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Still Lake

28 Mar

The benefits of waking up extra early for some sun salutations at dawn… I love Florida (even if it is 37). Have a lovely day y’all.

“To be calm, to be serene! There is the calmness of the lake when there is not a breath of wind. . . . So it is with us. Sometimes we are clarified and calmed healthily, as we never were before in our lives, not by an opiate, but by some unconscious obedience to the all-just laws, so that we become like a still lake of purest crystal and without an effort our depths are revealed to ourselves. All the world goes by us and is reflected in our deeps. Such clarity!” – Henry David Thoreau

How not to lock your knee

26 Mar

I’ve noticed lately that my knee gets quite sore from straight-legged poses like Intense Side Stretch. It didn’t occur to me that I might be locking my leg. I’m glad I saw YogaGypsy’s post “Yoga Tip Tuesdays: How to keep a straight leg without locking the knees.” Please read her full post, but here are just a few quick tips to get you started:

If your knee is locked in a balance pose, it means that the joint is holding the weight of the body, instead of the muscles.

If your knee is locked in a weight-bearing standing pose, for example triangle pose, the joint is again at risk, but in addition, because you are now stretching as well as bearing weight, the ligaments and tendons surrounding the knee joint are also at risk of taking the strain of the stretch, instead of the muscles.

In the pose you are working with, lift your toes – just your toes! – off the mat.You’ll find that it’s pretty much impossible to lock the knee while lifting the toes at the same time, because lifting the toes creates the muscular engagement, or “hugging in,” that brings the weight of the body into the muscles instead of the joint.

She also gives step-by-step instructions on isometrically engaging your leg muscles. Here’s the accompanying photo (but go read her post too!):

I learn something new everyday!

Why my blue wall is my BFF

25 Mar

We have a navy blue wall in the living room which looks rad. Once I figured out how to use a photo timer app on my phone, I started looking for places for photo-ops for Instagram. Hello blue wall. It didn’t take too long for it to become a key piece of my practice at home.

I’m really hooked on inversions because they don’t lie. I can’t fake a headstand/handstand. If I’m frazzled, distracted and can’t quiet my mind, I’ll fall. If my shoulders aren’t strong enough to support me in a new pose, I’ll fall. If I’m fearful of what I’m trying and can’t let go of that fear, I’ll fall.

I keep practicing them with my blue wall every day though. Practice makes progress.

I’m reasonably comfortable with headstands away from the wall… but handstands? I get that flash of cold fear/adrenaline saying “OMG YOU’RE GOING TO FALL BACKWARDS!” and “OMG I NEED TO DO MORE PLANKS!” Oh, brain, hush up already. Each time I try, the voices quiet for a few more seconds. But isn’t that part of why we practice yoga? To find our balance, to quiet our mind, and to learn that we’re stronger than we think, we’re capable of more than we know.

Before I ever put my hands flat on the ground for a handstand, I started by working on dolphin pose then walking my feet up the wall. It’s still kind of awkward. I feel like my shoulders and upper arms are being twisted open against what my joints want to do, not just a big stretch. Maybe that will get easier. My legs were still up a little high… staying in a comfort zone to fight the fear of falling.

"Dolphin up the wall" (?)

“Dolphin up the wall” (?)

Just last week I tried downward dog then walking up the wall. Seeing photos of my poses give me moments to 1) be proud of the progress I’ve made, and 2) objectively see what is working and what room for growth there is … i.e., not making a scrunchy-freaked-out-face and bending my knees still.

Handstand prep, using the wall

Handstand prep, using the wall

It’s a lesson in the balance of my internal practice and the external form. I know that text-book-form isn’t what it’s all about. But I know that as a newbie, not learning bad habits in the basic asanas will be harder to unlearn in the future as I try new things. So I breathe to stay in the moment and in my body. And I take a little time to be objective about what I need more focus on.. and about the progress I have already made. Both of the poses above are hard for me to find ease in. But my blue wall will help get me through it 🙂

Peace out!

“Where are the baby pigeons?!”

23 Mar

30 Rock was one of the most clever shows. Like watching a live-action, snarky cartoon train wreck. Kenneth was my favorite, and this line from the series finale had me in tears laughing:

30 Rock: "Where are the baby pigeons?"

So imagine a quiet yoga studio with everyone doing their nice ocean-sound-breathing and the next pose is pigeon. I seriously have to stifle laughter because this is all I can think of.

I know pigeon is one of those love-it-or-hate-it poses (based on my scientific research of listening to people either groan in exasperation or sigh happily with relief in class). My & my hips love pigeon. That is, until I tried lifting my leg up. Turns out my quads aren’t nearly as flexible as my hips! I’m still working on it in these two variations. Ya like my green shag 70’s rug? SWAG!

Pigeon, with a strap

Pigeon, with a strap

Pigeon, no strap

Peace out!

Flip your perspective

21 Mar
First inversion attempt ever

First inversion attempt ever

This is a photo of my first inversion attempt last fall. Oh the things we fearlessly did as kids. If we fell, we laughed. We hurdled ourselves down grassy hills intentionally so that we’ll roll at 30 mph and almost barf. We wore our skinned knees as badges of honor. Well, maybe not all girls did, but I was kind of a hot mess like that.

OK, cut to last fall. I follow all of these masterful yogis on Instagram doing crazy inversions, and I thought “I should really post something other than me doing downward dog.” So I gave myself some sort of weird pep-talk a la Rocky, and went for it. It looks so simple in retrospect, but it was one of those first defining moments.

“I’m upside down. I did this, I did this. Wow my head kinda hurts. I’m so… proud… of myself.” Then I think I tried doing a full headstand against the wall and almost smooshed the nosy cat. Baby steps. Upside down baby steps.

Peace out!

Studio moments

21 Mar

Props. My god the props.

Props. My god the props.

I'd never been so aware of the state of my toenails before I found yoga

I’d never been so aware of the state of my toenails before I found yoga

So here are two little glimpses at where I’m at four days a week. When the idea of practicing yoga occurred to me, I tried starting with dvd’s. It took about 40 minutes to realized I need someone to tell me if my feet were aligned right in warrior 2, I didn’t quite get what my sit bones had to do with down dog, and so on.

I do still practice some at home, by right now I get a big sense of support & camaraderie from practicing with others. I found out about styles of practice I never would have heard of. I find constant inspiration from others as they grow and from my instructors who share their wisdom & don’t let me wuss out 😉 Also, the props, my god the props! I always want to pull all of the bolsters out and make a squishy bed out of them. If I had that many bolsters at home, the cats would just claim them and it’d be game over.

Peace out!

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