So I Can Sorta Do a Headstand…

headstandThe title really says it all… Headstand (Salamba Sirsasana–technically “supported headstand” because my arms/hands are still touching the ground) was my new years intention for 2013.

Obviously we’re already into the fourth month of 2014, so talk of last years new years resolutions seems a little too late…

But! I actually could “sorta do a headstand” in 2013 too!!

Sometime in late December I finally understood what Chandra meant when she said “and maybe someday you’re feet will start to feel light.” I could definitely get my feet off the ground just fine, and I could pretty much stay balanced with them raising upwards… but I couldn’t get them straight up in the air–not even sort of. So technically I was still balancing on my head for a few seconds, and could stay there balancing–but just not with my feet all the way up.

I was really hoping that I could put off writing about this long enough to get rid of that “sort of” part so I could say definitely, definitely that I CAN do a headstand… but I haven’t made enough time for yoga over the past few months… so sadly I’m still dragging around that “sort of” with me.

So why give in and write about it now? Well, at the beginning of 2013 Headstand wasn’t even close to being a sort of, and there’s a reason for that–a reason that I learned even by only being able to “sort of” do a headstand.

When I first started trying–back around 2012 when I was practicing with Chandra in the back of a bookstore every Monday–I put all of my focus and my energy and my determination into making my feet “feel light” to get up into the air.

The reason I couldn’t do a headstand, and probably the reason I can’t do a lot of things, is that sometimes I focus too much on the goal itself instead of how to get there.

This became instantly clear when instead of focusing on my feet I finally focused on making sure my back and body was perfectly aligned and supported by my head…

…and then I finally (sort of) did a headstand.

“I don’t have time…”

72dd0d181ffa3de6ef5d35f67dccd514This quote has been me over the past few months (you may have noticed my last post was from way back in October–yikes!) But with my partner moving out of state and then me moving out of state with him shorty after my life has been absolutely crazy… and it’s been a great excuse. Over the past few months not only have I slacked at blogging, I’ve slacked at writing in general, at reading, at doing everyday chores like keeping up with dishes or laundry, and even at doing yoga–which is so not okay.

So I have decided I am going to make myself make time for these things that are important to me, because the things that I love don’t take time.. they give time and make life worthwhile.

…This is a really short and simple revelation so I don’t think  I have anything else to add…

Talk to you soon.

I Can’t Believe I Haven’t Written About Crow Pose Yet

ImageI guess I thought I’d already written a post specifically about Crow Pose (Bakasana) because it’s always been one of my favorite poses for a lot of different reasons. For this post I suppose I’ll start with the beginning to explain why.

Three summers ago a very manly friend from Texas invited me to go to yoga with him. I was very surprised when I first learned that he went to yoga regularly and I was very interested to check it out.

He did warn me that I should probably bring a towel because I would want to shower after, however, he did NOT tell me that it was a level two class and heated to 95 degrees!

Despite the intensity of the class and an instructor who was unwilling to wait for an obvious beginner, I enjoyed the heat and the movement as I trailed behind in drooping Chatarangas and rounded down dogs.

Through the entire class the instructor slowed down enough to demonstrate only a single pose: Bakasana–Crow pose. She moved into a crouch with her fingers spread wide and reached for the mat before smoothly rocking right onto her hands and lifting her feet lightly into the air. It hardly seemed like the weight of her knees was even resting on her upper arms, she was just floating. For a brief moment she paused suspended like this to demonstrate her steady balance in the pose, but quickly rolled out and encouraged the students to follow her example–OR, with a glance in my direction, to simply rest in Childs Pose (Balasana) if they preferred. I smiled shying at the suggestion as I watched those around me take flight, and then sunk into a sloppy Childs Pose.

I specifically remember thinking “I will NEVER be able to do that.”

Less than a year later (but not that much less) I made it into Crow Pose for the very first time. I realized by then just how many incredible and simply baffling poses there are to get into in yoga that can make Crow Pose seem bland in comparison. But every time I discover a new challenging pose I try to remember what I learned from my journey to and beyond Crow Pose; I remind myself what it was like when I thought of Bakasana in that unattainable way–and also what it was like when I finally accomplished something that I once thought impossible.

Shower Solutions

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Ever since I began practicing hot yoga I’ve struggled with the issue of showering. I LOVE to take showers and take one basically everyday, but because of hot and bikram yoga I did let it get my number of daily showers get out of control for a little while there.
The problem is that my hair gets very greasy even just overnight so I had to shower every morning so that I didn’t look too much like a dirty hippie but if I went to a night class I had to shower after that too so I didn’t FEEL too much like a dirty hippie. Lets not even go into how many showers I’d take when doing “doubles”.
At first it was great because I love feeling clean, but after awhile I started to feel like too much of my day was spent in the shower and that I was wasting far too much water. Skipping showers except for after sweaty yoga classes had just one major hang up: my greasy, grimy hair.
I tried a few no wash hairsprays and many of them worked okay but they all seemed to get used up quite quickly and they were quite expensive so I was hoping for a more economic solution..
What did I eventually figure out with the help of a friend? The active ingredient in dry shampoo sprays is baby powder! You can puff a little in your hair and work it through with your fingers to get rid of that “greasy” look between showers. Too much leaves you with skunk stripes or staticky hair but with a little experimenting you can find the right technique for your hair. And the good news is that it’s cheap so you don’t have to worry about going through it too fast!
Any other showering solutions would be greatly appreciated :)

This is not lying down; this is Savasana.

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How many times have you heard a friend or colleague tell you how tired they are from their vacation or their weekend off? Does it seem to you that in our GO! GO! GO!! society that many of us have lost the ability to truly relax and refuel? With my own hectic life I definitely feel that way sometimes, but it also seems to me that yoga is definitely helping with that…
Most yoga classes start and almost all end with the same pose: Savasana (corpse pose). It seems like the easiest part when you first start out, you just lay there–right? And yet I feel like most yogis would agree that that is dead wrong (pun very much intended, hehe).
Savasana is actually one of the more difficult poses to master because you’re not just laying there, (when you’re doing it right) you’re actively putting your intention towards practicing stillness and relaxation–because when you do it too passively your mind begins to wander and the pose looses a lot of its benefit.
Savasana is about learning how to slow down and utilize the time you are given to rest. This is especially clear in a Bikram class; his style of yoga is made to be physically challenging and a big part of succeeding in Bikram yoga is to learn how to make the transition from 100% effort to 100% relaxation as quickly as possible in order to make the most of every Savasana–no matter how short it is.
Practicing Savasana in your yoga practice can teach you how to really unwind and make the most of any opportunity to recharge, no matter how short or long you have to relax between poses (or any of your other activities off the mat).

I Definitely didn’t Spend Way too Long Watching Funny Yoga Videos on YouTube Today…

Okay, or maybe I did.

Here are some of the awesomely hilarious things that I found! This first video is a new web series so be sure to check out the second episode as well and keep your eye out for more eps soon!

These are also quite entertaining as well:

Hahaha way too funny. I love these, please share some more funny yoga videos in the comments if you’ve got em!!!

I’ve been thinking a lot about “Namaste”…

namasteJust about any yoga class you attend will end with heads bowed, kissing palms, and a collective voice that says “Namaste”.

Although it’s not discussed every class, at some point most yoga instructors will explain the meaning of the Sanskrit word “Namaste” as something along the lines of “I honor the place in you where the entire universe resides. I honor the place in you of love, of light, of truth, of peace.  When we honor this place within each other, we are one.” Or, if you prefer brevity, something along the lines of “The divine in me acknowledges and honors the divine in you.”

Just ’cause it’s a little funky, my favorite translation is “The awesome in me acknowledges and honors the awesome in you.”

It’s convenient when the entire class is perfectly synchronized in saying “Namaste” because the meaning of the word is self-evident in that synchronization. But how often during class, or even when you’re actually saying the word, do you think about how you are connecting to the other yogis in the room?

Well I’ve been thinking about it a bit lately, and I think I’ve figured some things out from it…

Obviously the point isn’t to look around the room throughout class and keep an eye on how everyone is doing instead of focusing on yourself, it’s the exact opposite. You focus on the present moment within your own body to find that divine place within yourself and at the end of class, when we’re all in that place within ourselves, we realize that our individual journeys have taken us all to the same place together where we can truly respect each other.

Why this was a revaluation for me is because I have this problem where I tend to be a people pleaser. I’ve tried for most of my life to agree with everyone, all the time and do whatever it is that they think is the right thing to do. I have the best intentions to try to make everyone happy, but when I end up not being happy it doesn’t really work out for anyone at all anyway.

So what I’ve gotten from thinking about Namaste in this way is the way to be fair to the people you care about is not to drown out your own voice inside with what other people are telling you, because when you listen to your own voice you’ll find yourself in a place where you can be content and honor those around you as well.

Don’t fake it to make other people happy, focus on yourself in order to respect those around you.

Namaste! =)

The Moment When Your Hands Touch in Royal Pigeon…

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As I’ve mentioned, I started doing yoga at Core Power Yoga. My favorite class was their “Hot Power Fusion” and it was basically the same sequence every time, not quiet as structured as Bikram’s classes–but close. I always loved the part where we got to Sleeping Pigeon (Eka Pada Kapotasana).

It was near the end of the sequence and I was usually pretty exhausted by the time it came around so for me it was a signal that class was close to over. I think I liked it so much because it’s so nice to just sink in and let go, especially when you know you earned it. You work hard in class and then you get to pigeon and, unlike most other poses, the more you relax the deeper you get into it. Some of my instructors tell you to show gratitude towards yourself for just showing up for your practice and I usually struggle to do that… except in a well earned Sleeping Pigeon.

And then one day a substitute instructor at the gym I went to led us into Royal Pigeon (Rajakapotasana) and I remember that my exact first thought was “I had no idea this was even a pose!” One of my favorite things in yoga is learning about new poses, I was especially thrilled to try something new with Pigeon.

I managed to get my back arm around my outstretched leg and reached my other hand for the sky. He mentioned that to go further in the pose you could reach your hands to touch behind your head with the disclaimer “…and if you give me a few hours I could maybe get into that, I’m just not naturally a back-bendy person like some of you.”

I couldn’t see how it was even possible to do that. Well actually I’m sure I could have seen it if I had looked around the class, but what I really mean is I couldn’t feel how it was possible from the perspective of my own body. It felt to me like there wasn’t anywhere further to even try to stretch for…

Then one day in the back of a used bookstore where my favorite class meets once a week, the instructor called for royal pigeon. So I set up my legs, got a great hook around my left leg, stretched up and back and back and back… and I was surprised to find my left hand with my right. Seriously surprised. I was so shocked I whispered “OH MY GOD” to my yoga buddy next to me and he looked over with a jealous shake of his head (but he got my attention earlier that class when he got his heels to touch the mat in Downward Facing Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana)–which he knows is a goal of mine–so I didn’t feel bad).

It was a phenomenal feeling. Even better than learning about a new pose is getting into a challenging one for the very first time. We did the other side of pigeon (I’m happy to say I got in it on the right too) and then a few final poses before ending the class. I burst out with enthusiasm immediately after “namaste”, probably saying “Oh my god!” a few more times and was so happy to find that another student (who I’d seen getting into pigeon in front of me) had never done it before either and shared my exact same feeling.

What I’m saying is I had NO IDEA that I am also a back-bendy person until I got into that pose so easily that day. I had never tried all that hard in camel before and I usually told myself it was because “I’m just not bendy like that” and “it makes me feel sick to bend too far” but really I was just a little bit lazy about it. Now when I go to a Bikram class where we always do camel and I’m happy to say  I always try (even when I feel sick) and I can even reach my hands down to touch my heels a lot of the time.

That’s another great thing about yoga, all you really have to do is try =)

The pose I love to hate.

ImageI don’t know about you, but when I’m doing Half Moon (Ardha-Chandrasana) I am nowhere near as sideways as this guy. But even when you’re not this far into the pose, it is by no means easy.

When I first started practicing yoga I went to a CorePower studio that incorporated this pose into their Hot Power Fusion routine every time–and I was never looking forward to it. My arms got tired, I didn’t want to hold my stomach in, and no matter what I did my hips and shoulders would get out of line. And it’s not one of those difficult poses that’s hard to get into but worth it because you look like a badass–like getting into dancer or crow pose–because it also doesn’t look as cool or as hard as it actually is.

So when I started practicing yoga just at home in my room, I surprised myself by regularly including Half Moon in my daily routine. I don’t remember the thought process that lead to the decision, it sort of just naturally worked its way into my sequence after an initial set of Sun Salutations (Surya Namaskar).

While I never really enjoyed the pose, at some point I started to realize just how much of an impact it could have on my practice. I saw a pin on Pinterest with the quote “If it doesn’t challenge you it doesn’t change you” and I immediately thought of this pose. I believe that half moon is likely what helped to tone and strengthen my stomach so much because it was absolutely the pose that was the most challenging for me.

Now when I go to a Bikram studio I am aware every time I walk into the sweltering room that I’m going to have to do Half Moon (and that the instructor is going to make sure I’m not slacking off in it). But I have actually started to look forward to the challenge. I know that no matter how stretchy I get there is no end point in this pose where you can’t go further or where it becomes comfortable–it’s designed to challenge everyone no matter what level they’re at. Which is kind of cool.

I wouldn’t say that I hate this pose anymore, but the love I have for it is definitely in a “I’m excited for a challenge” kind of way that’s propelled by a certain level of dislike for it…

Let’s Talk About “Resolutions”…

Last year my only “resolution” of sorts was that I wanted to be able to do Crow Pose (Bakasana), which is obviously more of a “goal” than it is a resolution so it was kinda awkward to explain to people what my resolution was… But a little ways into 2012 I was reading the blog Daily Downward Dog (one of my favorite yoga blogs) and found a post from the beginning of the year about making doing New Years Intentions instead of resolutions–I thought, “What a better way to explain it!”

I also loved how the word “intention” has so much less pressure riding on it than the weight that comes with RESOLUTION (it’s just a word that always sounds like it’s in all caps and bold, right? So intimidating.) For me the idea of an intention implies that the act of trying is more important than the end goal whereas a resolution is about resolving, or finishing something. I don’t know about you, but “New Years Intentions” just jive better with my idea of yoga as a continual practice and it seemed like a better label for my goals off the mat as well, so I made the switch.

To update you all, over the summer I accomplished my intention of taking flight in crow pose and I was sooo ecstatic, (I’m sure many yogis know the feeling). And then a week later I couldn’t get my toes off the ground. There’s another reason I dig “Intention” over “Resolution”, just because you made it into a pose once doesn’t mean that you’ve reached the finish line, every single time you set up for a pose–any pose, even seemingly simple poses like Warrior or Mountain–you have to work into it, you have to relax your shoulders and realign your hips or whatever the pose calls for your body to do. You never truly “resolve” yoga, it’s a perpetual practice.

I did continue to work on Crow pose and there were a lot of days when I wish I was counting seconds because I was up on my hands so long it felt like a full minute, and there were still days where my toes bounce on and off the ground, but even on those bouncy days I felt like I’d accomplished my intention because I was still trying and I had proven that I had it in me–and that was a great feeling.

So, for the ommtastic 2013 (I was really amused when I realized I every time I write the date I can turn the 3 into an Om–I’m a nerd!), my intention for my yoga practice is duhduhduhduhduhduhduh Headstand! Yep, I’m reaching i a little higher this year… with my toes that is! (I’m a dork.)

So what are your 2013 Intentions (or resolutions, if I haven’t converted you to the lighter side)? I’ve found It helps to share goals with other people, even anonymously over the internet. =)