Friday, April 30, 2010

A Love Story & A Lesson in Detachment

My dog, Penny, has a crush. It's more than a crush, actually.. It's a crazy, intense, infatuated—well, case of puppy love.

You see, earlier this week she met this piece of wood and it was love at first sight. She picked it up, flirted with it a little, then decided to make it her own. She takes it with her on every walk morning, noon, and night. And when the walk is over and I make her put it down outside the front door. She sits at the door for a few minutes and whines, crying for her beloved.


But it doesn't take long for Penny to forget all about her favorite attachment when we get back inside. It's just a few minutes of whining, then she chases the cat, begs for food, cuddles in our laps, and returns to her happy, mischievous puppy self.

When the door opens and it's time for another walk, she picks up the wood immediately and it starts all over again.

I've learned from Penny that it really is possible to leave your attachments (thoughts, desires, ambitions... whatever) outside. You can always pick them up again later.

They Don't Call It Peacock Pose for Nothing

Image source


Last week, I went on a second "date" with a local yoga teacher. I like him because he teaches super difficult poses that I'd probably never venture to try on my own. Padma Mayurasana (Bound Peacock Pose) is one of those poses, and I fell in love with it because this was the first time I was ever able to lift my legs, which were twisted into Lotus, off the floor. (Never mind the fact that I had to put my chin on the floor to get the leverage to do it.) I loved my teacher's joke. "Remember, breasts are not helpful for this pose ... but they are in about 95 percent of the rest of your life, so deal." But I have breasts (a little) and I could still do it!

I beamed. I was (and am) so freaking proud of myself it borders on obscene. I feel like that every time I accomplish something I once thought was an impossible feat for me in yoga. And every time, I question myself later.

Yoga should boost your confidence, but it isn't supposed to build up your ego. Is it completely against all the principles of yoga to look around the yoga studio and feel just a little bit like a rock star when you're the only one who can do a hard pose? Or is it OK to be proud of yourself and even a little amazed at what this body can do?

How do you find the middle ground?

Thursday, April 29, 2010

6 of the Most Absurd (and Hilarious) Yoga-isms Ever

Some of the comments on my last post inspired me to think of some of the most absurd yoga-isms (a.k.a. make up yoga words that really don't mean anything) I've come across in my six years as a yoga student. (Oh, and if you're my sister or husband, you should stop reading now. You won't get the jokes unless you're a yogi.)

1. Floint — half point, half flex, all ridiculous.

2. Broga — Yoga for men.

3. Yoga Toes — toes that are spread... Why does this need a special "yoga" name? I don't know... but it's awesome. (Also, the toe stretching product sold here. I also find this to be hilarious.)

4. Bro-Strap — And I am NOT talking about a G-string (See Yoga Men: What NOT to Wear) For example, "put the block at the bottom tip of your shoulder blades or your bra strap line for you ladies, for the men, it's called a bro-strap line."

5. Lulu — One who works for a Lululemon franchise; Luon — the material Lulus use to make their clothes (a.k.a. Spandex)

I know there are MANY more ... please share your favorite yoga-isms by commenting below!

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

5 Ways to Have More Fun Doing Yoga

Has your yoga practice gotten stale, boring, or uninspired? Do you visit the same studios, study with the same teachers, practice the same old poses time and time again? You could just make an effort to mix it up, go to a new class, try out a new studio, and learn something new. OR you could follow my five magical tips to having more fun with your yoga practice:

1. Try a pose that looks impossible—like a really REALLY crazy arm balance. Then laugh at yourself for failing miserably. (I'm trying to adapt this attitude toward challenges in my life, too!)

2. Practice outside. Be careful not to unroll your mat in doggy doo.

3. Play the Word of the Day game. Find a word or phrase your yoga teacher says over and over again, "That's BEAUTIFUL!" is a good one. Then, every time he says it let out a deep Lion's Breath. It can be your own inside joke or if you let a friend in on it so it can be like a drinking game, but with YOGA. What could be more fun that that?

4. Speaking of drinking games... have you ever done yoga as a party trick? Having a little wine before you practice does make things more interesting. But a word of advice: Wine and inversions do NOT mix. I speak from experience.

5. Make up ridiculous names for the poses and/or actions. How do you think those Anusara folks came up with Wild Thing and the concept of "Floint"-ing? They might say they were trying to come up with a way to teach an action, I think they were probably just amusing themselves. :)

What do you do to spice up your practice when it gets boring?

[Image source.]

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Yoga Men: What NOT to Wear

I get that there aren't many yoga fashion choices for you manly yoga enthusiasts out there. But there's no excuse for these fashion faux pas in the studio—or anywhere else for that matter.

The Loin Cloth. I don't care how hot it is outside or how proud you are of your Uddiyana Bandha... This is uncalled for.

The Tighty Brighty. This is basically just a modern twist on the loin cloth. I'm sorry, Iyengar purists. I know you want us to see your alignment, but please... there are some things that we don't need to see align, OK?

The 80s Track Suit. While the man below is pretty adorable and is doing an impressive pose, he is committing several fashion crimes. First, notice the elastic at the bottom of his pants legs. Second, the pants are shiny and probably swish when he moves from pose to pose. And third, red from head to toe is only OK for one man—and his last name is Clause.

Combine all of these infractions together and you get the worse picture I could find on the Internet of a man doing yoga. No, no, no. Just... no.

WARNING: May Cause Side Effects

You know those commercials for new medications (like the one that's supposed to grow out your eyelashes so you'll magically look like Brooke Shields?) where they show you something that seems too good to be true, and then they ruin it by telling you as quickly as possible all the horrible things that might happen to you if you buy their miracle drug? You will look like be Brooke Shields and be successful and happy and healthy! .... except... you may develop chronic diarrhea, a lisp, kidney stones, a ruptured spleen... you get the point.

Yoga has some great benefits, but it has some unfortunate side effects, too. I've found that those horrible side effects, however, do not come from practicing yoga but from slacking on your practice.

See, I used to practice 5-6 times a week. But when I moved and started a new job last month, it became a lot harder. Now I take a class once a week, and practice at home once or twice... And my body is ANGRY at me about it. Here are the side effects of drastically reducing the frequency of your yoga practice:
  • Clear skin breaks out all over
  • Healthy appetite turns into voracious, uncontrollable cravings for potato chips and chocolate
  • Jaw tenses
  • Teeth clench
  • Head hurts
  • Even teeth hurt
  • Pants become tighter
  • Arms get flabbier
  • Yelling at husband increases
  • Grouchiness ensues
  • Dog starts eating bed
  • Cat continues to poop in the floor
  • Havoc has been wreaked
I'm going to yoga class now—wearing lavender.

Friday, April 23, 2010

I Heart Lavender


I love everything about lavender—the color, the scent, the flower, the soothing properties. I even made 80 lavender scented eye pillows as favors for my wedding a year and a half ago. So I'm thrilled to see this color represented in many of the big yoga clothing companies spring collections. I'd like to to wear this outfit to yoga class, then frolic in a grassy field on my way home. When I get there I would light some candles and soak in a bathtub filled with lavender bath salts. Yep.

More like this:
Dream Office
From Studio to Street

Thursday, April 22, 2010

5 Poses That Help Save the Earth

I know what you're thinking. Yoga poses don't save the earth—recycling, reusing, buying organic, and using reusable bags at the grocery store helps save the Earth, but not yoga poses! It may be true that yoga asanas are meant to bring awareness to your own breath, body, and spirit, but if you believe that we're all connected if you make yourself healthier, you make the world healthier every time you practice.

These are the poses I'll practice in honor of Earth Day!

1. Tadasana (Mountain Pose) This pose is the Earth and the sky. Grounding and expanding. Two opposites living in harmony together.

2. Vrksasana (Tree Pose) You don't have to live in a tree to appreciate the beauty, stability, and oxygen they provide.

3. Surya Namaskar (Sun Salutations) Without the sun, none of us would be here. It provides warmth and radiant energy.

4. Dolphin Pose I want to remember our water-dwelling friends every time I practice Dolphin Pose. Water is a big part of every living creature, and yet we toss our plastics into the ocean every day. Why?

5. Savasana (Corpse Pose) Eventually, we'll all just be fertilizer anyway. I practice yoga so when I go I'll be sending happy, healing energy back into the Earth—not toxins like negativity, stress, or anger.

See also:
What is a Conscious Consumer
5 Poses for When There's Not Enough Time in the Day
Spoiled, Bratty, Privileged Yogi

Monday, April 19, 2010

Are You a Yoganista?

1. When you first see a new, over-the-top trend in yoga clothing (think MC Hammer yoga pants) you:
     A. Shake your head in disappointment. These clothing companies are just looking to make a buck, it's totally not yoga. This, too, shall pass.
     B. Immediately order a pair. You MUST be the first to wear those in your studio.
     C. It takes you a while, but after the trend catches on and all your favorite yoga teachers are sporting them you usually end up following the trend.

2. You wear yoga clothes:
     A. Only to yoga class (and occasionally to sleep in)! They're way too ratty and worn out to wear them anywhere else.
     B. With everything! Your yoga tanks double as camisoles under work clothes, your warm up sweaters look ravishing with jewelry and jeans for a night out on the town, etc. The more you wear it, the more you feel justified buying!
    C. For class, walking the dog, and lazy weekend trips to the grocery store or coffee house.

3. When it's time to buy a new yoga mat you:
     A. Don't. People used to practice yoga in a cave! Why do you need to spend money on a fancy mat?
     B. Carefully consider your yoga wardrobe ... You want a high-quality yoga mat that will keep you from slipping, but also look great with your clothes, and bring out the color of your eyes, too.
     C. Spend some time comparing the grips of a few different brands, but ultimately buy the same brand your yoga teacher or other students you know use.

4. When you decide what to wear to yoga class, your first consideration is:
     A. You don't have to think about it. You wear the same thing every time.
     B. How can I mix and match my favorite yoga clothes in a new and creative way?
     C. You just throw something on that will be comfortable and cute.

5. When you think of yoga accessories, what comes to mind?
     A. The asanas and your breath.
     B. A trendy headband, cozy wrap, stylish mat bag, and a fresh pedicure.
     C. A water bottle, towel, and pony tail holder?

Mostly A's — Yoga Minimalist
You don't buy into the hype. You know that yoga is really about connecting body, mind, and soul—and that's it!

Mostly B's — Yoganista
You might be a spoiled yogi. You love wearing your yoga clothes in new and creative ways. It's OK to love fashion and be a trendsetter, but don't forget to keep it all grounded in the principles of yoga.

Mostly C's — Comfy Chic
You want to look and feel great in your yoga wear. You are no slouch in the studio, but you don't feel the need to buy something new every week either.

[Image: Sadhya Crop from Beebliss.com]

Sunday, April 18, 2010

How to Look Like a Yogi

When I worked for Yoga Journal, there were several occasions when I'd step into the elevator at the office only to be greeted with the question: "Are you one of the yoga people?"

Now, it's not like I was walking around the office in yoga clothes most of the time (thought, I admit I did choose not to change after a lunchtime class a time or two) so it's strange that in my normal office attire people still pegged me as a yogi. I didn't adorn myself with Om jewelry or greet people with "Namaste." I didn't even carry a yoga mat with me because I left mine at my desk. So I never really put my finger on what it was that made people look at me and think, "she does yoga."

I guess I just fit into some of the most common stereotypes about yogis... Perhaps, the following:

I'm a young-ish white girl with a small frame and fairly toned arms (have I mentioned my love for arm balances?).

I wear minimal jewelry and natural-looking make up.

My style is laid back, sometimes a bit Bohemian, which I guess could be interpreted as a little hippie.

I like lavender essential oils and lotions, so maybe I smell like hippie, too. (But not the kind that doesn't wear deodorant.)

I eat a lot of salad (so I often had a big one with me in the elevator).

I'm cheerful, happy, and friendly to strangers.

I hate being stereo-typed, but I suppose there are worse ways to be labeled. Do you think people who don't know you identify you as a yogi? What do you think it is that makes them think that—or not?

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Confessions of a Spoiled Yogi

It's one of my main objectives in life to show people that you can be a yogi without being a perfect, happy, healthy, angelic being. I might look like a yoga student. I can touch my feet to the back of my head. I have all the great clothes. I know the Eight Limbs. I can talk to you about philosophy and history for hours. But, like everyone else, I have some major issues. Here are a few things about me that aren't exactly in keeping with the whole "yoga persona" our media has created.

1. I wear make up to yoga class.
Not a lot, mind you. It's important to look natural. But you better believe if I have big zit I'm going to cover that sucker up! I also wear mascara because it makes me feel pretty. You never know who you might meet at a yoga studio.

2. I yell when I'm mad—a lot! I might be seeking inner-calm, but I haven't exactly found it yet. And sometimes that results in outer, um, projection. I know all the rules of alignment, but sometimes I'm still a bitch. (But, at least I know it.)

3. I eat junk food every time I go to a long yoga training—a conference, an immersion, a teacher training. Pizza, cupcakes, candy bars, potato chips ... there's just something about being surrounded by healthy, svelte, yoga people who only eat fresh, organic produce (or at least that's what they want you to think) that makes me want to be rebelliouis. I walk, even run, to the closest convenience store at the first break, and then I look both ways to make sure nobody else from my class watches as I buy and/or eat something bad. (Then, for some reason, I usually tweet about it. I guess I'm not shy on the Internet, only in person.)

4. When I was teaching yoga regularly, there were a few student I just didn't like. I tried to like them. I was nice to them. But they got on my nerves. Now, I always wonder if I'm that student that gets under my teachers' skin.

5. I say I'm a vegetarian because I don't want to explain to people that fish is the only meat I eat. I would probably be vegan, except for the fact that I kind of like fish and I LOVE cheese. (I seriously consider cheese one of my favorite things on this earth!) Oh, and sometimes I order the Broccoli Cheese soup even though I know it's made with chicken stock, because, well, you know how I feel about cheese.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Single Yogis (Put a Ring on It)

One time I tried a new yoga class with a new (to me) teacher. When I got there (10 minutes early, like a good yogi) I sat on my mat and the teacher immediately came by to quiz me. "Do you have any injuries? Are you new to yoga? What activities you do? Are you are ballerina? a circus performer? a hula hooper?" (I'm not making this up.)

I was (and still am) confused by her line of questioning. "I'm a yogi," I said.

"Oh, well, what kind of yoga do you practice, then?"

"Eh. I dabble. A little of this, a little of that."

"Oh..." her voice trailed off. "Well, one day you're going to want to commit to one style of yoga and one teacher, OK?"

I politely agreed. But deep inside (or maybe not so deep)the bratty child in me protested, "You're not the boss of me!" I didn't agree at all. I just don't understand why I'd want to limit myself to one perspective on such a vast practice. But maybe I'm missing something.

Commitment is a concept I've been pondering a lot lately. What does it mean to be committed to your yoga practice? a meditation practice? Should you commit to a teacher? a style of yoga? a studio? What does that mean anyway?

If I commit to Ashtanga, but attend an Anusara class does that make me a cheater? I joke about dating new yoga teachers until I find the one that I have chemistry with, but when I find my new yogifriend should I stop learning from others? A commitment to yoga is obviously not the same as a commitment in a relationship, but I still think it's important to show your commitment through your actions.

In our culture, we equate commitment with buying things. (I don't make the rules. If you don't like it, take it up with Beyonce.) The first thing we do when we decide to commit to our practice is buy a yoga mat. Perhaps the next step is to purchase a series of classes at a yoga studio (the more we buy the more committed we are!). Then, we might buy a book or subscribe to a yoga magazine. The holy grail of yoga commitment is enrolling in a teacher training. For me, writing that check felt like getting down on one knee and proposing.

Of course none of these things really has anything to do with commitment either. They're just gestures of good intentions. When it's all said and done we might know our practice and ourselves better, but that's really all we can hope for.

The whole point of the practice is to be happier, healthier, and more balanced. Sometimes I find more of those things by doing an asana practice, and sometimes I'd be better off to read a book. My commitment is to my own happiness and well-being, not a specific teacher or style of yoga. I'd put a ring on that.

This is for all you single yogis out there!



What are you committed to?

Monday, April 12, 2010

Parivrtta Trikonasana: My Arch Nemesis

Dear Parivrtta Trikonasana (Revolved Triangle Pose),

I hate your guts.

You make my hips burn, my ankles ache, and my jaw clench. You compromise my balance. You make me feel weak, agitated, and just plain mad. I find you so irritating, in fact, that if I never had to practice you again, that would be fine with me.

I know this must be hard for you to hear, so please know that it's not personal. It's not you at all really—it's me. I would break up with you, but I know there are still lessons for me to learn from you. So I will endure your unpleasant company, but I will NOT like it.

Love,
Erica

P.S. Tell your brother, Parivrtta Ardha Chandrasana (Revolved Half Moon Pose) I hate him, too.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

5 More Reasons to Do Yoga

1. It's raining outside. Now is your chance to get your yoga on without feeling guilty for not taking the dog to the park or beach. She'd rather be inside anyway.

2. If you're going to procrastinate anyway, you might as well do it with yoga. It's Sunday afternoon and yoga is WAY more fun than ironing your work pants, cleaning up the kitchen, and other Sunday afternoon chores. It's WAY healthier than Facebook.

3. No one knows what the week will bring, but whatever it is, you'll be a lot more capable of dealing with it if you start the week out with something that leaves you calm and refreshed. Think about how much better your life would be if you did just ONE thing everyday that made you feel that way.

4. No one else is going to do it for you. If you want to improve your outlook on life, the length of your hamstrings, the quality of your breath, or the tone of your gluteus maximus (and who doesn't?) you have to do the work (and play) for yourself. This is a good time to start!

5. I've heard David Swenson say, "I've never finished my practice and thought, 'Man, I wish I hadn't done that!'" Have you? No matter what's keeping you from unrolling you mat—laziness, allergies, or something else you want to accomplish in your spare time—you know you'll feel better after you've practiced. Just do it.

Happy Sunday!

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Dream Office

I would like to blog, write, and edit from here:

Friday, April 9, 2010

Goodbye Coffee Ritual! We'll Miss You.

The last two days I decided to give up my morning coffee ritual and roll my yoga mat instead. Besides, I can get to work a few minutes earlier and have my coffee there. I'll be happier, calmer, and look like a dedicated employee who gets to work early! Everybody wins!

But here's the problem. My morning coffee/email/Today Show ritual isn't just my "me time." It's also my bonding-with-Penny-the-Puppy-Time. While I sip my coffee and check my email and write blogs, Penny brings me toys to throw for her. Then, eventually, she curls up in my lap for a few minutes of petting and baby talk before I have to get up and get ready for work.

My morning practice time isn't "me time" either. I unroll my mat, Penny gets on. I do my first Downward Dog, Penny runs from across the room, between my legs and licks my face. I stand tall in Tadasana, a stuffed duck plops at my feet. Penny looks up at me, her tail wagging. "Please, oh, PLEASE will you throw this for me?," say her big, brown eyes.

I feel incredibly, horribly guilty. It's not exactly the inner peace I was looking for. But I think we can start a new morning ritual that we'll both be happy about, right?

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

SWY Seeks Yoga Teacher

I'm having a difficult time finding a yoga teacher who I really click with in my new 'hood. It's really hard to describe what makes a yoga teacher your match. It's like there's a chemistry there that just works. In fact, it's a lot like dating. Which is why I'm considering taking out a personal ad. It would go something like this:

Single white yogi seeks skilled yoga teacher. Loves arm balances, backbends, and philosophical walks on the beach. Teacher must be authentic, knowledgeable, a little funny, a little serious, down to earth, easy to understand, and willing to admit when she/he doesn't know something. Those who speak with phony, soothing yoga teacher voice need not apply.

I guess I just need to go on more "dates".

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

From Studio to Street

If I had a million dollars this is what I'd wear to do my weekend errands before I head to my favorite yoga studio! My birthday is in August if any of you would like to start saving your pennies. :)

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Yoga Nag

This afternoon, I went to a class at a new studio. I unrolled my mat next to a cute couple, who seemed to be on a yoga date. The woman, wearing head-to-toe Lululemon, was clearly an avid yoga enthusiast. The man seemed to be taking his first-ever yoga class. It was pretty stinkin' cute. As I was waiting for class to begin, my mind wandered. "Oh, why can't MY husband get his ass off the couch (and away from the Final Four) long enough to share in something that's SO important to me? I'm SO neglected..." (Wah wah wah!)

Then I heard this: "You see?... You use the strap like this. It's for when you're not flexible enough to touch your toes... You'll probably need it because, well..." The woman's voice trailed off as she gestured toward the man's legs. He said nothing.

THAT'S when it occurred to me that perhaps my husband would rather watch basketball than come to yoga with me because, like the young woman who somehow managed to convince her boyfriend to come to yoga with her today, I'm a total yoga nag! I'm always nagging him to come to yoga with me, but he thinks I'd be an obnoxious know-it-all nag at the studio. He's probably right.

Throughout the class, I noticed that when the teacher suggested the use of a prop, the Yoga Nag would turn around and motion to her beau that he should use it. (And many times he actually didn't need to.) The poor guy did as he was told, then when his date turned around, he put the prop down and did his own thing.

When class was over and we were packing up our mats the Yoga Nag said out of nowhere, "Don't worry. You'll get the hang of it. You just need more practice." Her Yoga Victim was silent. I have a feeling this would his first and last yoga class—and who could blame him?!

What I learned from yoga class today: It might be OK to nag your guy to do the dishes, but don't nag him to go to yoga with you. And please, if you are ever lucky enough to get him to set foot in a studio, just keep your mouth shut during the class and let him experience it for himself.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

5 Poses for When There's Not Enough Time in the Day

I'm pretty busy these days with my new job. It's very different than my last job and I have to spend time on things I never thought about much before. For example, I have to spend a lot of time picking out my clothes—and then I have to iron them. That takes a lot of time! I also have to put on make up and fix my hair. (I know it sounds ridiculous, but at my old job it was perfectly acceptable to wear yoga pants for most of the day.. I just didn't factor in all of the things that normal people have to think about.) And now that yoga's not built into my lunch breaks, and my work day is more like 10 hours than 8, I have to make do with a lot shorter practice sessions. Lately, that means unrolling my mat to practice 5 poses at a time right before I have to scurry off to do something else.

So, here is my list of 5 poses to do when there just isn't enough time in the day...

1. Anjaneyasana (Crescent Moon Pose) When I'm busy and stressed, it's my quads and those muscles above then (are those a hip flexor?) that screams.. this pose always feels great!

2. Eka Pada Rajakapotasana (One-Legged King Pigeon Pose) Forward Fold Variation Hips. Need I say more?

3. Down Dog to Plank to Down Dog to Plank I know this is technically two poses, but flowing between the two works my core, stretches my hamstrings, and strengthens my arms and shoulders all at the same time.

4. Adho Mukha Vrksasana (Handstand) This is just s fun pose that makes me feel strong and feel free. And it always makes me happy, so I do it as much as possible.

5. Urdha Dhanurasana (Upward-Facing Bow Pose) I practice this pose last because I need to move on to my next task feeling invigorated and ready to tackle the next challenge.

If I have more than 10 minutes to practice I throw in a Savasana, too, but lately that hasn't been happening... It's a hard life.

What poses do you practice when you're really too busy to practice?