Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Honor thy _____________

I cut my index finger making dinner last night. Thinly slicing onions. It will affect my practice today.

I am nursing a posterior tibial tendon tear for going on eight months now. It will affect my practice today.

I have rheumatoid arthritis. It will affect my practice today.

My body is a map of discomforts -- the swelling at my ankle, cesarean birth scar, hitched right hip, uneven shoulders. It can make it hard to get to my mat. My body, being the instrument of my life, often takes a beating before it arrives on the mat to be an instrument of my yoga. And it will affect my practice today.

A few weeks ago, Al, one of my favorite teachers at Shakti Yoga & Living Arts, gave me a lift during his class. I was in urdhva dhanurasana, and he came to me with a yoga strap. He put the strap around my waist and gently eased me more deeply into the pose. I'm pretty sure I groaned. My arms and legs were working, my heart was wide open. I could feel all kinds of this-es and thats in my body -- those injuries, that stiffness -- adjusting. He asked me if it felt good, and I laughed and said, "Well, I wouldn't say that..." I'm pretty sure we all chuckled -- But I breathed into the new depth of the pose until it did.

One of my teachers doesn't like to address injuries as thus -- she likes them to be called sweetnesses -- or something equally loving -- to adjust how we feel about them. Corny? Maybe, but it can reframe something from pain to healing. It honors what is. Sometimes pain is. So we should honor it.

None of us like to honor what is "wrong" with us. Too bad.

Today is going to be one of those days when stepping on to the mat might not feel so good -- at least at first. This damp weather taints my knees with a certain sweetness that could get really juicy as class unfolds. Pressure on my cut finger will certainly remind me of those onions. It will affect my practice and give me new awareness about how to move, how to breathe, how to heal. I'm going to try to honor it with the flow of my breath and the openness of my heart.

What sweetness do you carry in your body? How do you work with it in your practice?

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Tune up?

I love thinking about my practice almost as much as I love practicing. Corny, I guess, but it is where I am in my yogic journey. Today a conversation on Twitter amongst fellow yoginis (thanks Sonia, Maria and Faern!) got me thinking...

Why do I practice (and teach) in silence?

I know that music in yoga classes has gotten really popular. I love music -- heck, way back when I was a singer, I spent hours in practice rooms trying to sound good. Never enough hours, though, I guess... But I digress.

In yoga, I find music distracting. If I'm teaching, it distracts me from the students in front of me, the theme and sequence I've developed for the class and from the mindfulness I like to demonstrate in setting up and holding poses. Music makes me want to sing along or keep the beat or sway, but I don't find this helps my yoga. If I'm practicing, music distracts me from my focus on exploring sequence, alignment, breath -- from finding my steady, comfortable pose and from trying new ones.

But I've written before about how much I love chanting. I utilize chant in all of my classes -- to open and close. I find it particularly moving -- especially in my prenatal classes -- to have all those voices unite in honoring their practice, thus deepening it. I have secretly wanted to teach a class with chanting throughout. I listen to loads of yoga music, but off the mat -- in the car, the kitchen, the laundry room. I somehow have this compartmentalized in my practice.

My asana practice for me is about focusing in on my breath -- the sound of me -- breathing -- being -- as I move. It is a break from the din of motherhood -- the constant noise of my beloved toddlers being toddlers. It is about being with myself (as uncomfortable as that may be sometimes...) and honoring the divine in me, in the room and people around me, and in the universe beyond us all. Somehow I haven't found a way to do that to a soundtrack. I know I'm going to get hate mail on this one, but I just don't want to hear anything as I find my Trikonasana. I want to hear Trikonasana.

Part of it, I suppose, is that my teachers don't use music and so as the lineage goes, neither do I. Purists? Perhaps. I'm not sure I want to pin that one on myself at this early stage in my yoga life. I'm going to have to think and listen more about this -- I love the idea of yoga-ing in different ways. This is obviously an opportunity for me.

Maybe I need to tune up. What do you think? What do you like to listen to as your practice unfolds?

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Where does the time go?

I looked at my daughter today as she walked towards the door of her preschool on picture day -- her first school picture day. She was dressed in her Easter outfit -- her own choice -- and she maturely walked in front of me, her white shoes click clacking on the sidewalk. "Where does the time go?" I thought to myself. "Who is this little girl? Where is my baby?" It seems like just yesterday I was ushered in to the operating room, terrified of so many things, to give birth to her. And now here she is, a walking, talking, singing, arguing, drum-playing preschooler on the verge of her fourth birthday. Who said that all-too-true thing about parenting -- that the days are long and the years short?

"When the breath wanders, the mind is unsteady, but when the breath is still, so the mind is still." -- Hatha Yoga Pradipika

Lately, the most important thing for me about my yoga practice is that is slows things down. When I breathe and that breath fires a movement, I can only be in the moment. When I still my breath, my mind stills. I love this. I crave it when I'm not on my mat and I'm swirling from one task to the next, just trying to keep up. There is no keeping up in yoga. If you are with your breath, you are right where you need to be -- and you are all that you need to be.

I'm not going to lie -- those of you who know me know that I have trouble slowing down, letting things go, being still, steady. I am prone to being unsteady, even falling -- surely this is to happen when my breath is unsteady. Even when I get to my mat and close my eyes to tune into my breath and begin to chant, it is a struggle to quiet my mind and bring my attention to the present. (Is this a struggle for everyone?) Sometimes it takes me more than one try to make myself comfortable in my breath, in the stillness, in the present. But I know this is the gift of yoga. Yoga gives you the fullest version of the present moment -- if you're willing to sit and open yourself to it.

So where does the time go? It goes. I don't want to miss too much of it, so I'm happily tethered to the thing that keeps me present: my yoga.