Sunday, August 28, 2011

From the Ground Up: Tadasana

My feet press strongly into the ground. Balls? Check! Heels? Check! Outside edges? Check! I try to feel my arches lift--as if to suck that grounding, stable energy of the earth up like I would suck the last drops of lemonade out of the bottom of a glass through a straw. My toes lift and spread.

Planting my feet firmly into the ground lifts the crown of my head just a little closer to the sky. For just a moment, I feel tall... regal... powerful!

I firm my calves, then my thighs. My femur bones spiral in just slightly, but at the same time press away from each other. I feel my bones stack.

I lengthen my tailbone toward the floor and firm my belly.

My chest lifts toward the sky as my shoulder blades descend.

I feel that same energy that I draw from the ground shine out through the top of my head and extend through my fingertips, pointing toward the floor.

But after a few moments of pulling and pushing, firming and gripping, aligning and realigning something almost magical happens: A softening--not of the muscles, but of the mind.

This is my experience of Tadasana.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Review: Writing Yoga

There are two things in life that I can count on to make me feel uplifted, positive about life, and (dare I say) joyful: My yoga practice and writing about my yoga practice.

It's not surprising, then, that I devoured Writing Yoga: A Guide to Keeping a Practice Journal by Bruce Black. In this gem, published earlier this year by Rodmell Press, I discovered chapter after chapter of inspiring ideas for expressing my yoga through writing.

I could also relate to Black's stories about his own yoga practice, and how writing down his experiences before and after he unrolled his mat changed the way he thought about his practice. I've had similar experiences through this blog. Writing adds a whole other contemplative level to an already very contemplative practice. I'm a firm believer that when I sit down and actually put my experiences onto paper (or computer screen as the case may be) I gain a new perspective on things. Yoga practice in no exception.

If you haven't already read through Writing Yoga, I encourage you to grab a copy and let Black be your guide as you explore what beautiful, complex emotions you can uncover through writing about your yoga practice.

Fancy Pants

There are lots of great new clothing lines for Fall this year, but on my most coveted list are two pair of pants that I think are incredibly innovative.

I'm really impressed with Lululemon's new Acro Crop. It's such a great idea to put a little sticky silicon paint on the pant legs to give you some extra traction in arm balances and balance poses like Vrksasana (Tree Pose) that is, if you practice with the lifted foot below the knee, anyway! Admittedly, I haven't seen these in person, but from what I can tell they're pretty neat. That said... I have one major concern about these nifty pants: If you manage to get your leg behind your head while you're wearing these, will you be more likely to get stuck?

I'm also really into the Knee Pad Yoga Capri by Fila. Sometimes my knees get sore from those Pigeon Pose variations and Camel Pose. My solution has always been to fold the edge of my mat over to give me some extra padding... I think it's genius that someone decided to put discreet pads in yoga pants so the padding is built in! I haven't seen these in person yet, either, so I can't tell if they look totally dorky or not.. but the pictures look sleek.

Have any of you tried either of these pants? Did you love them? I'd love to hear your reviews!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Inspiration Station

In this somewhat fuzzy picture of my desk at work.. you will see several things that inspire me beyond belief and get me through my work day.

The highlights are:

- A woman with grey hair on a surfboard... because if I'm half that cool when my hair is all grey, I will consider this a life well lived.
-  A card that a coworker from a past job gave me that says "Tolerance". I think she was trying to tell me something.
- Cute shoes. For without a regular paycheck I could not afford life's simple luxuries.
- An illustration of Parvati, my favorite Indian goddess. She's the epitome of girl power, but in a totally soft, approachable way.
- A picture of a mala to remind me of my meditation practice.
- A cute kitten. So. Freakin. FUZZY! I just want to squeeze it! Oh yeah. It also reminds me to be gentle and kind and stuff.... and that I like kitties.. and doggies!
- Om.

Do you have an inspiration board? What's on yours?

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

So Hum: For Those Moments When Your Coworkers Are Jerks

Model: Abbie Dutterer;   Photography: Faern

"As I’ve become more devoted to my practice, I have tried to bring more of “my mat” into my workplace. I hope that what I am trying to cultivate in terms of calmness, curiosity, and peace in my life – both at work and at home – adds something to the people around me." – Abbie

I SO relate to Abbie!

It's easy to focus on the present moment when you're in the middle of your asana practice, but what really matters is if you pay attention to your breath in a moment when you're late for a deadline…. Or in the middle of an argument with a loved one … Or having one of those days when nothing seems to go the way you think it should.

I have a particularly difficult time remembering my yoga practice when I'm at the office. This is why I have to have reminders everywhere!

Surround yourself with inspiration. I have an inspiration board up on my cubicle wall with quotes, notes from friends, and pictures. When you're surrounded by things that inspire you, it uplifts everything you do.

Find ways to incorporate yoga clothing into your work wardrobe. I wear a mala to work nearly every day. I also wear yoga tops in the place of camisoles. That way even though I am conforming to my office culture and look "professional" I have little reminders of my practice even when I'm in meetings away from my desk. (And it makes changing for yoga after work a breeze!)

Take stretch breaks often. There are lots of poses you can do right in your desk chair. My favorite desk stretches are seated twists (using the arm rests for extra traction), Cow Face Pose, and--when no one is looking--seated Cat-Cows and Tolasana from my desk chair!

Listen to kirtan. I love listening to music while I work, but songs with lyrics are distracting when you work with words. Kirtan is soothing and reminds me of my yoga practice, and the fact that I don't understand the words is a bonus because I can just enjoy the vibrations.

Take a deep breath every time you get a phone call or email. This is my trick to manage stress and communicate mindfully.

Most of all … in those moments that you want to grab your boss by the neck and shake some sense into her, remember that yoga teaches us that we're all one and she deserves to be treated with compassion and understanding as much as anyone else… especially when she's a giant pain the ass. We're all just doing the best we know how to do for ourselves, our families, and our careers.

Read the rest of Abbie's interview here.

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.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Spoiled Yogi Interviews Kristin McGee

Tell us about your favorite yoga outfit. What do you love about it?

My all time favorite yoga outfit is the copper ring supplex cami tank and supplex straight leg capri  by FILA. The fabric is so comfortable; yet still supportive. The tanks always come out in beautiful colors (I have one in each!) and I love wearing them on air for when I work at HSN. They are feminine and classic and they still do the job when I'm exercising. The black capri pants make my legs look good and are the perfect length for me in my yoga and Pilates class. They are just the best staple pant to have.
You're not just a yoga teacher--you're also a Pilates and fitness instructor. How does Pilates fit in with your yoga practice? Does one inform the other?

I certified to teach Pilates after teaching yoga for a while at the gyms and health clubs--where they kept asking me to sub Pilates classes (not knowing the difference!). I started taking classes and fell in love with Pilates, it as a great compliment to my yoga practice. I really like teaching both disciplines. They are different in many ways so it is good cross training for my body and my students. I find concentrating on my core and powerhouse in Pilates reminds me to keep it strong when practicing yoga. Sometimes doing ab work in Pilates I forget to breath so using my yoga breath and flow when I'm teaching Pilates helps me not get too rigid. The flexibility and mind/body connection from both methods is really great. I am a gym girl and I love all forms of exercise I think it's great to keep informing my yoga and Pilates with as much as I can.
What's your secret to keeping calm amidst all the chaos of city living, busy schedules, and never-ending to-do lists?

I just really try and give myself a chill day. Before I got married to my awesome husband, Tim, I'd often work Monday-Sunday it seems there is always something to do and I could see clients or teach classes all week long. I could  also teach until 8 or 9pm then have a 6am the next day! Tim has really helped me slow down and take a day off on the weekends. We might go for a bike ride or to a museum or see a play or musical. Or we might take a hike or a day trips to the beach, botanical gardens, Central park, etc. I've also learned to be kinder to myself and not over do. I like waking up early and seeing my clients and doing my classes. But I realized that at night I'd rather be home with a good book or have a nice meal and glass of wine or see my friends and husband.

I am using the balance that we often refer to so much in yoga and incorporating it more in to my daily life. It is really important to find a nice rhythm between work and play, and yet it's an ongoing journey. There are times when I just have to put in my dues and have many projects going on, and I work my butt off. Then, I go out to Idaho and force myself to take a week off ,and be in the outdoors with my amazing family. I'm so lucky I have that outlet!

What's your favorite pose at the moment? What are you learning from it?

I think my favorite pose right now is Hanumanasana, splits. I've always loved headstand--I could do it right away and it feels awesome being upside down. I always hated the splits, I could never do them as a kid, I was super inflexible and it is one of those poses that I always felt so far from accomplishing. Yet, this summer while practicing Hanumanasana, I really decided to just relax and not worry about getting in to the full posture; and I'm actually finally able to feel really good on both sides. I've noticed the skill it takes to stay centered and not get too caught up in the front leg but to really sit back a little and open up the front of my back thigh. Now I'm able to melt down in to the floor and not freak out about shoving my front leg hamstring open and to the ground.

I've been practicing now for over 17 years, and my body is opening up now in places I thought I might never have the range of motion. It is a true testament to the practice to see that if you keep breathing and keep exploring the postures and your body and the alignment, you really can go further than you ever thought possible. Yoga isn't a sprint, it's a marathon.
Things change and move at glacier speed, not lightning speed. But that's great! Anything worth doing takes time and doing splits right now has helped me realize that patience and perseverance really do pay off.

Tell us what inspires you so we can be inspired, too?

Children inspire me. Seeing the little girls I teach or watching my little nephews play and explore and giggle and have fun and be curious about life, that is  really touching. Old people inspire me as well, learning from their wisdom and experience of life. The mountains inspire me, I love being home in Idaho and skiing or hiking and just looking at the unbelievable expansive beauty of the mountain ranges. Rivers, oceans, lakes, streams, forests anything outdoors makes me happy and inspired.

My yoga and Pilates practice and really good yoga/Pilates classes and teachers inspire me. Great teachers of anything really inspire me--I love to learn. Music definitely, I can't imagine my life with out songs or singing. When I hear an awesome lyricist like James Taylor sing or hear my dad play the piano, or go to an incredible musical in NYC and can't stop tapping my feet--that is inspiring. Art, great novels, new inventions, traveling to new places, all inspirational.

The Big Apple--thus the reason I moved here, it's one big playground of inspiration. I can't walk down the street without being inspired every day. My students and clients inspire me and remind me to keep doing what I'm doing and to be the best teacher I can be and continue to come up with creative new ideas in my teaching and practice. I see them progress and stay consistent with their practice, and I feel so very grateful.  My husband and family make me want to be a better person every day I'm alive, and they support and inspire me in new ways every day.

Visit Kristin's website