Monday, May 22, 2017

GARDEN YOGA

FINALLY!!!  We've endured a long, wet fall, winter, and early spring here.  The Puget Sound area set a new rainfall  record with over 44 inches between October 2016 and April 2017 -- more than our usually annual average!  This past weekend the sun came out, the temps soared into the 70's, and every single person who could went outside.

My husband and I spent hours in our yard and gardens.  We have a big yard with many spaces to tend.  We finally prepped our raised beds and got the veggies seeds planted, moved some perennials around, staked the raspberries, made plans for two new patio areas, and, as I write this, my husband is doing an asphalt patch on the cracks in our long driveway.  It feels good to be out, warm, and dry.

I've noticed before how often I am working in the garden and my awareness of yoga poses slips in as I bend, stoop, squat, and straighten up.  Today I was looking over some resources for activities to do in the yard with my grandkids and I came across this great poster.  My granddaughters, ages 2 and 7, love doing yoga with me.  I am eager to introduce "Garden Yoga" to them!

How about you?  Do you think of yoga poses as you go about your daily routine?  There are ample opportunities to incorporate asana practice off the mat.  You might want to start with a stroll to the backyard, gaze up at that brilliant blue sky, take in the fresh green of new growth and do a few simple poses to honor the return of the sun, the return of warmth, the return of long, lovely days of light and vitality as we dive deep into another perfect Northwest summer.

Namaste,  donnajurene

Photo credit: yogaforkids.com free printable poster

Saturday, May 13, 2017

YOGA = KINDNESS

Karen saw me jotting down some notes in class on Thursday and she knew I was cooking up something for this blog.  I told her I often have ideas during practice, but by the time I get home and have time to write,  the thoughts have floated away on a wispy cloud (just like we tell them to during meditation) and I have no idea what my brilliant idea was.

Apparently jotting down notes doesn't help that much either.  Here are my notes:  "kindness/yoga"; "edge - place between pleasure/pain"; "listen to breath, body - let go thoughts"; "effort, pay attention."

What did all that mean?  With notepad in hand, I was coalescing random thoughts into a grand topic idea and even conjuring compete sentences, composing a post that felt fresh even though I've previously covered topics about those disparate words.  Now, two days later, all I have are those cryptic notes.  I know I could just dive in and come up with something, but it wouldn't be what I wanted to write and it would feel forced.  Note to Self:  Next time take better notes.

So, let's talk about crying.  Yesterday we had a small class with Elizabeth.  Since she is gifted at gearing the class therapeutically around body issues practitioners might have, she always asks if people need to work on anything in particular. There were several requests, including a question about how yoga relates to our emotions.  Elizabeth explained that some believe that the connecting fascia "holds" emotional energy and when we stretch the fascia it loosens and releases those emotions.  She talked about a practitioner who has a chronic debilitating condition.  Early in her newfound yoga practice, this woman cried, even sobbed, all through the class.  Can you relate?  I sure can!

Maybe it was the power of suggestion, but yesterday after this discussion I found that tears welled up in my eyes several times during class.  Was it the fascia releasing emotional energy?  Maybe.  I had been feeling stiff and sore, inflexible and exhausted lately.  I told myself there was no reason for this so I've been concerned about it.  But as the class progressed, I realized that once again I was judging myself -- not remembering the two-week "vacation" from practice while traveling, the hours of gardening, the days of caring for my two year old granddaughter, the episodes of eating way too many sugary treats.  Naturally I wasn't in peak flexibility and strength form!  But instead of honoring that truth, I had worried that I was sick with some dread disease, or maybe just losing my stamina due to age or sloth, or the extra 5 pounds I've packed on over the winter.  Those anxieties weren't at the forefront of my thoughts, but stored inside my body.  As we worked slowly to release and strengthen our muscles, find proper alignment in our poses, and give ourselves permission to NOT do a pose at all, I found my emotions finding release as well.

I started to pay attention, without effort, letting my thoughts go and allowing my tears to come.  When I expressed frustration with not finding certain poses, Elizabeth suggested to me that my scoliosis and particular body might not "welcome" some poses, so don't do them!  Perfection has no place on the yoga mat; I always forget that and her reminder touched me.

There is an edge between pleasure and pain and it's our awareness of that edge that allows us to grow in asana practice.  I honor that awareness, but too often try to push myself beyond that edge to achieve those poses that my body wisdom knows to reject.  That's where kindness comes in; the kindness of a reminder from a yoga teacher and the kindness we offer ourselves by not judging.

If you see tears in my eyes, you'll know I've found that place of grace on the mat where, yes, yoga equals kindness.©

Namaste,   donnajurene

Photo Credit:  pixabay.com

Friday, April 21, 2017

PUSHING BACK THE WAVES

I confess.  I'm being slothful.  I've been on vacation and I have not been practicing yoga with any regularity or duration.  A few twists here and there; a few downward dogs; a couple of tree poses and that's about it.  Still meditating though, so I comfort my guilty conscience with that bit of back-patting.

What I have been doing is qigong.  I'm no expert.  Neither is my husband.  But one of his guides on an Alaskan kayak/meditation retreat last summer also introduced the group to a qigong practice which they did every early morning.  He loved it and brought it home to me.

I'm sure its a very elementary practice and is brief in duration (15 minutes), which makes it a perfect beginner's practice.  I was unable to attend the Qigong Sunday Workshop at Yoga Circle recently; I'm sure that included much more instruction and explanation than I can offer here.

Let me just say....whatever it is I've learned from my husband, I love.  It's a slow moving meditation with the various flowing moves mimicking events from nature:  Mist Rising from the Lake, Parting the Clouds, Pushing Back the Waves, Casting the Rainbow, etc.

Standing together on the beach, the waves lapping the shore, we move in a synchronized meditation that feels renewing, refreshing, and connecting.

In addition to yoga, there are a beautiful array of other practices that we can explore and embrace that further our spiritual and physical growth.  Qigong is one, as is Tai Chi -- also offered at Yoga Circle.   Give them a try. ©

Namaste,
   donnajurene

Sunday, April 9, 2017

SEEKING SYMMETRY

OK.  Fine.  I admit it.  Maybe I'm a teensy bit OCD.  I do like symmetry.  Come to my house; it's not super obvious, but I do try to keep my decor "balanced".   Things off-center bug me, which makes my new Yoga mat a source of constant irritation.

I lost my old and favorite mat at a kirtan/yoga retreat last summer.  We all kept our mats in the big gathering space and on the last day I was so caught up in the hugs and goodbyes and packing my bags, etc, I forgot to go back and fetch my yoga bag.  No problem, I thought, the friendly folks at the retreat center will just box it up and mail it to me.  Nope.  Many, many calls and emails later they said they couldn't find it.  Come on!  Seriously?  I guess someone could have walked off with it -- but these are YOGA PEOPLE!  No one would do such a thing!  Bottom line is I never got it back -- mat, eye pillow, bag all gone.  Sad.

So I went to East-West Books one day and as I was browsing about, I decided to get a new, cushy, pricey mat.  I was excited to try it out; it's a pretty deep blue on one side and lighter blue on the other -- reversible!!!


Here's the OCD part:  See in the photos how the linoleum floor tiles at the studio line up?  I always tried to get my mat to be parallel to the tile seams.  I rarely decide to unfurl my mat on the diagonal, as some prefer.   I unrolled my mat, lined it up with the seam in the floor and was ready to go!  But as I moved through the asanas I noticed that the imprinted pattern on my mat was off-kilter.  It ran slightly on the diagonal.  If I moved the mat to keep the pattern parallel to the floor seams then the top of the mat suddenly was off.  OMG!  The manufacturer cut the mat incorrectly!  What was  I going to do?

I was all set to return the mat, when I decided this was the perfect life lesson in imperfection for me!  A-ha!  Yoga is life, right?  Even my mat was teaching me to go with the flow, deal with unmet expectations, find beauty in asymmetry, breathe through the discomfort.

That was 8 months ago.  I wish I could tell you I don't even notice the defect anymore.  But that would not be accurate.  EVERY SINGLE TIME I UNFURL THAT MAT I HAVE TO DEAL WITH THE DISCOMFORT OF NOT GETTING THE THING LINED UP ON THE FLOOR!  ARRRGGGHHHH....  

It's a bit embarrassing to admit all of this.  Also, pretty funny, right?  Of all the things to occupy my thoughts, this should be an easy one to ignore.  It's not.  But I'm working on it.  Before I step on my mat for a class I stand quietly and say a prayer to Shiva, the God of Transformation, that I be present, accepting, focused, alive to my practice, embracing the transformation I'm about to undertake.  It had become an easy, mindless prayer until Shiva threw me the mat issue to deal with.  That Trickster!  Something so mundane and commonplace as a yoga mat has become a focal point of change and acceptance for me; not without some discomfort and struggle, not without some self-berating, but always with the knowledge that lessons abound and can be found in the most unusual places.

Om Namah Shivaya!

Namaste,
    donnajurene