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.
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!
This morning I had to go to a meeting at Little Man’s school and afterwards spent some time catching up with my co-teacher (since we haven’t been traveling much lately we never see each other). As we were leaving each other, there was an elderly lady with a boot on her foot and a cane about to cross the street. She asked me if I would help her cross and I said yes. As she held my hand and we slowly crossed, I found out she was going to a doctor’s appointment on the next avenue, so I offered to take her the rest of the way. She thanked me and mentioned how difficult it was crossing the street and that if it was more windy, she would be afraid she would get knocked over. In that time I learned that she used to love ballroom dancing and was also a fashion designer but, as she described it, now she “can barely move.”
When we finally reached her destination, I watched her shuffle into the building and my heart ached, both for her and the whole event of aging. I immediately thought, “this is why I do yoga.” Because I don’t want to be relying on canes and other people to get across the street. Ever. Yes, that sounds incredibly stubborn, but I think being stubborn in regards to health and wellness is a good thing. And while I do have good genes on my side (you may remember when I talked about my grandparents here….they’re 95 now), there’s no guarantee that they will prevent my muscles from stiffening up and wasting away on me. I have plans to be a pretty kick ass (pardon my French) old lady and canes and arthritis are only going to get in my way. So, yoga it is.
This is my plan for 83.
In that vein, when I got home I decided to address the thing that has been bothering me since August…my neck (August also happens to be when I turned 30…hmm…). I’m still not sure what caused the wonkiness (that’s a word, right?), although I’m sure there is a connection to the crazy heavy bags that I carry my life around in as I trek around the city every day. At any rate, I turned once again to the wonderful Yoga Today to see what they could do for me, and I found Sarah Kline’s class, Relieving Neck and Shoulder Tension. Perfect, I thought. And it was. Sarah created a restorative class filled with tons of neck and shoulder opening stretches, including my favorite, threading the needle (if you’ve never done it, you should try it right now). Within the first 20 minutes, my neck and shoulders were feeling more open and free. I will definitely be adding this one to the queue. I imagine I’ll have to keep coming back to it if I’m going to be doing peacock pose when I’m 83 (in pearls :)).
I’ve made it to the half-way point of my 30-Day Challenge! Already I feel a million times better than I did on Day 1 (that is a technical measurement). Now that my practice is pretty much back to where it used to be, I feel as though I can finally get back to goals that I had set for myself a while back. One of those goals was to attain a full Hanumanasana, or split pose.
Not me…my hair is curly…
Since I have been noticing greater flexibility in my hammies, I decided to choose a practice that would stretch and lengthen my hip flexors, which are extremely important factor in whether or not you can do Hanumanasana. I chose Lunging into Freedom from Yoga Today. It is a shorter practice, and feels even shorter because she includes a guided savasana in there (often they will lead you into savasana and then advise you to stay for 5-10 minutes) but man, was it effective. Some of the lunges (including lizard pose) were extremely intense and had me focusing on my breath to get through them. Yet, unlike some hip-focused classes, this one was quite balanced, with plenty of vinyasas to get in a bit of upper body strengthening and bridge poses to clear the hips after the deep lunging. Next up, I’ll choose a class that includes Hanumanasana to see if I’ve made any progress!
Yoga Snax Remix: Remember this scrumptious treat that I wrote about last year? Well I was really in the mood for some avocado toast today, so I made quick work of toasting some good 7-grain bread and mashing a perfectly ripe avocado…only to realize I didn’t have any lemons or limes! It crossed my mind to just salt the avo and put it on the bread, but that seemed boring. I scanned my kitchen cabinets, saw the balsamic vinegar and was reminded of the awesome bruschetta I shared with my best friend last week at Eataly. So with that inspiration, I drizzled a little balsamic over the avocado-blanketed toast (rather than mixing it in with the avocado like I would the lemon–a little balsamic goes a long way, trust me) and I have to say–it was pretty delicious. Creamy avocado mixed with a little salt was nicely complimented by the sweet balsamic. Give it a try some time!
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) 🙂
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?
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.
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!).