When the miraculous thing happens - both boys are asleep, I start to REALLY prioritize what I do - what are the things I cannot do with them and *quick* GO!
Yoga, believe it or not is on that list.
Today's practice, now tell me if this is too much info, was done without a mat and without pants! Yep, I said it, without pants. Get into something comfy - well, no time to change into pants. Just get the jeans off!
I quickly searched YouTube on my iPad and found this lovely video. Fourteen minutes and some seconds later, that was the end of the practice. Baby boy could be heard (loudly) on the monitor.
Was the fifteen minutes enough?
Research probably says yes! But I was only able to find this article on the benefits of short and longer durations of yoga.
In my mind, any amount of yoga is good yoga. The breathing and focus on oneself for even 15 minutes is like candy for the soul.
The refreshing shoulder rolls, cat-cows and the final pose of downward facing dog were worth it!
It's 6:30 am Tuesday morning.
I wander sleepily down to my yoga mat and prep the TV for my practice.
Whoops! Technological malfunction (surprise, surprise) and the DVD I want is playing but there is no image on the screen.
Well, no point in walking all the way back to bed, I must just follow along with the teacher's words.
And by the end of the hour practice, I didn't miss a beat or pose for that matter.
This week's practice was a clear indication that yoga teachers' words are quite honestly their best asset. The flawless description of each pose enabled me to follow along without a visual cue. I was forced to LISTEN to each sentence and follow what she described.
I am the first to admit that during my early morning practice I frequently keep the lights off and my eyes closed. So most visual cues are limited by my behavior. Yet, I had no choice this week. My practice was dependent on how well each pose was described and how well I listened.
Now, Shiva Rae, is one experienced teacher. How can I emulate her use of words once I am a yoga teacher?
Slow, controlled voice. Precise descriptions with just enough detail. Pleasant tone with appropriately matched intonation. This is how Shiva Rae does it and it is what carried me through practice.
The technological hiccup was the perfect learning situation this week.
Listening to the words of yoga,
A new DVD and a new practice this week. And what I found was essentially a new pose. It was shocking that over the almost 20 years of on and off yoga practice, I had a pose that was new to me.
Sunbird (Chakravakasana) is a core strengthening pose that starts on the hands and knees and transitions into a balancing pose on hands and one foot. The one leg is extended back (with the hip extended) as the torso arches (like in cow pose) and the chest lifts. It is really a beautiful pose!
Interestingly, it was hard to find much online about this pose. What resonated was there is some confusion with this pose and two other poses - tiger pose (Vyaghrasana) and dog bird pose (opposite arm, opposite leg). All three poses start on the hands and knees but it is the appendages that do different things. Tiger pose is also an hip extending pose but the essential difference is that the knee is bent not straight. Bird Dog pose, on the other hand, incorporates the arms as well as the legs. Think table top with alternating arm and leg lifts. All excellent back and core strengthening poses but all slightly different.
Now back to my new posture, sunbird and what else I did this week!
Not only did I practice sunbird but also sunbird bow. The pose is transitioned into a harder posture whereby the upper body drops towards the mat kind of like in a push up position. See how the sun bird is bowing!? It intensifies the pose but it is a perfect progression without trying to do anything fancy.
And fancy I did do! After the sunbird bow, I was instructed to come onto the toes of my support leg and press up into a downward facing dog while maintaining my initial leg up in the air. Fancy? Yes! But also added more intensity and challenge (good thing I was up for that this week!)
Here is an outline of the actual sequence I did this week!
What an exciting week of practice! A new posture with some unique progressions and transitions.
I'm singing a happy tune,
Owning multiple yoga mats and straps is very useful as I've placed my props on both the main floor of our home and basement to allow "spontaneous" yoga as time permits. Well, in this week's case, having to share the house with my husband (what - I have to share!?! :) ), I practiced on the main floor. The only catch is that I don't have many blocks so they reside in the basement where most of my practice occurs.
So, instead of using blocks this week, when prompted by the new teacher and DVD, Yoga for Stress Relief, I used throw pillows instead. I was pleasantly surprised on how well they worked to assist in the poses. I might even have to go as far as saying they may have been more suitable for this practice as they were a welcomed soft place to land my "needed to be supported" body parts!
Moving from mountain pose into a forward fold was the first time I was prompted to grab my "block". I opted to three stacked pillows (two firm and one soft) and slowly folded toward them. With flexible hamstrings, I typically can fold pretty far but once my head hit the pillows, it was an interesting sensation. The support of the pillows completely released my head and neck. There was no strain or pull that can sometimes occur when I just do an unsupported forward fold.
As the sequence of forward folds continued, I moved into a wide stance forward fold and there too, allowed my head to rest on the pillows. Instantly, my head and neck relaxed again and I was able to focus on my low back and leg stretch than worrying about the "pain in the neck".
The most, what I'd say, advanced forward fold that I did with support was a downward facing dog. This was a new adventure for me as I'd never thought to use a block in this pose. The pillows were placed just at brow line and my forehead rested on the pillow. This position was heavenly. The soft pillow allowed my face to sink down and soften whereas if it was a block I'm not sure I would have experienced that sensation. What felt like a second, I was instructed to move on whereas I could have stayed in that position for many minutes! It will be on my hit list to do again soon!
The final pose that I did with the pillows was the bridge. The posterior pelvis rests on the block once it is lifted off the ground. I've done this pose in the past in more of a restorative practice and do find the pillows were not firm enough to get the intended stretch and restoration. Out of all the poses, this one would have probably been better with a block. Oh well, you never know until you try.
So, lessons learned. Props rock! Pillows can act as a good, if not better prop than a block. And I continually need to be flexible (no pun intended) with my ever expanded and growing practice and journey as a teacher. Oh - and I guess sharing space with my husband should be listed too!
How can you use your average throw pillows in your yoga practice?
I have really enjoyed the DVD, Yoga Journal 21 Day Challenge, I've been doing for the past couple weeks. It is so diverse with the poses, intensity and breathing techniques that I might just need to buy it for myself! I suppose I'm not super surprised as it is a product of Yoga Journal.
This week, the DVD player lead me to a hip opening sequence to reduce tension. Whenever I would hear my teacher, usually Judy, talk about hip opening, I was ready to get started! This was because if you were to ask me about my hip tightness in general, I would say, "oh, it's okay. No complaints of pain or tension." But it would be only after an intense hip opening sequence of poses that I would say, "holy cow, I had no idea that my hips were THAT jammed up!"
Speaking of cows, the pose I'd like to focus on this week is cow face pose (Gomukhasana). I was nicely transitioned into this pose and I was so happy that I was. It has been so long since I have done it. The leg positioning was the focus and since it had been so long since I'd done the pose, I couldn't recall the arm position! It is a bind with the hands clasped behind the torso. Time to focus on the arms in another practice session as it was about the hips this week anyway!
Cow face pose is an asymmetrical seated pose that is a hip and shoulder opener. As I said, I only did the lower body portion and found extra tightness in the right hip than the left. Apparently, it is normal to find one side easier than the other in this pose.
As memory serves from previous classes on hip opening, there can be intense emotion when stretching out the tension in the hips. According to Yoga in my Pocket.com, "[t]he hips are thought to represent how we feel about moving forward." I'll explore this in greater detail in another post as I don't totally have a grasp of how that all works. Interesting, nonetheless.
I enjoyed the stretch so much that I wanted to sit in the position all afternoon and I have to admit, I was slightly disappointed when we moved on. I guess thats a signal to practice cow face pose more often (do I say that about all yoga asanas?!?)
Tension begone, at least this week,
Toddler asleep, tip toe downstairs, shut the basement door.
Drop your mat, find your blocks/strap/eye pillow.
Adjust the 17 year old TV so the DVD player will work.
You might have two hours or less to get things done you just CAN'T do with a toddler around.
And yoga is one of them.
That pretty much sums up most of my yoga practice these days.
Hurry, rush...Breathe? Can I?
Now, don't get me wrong. The major life change of having a child is well worth it but over this time, I think to myself, how does my breath (and the associated human physiology) get affected?
This week's practice had me ponder my breath again. I started my practice with the same DVD set as last week, which was nice because it was already in the DVD player and it was still new to me. I didn't know what was coming and what did show up was exactly what I needed.
The new teacher focused solely on moving through each pose with the breath. If the breath was slow, the pose took time and I did it less times through; yet, if the breath was fast (which it was in the beginning), I rushed through the poses and finished many repetitions. It is so fascinating that the breath truly dictated how fast or slow I would move. Apparently, breathing is the only autonomic system of the body that can be controlled. This definitely is the merging of the mind, body and spirit of yoga.
With the rushing life of a toddler, it is in my yoga practice that I slow down and breathe (and maybe why I need to not just want to practice at least once every week). As a future teacher, I hope to provide the guidance and gift of breath work (as many teachers have done for me in the past).
My next big question this week is: how can I breathe better in every day activities?
It is a bit of a loaded question, but I think, as with everything, we must practice.
So, when prompting my son to pee in the toilet for the umpteenth time, chasing him around the house to take off his shoes and cleaning up the mess which is every meal, I will breath. It will need to be conscious, likely, to start and maybe always will need to be. But one of the reasons to do yoga, is to learn and grow and be better so this will be my breathing challenge off the mat.
Take a big, long, slow breath, and go,
Oh - and this song has always helped with my breathing. Love the chorus.
I love learning all the terminology of yoga, from the sanskirt asana names to the different technique names, it is almost like learning a new culture or language. Which I suppose it sort of is.
This week I popped in a newly borrowed DVD, Yoga Journal 21 Day Challenge, from the library (side note: I'm super excited that the Edmonton Public Library now loans DVDs for three weeks!) and started following my new teacher. She took me through an easy to follow sequence of poses and had me challenged throughout. What caught my attention, though, was the way she described a pose. We were "binding". Now I have to admit, this variation on the pose (bound extended side angle [Baddha Parsvakonasana] versus extended side angle [Utthita Parsvakonasana]) was different so I needed to know more.
Let me explain further...
Binding, as it is called (and I didn't realize it had a name) is when in a pose you clasp your hands together to intensify the stretch, clasp the hand and foot together to progress the pose or when the arms or legs work together by exerting equal force against each other. Here is a thorough video with many examples of poses that bind and here is a list of benefits.
In past practice, I had been doing binding poses and just didn't know it...or know how to name it...such as eagle pose (Garudasana), dancers pose (Natarajasana)
and bow pose (Dhanurasana). Now back to my practice.
Initially when my new teacher guided me into bound extended side angle, I felt apprehension. I suppose this is normal, as you think, "you want my hands to connect in which way?" However, I was pleasantly surprised that getting my hands to touch AND clasp wasn't terribly difficult. Whew! The pose was an excellent chest opener, leg strengthening challenge and mental toughness exercise.
This week's practice made me recall other binding poses that I quite enjoy and must explore in the upcoming weeks.
Not really tied up in knots, just "bound" to try more binding poses,
Do you ever feel like life is rocking you out of control one minute than its smooth sailing on peaceful waters the next?
In this week's practice, one pose stood out from the rest, which represented this exact feeling - bow pose.
Bow pose ( Dhanurasana) is a prone back bending pose. I have been doing this pose for years and can remember the "early days" of this pose as challenging. As with downward facing dog, I had an early distaste for this pose...maybe just because it was hard!
I was quite excited to realize bow pose was part of the sequence of practice in Rodney Yee's Power Up Yoga DVD. The practice was what I would say on the faster side for me but when I realized we were heading into bow pose, I thought things must be slowing down for a moment.
I came tummy down onto my mat ready for a great back extension hold. Clasping my ankles, I lifted my chest and thighs off the mat and began to steady myself into the strength and calm of the pose. I had just balanced myself via my ribs and front of my pelvis (read: "smooth sailing") when he cued to role to the right.
I'm going to role in bow pose. Really?
Okay - I let go of my balance and tipped to my right (I may note, still holding my ankles!) Whoa - what a sensation of imbalance and some strain (read: "rocking out of control"). I was pleasantly surprised that I "fell" into a wonderful, releasing chest stretch for the right pectoral muscle.
When cued to roll to the left, I was eager to move and get the equally beneficial stretch for the left pectoral.
Once I rolled back into upright bow pose, I thought to myself, that just wasn't that bad.
Moving past status quo, in anything, can actually be good and even beneficial.
Oh yoga, you teach me so many lessons beyond the physical.
Do you have a hit list?
As I explore yoga, I unearth so many things I want to discover, learn about, and of course try!
Here is my current hit list of DVDs I'd like to try. Mostly because they are all so different.
Jackie Middleton, a freelance writer, tweaked my interest with this version of yoga. We discussed it while exploring celebrity fitness trends for her article here. Yogalosophy is a combination of yoga and philosophy.
2. Kundalini Yoga
I haven't formally tried this type of yoga but Kundalini yoga seemed to be an interesting approach. More dynamic and rhythmic, the DVD, Kundalini Yoga for Beginners and Beyond, would be a perfect way to start.
3. Shiva Rae
I've tried a couple of Shiva Rae's DVDs and never been disappointed. This DVD is definitely on my hit list!
As always, I find more and more, challenge myself differently both physically and mentally. I'm enjoying this yoga aspiring teacher ride and all I get to learn.
Still a student, but one day a teacher.
Now, honestly, I'm usually up to trying something at least once but my expectations can sometimes get in the way of enjoying an experience.
Aspiring Yoga Teacher
I've practiced yoga since I was a pre-teen and have always found it to keep me centered. I will be a teacher one day and this is my journey to discover teaching and practice.