handstand right now, the journey is the most important part.  Lessons like this are what yoga is all about.  What we learn on the mat is completely applicable to our lives off of the mat.  Breaking down a handstand into steps and practicing each step slowly and purposefully teaches us the value of hard work and persistence.  And when you finally reach your goal, it makes it all that much sweeter since you worked so hard to achieve it.

That is how Marko designed the workshop.  We worked on several variations of headstands and handstands over the two-hour class, and he broke down each pose into different steps, giving us the option to stop where we felt comfortable, or move on if we wanted to challenge ourselves.  My headstand practice is still on hiatus, which gave me the opportunity to really work on headstand prep, which is basically a downward dog with forearms and head on the ground.  If you’ve never done this prep before, it is challenging!  It really works your shoulders and core.  I also practiced bringing one leg in to my chest, which really got my ab muscles fired up.

By the time we got to handstand practice, my core was nice and warm, which, as I’ve mentioned previously, is really important for inversions.  We did several preps for handstand including L-shape against the wall and extending one leg up, which really helped me to get a feel for handstand away from the wall.  There was also more core work that included hopping over a block with our hands on the floor, arms straight.  This probably sounds easy, but it’s definitely work.  When he finally cued us to go up into handstand against the wall, it felt like my legs floated up, as opposed to my usual method of flinging my legs as hard as I can until I reach the wall.  I even managed to come off the wall for a few seconds.  If The Yoga Room offers this workshop again, I highly recommend it!

Today I found a Yoga Today class that was dedicated to handstands and forearm stands.  It was great to get in more practice, although I have to say my arms were tired from yesterday!  So I did what I could and either took a childs pose or just watched the yogis on the screen when I needed a break.  Marko made sure to let us know that consistent practice is the way to achieve our goal and I would have to agree; this 30-day challenge has definitely helped me to become more comfortable with turning upside down!

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Filed under Dharma, Goals, inversions, Non-Judgement, Practice, Uncategorized, Yoga, Yoga Snax

Day 25: Juicy Hips and Crispy Chickpeas

This morning I woke up feeling groggy, a combination of working until 1am and the head cold that came to visit yesterday.  The last thing I wanted to do was turn myself upside down in downward dog when my head felt ready to explode sitting right-side up.  So I decided to take it easy on myself and go back to my quick favorite Opening to Hanumanasana with Adi on Yoga Today (though, you’ll notice if you click the link that I actually do this practice on YouTube).  Even though this class is only 25 minutes, it is full of juicy hip openers (which, if you couldn’t tell by now, I love!) and, more importantly today, not too much upside-down time.  It had been a while since I’d done this one, and as much as I love it, I always dread the pose where you are in a sort of super wide pigeon, with your foot rolled to the outside.  I used to have the worst time with that pose, especially on my right side.  However, I was pleasantly surprised to discover that it didn’t make me want to cry or punch someone today.  I’m letting things go guys!

I spent the afternoon working on an online training to become a volunteer tax preparer, which was my favorite project in AmeriCorps and something I’ve wanted to get back into for a long time.  When I got home, I was hungry but still had some work to do before I made dinner, so I decided to roast some chickpeas.  This is something that I’ve been wanting to do for a long time, but for some reason I never have–odd, since I always have several cans in the house at all times.  Anyway, I did a quick search on the googs and discovered the blog How Sweet It Is which devoted an entire post to roasting the little ‘banzos! Excellent.  I followed her method and decided to go with rosemary, garlic powder and salt for my maiden voyage of making what is sure to be one of my new favorite snax.

All ready to go in the oven!

All ready to go in the oven!

Nom

Nom

 

As you can probably see from the second photo, they ended up a little, shall we say, well done.  However, my good friends will tell you that I tend to prefer things on the crispier side, so I was ok with it.  Next time, I either won’t keep them in so long or will lower the temperature of the oven.  However the flavor was great and they were a perfect crispy treat to tide me over until I was finished reviewing filing statuses.

And now it’s time for a little dinner, movie and early bed time to get rid of this cold once and for all!  I’ve got a lot of upside-downing ahead of me tomorrow. 🙂

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Filed under Food, Goals, Practice, Recipes, Roasted Chickpeas, Yoga, Yoga Snax

Days 22-24: Almost there!

Hey yogis!

As you could tell in my last post, my time in Harrisburg was full of cooking and Christmas decorations–but I did manage to get my yoga in there thanks to Just Plain Yoga over in Camp Hill. I also taught a quick class of Sun Salutations to the man friend who had a sore lower back. **Quick Tip: Sore lower back is often a sign of tight hamstrings, so gentle forward folds, seated folds, or supine (on your back) hamstring stretches with a strap can do wonders!**

After running around the last few days, I woke up this morning with a cold…not so fun, but it’s also my body’s way of telling me to slow down. I’m glad it is happening now so I can have the chance to take better care of myself this holiday season (my mother can probably tell you the number of Christmases I woke up sick as a kid). So today’s practice will be something gentle and restorative–my bolster will definitely be involved.

An extra motivation for kicking this cold is the workshop I am going to on Saturday! Since handstand has been one of my goal poses, I signed up for another inversion workshop, this time at The Yoga Room (thanks to my wonderful roommate who alerted me it was filling up fast, I snagged one of the last spots!). Rumor is he has some crazy core work in store for us–I can’t wait! Until then, time to load up on Vitamin C.

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Filed under Goals, inversions, Non-Judgement, Practice, Yoga

Day 14: The Power of Intention

I’ve finally gotten back to the point where, if I don’t practice for one day, my body (and mind) are begging for a good practice.  I admit that yesterday I didn’t get in a physical practice, as I got stuck in post-holiday traffic driving to Harrisburg and then had my hands full introducing and helping my dog Honey get along with the man-friend’s dog Macky….Honey Bun isn’t so used to other dogs.  It was a little touch-and-go at first, but I think I see a doggy friendship in their future!

Honey (doing her best Dobby impression) and Macky: BFS (Best Friends Someday) :)

Honey (doing her best Dobby impression) and Macky: BFS (Best Friends Someday) 🙂

So today, after a couple long car rides and two dogs keeping me on my toes for the day, I needed to get back on my mat.  I did so at Yoga Agora here in Astoria.  This studio is my backup whenever I can’t make class at The Yoga Room and don’t feel like doing a practice with Yoga Today.  It’s just $5 for a 75-minute class–not too shabby!  I took Anna’s class today, and I think this was my favorite class so far.  In fact, if I had to describe this class in one word, it would be delicious.  It was a nice, slow flow in which we held the poses nice and long (but not too long!) which really allowed me to stretch out my aching body.

As good as the physical practice felt, Anna’s words also provided inspiration.  The first was simply, “Vibration is good.”  This really resonated with me (you see what I did there?) because it made me think of my favorite part of the “om”:  when I say the “m” and I feel the vibration move through the length of my body, which is extremely calming…kind of like a baby riding in a car.  During the practice I really brought my awareness to the vibrations I was feeling through my breath and from the rest of the yogis in the room.  Feeling the positive energy throughout the practice reinforces that what we put out there comes back to you.

Anna ended class with this quote (I’m paraphrasing), “Our job is not to seek love, but to seek the barriers we’ve put up that prevent us from accepting love and let them go.”  This made me smile, because it has essentially been my practice since July; I recognized that I tended to stay away from heart openers and decided that it meant that those were the poses I needed most.  I began every practice with the intention to have an open heart, and it has made all the difference, both on and off the mat.

How have your intentions influenced your practice?

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Day 12: Ch-Ch-Ch-Changes

When I began this 30-day Challenge, I somehow did not consider that Thanksgiving would fall in the middle of it.  However, the great thing about said challenge is that it has helped me prioritize my practice.  Even during the craziness of Thanksgiving, I was able to find a few minutes to do some sun salutations.  That said, I have to confess that yesterday I did not end up doing a physical practice or a meditation; in the traditional sense, at least.  Instead, I was spending the day with my best friend (aka my Twin) whom I hadn’t seen in over TWO YEARS!  Clearly we had some major catching up to do.

We spent the day visiting some of her favorite places in the city as well as some new ones that she hadn’t yet been to (Eataly anyone?) since she moved from the city to Seattle 3 years ago.  There were Starbucks holiday cups, incredible food, and tons of laughs reminiscing about college and our time as roommates here in NYC.  It was so wonderful to reconnect with a great friend after so much time.  Even though I didn’t do a physical practice, this day definitely left my soul feeling fulfilled.

Twin and I loving our wine and spaghetti squash bruschetta at Eataly!

Twin and I loving our wine and spaghetti squash bruschetta at Eataly!

Today I went to the open-level community class at The Yoga Room in Astoria.  I was pleasantly surprised to notice that my flexibility has increased noticeably in the last few weeks.  It used to be that my heels would kind-of-maybe reach the mat in downward facing dog by the end of my practice, and that was only sometime.  However, today I noticed that my heels were skimming the floor on my very first down dog, and completely touching the ground by the last one!  My forward folds are also deeper, which shows that my hammies are getting flexy…now I just have to keep working on those hips!

Have you noticed any differences in your practice recently?

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Day 3: Unwind

I wasn’t sure it was going to happen after my 4am wakeup call this morning, but I did, in fact, get my yoga in today.  More specifically, this evening after Little Man went to sleep.  Seeing as I was exhausted and it was 9pm, I didn’t want to choose anything that was going to energize me and make it difficult to fall asleep.  I opted for this class from Neesha on Yoga Today entitled, “Unwind.”  The title says it all, really.

This website is really fantastic when you can't make it to a class--perfect if you're at home or traveling.

This website is really fantastic when you can’t make it to a class–perfect if you’re at home or traveling.

Although Neesha directs this class toward travelers who have recently flown, it turned out to be a really great option, as it was slow-moving but allowed you to go deep into some forward bends and hip openers to release the legs, all while connecting to the breath.  It also includes threading the needle pose, which is one of my absolute favorites to get into the neck and shoulders–bliss!  Part of practicing yoga is turning inward and tuning in to what you need in the moment.  While a big motivation for this challenge is to get my practice back to where it used to be, it is also about taking care of myself.  An hour of arm balances and vigorous flow may have strengthened my muscles, but it was not at all what my mind or body needed tonight.  Instead, I stretched, breathed and relaxed, preparing myself for a good night’s sleep.

And that is what I’m going to do now–I plan to get my flow on tomorrow at 7am with my roommate Kate’s class at The Yoga Room in LIC (don’t you love their new logo?  The lovely Kate designed it!).

Goodnight yogis!

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