July 2006

I used to hate and dread running hills. There are plenty of hills in my ‘hood and it’s impossible to avoid them. I used to approach hills with the expectation that I’d run as fast as possible to the top. So before long I’d be dying and gasping and have to slow to a walk. And then I would spend the walking time beating myself up for walking. Like I “should” be in better shape. How dare I do anything other than sprint up the hill. Nice huh?

So one morning I’m facing the evil Dunbrack hill. It’s steep in the middle and less steep in the other places but goes on forever to make up for it. And *bing* it occurs to me – why don’t I run this hill like I hold yoga poses? Why don’t I play the edge? Why don’t I find that spot that’s *less than* hurting. So I’m working but not dying. I could adjust the speed in micro-movements. Slow down for the steep part, or speed up for other parts. But keep it at a level of exertion where I’m not panting like a dog in the desert.

I tackled the hill, found my pace, my mind promptly wandered and the next thing I knew I was topping the hill.

This was pretty profound for me. The idea of doing something based on my body’s ability rather than the standards my head brings to the table or what the evil Perfectionist-Corilee thinks I should do (she needs to be shot, seriously) was pretty amazing. I like to work hard but I don’t need to be a freak about it. I can’t wait to tackle hills now.

I was never really a choco-holic but lately I’ve discovered the joys of a good dark chocolate. Cadbury’s Premium Dark is my current fave but I still test drive other brands. My guy and I have discovered the the killer combo of eating chocolate between sips of red wine while we watch a movie.

I figure with all the antioxidants or whatever the good stuff is in dark chocolate and red wine, that you really can’t find a more virtuous snack. I mean as far as *real* snacks go. Not like a fruit snack which is ideal for 10:00 a.m. but ain’t gonna cut it at 10:00 pm. Chocolate and a good Cab are nutritious *and* delicious.

So if you eat the whole bar and consume the bottle, then you’ve just helped yourself to more healthy goodness right? In fact you’ve probably added whole years to your life right? Right? ;-)

Someone sent me a great link – it’s excerpts from a 1938 video showing Iyengar and Krishnamacharya doing yoga. It’s amazing to see their practice back in the day.

Getting yourself understood is so challenging. There’s the question of what you want to say, how you translate that into words and then how it’s received – and unless you know the Vulcan mind meld you have no control over the third. There’s an NLP principle that says – the meaning of communication is the response you get. And I think that’s true, because it’s more than just getting the words out. Sometimes at work I hear people say, “yeah well I told them” so now they figure they’re off the hook. But in reality if it doesn’t look like the listener *got* it, maybe it’s time to try again. Part of ‘saying’ needs to be checking it was heard and understood and *then* there’s a chance it’ll be acted on.

Someone told me recently about the power of stating your intention. Because things can potentially be so ill-received – especially when you’re having a challenging conversation – it’s best to be as clear as you can. So sometimes the best place to start is by stating your intention. Then you have half a chance of being understood because the person knows where you’re coming from, no guesswork required. I haven’t had the chance to try it, I’ve been focusing on Vulcan mind meld, but I’ll get there ;-)

Here’s a quote from Praying Naked by J. Francis Stroud:

How do you find happiness? By not going after it. If you make happiness your first order of business, you’ll never find it. All you will get are thrills, excitement, and distractions, not abiding contentment. Happiness follows self-discovery. There is no possibility of it if you are a stranger to yourself. Position self-awareness before self-gratification.

He goes on to talk about the difficulty of meditating – it’s a hard thing to do if we’re not comfortable with ourselves. When we sit and breath we come face-to-face with ourselves and it can be really uncomfortable. We immediately think of all the reasons why it’s dumb and useless and we conclude we must be really bad at it because it’s uncomfortable and before we know it we’re off and running. But really there’s nothing to be bad at. You can’t fail at sitting and breathing, we do it all the time, we’re just doing it with full awareness this time around. And learning to sit with all that judgement and discomfort and let it pass with our breath is one of the best ways to get past it. It just is. This too shall pass.

Here’s a good article on the importance of getting enough sleep. It’s hard to imagine that something as useless as TV or web surfing could seem more important than sleeping, but I guess for some it makes sense. The benefits she mentions that stuck out for me – plain ol’ improved coping and thinking abilities. Also our bodies need time to mend during sleep – important after a tough yoga session. Happy Snoozing.

FernI got into chakra stuff in the last post and want to run with that topic again.

I just finished reading the chakra stuff in Donna Eden’s book Energy Medicine . I could actually never keep alot of them straight but she has a very engaging way of describing them. Her description of the difference between the 2nd and 3rd really blew me away.

The first chakra is basic to the survival of the body, it is at the second chakra that the soul embraces that body….the second chakra reveals the sweetness of a person’s soul, the innocent self as it was before being hardend by life’s tribuations. When people meditate and contact the true, precious essense within, they are often making contact with the energy contained at the deepest layer of the second chakra. People who are strong in the second chakra have a tendency to exude an atmosphere that makes other people feel cared for and comfortable.

One of the most important things to understand about the second chakra is that you don’t make sense of things with it. You move up to the third chakra when you want to make sense of things. The second chakra is governed by faith and trust in the larger picture. It is artistic in its logic rather than linear, childlike rather than sophisiticated, organic rather than doctrinaire, flowing rather than time-bound, innocent rather than cunning, trusting rather than suspicious, and free rather than responsible.

The pure innocent energy of the second chakra moves up into the crucible of the third chakra where it….is pushed and pulled, stretched and consticted, deconstructed and reconstructed….the qualities of the third chakra are almost the reverse of those of the second chakra.

Third chakra energy is logical rather than artistic, sophisticated rather than childlike, doctrinarie, rather than organic, cunning rather than innocent, suspicious rather than trusting, and responsibility-bound rather than flowing. If the second chakra holds the natural child, the third chakra holds the controlling parent. Where the second chakra is more like the right brain side of the eidentity, the third chakra “thinks” more like the brain’s left hemisphere….the energy of the second chakra can be cut off from that of the third chakra as well as the others above it….when this happens, as it frequently does in modern Western cultures, the person may be tormented by merciless self-hatred, a descecration that often originates in the third chakra’s attempts to shape an identity that differs vastly from the natural child of the second chakra.

Wow huh? And that’s why knowing ourselves is so important. Knowing the essense of our internal child-side. All that stuff that has been criticized, socialized and institutionalized out of us, that’s what we need to remember and bring back. That’s what makes us whole.

I was asked by someone in class how long to hold poses when they’re practicing at home. I wanted to come up with a more useful answer than “3-5 breaths”, or “as long as you want”! So I said she use each pose to listen to her body and try to understand what’s happening wherever she felt stuff happening. Whew, that’s hard to do especially when you’re new to it. It’s hard for me to do today. Maybe “3-5 breaths” is a better answer, it’s simpler. Anyways as I was explaining, I swear I could *see* her think “what the HELL can I learn from my tight hamstrings?” but she was too nice to voice it. And I wonder that too, like big deal, my hips are tight yet again . But we are mind/body/spirit organisms. It’s all integrated although it may be tough to see and even tougher to understand.

I keep tripping over advice lately about getting to know yourself and it’s hard because I think – yeah I know what bugs me and I know my favorite color, what else is there? But of course there’s plenty. It goes so much deeper than that. Yoga is a great way of getting to know ourselves. Iyengar calls it a “system of self-realization”.

And yoga has just made me aware of the tip of the iceberg. I go for Reiki treatments somewhat regularly with Ann Perry the wonder-gal. After a session she’ll say “yeah I noticed a lot of stuff around your shoulders – you’re carrying too much these days?” Um, yeah. And she’ll tell me that my second chakra is dead to the world. I used to think the chakra stuff was pretty woo-woo but over time I’ve found she’s dead-on with what’s going on in my life. And usually I’m too busy staring at trees to see the forest. When she says my second chakra has gone AWOL it’s my wake-up call that I need to play more – and stop being such a responsible adult. Do I want to be on my deathbed saying “well at least I – without fail – tackled my to-do list!”. Nope.

It’s all integrated. It all means something. You are your tight hips and short hamstrings and funky shoulder. And thanks to yoga you just never know what all you can know about yourself.

DaisyI’m actually a certified Kripalu yoga teacher and while you wouldn’t know it from my teaching – thanks to my training I really value the importance of breathing. Next time you’re bored in front of the PC (hopefully *after* reading this blog post ;-)) do some googling on the benefits of breathing, it’s amazing what you find out.

I’ve found that the simplest forms of breathing (pranayama) are the most powerful. And this is a boon for teachers – because they’re simple, it means you can stop yacking sooner and just do it. Here are my faves:

3 part or Complete Breath (Dirga Pranayama) - gets you centered before practice. A stress response requires shallow chest breathing, so the best way to start relaxing your body is to breath into your belly. Here’s how to start – get into a comfortable seated position, close your eyes, pull your spine straight and relax your shoulders and knees. Put your hands against your belly and completely relax it. Feel it soften into your hands. We normally suck in our belies to look svelte, but now it’s break-time. Fill that nice soft belly full of breath. When your belly has expanded into your hands, let your breath fill your ribs and then your chest. When you’ve completed a deep inhale, let the air go in one long smooth exhale. Take 10 more breaths like this focusing on the sensations that come with each breath. Allow your exhales to becomes longer and slower as your body becomes relaxed and filled with oxygen.

Breath with Retention (kumbhaka) – this is a good one for centering, Savasana or those nights in bed when you just can’t quiet your mind enough to fall asleep. Here’s how it works – take 3 deep breaths, then hold the next inhale pause before letting the breath go. Do this 3 three times. In the next round move the pause to the end of your exhale. Do this 3 times. For the next round pause in both spots – when you’re full of breath and when you’re empty of breath. Start again. You may find your pauses naturally get longer as you go. Allow yourself to enjoy the gaps – known as a ‘perfectly peaceful pause’.

Bonus points – add rention to 3-part breathing.

Ujjayi or Ocean breath - if you’re new to this one, one of the best ways to get the hang of Ocean breath is to breath onto your hand like you’re fogging up a mirror. Ujjayi breath uses the same throat position and produces the same sound. Then maintain that position with mouth closed and you’ve got it. The key is finding the right amount of relaxation in the throat. It’s like you’re getting so relaxed that you’re going to start snoring, but don’t quite get there. If you’re not sure, it helps to listen to someone else. Ujjayi breathing relaxes the body and the reason we do it during asana practice is to help keep us focused on the body. The sound and sensation of the breath helps keep us grounded in what’s happening on the mat so it’s harder for the mind to drift off.

Bonus points – add retention to a 3-part Ujjayi breath.

There are a plenty of forms of pranayama – heck there are a bjillion versions of the retention breath alone, where you add bandas and all kinds of fun things. These are just simple starters. CDs can be useful for your home practice. I have
Kripalu’s PRANAYAMA: Beginner Level Practice and it’s a good one (I don’t have experience buying from this vendor). But the bottom line is that you can get pretty relaxed and go pretty deep even with these simple breathing techniques. And they’re guaranteed to get you to sleep every time.