Thursday, September 20, 2012

Book Review: BIG

My favorite way to spend time with my four-month-old is reading a good book to her. I read the same books over and over again. She can't ask me to read to her yet, But I know she loves it because I can see when I get out a book that her eyes scan the pictures and she often reaches her little hand out to hold the cardboard pages.We have a lot of children's books, but since I'm reading 4-5 a day, let's just say I'm starting to unintentionally memorize all the words. So when Little Pickle Press offered to let me review the new illustrated children's book BIG by Coleen Paratore as a part of their blog tour, I was thrilled to add  new to add into the rotation.

BIG is no ordinary children's book. It has beautiful illustrations by former greeting card illustrator (how cool is that?) Clare Fennell and an amazing message about what it means to "get big." As the youngest child in my family, I could certainly relate to feeling small and dreaming about the day I could be big and do all the fun things my older sisters could do. I'm sure every child sometimes feels like this sometimes. BIG shows them that it's possible for even the littlest child to make a difference in the world--and that's an empowering message I want my little one to hear over and over again.

The moral of the story is this: Being big is about being the best you can be and contributing in your own way to making the world a better place. It's the same message I hear lots in yoga classes, too: Start where you are. Do what you can. And know that even the smallest efforts matter.

My favorite line in the book sums it up nicely:

"Some people say BIG is measured by years or weight or inches. Others think BIG is how rich you are or where you live or how much stuff you own. These people are wrong." 

Learn more about the book here.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Teach Yoga Like a Pirate Day

Shiver me timbers! In case you haven't heard, it's International Talk Like a Pirate Day!

Because I'm a big advocate that our yoga should be more fun--and less serious, I'd like to encourage all the yoga teachers out there to take advantage of this special occasion and teach like a pirate.

Stumped?

Here are a few suggestions on how to incorporate a pirate theme into your classes. I'm serious. Do this!

Ahoy, Mateys! instead of Namaste.

ARRRRRRR-dha Chandrasana.

ARRRRRRR-dha Matysasana. 

Walk the Plank Pose.

 Yo-Ho-Ho Halasana.

I Lost My Pegleg Pose (Tree Pose).

And of course, Pirate's Booty..  (Downward Facing Dog)

Can you think of more? Share below. And if anyone actually does this, please please PLEASE tell us about it!

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Tummy Time and the Art of Trying Too Hard

Tummy Time - Pay no attention to those watermarks!

When I put my little one down on her stomach for tummy time she almost immediately begins grunting, groaning, and grimacing in frustration. On particularly frustrating days these grunts turn into fits of rage. She's four months old and she wants to crawl, roll over, and grab the toys in front of her RIGHT NOW! I, of course, would like her to just enjoy babyhood for as long as possible. I scoop her up and tell her to hold her horses, that she'll get there when it's time.


It's as if she thinks that trying harder will somehow get her to where she's trying to go faster, but in reality the harder she tries the more upset she gets and the less likely she is to make much progress.... sound familiar?

This is how most of us are when we unroll our mats. Though we might not outwardly erupt into a temper tantrum, we all have moments when we're impatient with ourselves to the point of frustration. I will admit to having an inner tantrum on more than one occasion when I couldn't achieve an asana when I thought I should. Who among us hasn't put that strap around our feet in an attempt to forward ford and pulled it just a little bit too vigorously thinking it might help get our foreheads to our shins? And, seriously, how many times do I have to practice it before I actually start to like that damn Revolved Triangle Pose?

Anyway, watching my wee one struggle in this way makes me wonder if striving is a learned behavior or something we're born with. I suppose it's possible that she just got the impatient, try-too-hard gene (like mother, like daughter?), but my guess is that we're all struggling with it on some level--even though we all know it really doesn't help us achieve our goals any faster.

So help me out here. Which poses do you find yourself trying way too hard in? Do you think you were born trying too hard? Or is it something you've learned by growing up in this culture where everyone tells you to work longer, harder hours?

Monday, September 10, 2012

5 Reasons Politicians Should Practice Yoga



I’m going to share with you a little dream I have (I hope President Obama and Mitt Romney are reading): That politicians will spend less time pointing fingers and cutting deals and more time self-reflecting, breathing, and stretching.

Why should politicians do yoga? Here are just 5 reasons:

1. Make better decisions. Lobbyists, businessmen and women, members of their party, and  constituents all try to persuade politicians to vote in a particular way. I’m sure it can be hard to discern what’s right and wrong at times. I believe yoga helps you to make better decisions because by learning to listen to your body’s intuition, you also become more in touch with your authentic self and learn to listen (and trust) your own truth.

2. Cultivate Compassion. Empathy and compassion are vitally important attributes for our elected
officials because they are responsible for making decisions for so many different people. As yoga students learn to be more aware of their own bodies and actions, they often notice they’re able to more easily put themselves in others’ shoes.
 
3. Manage Stress. I can’t even begin to imagine the stress politicians feel on a day-to-day basis. Most of us feel incredible stress just having the responsibilities of our work and family lives. Elected officials carry the burden of a community, state, or the whole country on their shoulders. That’s a lot of pressure. A regular yoga practice helps keep stress at bay so you can focus on doing your job!

4. Model a Healthy Lifestyle. Health care might be one of the biggest issues of this election in a lot of places. No matter where you stand on the issue, you can’t deny that we’d all be better off if we stayed healthier to begin with. If more elected officials did yoga (and/or maintained a healthy lifestyle), it would send a message that healthy lifestyle is important. Two sayings come to mind: Actions speak louder than words. And practice what you preach. Just sayin’!

5. Ethics. The yamas (truthfulness, non-harming, non-stealing, greedlessness, and sexual responsibility) are important principles that yoga students try to live by. But really they’re just a basic code of ethics. Does practicing yoga immediately turn you into a better person? No. Are all yoga practitioners upstanding moral people? Nope. But I do believe that the practice of yoga gives you more tools for self-reflection and a clearer view of your impact in the world. And I think that makes you want to be a better person.

This post was adapted from a post on my blog at YogaJournal.com.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Perseverance Poses

All poses are perseverance poses, really. I've found that the practice itself is really about coming back every day to build on the wisdom you've built in days gone by. Of course, there are some phases in my life when I'm better at this than others. And some poses really bring out my stubborn side and make me determined to practice, practice, practice.

The following poses are inspired by my annoying cat, who never gives up on what she wants.

1. Kitty Core. I'm a new mom, which means I have a whole new core. When I first got home with my new baby, I was truly shocked by how weak my core felt. I couldn't even get out of the back seat of my two-door car--which was pretty concerning since I had to somehow get a baby in and out. When I first started practicing again, I couldn't do much but I wanted to start regaining my core strength ASAP. I came back to hands and knees again and again to practice Cat Pose until I found the strength to find a Cat shape as I moved from Down Dog to Plank Pose.

2. Tiger Pose. Hop forward. Ever since I took a workshop with Duncan Wong, I've thought about a Tiger leaping forward as I hop from Down Dog to Uttanasana. Kitty cats both big and small are impressive jumpers. My cat regularly leaps up and over the dining room chair barricade we set up to try to thwart her attempts at sleeping on our dining room table. If that cat wants to get her fuzzy kitty hair all over the table she will find a way. And when I want to leap forward with power and grace, I channel her.

3. Sharpen Your Claws Pose. Thanks to Anusara's teachings, I think of kitty cats every time I bear weight on my hands. Taking the energy up and out of my wrists and into my arms and shoulders (the action is like a kitty cat sharpening her claws without lifting your hands away from the mat) feels safer on my wrists and made all of my poses stronger making arm balances and inversions more possible.

4. Lazy Kitty. Yes, I'm referring to Savasana. The reason my cat has enough energy to be so persistent (and annoying) is that she only uses her energy to get what she really, really wants. She sleeps the rest of the time. Now, I'm not condoning sleeping 20 hours a day, but I think we could all learn something about energy conservation from our furry friends. I tend to try too hard at everything I do--even the stuff that's not important. My cat inspires me to pick and choose what's important and let everything else go.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Learning to Purrrr-severe

My cat is the most annoying creature to ever walk the planet.

She has soft, fluffy white fur, stunning blue eyes, and the most adorable pink nose you've ever seen--which is lucky for her because if she weren't so cute I'm not sure I would have tolerated her all these years. Don't judge me! She stands on my pillow in the middle of the night and screams directly in my ear. When that doesn't wake me up she knocks things off my night stand--sometimes my lamp falls over and hits me in the head. Oh, and she also refuses to poo in the litter box.

She is so persistent we almost always give in to her. It's just easier to wake up and pet her in the middle of the night than to sweep up the shards of glass the next morning. A few hours ago, I had finally gotten the baby to sleep. I was holding her in the recliner about to drift off myself when the cat came prancing over and jumped into my lap. This, of course, is where the baby was sleeping. So I picked the cat up with my free hand and put her in the floor. She jumped back up... maybe 10 times until I just scooted over and made room. She purred and fell asleep.

I wanted to ring her neck, but I also kind of admire how she is so unphased by rejection. She just keeps going for what she wants, and she doesn't give a shit what anyone else thinks. Cats are like that--and I want learn to be more like that, too. All too often I let rejection or criticism (or the fear of rejection or criticism) stop me from going for what I want in life.

Yoga has been great training. I've been try-try-trying for a decade to square my hips in Warrior I. I fell on my face a million times before I finally balanced in Bakasana. I might not ever be able to balance in Handstand in the middle of the room--not because I'm too weak, but because I'm too scared. But I know I have to keep trying, not to achieve the pose, but to overcome the fear.