Thursday, February 14

Give the gift of Metta for Valentine's Day

Last night I taught my power yoga class at the Y. Since it's Valentine's Day today, I thought I should have a related theme so I incorporated metta or lovingkindness ideas from a Yoga Journal article into the practice.

As the article suggested, we began in a Supta Baddha Konasana (Bound Angle Pose). Unfortunately the YMCA doesn't have bolsters, so I asked people to bring their shoulders in and underneath and lift their chests to open their hearts while having an awareness of their heart center and the feelings that arise there. Then I asked them to set the intention of acting with metta towards themselves throughout the practice - to give unconditional love and nurturing to themselves and to send thoughts of metta directly to "problem" areas when having trouble with a specific posture.

We flowed through our practice and performed postures to lift our hearts, like airplane or Warrior III (I always remind them to puff up their chests like in updog), modified camel and bridge. At the the close of class, we held our hands in the receiving mudra. I learned it from another teacher; place one hand in a bowl-like shape, palm up underneath the belly button. Then place your other hand on top of it in the same way. As we held this mudra, I guided my students to allow themselves to receive all the metta we created during our practice.

Everyone seemed to enjoy the class, but it really hit me when I got into my car. I felt so much happiness and love and felt really connected to my baby. I ended up having my first long and meaningful conversation with my baby. I also felt really confident I would be a strong and loving mother and that we will enjoy journey together.

On this Valentine's Day, try giving and receiving some metta of your own.

Wednesday, February 13

If someone says FLEXIBILITY one more time...

"So yoga's all about flexibility?"

I loathe when people ask me this... sorry Maria (my friend/coworker who attended my power yoga class for the first time Monday night. Apparently I didn't teach a lot of "power" last night if she only felt her hamstrings stretching.).

I believe it was Maria's second yoga class in her life (Another friend/coworker and I took her to a hatha-flow class at a wonderful yoga studio in town called Yoga Gallery.) and was hoping she would enjoy it. She's been a faithful reader of Yoga Mama and requested to come to one of my classes with her friend Angie so I was delighted at the chance to share my passion.

The next morning at work, Maria and I began our IM banter when she asked me the age-old, misconstrued question about yoga that makes me cringe (again, my apologies Maria!). To the yogis and yoginis out there in cyberspace, obviously there is so much more to yoga than the physical postures or asanas - it's only one of the eight limbs of yoga. Yet for the sake of a more simple discussion, let's concentrate on this one limb.

So how did I answer Maria? Probably not very eloquently, but I did find an article on Yoga Journal listing 38 medically proven benefits by Timothy McCall, MD. I probably jumped to the "OF COURSE it's not ONLY about FLEXIBILITY" defense, yet it's so hard to put into words to a person only beginning to explore the power that is yoga.

Once a person begins practicing asanas consistently for a month or so, you begin to notice changes not only in your physical body such as increased flexibility and strength (My friends marveled at my arms after I began conquering chaturangas.). However there are noticeable changes in your mind (Better sleep anyone?) and the interconnection between the two, which isn't surprising since the word yoga is derived from the Sanskrit word yuj to "yoke or bind."

This is really a question one can only truly answer for yourself through the consistent practice of yoga. If I could sum the benefits of yoga in one word, it would be balance. The balance yoga allows you to make: spiritually, mentally and physically. I didn't know what yoga could "do" until I felt how it helped my back and tailbone that wouldn't heal with drugs and physical therapy. I didn't know what yoga could "do" until I realized after a month my depression was beginning to lift. Only until I invested a little of my time did I understand the magic of yoga beyond the assumed benefit of flexibility and this has kept me coming back for five years.

Keep in mind, you don't need to have an ailment to appreciate yoga. All you need is a mat and the patience to keep returning to it and discovering new awarenesses and appreciations within yourself.

Tuesday, February 12

Open up your hip and back mama

Felt like trying something new yoga-wise this a.m. so I checked out two online prenatal-yoga practices. One I already posted about but hadn't done called Alleviating back pain and the second one was Helpful hip openers, both from Prenatal Yoga Center.

Expectant mothers should definitely try them out. Both move safely from posture to posture while also having smooth and even verbal and visual instruction. I practiced the hip opener sequence first, which lasted almost 20 minutes. Since I had time, I decided to follow it up with the practice focused on the back that was 16 minutes in length and added my own five minute savasana at the end. There are a few repeated postures between the practices, but I didn't mind.

Ah - I feel open and ready for the day!

Monday, February 11

Some flicks for pregnant chicks

This weekend I inadvertently watched two movies about women going through pregnancy. Both portrayed women in very different circumstances during their nine months than the typical, "everything is perfect" pregnancy, which was kind of refreshing to me for some reason. First I viewed the DVD Waitress with Keri Russell as the lead. I had no idea that Waitress was about a pregnant woman nor did I know how odd the story line was going to be, but it was worth seeing, especially being an expectant mother myself.

My hubby and I were more than ready to go out Saturday night after we both were sick all week, and we chose to see the flick Juno, about a teen mom's journey from conception to labor. Can't say enough great things about this film - we laughed out loud the majority of it.

I'm not a big "go-to-the-theater" person - we partake in Netflix, which by the way I use to sample various yoga DVDs. Juno - watch the trailer - is definitely worth sitting in the movie theater with a bunch of strangers munching on their popcorn and Jujubees because the writing, humor and acting are so fresh and original. There is no wonder why this film is an Oscar nominee for both best actress and best picture. Definitely a must see, preggers or not!

Sunday, February 10

Returning to the mat

After being sick with the flu for about a week, I hadn't practiced yoga the entire time. Typically I try to do some yoga every day, even if it's just for five minutes, so I really missed it. But even though I longed for it, it was very difficult for me to return to my mat. Have you ever had this trouble with any habit that was temporarily stalled?

So Saturday I putted around the house for a while and sat in my morning meditation, which I've also been neglecting for a week, yet I still didn't want to lay out my yoga mat. Finally I compromised with my ego and bribed it by turning on the TV while I dragged out my mat and began my asanas or postures. I know, I know, obviously not the most conducive way to hold a yoga practice, but I thought if that's what it took, it was better than nothing. I believe I read this idea in a Yoga Journal article a few months back about revitalizing a stalled, home practice. Obviously, you should turn off the boob tube before lying in savasana, but if having that distraction in the background is what gets you started, try it. I am a self-described TV junkie - in fact my New Year's resolution was to cut down my television watching. I don't know if I'm succeeding but at least I'm aware of the issue. :)

But back to the mat... Once I began flowing through the postures, my practice naturally developed as I drew in each breath. I didn't even notice the TV was on after five minutes, and I ended up turning it off after a while. An hour later I was chilling in savasana and feeling my baby kick - perhaps he or she was thanking me for doing something good for the both of us. We both apparently needed the release of my body, mind and spirit.

So why was I so weird about returning to my mat? Maybe it's because sometimes in life it's hard to take the first step because of the fear of commitment or what comes next. Whenever I have this feeling, whether it's with my yoga practice or anything else in life, I need to remind myself that it's just one step and not worry about the rest of it. With yoga, all it takes is laying out the mat and taking the first step of standing on top of it in tadasana or mountain. The rest of the practice will unfold as it should.

"Faith is taking the first step, even when you don't see the whole staircase."
~ Martin Luther King Jr.

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