Wednesday, June 29, 2011

5 Things My Cat Taught Me About Yoga (Best of Spoiled Yogi)


SleepingCat2.jpg

1. There's no shame in taking cat naps. Savasana can happen anytime, anywhere. If I took Savasana as frequently as my cat Gracey does, I'd be diagnosed with narcolepsy. But that doesn't mean I can't be inspired by her natural tendency to rest when she needs to. There's also no shame in resting in Child's Pose or skipping a Chaturanga or two during your yoga practice. It's a sign of wisdom.

2. Be patient. Gracey has a lot in common with advanced yoga postures. For example, they both come to me when they are good and ready--and not a moment sooner. The best thing I can do is have patience, let go of expectations, and when that sweet moment finally comes, be ready to delight in the purring. 

3. Be persistent. When my cat gets a glimpse of a little red dot of light, created by my laser pointer, moving across the carpet, she chases it relentlessly. Even when the dot disappears, she will sometimes spend a very long time sniffing and pawing at the carpet looking for it. It's with that kind of determination, we should approach our practice. We know the peace we're seeking is there because we've seen it before. And if we keep working at it, we'll find it again!

4. Have faith. I could never be a pet. The concept of having complete trust in someone else to put your food out and provide you shelter and love is so foreign it's hard to imagine, but my kitty has no problem with that. She just trusts that her dinner will come. She doesn't have to know every detail about where it came from or what's coming next. She's just grateful to have another meal. In yoga, I might not always know when the next lesson is coming, but I trust that it will come when I need it.

5. Take care of yourself. You know what the best part about having a cat is? They clean themselves! I never have to chase Gracey around or think of clever ways to trick her into getting into the bathtub as I do with my dog. The yogic equivalent is when you have an injury, and you take the time understand it enough to explain it to your teacher, modify poses when you need to, or skip a pose altogether. (Of course, bathing yourself regularly is a good idea, too!)

What yogic lessons have you learned from your pets?

This was originally posted as part of my Top 5 Tuesdays blog at YogaJournal.com. Read more here

Thursday, June 23, 2011

5 Things My Dog Taught Me About Yoga (Best of Spoiled Yogi)


Penny_flowers-1.jpg1. Be present. Don't miss the opportunity to chase a squirrel because you're daydreaming about tomorrow's kibble. Likewise, don't miss out on the quality of your breath in a pose because you're worried about how you look, or what pose is coming next, or what's for dinner, etc.

2. Be curious, and when it doesn't work out - keep trying! I can't tell you how many times I've seen my little 15-pound dog, Penny, (that's her in the photo to the left) go up to a 70-pound lab, jump right up into his face, and lick his nose. Sometimes it goes well, and she instantly makes a new buddy. Other times? Well, let's just say some dogs don't want to be licked by a strange little dog. Either reaction does not phase my dog. She just waits for the barking to stop, and then tries again. This is how I try to approach my yoga practice--I never quite know how it's going to turn out, but I come to my mat with curiosity again and again.

3. Get your energy out. If my dog doesn't get enough exercise she wreaks havoc on my home. She chases the cat, chews my slippers, and barks like there's no tomorrow. So I take her for long walks or to the dog park as an outlet for her nervous energy. To manage my own anxieties, I go to my yoga mat. We're both a lot saner when we make time for ourselves--and the cat is a lot happier, too!

4. Don't force it. They don't call it Downward-Facing DOG for nothing! We yoga students could definitely learn a thing or two about stretching from our dogs. When my dog wakes up from a nap, she glides so effortlessly into Downward Dog it's like a dance. She sticks her tail in the air like it belongs there, but then it's over--that simple. What she doesn't do is analyze it to death and make a big fuss about it.

5. Play dead. OK, so my dog doesn't play dead on command, but she does know how to take Savasana like an old pro--and she doesn't need anyone'spermission. She listens to her own intuition and rests when she's tired. No guilt. No worries. Just bliss.

This was originally posted as part of my Top 5 Tuesdays blog at YogaJournal.com. Read more here.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Fearless

Despite the many insecurities I still struggle with, I've used to cope with my fear both on the mat and in life. Here are a few things that help me.

Just do it. (Nike got it right.) Remember the first time you kicked into Handstand? The fear of doing it can be debilitating, and whole lot worse than actually doing it. Rip the band-aid off fast and JUST DO IT.

Keep doing it. The more you practice anything, the less scary it seems. If you practice Handstand five times every day after a week or two, your hesitation will subside and you'll be able to kick up without even thinking about it.

Give yourself advice. Whenever I start to freak out about something, I think about what I'd tell a friend who was having the same problems. Most of the time my advice would be to take a deep breath and realize that it's not as big of a deal as it seems in the moment. (Then I think... Gosh, I'm a smart girl... wise beyond my years... )

How do you overcome your worst fears?

Monday, June 20, 2011

Fear and Loathing in ... Yoga?

While I am physically capable of balancing in inversions like Handstand and Pincha Mayurasana in the middle of the room, you will most always find me inverting about six inches away from a wall. Why? Let me be frank: I'm terrified of falling over.

Fears of falling are very common in the yoga community. But you know what? That's not very interesting to me any more. It's the deeper fears that have been bubbling up for me that are really interesting.

Here are a few other things that are scaring the living daylights out of me right now.

1. Losing my way. I'm scared that I won't have the dedication or commitment or attention span to do this for the rest of my life. It sounds cliche, but before I started practicing yoga I was a different person... and I don't want to be that person again. I know how life can change nearly over night, and I hope that nothing ever changes that takes me away from my practice.

2. Injury. The practice of yoga has made me more mindful of the little creaks and tweaks in my body. But I'm pretty scared that I'll be injured in some way that inhibits my yoga practice. (See number 1.)

3. Finding a Teacher. I'm jealous of people who say "guruji" because I don't have one. To be honest, I don't know if I even want one. But how do I know if I want something I've never really experienced? I study with every teacher I can, and I know I can learn something from every one of them.. but I am scared I'm missing out by not having ONE teacher.

4. Being a Teacher. It's hard to admit this here (since I really REALLY do want to teach again some day) ... but .. I'm scared of leading others. I'm scared that I don't know enough and that someone who knows more than me will call my bluff. After a couple of bad yoga teaching auditions recently, I have less confidence in my teaching abilities than ever. Yoga has helped me build confidence better than anything else I've ever done in my life, but when it comes to teaching... I'm just not there yet. 

5. Not Being Good Enough. When people find out that I'm a yoga enthusiast, they often assume I'm a vegan who gets up at 4 am everyday to meditate... I might aspire to this some day, but I have a LOOOONNG way to go. I might never get there, but I have to keep reminding myself that yoga isn't about some end result, it's a process.. and a big part of the process is having compassion and understanding for everyone--especially yourself. When you're used to being hard on yourself, that can be pretty scary, too.

Be honest. What REALLY scares you about this practice?

Saturday, June 18, 2011

An Ode to Swimsuit Shopping


Shopping for swimwear today I am.
 Oh yes, I am, dear store clerk ma'am.
 But, alas, I do NOT like swim suit shopping plans.

I don't like looking short and small.
I don't like feeling big or tall.
I do not like it--especially at the mall.

I do not like it store clerk ma'am.
I just don't like it. It's not who I am.

This one's too skimpy.
That one looks like a dress.
This one is obviously for a woman with a very large chest.

I do not like it store clerk ma'am.
I just don't like it. It's not who I am.

Would you like it here or there?
Here, try it on over your underwear.

I do not like it store clerk ma'am.
I just don't like it. It's not who I am.

Would you like it for the beach?
Or maybe in the color peach?
Would you like it for a boat?
Or maybe on a floaty float?
 Would you like this one with a tan?
Or maybe for your Uncle Sam?

I do not it like them on a beach.
I do not like the color peach.
I do not like them for a boat.
And certainly not on a floaty float.
I do not want to have a tan.
I do not like it for Uncle Sam.

I do not like it, store clerk ma'am.
These swim suits just aren't who I am.

Friday, June 17, 2011

So Hum: Express Yourself

Model: Hydi
Photography: Faern

"Through yoga I have learned that I am exactly who I want to be, and as long as I keep it real nothing else can be expressed!" – Hydi

"Keeping it real" is a lesson that many of us have to be beaten over the head with… figuratively, of course (most of the time). After all, it's hard to really be you when you don't really understand who "you" is in the first place. I've found that yoga is an amazing tool for peeling back the layers of stuff to reveal more of the true "you."

After years of practicing yoga, one thing I've learned is that there really is no constant "me." Like a yoga pose that feels great one day and yucky the next, who I am is always evolving. There are no constants to identify with except for who I am in the moment. The past is just a memory – and who knows what the future holds? All we can do is to "keep it real" and express ourselves in the present.

That's exactly what Hydi is doing in the image above (read her interview here)—and that's exactly what the So-Hum photo blog project is all about!

5 Ways to "Keep it Real" with Yoga

1. Don't worry about what other people think. Do your own thing, experience the pose fully, and OWN it!
2. Never do anything that doesn't feel right in the moment in yoga class. Never EVER do anything that hurts. Modify your poses to work for your body, mind, and spirit.
3. Wear clothes that fit your body and your personality and make YOU feel great.
4. Embrace your strengths. Embrace your weaknesses even more—these are opportunities for learning. Never be ashamed of your flaws.
5. Never feel guilty. Never apologize. Never ask for permission. Just follow your intuition, breathe deeply, be mindful, and let life unfold.

What ways do you "keep it real" with yoga?


Faern is an Artist, yoga practitioner and Photographer in San Francisco. Besides making as much time for tea as possible, you can find Faern in a yoga class, at her current art show or wandering the city via public transportation. You can visit her in various places online: FaernWorks website, Twitter, Facebook, Faern in the Works Blog.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

A Love Affair: Supta Padangusthasana

I'm afraid to tell you this because I might jinx it ... but here goes...

I've been meditating again. Every day. In the mornings before work. This is something that has seemed like an impossible feat for me--someone who always wakes up a few minutes late, then rushes the dog out the door, and can never find the right thing to wear. Here's a trick I've learned. If I meditate before I start rushing around like a mad woman, the need to rush kind of evaporates and I make it work on time even though I'm moving a little slower as I do my morning rituals.

The most surprising part of my new morning meditation ritual (knock on wood) is that after I've focused on my breath for 10 minutes, I take just a few more to do an asana or two.... and my pose of my choice has been Supta Padangusthasana (Reclining Hand to Big Toe Pose). This is an odd choice for me. I've been obsessed with arm balances for the last year and have had very little interest in any pose that works on my already flexible hamstrings... And although I typically get bored of practicing the same poses every day, I've been coming back to this one (and only this one) again and again for the last few weeks.
Image: YogaJournal.com

Guess what? It's SO much more than a hamstring opener! Guess what else?! The twisted variation is my pose nemesis--Revolved Triangle! (I seriously hate this pose when it's a standing pose, but reclined it's pretty awesome.)

Anyway, I'm not sure if my meditation is giving me intuition to work on a pose that my body needs (rather than an arm balance or backbend that feeds my ego) or what the deal is, but right now I'm loving my practice!

What pose are you obsessed with right now?