Dancing in the rain: accepting what life throws at you

Life’s not about waiting for the storms to pass. It’s about learning to dance in the rain.

–  Vivian Greene

On Saturday, I went to a physical therapist for the first time. I was curious about why I was unable to go deeper into certain open-hip poses such as pigeon, agnistambasana (fire log pose), gomukhasana (cow’s face pose), and eka pada koundinyasana. Though I practiced asana 4-5 times a week — sometimes more — I was not seeing improvement in those types of poses. Aghh!

At my appointment, I told Robert what my issue was and showed him the poses that I was having trouble with. He had me lie down on a bed and bent one of my legs, swinging my lower leg left and right. In two minutes, he had the answer. (He’s good.)

“Aha!” he said, “it’s your bones.”

He explained that my pelvic bones were slightly turned in at the hips: the articulation between my femur and hip sockets (i.e. where they meet) was turned inwards, which limited my range of motion. Therefore my bone structure was preventing me from opening up into the full expression of those poses.

It might be possible to increase flexibility at my hip joints, but not without decreasing stability or damaging the joints. No thanks.

So what now?

I went to my first class since the appointment on Monday. With new awareness of my body, I was able to do each pose more mindfully. I was discovering myself in a new way. And it felt great!

Do I feel remorse that I probably won’t be able to do some of those sweet looking arm balances, such as eka pada koundinyasana, bhuja pidasana (shoulder pressing pose), or titthibhasana (firefly)? Kinda. But on the flip side, poses such as mandukasana (frog pose) and upavista konasana (seated wide legged forward fold) come easily to me.

Obstacles like this one could prevent me from enjoying and growing in my yoga practice. It could make me feel incomplete, or unable to achieve the “real pose”. Or, it could make me a more compassionate and knowledgable teacher, and grow my practice in a direction I haven’t even imagined yet. I could wait for the storm to pass, and when the next one comes, wait for that to pass too. I could spend my life waiting for each storm to pass. Or, I could step outside and dance in the rain.

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Happy Spring! Outdoor meditation

My partner and I are dogsitting this week! We both love puppies but due to our frequent travel and upcoming round-the-world trip, we do not own a dog now. So the last day and a half that she’s been here has been amazing! It’s wonderful to be around the warmth and positive energy of a dog, even if she does open your fridge and eat two chicken breasts while you’re out watching Captain America 😉

This morning, I took advantage of the outdoors as the pup and I were walking through the park . I spied a bench underneath the shade of a sycamore tree, and I made my way towards it, my furry companion sniffing and trotting happily beside me. After I secured her to the bench, I sat down and closed my eyes and began my meditation practice.

I started with nadi shodana, or alternate nostril breathing. This helps slow my breath down and my thoughts so that I can focus and hear my True Self. This was my first time meditating outside, and I felt a little self conscious: do I look weird? Will the dog bark or eat something she shouldn’t or try to tug away?

After I finished my breath work, I let my hands sit gently in my lap and continued into meditation. Currently, I’m practicing Merging Breath meditation: focusing on the pause between exhale and inhale, which represents the stillness that’s always there in our Selves. Though my thoughts were jumping around more than they would have if I was in my usual spot, I enjoyed the quiet and the sounds of birds chirping, the water splashing in the fountain nearby, the sound of the dog sniffing intently her surroundings. It was also nice to feel the gentle breeze and enjoy the scent of grass floating by. Most importantly, I wasn’t judging myself for having more thoughts and being more distracted (I admit, I peeked open my right eye to make sure the dog was still there).

I think the pup got something out of it too. This is her after we returned home:

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Music! For creative sequencing

On Saturday, I participated in a workshop on creative sequencing with Wade Gotwals, who’s a seasoned and intuitive practitioner and teacher of yoga based in Chicago. What’s creative sequencing, you ask? It’s the flow of poses in a vinyasa or hatha practice. The workshop focused on using your own creativity and playfulness to create your own flow.

Creative sequencing is a two-step process:

  1. Play on your own (or with a friend)!  Try new arm variations, twists, side stretches etc in your go-to poses.
  2. Write them down, then go back later to make sure that they make sense in terms of energy, muscles/joints strengthened or opened, and flow.

I think of creative sequencing as mindful dancing: you create new and interesting ways to flow from pose to pose, while mindfully designing the class to be cohesive.

Here’s a sweet playlist from the Beats for Nepal album to get your creative juices flowing! Happy playing!


Image Credit: Beats for Nepal

New site name: Pot of Yoga

hey you,

I’ve changed my blog’s name and address to Pot of Yoga (previously nownowyoga). It reflects my love of tea and the steeping process that makes great tea, and a rich yoga experience. Thanks for reading!

xx,

soyee


image credit: professionalcourtesyllc.com

Are you attached to your yoga practice?

A few days ago I was working on my asana flashcards for yoga teacher training, and I realized it was almost time for meditation class. I was in a good work flow: I was feeling the music, knocking out the flashcards and feeling accomplished. But I felt the obligation of meditation pulling me. I didn’t want to go. But I felt guilty for not wanting to go.

Meditation is good for you. Asana practice is good for you. More of a good thing is always better, right?

I realized that I was feeling attached to my yoga practice. I was attached to the idea that more yoga would make me a better yogi. And that didn’t feel right. So I thought about it and realized…Saying no to asana or meditation is yoga too! Because yoga is about balance, self-awareness, and vairagya (non-attachment). Rather than following a set routine no matter what my situation or condition is, changing the routine based on what’s going on today allows me to live my life more fully and more true to myself.

So I skipped meditation practice that day, and enjoyed accomplishing my task at hand. No regrets 🙂

how self-compassion changed my life

I’m on my fifth year of my yoga practice. My first class was at 6 am, at my gym before work. As I was laying down for my first savasana, I felt an enormous release, a relief and relaxation I hadn’t felt before.  I was hooked.

Although I didn’t know it at the time, I had practiced self-compassion for the first time. Sounds crazy, right?

In the last year of my practice, I’ve noticed that we as a society value self esteem and compassion towards others. But it was discovering self-compassion that unlocked the lustrous gem of my True Self and led to feeling content and happy and connected with the world. So what is self compassion?

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image credit: compassioninspiredhealth.com
  1. Using positive self-talk. Talking to yourself as you would someone you love.
  2. Noticing similarities in your experiences and others’ experiences. The “hey, we’re not so different, you and I” feeling.
  3. Recognizing your thoughts and emotions do not define you. Just because you messed up doesn’t make You (your True Self) a failure, nor does having angry thoughts make You an angry person.

How is that different from self-esteem? This Atlantic article explains it well. Basically, self-esteem depends on your own success (or opinion of yourself) in comparison to others, while self-compassion is the unconditional loving kindness and friendliness towards yourself. There’s even a Buddhist term for this: maitri.

How did yoga help transition my perspective from self-esteem to self-compassion? By learning to meet me where I am today. Each yoga practice is different: my body, mind, and emotions can change a lot from one day to the next! Sometimes I feel like I’m a different person! But by noticing that these changes are like the weather: unpredictable and ever changing and out of my control, I let go of trying to control it. And I realized that those things don’t define who I am. They’re just part of my experience.

I’ll leave you with a loving-kindness meditation that I tried recently. It helped me really focus on and experience self-compassion.

May I be well.

May I be filled with loving kindness.

May I be peaceFULL and at ease.

May I be happy.

Simply repeat these phrases to yourself during your meditation practice, or even on the go — while you’re commuting to or from work! Happy Friday!


image credit: Elisha Goldstein

 

I am That: appreciating the different

Tat tvam asi

I am That. Thou art That.

We aren’t so different, you and I.

Recognize the Ego, the I’m Better, I’m Unique. How does it influence your thoughts and beliefs?