February 2006

I had the same conversation with 3 people in two days – everyone feels overworked, exhausted, usually fighting some nasty illness, completely out of balance. The holiday break in December is forever ago and warm-weather chillin’ is still a long way off. Instead it’s year-end, tax time, RRSP season and and winter and it’s nose-to-the-grind-stone all the way.

My yoga buddy Michi said – how do you do it Corilee? You work full-time, teach yoga and you’re a Mom. I said – hey don’t bother getting impressed with me I just had a meltdown yesterday! I’m plenty human too. I had been going non-stop on Sunday a.m. from the time I got up at 7:00 a.m.. And when my son went down for a nap I was planning to do sit-down work and instead I ran off screaming to my bedroom and shut the door. I just couldn’t do any more, I was done, toast, kaput. Instead I relaxed and did fun things and it was exactly what I needed. And of course the work ended up getting done later, because it was no big deal once I was ready to face it.

I congratulated my yoga class last night for taking time for themselves and coming to the last of 8 weeks of classes. And someone said “sure, yoga feels great, it’s totally selfish!” And I said – now why is *selfish* a bad word in our culture? How can yoga be *selfish* when it helps us keep our nutty overworked lives in balance? How can something be *selfish* when it helps us recharge our batteries so we have more to give to the people and things that are important in life? You can’t get water from an empty well. It’s a necessity.

Now how on earth can I justify talking about lip stuff on a yoga blog? Excellent question. Lesse – it’s February, Carmex makes me happy when it’s -15 (that’s celsius kids), and hey, yogis need soft kissable lips too. Besides I’m an expert on this, I’m Canadian. Here’s the scoop.

Lots of products like Kiehls are fine for summer. But if you’re in need of a more medicated experience to keep those lips in line, Carmex is a pot of gold. If you’re in Canada you can find it at Shoppers.

Carmix is just medicated enough, compared to say, the Blistex one which may cause second degree burns with its effective ingredients. But it’s also got just the right creaminess – not too thin, and not too thick. Ever noticed how the cheapie drugstore lip balms are like rubbing a candle on your kisser?

Once you’re rubbing your lips together in glee, check out the urban myth about Carmex. Let’s face it, a product hasn’t really made it until it’s been accused of being full of deadly ingredients and listed on Snopes. Oh, one more piece of advice, the squeezey version of Carmex is not squeezable when it’s been left in the car overnight in the winter.

Hey, let’s stay kissable out there yogis.

I wrote about JivaDiva and how her podcasts are great for at-home yoga. Sometimes though, Jivamukti yoga, which is the style she does, is pretty speedy. It can be tough to keep up to audio-only instructions. Alanna, that’s her name, commented back with a tip that she’s now offering video podcasts! My iTunes is set up to automatically download her podcasts, so I found one and I tried one out this a.m.. It was a 30 minute Twisting session and it was great. Nice to be able to peek up and see what the next move is.

She did a wicked sequence (I won’t give it all away ;-)) where she went from a Revolved Prayer Lunge to a Revolved 1/2 Moon Pose. So if you’re lunging with your right leg forward, your hands come into prayer and you twist right. Then to transition, your left hand comes onto the fl0or a foot ahead of your right foot and you open up to the right stretching your left leg straight/back and your right hand up to the ceiling. Yummy! This is one you should try at home. If you’re not an iTunes person, no problem, you can also find them on her website. Thanks for your comment Alanna!

I got a little book called Living Wabi Sabi and read this passage in my yoga classes this week:

The truth is that we are already perfect as we are: perfectly imperfect, that is. For all the positives in our lives, we will always have negatives too. It’s a delicate balancing act: without the negatives in life, the positives will lose their value.

If we never gain shed tears of pain,what would our laughter mean? How would a blue sky seem if we knew no rain?

When we cherish ourselves as we are, we accept other people and things as they are. We come to show more compassion, patience, and thoughtfulness. We bring more humor and lightness to any situation. When we broaden our attitude to embrace everything as perfectly imperfect, we begin to see more clearly what’s truly important to us and we increase our joy of living.

Believe it or not…no matter how it may seem at the time, the core of your suffering is not your inconsiderate partner, your demanding boss, your insufficient bank balance, or whatever. The root of your suffering is found internally, in the limitation you place on yourself.

With every painful situation we face in life, we receive an opportunity, a chance to break through our boundaries and expand our potential. Every upsetting emotion, from the most trivial nuisance to the most agonizing heartache, originates from within ourselves. Therefore, we are in command of our suffering. If we can feel it inside ourselves, then we also have the power within to transform it.

I can’t remember how I heard about this book – The Translucent Revolution – but I read something interesting in it the other night. The writer, Ardagh, says that we take our thoughts to be Facts and The Truth, and of course they’re not. Thoughts are impermanent. Thoughts change and pass and morph and disappear just like water heading down a stream.

He also says that our thoughts promote action in our lives OR block action. And of course they don’t deserve to have that kind of power, they’re just thoughts. We think they’re real but when we try to poke at them we realize they’re just shadows. A little light of awareness and their power disappears.

This came back to me last night when we did a Back Bending class in Power Yoga. I didn’t tell everyone what the class was working up to, but after lots of juicy back bending poses and warm ups, we did the Wheel Pose in partners. I just love springing that on a class that’s ready to do it. I grab a couple people and we demonstrate (one helper lifting the person’s torso, and the other lifting the tops of their legs). You can feel the hush of everyone else in the room who hasn’t done the pose thinking “I dunno man. I just don’t know if I can do that”.

But then they try and it goes better than they thought it would and the look on their face is just priceless. And you want to say – now why did you trust those thoughts? They’re just thoughts. Try and see for yourself.

Next week’s Back Bending class will end with drop-backs into Wheel Pose. I can’t wait.

I haven’t seen this pose done alot and based on a quick Google search there are quite a few variations. But I’ve been doing Crocodile and it’s a calming, relaxing pose with a mild backbend thrown in.

Following the picture in the link above (not the directions) I let my head rest straight down. I had my arms crossed comfortably but my upper arms at enough of an angle to lift my shoulders so that my hairline was the resting point. This allows the neck to stretch. You need to keep the shoulders active, so they’re not scrunchy around the ears. It’s cool to find a back bend that’s in a face-down position. I think this would be a great posture for someone who’s feeling down and wants to feel sheltered but also get the feeling of openness that a back bend provides.

Crocodile is also interesting from a breathing perspective. Because you’re lying on your belly and your diaphragm isn’t free, it’s a great opportunity to practice breathing into your back. Ana Forrest talked about directing breath in one of her workshops. She had us physically direct our breath into a part of our torso that needed attention. She said, I’m not talking about visualization here, I mean really direct your breath there. And then she talked us through the various options. It was very cool to actually feel my breath create space into my shoulders – I had always taken those kinds of instructions as being a visualization thing, I never thought my lungs and the air in them could actually create space.

So back to Crocodile, this pose would be a good way to help students understand how to direct their breath into their back because there aren’t alot of other options in this pose! You can really feel the sensation of your back ribs fanning out and/or your chest opening. I plan to try it at this week’s classes.

I was thinking more about yesterday’s No S Diet post. As I said, Diets bug me because we are experts of our own body. We all know (or should become aware of) what’s best for us and that’s not necessarily what’s right for the next person. And yoga is a great tool for this because it makes you more aware of how the foods you eat make you feel.

What I like about the No S Diet is it’s simplicity and flexibility. I like the weekend/weekday distinction rather than an all-or-nothing approach. But for me, sweets aren’t the biggie food that I need to avoid. So maybe the best approach is to come up with my own 5 doable guidelines. Here they are:

1. Stuff my meals with fruits and veggies – screw portion control and deprivation, just squeeze everything else out with the good stuff that makes me feel energized and healthy.
2. Wine is for weekends – I like my wine much too much, I’m best off having some boundaries around it.
3. Treats are for weekends – ’nuff said.
4. Flee from flour – I have a wheat sensitivity so if I want to avoid being too tired and bloated to do a Forward Bend I avoid bread and flour.
5. Keep moving – this isn’t an – If-I-exercise-then-I’m-*allowed*-to-eat thing. Exercise gives me an even keel – I’m happy and therefore avoid eating for all the other dumb reasons. And when I exercise I feel *real* hunger and I’m motivated to fuel my body, not just fill my face with whatever is handy.

There. A good solid (short) personalized list of things that I know make a huge difference to my health and keep me at a happy weight. What about yours? I’d love to hear lists from other slackers!

Now some people like to really jump on the bandwagon, go whole-hog, go for the whole shootin’ match and whatever other cliche works here, when they decide to ‘get healthy’. But the problem with the bandwagon is that when you fall off the wagon it’s a long way down. And that’s a huge downer that makes you feel like a loser and usually kills your resolve right there. As I’ve said before sometimes major change just freaks you out.

I think a better strategy is to sneak up on things, make mini-goals and keep it simple. It’s like balancing doing and non-doing in a yoga pose, you need to find a way to ease your way into the change. You need to find methods that will allow you to be a bit of a slacker too. Now that may not be the case for seriously motivated Type A folks but they’re reading something else, right? The key is to assert just a little control over your life so you don’t get lost and freaked out.

I tripped over this website and just love the simplicity of the No S Diet. Now I think diets are evil, because only we can know what kind of food our body is happiest with – but check out the rules:

No Sweets
No Snacks
No Seconds

On any day that doesn’t start with an S. And holidays are included in days that start with S.

I love that – it’s real and management and might actually be something I could adhere to.

When I did my teacher training we were asked to buy “Anatomy of Hatha Yoga” and it looked like such a serious book that I was afraid I wouldn’t be up to it. And some of the writing is a little funny – like could you cram any more ‘anatomical’ words into a sentence? But I dipped into it on the weekend when I was playing around on the mat and there were some nice tips and tricks in it that I hadn’t noticed before.

Here’s one that I used in classes this week.

1. First stretch out your right leg and do Head to Knee Pose (I never call it that in class because I’m trying to get my students to *not* slump over the their leg trying to get their head to their knee – how about we start a movement to call it Navel to Thigh pose? ;-)). Hold it for a few breaths.

2. Then put your left elbow on your left knee, make sure your sit bones stay down as you stretch your right arm forward *inside* your right leg. In other words, you’re not stretching *over* your right leg, you’re 6 inches or so inside that leg. Hold this.

3. Then go back to Head to Knee/Navel to Thigh pose and hold it again.

You’ll generally find that you can stretch farther the second time around. The book explains why this is, but since I’m no anatomical expert I suggest you just try it yourself. I’ve been running outside more, and boy did this stretch help loosen up all those tucked away tight muscles! Enjoy.

A few people in my life are pregnant and having been there recently (little Gussie is 18 months now) I’m encouraging all that will listen to go to Prenatal Yoga classes. Here’s why:

1. Hip openers (and shoulders too). Your body does crazy things when you’re pregnant, growing your little peanut into a person is just the beginning. When your muscles get tight and your joints start loosening yoga gives you the tools to do something about it. Pigeon pose becomes your savor. Eagle Arms are the only thing that tackle those tight muscles in your back. You have tools you can use instead of suffering and feeling powerless about it.

2. Being around other pregnant people. Lots have people have been there and god help me if I heard one more unrequested gory birthing story. It’s a relief to be around other women going through it now. Watching their bodies change from week to week, cheering on the woman who makes it to class when it’s past her due date, sharing coping strategies – it’s all good stuff that helps you feel this is normal and safe and OK.

3. Squatting. Hopefully your teacher will have you squat. If not, do it at home. It’s a good stretch and a great strengthener for your legs which can be handy on the big day. To practice – get into a squat, spread those knees with your elbows, put your hands in prayer position at your chest and relax your hips. If you’re not sure about holding your weight, rest your bottom on a foam block or two. Then breath. Work up to 10 minutes. It’s a great way to practice zoning out and relaxing while you feel uncomfortable, get it? ;-)

4. Take time for yourself. You need to practice this skill while you can and yoga class is a great opportunity. And while we’re at it, here’s an aside about ‘Sleep When the Baby Sleeps’. Alot of people say it and it probably doesn’t make sense to you yet so here’s an explanation.

‘Sleep‘ in this context means taking time for yourself – if it’s not napping it can be drinking tea, bathing, calling a friend, staring out the window. But the thing is, you need to take the time because there’s two realities at work here – “the Murphy’s Law of Babies” and Hormones. The Hormones coursing through your body make you feel like you need to make everything ‘perfect’. This seems to be a crazy evolutionary thing and I’m sure it’s good for babies but it’s a little nuts for Mom (and Dad). I consider myself a pretty laid back person – but after I gave birth? I thought someone had injected me with a good dose of OCD. The fact is, you need to take a break from rearranging baby’s sleepers by color.

The other factor goes like this. Just when you think ‘yeah i’m exhausted but i’m going to do 9 loads of laundry instead of rest cause that’s really important and it’s no biggie, i’ll rest during the baby’s next nap’ – there won’t be a next nap.

That will be the day that your little bundle of Sunshine will decide that napping sucks and being awake is cool and it’s going to take every ounce of your patience, creativity and general positiveness to see that kid through til his/her next nap. *That’s* why you take time for yourself when the baby sleeps. Face it, if you were working at a “Job” you’d take a break so what’s the problem? And even if you were on the “Job” working flat out on a deadline you could tell everyone around you to bugger off and you just can’t say that to your baby. You’re too busy color coding her sleepers – so take a break.

5. Breathing, Savasana and Impermanence. Yoga is perfectly designed for training to give birth. You learn how to breath and relax even when you’re having 1,000 sometimes scary thoughts. You do Mula Bandha, which is just a Kegel exercise. And best yet, you learn that regardless of what’s going on – this too shall pass. It’s the mantra of motherhood.

So get to a Prenatal Yoga class – your baby will thank you.