At the end of class last week, while we were all snuggled into our Savasana nests, Carly came 'round and left little gifts. What a delight to arise and find this....
Happy New Year everyone! Remember, You ARE Beautiful! Let your beauty shine, let your generous heart spread love and justice and compassion throughout our hurting world. Spread Beauty!
Tuesday, December 27, 2016
She started the class by offering the idea that all of life is a gift. I immediately thought of Christmas just past, and the gifts under the tree wrapped in shiny paper and big bows. So pretty. But as schmaltzy as it sounds, none of those gifts compared to the gift of my family gathered together to share food, laughter, and connections with each other.
I also thought of the gift I was giving myself of coming to yoga class today. I've attended sporadically lately and I can feel it. I have some "remedial yoga-ing" to do to get back where I was -- fairly strong, flexible, and balanced. Any ego that wanted to shout out that I was a damn fine specimen for having just turned 66 years old has been silenced by the realization that it doesn't take long to lose all of those attributes if you don't keep up the practice with regularity. I vow now to patiently work to regain my sense of body well-being.
What does any of this have to do with roaring? As we rose up from a low lunge into Warrior I pose, then into Warrior II, Karen began to growl. Then she roared! Repeatedly! Then she reminded us (a class of only women today) that we need our strong Warrior Woman in the world now more than ever! Stand strong! Grrroooowl! Rooooaaaarrr! I thought of Maurice Sendak's classic children's book "Where the Wild Things Are" as we all roared together.
I decided the gift I'm giving myself with yoga now is the gift of strength, stamina, mindfulness, compassion, dedication, and perseverance. I'm in training for the activism on the horizon that will begin with the Women's March in Seattle the day after the presidential inauguration. It seems there are so many human rights for which we must diligently work to improve, to uphold, to ensure; our planet needs our action in order to survive; our country needs compassionate healing. The job is enormous. I can't just keep eating my daughter-in-law's amazing Chocolate Toffee and drinking Peppermint Mochas and expect to be able to rise up with my sisters and brothers and work for the values we share -- those which will progress a vision for a healthy, strong, compassionate, peaceful, equitable world.
The ultimate gift may in fact be the gift of ourselves, standing and speaking as Warriors for Peace...gnashing our terrible teeth, roaring our terrible Yoga-Warrior roars. We are the wild things. And we are here!
Saturday, December 17, 2016
At the studio last week our teacher, Carly, began class with a time of silence and invited us to set an intention for our practice. I have been practicing sporadically lately -- for several weeks I was sick and had a lingering bronchitis that caused me to cough every time I took a deep breath, then we were out of town for a bit, then we had extra childcare duty, then the holidays came along and that wrecks havoc with regular schedules. My intention was just to be gentle with myself; to be not judgmental and just relax into my body with acceptance. I was mostly successful. The inner critic scolded me when it was obvious how tight my muscles had become and how relatively difficult some of the asanas were to do. I had to focus instead of go on auto pilot; a good thing, actually. That's what the asanas are for -- to focus the mind, not to get a yoga butt (although a nice side-effect.)
I started to wonder what my day would be like if I set an intention every morning for my whole day? At first this just felt like acknowledging my "to do" list, but I realized that a grander intention would make that list more meaningful. The next morning I sat up in bed and took a few deep breaths, eyes closed, and set the intention for peace in my day. As I went about the usual tasks I tried to keep this mantra of peace in my mind. If I felt myself getting agitated or rushed, I remembered "peace" and calmly took a breath and went on. At the end of the day, I realized I felt calmer, less overwhelmed.
The next day my intention was "helpfulness" and I looked for opportunities to be helpful to another that day, which was easy -- almost cheating really, since it was a "granny nanny" day for me and my job description is basically to be helpful to my almost 2 year old granddaughter. But I found with that intention in mind, I was more patient and attentive with her, and realized my helping her and encouraging her was modeling the important learning she is doing right now.
I've been talking to people about what they do during the holidays to take care of themselves since this can be a hectic, stressful time. I've heard about massages, bubble baths, time with friends, yoga, meditation, an afternoon cup of tea, a warm fire and a favorite book....all terrific ways to do self-care. For me, the setting of intention has become a self-care tool too. Finding a theme for the day, a gentle reminder of a greater plan than getting to the grocery store or wrapping a few gifts makes those tasks less onerous and more enjoyable.
Sunday, December 11, 2016
That's why I hope you will follow my lead. I have a few tips for you:
1. Never, ever miss a yoga class. EVER! It's so important to stick with our normal physical, mental, and spiritual routines. We must continue to move our bodies with intention, focus our minds and "be" in the practice now more than ever.
2. Always sit in silent meditation at least 30 minutes each day. 60 minutes is preferred. Your mind will calm and you will find yourself refreshed at the end of your meditation and your energy will expand.
3. Always do some aerobic exercise to keep your big, generous Christmas heart pumping along -- as above, 30 minutes minimum, 60 preferred.
4. Add some weight-bearing exercise to your physical routine. Three 40 minute sessions a week of free weights or resistance machines will do it. There are heavy boxes to lift and carry. Be strong!
5. Shop early. Better yet, make your own gifts. Stores will get more crowded as Christmas nears, so, really you should be completely finished by now and on to wrapping. Set a few days aside to make homemade jams, baked goods, cookies, cakes -- maybe even homemade soaps and lotions! Your friends will appreciate a homemade gift so much more! Whatever you do, choosing just the right gift for everyone on your list (and some "extras" for those times you may need to give but forgot to buy something) is of upmost importance. Don't be a Christmas Scrooge.
6. Send real, old-fashioned Christmas cards. Don't cave to the modern tech e-message culture. Everyone loves your Christmas letter and family photos. They can pick them up and read these over and over! What a thoughtful gift from afar to your cousins and old college roomies.
7. Take the kids or grandkids to see Santa, the Nutcracker, neighborhood Christmas light displays, concerts, plays, library programs...you know. Also, crafting, baking, building Gingerbread Houses; provide some childcare for sick days, snow days, and festive sleepovers. Be a terrific parent/grandparent and make sure they don't miss a single magical moment!
8. Volunteer! Do as much as you possibly can to be out in the community helping others and donating your time to untold worthy causes. Christmas is selfless.
9. Eat healthily. This is no time to weaken your resolve. Bake, but don't indulge. Time to switch from Peppermint Mochas to an Americano (no room for cream!) Just say no to fudge (re-gift).
10. Be sure your home is decorated beautifully for your family with just the right combination of sophistication that will appeal to discerning adults coupled with a home that is welcoming to a 2 year old. Make everyone who visits comfortable and happy.
11. Stay calm. No one wants to see you angry, exhausted, overwhelmed, frustrated, and stressed. The holidays are about peace, love, and joy. Act like it. (Getting 8 hours sleep each night will help.)
12. Don't drink too much. No one wants to see that either; it's unbecoming to end the party with a sob-fest or a raging diatribe.
I hope you find these tips helpful. I'm not saying I'm actually DOING any of these. In fact, none of them. Except #12, because I don't drink alcohol. My diatribes and sob-fests are not chemically induced. They are the natural result of trying to live up to #1-11.