March 2006

I’m a big warm-up person. I like to ease into yoga practice – I find it helps get the ol’ mind focused. It also allows me to ‘hear’ what’s going on my body rather than just jump into a bunch of poses. And of course when I’m teaching I always start the session with warm-ups, because it helps people avoid overdoing it.

I’ve been playing around with a Childs Pose warm-up that goes like this:

– Get into Childs pose for a few good Ocean breaths. Really let your torso and hips sink into it with each exhale.

– Lift your head, slide both hands over to one side of the mat, let your forehead rest again stretching the opposite side of your torso. Change sides.

– Bend your arm and bring your upper arm to the mat under your chest (parallel to the top of the mat) so it’s supporting your torso. Stretch your other arm (straight) up to toward the ceiling bringing a twist to your upper back. Change sides. Alternate – You can also repeat this one with your breath – inhaling the arm up, exhale down and inhale the other arm up.

– Come back into Childs Pose but widen your knees, to the outer edges of your mat. Then sink even deeper into the pose. You can also slowly sway your hips from left to right, working into those hip joints. If you sway far enough your forehead ‘sways’ too and that feels really calming.

– To come back to sitting, walk your hands back towards you and roll your spine, one vertibrae at a time, to vertical, bring your chin up last.

From here you can tuck your toes under and go into a Ragdoll forward bend and then again, roll your way up to standing.

It’s a pretty solid warm-up that helps gets you centered, gets your spine working in various directions and warms up your hips a bit too. I hope you’ll give it a try.

I downloaded some Tibetan Singing Bowl music from iTunes and used it for Savasana in this week’s classes. I highly recommend giving it a try.

I’ve read stuff about chakra CDs and the like and they say using certain tones can help certain chakras open. The idea is that the sound waves actually absorb into your body and can rearrange your molecules. I put that on my I’ll-have-to-try-that-cause-I’m-not-buying-it-until-I-experience-it-myself list.

But I noticed as we were listening to the singing bowls that I could feel the tones. So I had the class do a couple 3 part breaths and fully relax with each exhale. I got them to focus on their bodies and be open to any sensations they could notice. I asked them to lay as still as possible and notice if they feel the sound waves in their body.

Afterwards they said they could feel the sound. I don’t know if anyone’s molecules were rearranged, but they sure seemed relaxed. It’s worth trying, they’re beautiful.

So my buddy Sue is taking my Level 1 class at the studio in my house. The room has cathedral ceilings and for the last few weeks a little black spider has started hanging out up there. When Sue comes into the room for class she looks for the spider and then she takes up residence as far away in the room as she can get from him. She’s made no bones about trying to hide it because she’s an honest friend and, I now know, an arachniphobe.

At the beginning of Monday’s class she walked in the room, looked for the spider but this time he had crawled within reach on the wall. So she got her husband to pick him up and sherpa him back outside. What a display on the ‘non-harming’ huh? So while this was happening a spider conversation ensued and it turned out half the people there had spent an inordinate amount of time, during class, watching this spider.

So I realized that while I’ve been talking about focusing on our body and breath in class, a whole bunch of them have been focusing on the 8-legged dude on the ceiling. It’s funny because I don’t have pictures in the room and work hard to minimize any distractions. And then along comes a spider.

I went for a run at lunchtime on Shore Road, it’s a good hilly run that I just love. There are lots of evergreens, views of the water and sometimes you get to see the big o’ swan that hangs around. I knew I was up for a challenging run because the weather has been just iffy enough that I’m not getting out regularly.

So when I tackled the steepest hill on the run sure enough, I got pretty tired and breathless. And it was cool, I just stopped and walked the rest of the hill. Usually I’d get all into ‘I should push myself’, ‘I should be able to do this’, ‘if I walk that must mean….’ blah-blah di blah. But this time I just started walking and I thought – today is just about just going the distance. It’s not about how fast I get there.

I do that when i’m heading to the mat too. I decide that I really should do “x” Sun Salutations or stay in a certain pose for “y” breaths and then, boy, I’ll have really achieved something. But that’s not really listening to my body. That’s alot more about listening to my head and my ego.

I’d like to get better at deciding how long I’m able to stay on the mat and give myself permission to do the poses I need during that time. I’d like to trust I’ll still find the same yoga glow, but allow it to be based completely on how it happens to flows that day. I’d like to be better at just going the distance, taking the shape of whatever poses get me there.

So let me just step into the confessional here and say – I’m a closet bluegrass fan. My first formative Bluegrass moment happened on a sunny Sunday a.m. at the Vancouver Folk Festival where buddy from Kentucky drawled “We’re not havin’ church, we’ve havin’ bluegrass”. It made no logical sense, but I was with him in spirit.

And then there was the time drinking beer in the funky Adams Morgan area of DC where i looked up, and realized I was listening to dudes play things like the mandolin. It was Bluegrass and I was really liking it. But taking the step to purchase that sweet genre of music was another thing entirely. Where do you start? What if a friend sees you at the till?

But then I heard good things about a trio of Vancouver homegirls called the Be Good Tanyas . I got their Chinatown album and wore it out. There’s nothing better than bittersweet tunes about neighbourhoods you’ve lived in. And then a fave of mine, Sarah Harmer, came out with her bluegrass album, The Mountain and it rocks (figuratively of course).

I’ve used “In Spite of All The Damage” from the Chinatown album to wind down at the end of the yoga class. I wasn’t sure about it, because I always try to find positive music for yoga, and this song is all about relationship trouble. When someone in class said they really liked the song I confessed I’d had doubts about using it for yoga.

But the class decided that it’s ok, it’s not sad, it’s Bluegrass.

I’ve done a couple of downloads from Eoin Finn (I believe it’s pronounced Ian and all I have to say is that in the game of Baby Name Scrabble somebody’s parents had too many vowels wouldn’t you say?). It’s good stuff. I did the hip class a while back and it really loosened the ol’ cementy hips up.

This a.m. I did the Honey Standing Poses and they’re great. It’s a nice straight ahead flow in under 40 minutes. After the initial Sun Salutations you just do poses, so you don’t have to keep up with alot of transitions.

What I appreciate about Eoin is that he does a real solid Savasana. Sometimes I cheat (I’m sure we all do) when we’re doing yoga at home. You think you really need to *do* yoga and that means packing in as many poses as possible and then lying in Savasana until you think of the next thing you need to do (which is about 10 seconds for me). But Eoin talks you through and it reminded me I need to take that time more often to really enjoy the yummy effects of all the poses I packed in.

I read Leah McLaren’s column in the Globe this a.m. titled “Five Simple Rules for Cutting the Drama”. My Favourite was the one about knowing your body – knowing that when you’re hungry, tired, anxious, drunk or suffering from PMS that it’s not the time to engage in any emotionally intense discussion. Sorry are you saying that 4 a.m. drunk phone calls to ex’s are a bad thing?

She goes on to suggest that if you’re feeling hormonal in the a.m. to write a big “H” on the back of your hand. Use that to remind you during the day that your reactions are not your own today. You need to realize you’re not seeing clearly – you’re seeing life through a hormonal haze.

So often we see our reactions and emotions as being permanent and real, and so often, OK always they’re just not. Other crazy reaction causes I’ve found in the workplace are “Friday-itis” – ie, you react a little stronger and feel things at work a little more intensely when you’ve had a long week and are ready for a glass of wine, a DVD and very little conversation.

Another good one is the “Pre-Xmas Crazies” when right before the holidays everyone in the office is a little more on edge and high-strung. Everyone seriously needs to stop the shopping, put life on hold and take a vacation – August was a long time ago.

So when someone says “Hey Corilee, why the “H” on your hand”, I’ll say “it’s to remind me to buy Huggies for my son” – but you’ll know ;-)

Good article in Slate called “The Medical Tourist Returns: Yoga Treatment in India” about the writer’s experience doing lots of yoga classes in India. It sounds great, but like her I’d be sneaking off for the chicken and flat beer after 5 days too. You have to keep things in balance, even in India :-)

I’ve been reading this in classes this week. It’s from the Alcoholics Anonymous Big Book:

And acceptance is the answer to all my problems today. When I am disturbed, it is because I find some person, place, thing or situation — some fact of my life — unacceptable to me, and I can find no serenity until I accept that person, place, thing or situation as being exactly the way it is supposed to be at this moment.

Nothing, absolutely nothing happens in God’s world by mistake. Until I could accept my alcoholism, I could not stay sober; unless I accept life completely on life’s terms, I cannot be happy. I need to concentrate not so much on what needs to be changed in the world as on what needs to be changed in me and in my attitudes.

For me it doesn’t mean you like it, approve of it, are happy and gleeful about it. Just that you make peace with needing to change it or fix it. It’s about making peace with the reality you find yourself in,whatever it is.

And the next step is trusting that there’s some logic to it, even if you don’t see any. Because so often we can’t see the big picture. I remember the only time I was unemployed I went to job interview and *really* wanted the job. I actually shed tears when I didn’t get it – and later? I found out more about it and was so relieved it didn’t happen. I would have hated it. I really dodged a bullet. But I didn’t know that, the people hiring likey saw that I wouldn’t have been a good fit – I should have thanked them!

So now I trust the job hunting process. I trust that the right thing comes along because I just can’t see the big picture. Because really, what’s the alternative?

I feel like I go on ad nauseum to my classes about working the torso twist in poses like Triangle – roll your chest open, lift your upper hip bone, let your belly button peek up to the ceiling – there are plenty of instructions that only seem to go so far.

But a great way to really *feel* the torso twist is to do this pose:

– Modified – Do a modified Side Angle Bend, say your right foot is forward. Place your right elbow on your right knee. Then, you guessed it, roll your torso open, placing your left forearm behind your back. You may be able to bring your left hand onto your right thigh – but whether you do or not use that arm position to pull your left shoulder back and really roll open into the twist. Careful you don’t sink into your right shoulder.

– Not-As-Modified – The less modified version starts with a Lunge. You can put your right hand on the floor inside your right foot, and your left behind your back. Or, if your balance is good put both arms behind your back, forearms stacked. Bring your right elbow to your right knee, which will pull your left shoulder back. Make sure you don’t lose all stretch in your hips with all the other action going on.

Then practice the torso twist with these other poses:

– Triangle. Find the twist. It’s important to make sure your lower hand doesn’t go *so* low that you lose mobility in your hips, this pose isn’t about forward bending. Lift the lower hand up and then you can open your torso – top to bottom – to the wall in front of you.
– Side Angle Bend. Either elbow to knee or hand onto the floor, work the twist.
Wide Angle Seated Forward Bend. Add a twist there too by grabbing onto the underside of one leg with the same arm and sweeping the other overhead, again working the torso twist to get as much juice out of the stretch as possible.

Here’s to making the world a little twistier, one pose at a time.

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