Yoga, Splits and Love

This summer, I was in such a nice routine getting to yoga classes 3 times a week.  Then September rolled around and I got very, very busy.  Busy with work and busy with family.  So naturally (and unfortunately),  I ended up not going to yoga regularly.  I  went from 3 times a week,  down to once a week, then weeks and weeks of not going at all!  And, here’s a big surprise, I was feeling so stressed and pressed for time than I was even  having trouble sleeping.  When I truly needed yoga, I wasn’t going!  (It really is bad when you know what you should do and don’t do it)

So, today I made time to get myself to the yoga studio.  I was a little apprehensive as it had been a good six weeks since my last class.  I was anxious that I wouldn’t be able to keep my mind focused, wouldn’t be able to concentrate on my breathing and wouldn’t be able to get into all the poses.

Well the class started and the instructor started by talking about fear!  She said, we all come to class with fears, and fears about poses.  She shared her fear of Hanumanasana — Splits Pose.  She told us the meaning behind the pose; the legend of Hanuman

HP_212_Hanumanasana_248

The story is about Hanuman, the monkey son of the wind.  His best and most devoted friend King Ram had a beautiful wife, Sita.  King Ram and Sita were deeply in love.  One day a demon kidnapped Sita.  Ram asked Hanuman to rescue Sida.  Hanuman discovered that Sida was being held on the island of Lanka and  leaped from India to Lanka, one foot stretched out in front of him and the other behind (splits).

Our instructor concluded that it was Hanuman’s desire to do the impossible out of his love for Ram and Sita that enabled him to leap across the ocean.  Out of love, he took a leap of faith.  She went on to say that we can overcome our fear by taking a leap of faith out of love.

I thought that was a wonderful message and I went on to have a very good class.  I always find it amazing that whenever I go to yoga I receive a message that is perfect for where I am in my life.  Here’s to a leap of faith!

Get back to it!

Oh it is sooo hard to go back to something after leaving it for a while.  Today I am going to go to yoga for the first time in over a month, uggh.  Well, of course I had good reasons why I haven’t been going….

1) The time change got me all off kilter.  I had been going to the early morning class, but once we changed the clocks, waking up early went right out the window,

2) Shortly thereafter I got a nasty cold with a cough that lingered long after the cold was gone.  I really couldn’t see me coughing my way through class and disturbing everyone there; and then

3) I was training for a half marathon and so all my exercise time was spent on running.  (I know, yoga is a wonderful complement to running, but there are only so many hours in a day!)

But today, I am going to yoga.  I write this to force myself to get up, change and go to class!!

Yoga for a Cause

Yesterday I participated in the annual Seacoast Yoga Mala.  It was my second time participating, and again I found the experience very rewarding — physically and emotionally.

Yoga mala 2

Yoga instructors from different studios all over the area led the 170 participants in 108 sun salutations.  Each instructor led 9 salutations in their particular style.  It was interesting to experience other styles of yoga.  Some were slow and repetitive while others were more athletic and offered more diversity.  (Personally I liked these better). But all the styles were focused on breathing, listening to our bodies, and going at our own pace.  We were encouraged to modify the poses and/or rest as we needed to.

The Yoga Mala was more than a 3 hour yoga practice.  It was primarily a fund-raiser.  We raised over $18,000 for two local charities, (H)EAT and Seacoast Eat Local’s SNAP program.  

(H)EAT is a local charity that provides food and money for heat to local residents in need.  Sadly, many of our poorer neighbors have to choose between keeping fed and keeping warm in the winter.

Seacoast Eat Local’s SNAP program is dedicated to enabling needy families to have access to locally grown food.  SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) is what we refer to as food stamps.   This aid is now distributed entirely through electronic debit cards, rather than paper vouchers.   Unforgettably the local vendors at area farmer’s markets haven’t had the ability to accept this electronic form of payment.  Seacoast Eat Local’s program provides farmers the ability to accept these SNAP debit card payments, and therefore allowing needy families to buy farm fresh food.  As you know I am all for local, organic food and so I find this a very worthy cause.

Participating in the Yoga Mala enhanced my sense of belonging to the local yoga community as well as the Seacoast community at large.

All photos courtesy of 3 Bridges Yoga

Yoga mala

Balance

Today in yoga class, the teacher emphasized Balance.  Not just on balancing on balance one foot, but balance in all aspects of our lives.  That got me thinking – (not during class, but afterwards), about the importance of keeping my life in balance.

Balance:   A state of equilibrium; equal distribution of weight, amount, etc.; Mental steadiness or emotional stability; habit of calm behavior, judgment, etc.; A state of bodily equilibrium.

I try very hard to live my life in balance.   As a matter of fact this blog is all about physical, mental and emotional balance.  Living a balanced life helps me keep my stress level down, and also allows me to do all the things I want to do.  Of course not all days (or weeks) are balanced.  Sometime work takes precedent, or a family issue overshadows everything else, but generally speaking it is important to keep all aspects of life my balance.  It really isn’t easy.  This year I made a real effort to live in harmony, and as the end of the year is approaching, I thought a look back over the past year, to see how I’ve done was in order.  I welcome your comments and suggestions!

Mind

Work—I work from a home office, and so it is vital to have a defined work day.  While I am available any time, (thanks to cell phones and e-mail), I make it a point to shut my computer down around 5:30 get up from my desk and end my work day.  At the other end of the day, I try to get up, have breakfast, get dressed and be at my desk by 8:30.  The getting dressed part is the hardest!  I have to make a better effort not to stay in sweats until 5pm!

Besides work, I keep my mind sharp by doing crossword and Sudoku puzzles.  I’ve gotten good at Sudoku and can usually finish all but the hardest puzzles!  I’ve also put an emphasis on reading and listening to audio books this year.  I’ve finished quite a lot (more on that in a future post).  I also find that limiting TV time to just a few programs I enjoy and those that teach me something new, and not getting too worked up about the news help keep my mind in balance too.

Body

Exercise—As you know from reading my blog, exercise is very important to me.  But many days it is tough to fit it in!  In the summer, I could run in the morning before work or after work, but now it is very dark and very cold in the morning and evening.   I’m just not going to do that!

I have found that exercising during the lunch hour works great.  It is a good time to run (on nice days), my yoga studio has classes at noon, plus I can always go to the gym for 45 minutes or so in the middle of the day.  If I wait and go to the gym in the evening, it is packed!  Of course actually doing this is a different matter!  But then again, balance between exercise and rest is important too!

Nutrition—This year has been one of total transformation in my diet.  I have gone from just “eating healthy” to Eating to Live! (Thank you Dr. Fuhrman).  I have eliminated almost all meat from my diet (occasionally I’ll have a small amount of organic chicken, and I do eat fish about 1-2 times a week), and I have totally cut out dairy products—milk, cream, ice cream, yogurt  butter, cheese, you name it!  Truly I have never felt healthier.

Spirit

I’m including family and friends in this category as I believe they are important for spiritual and emotional health!

Family– None of my family lives close, and this is difficult on many levels, but I strive to visit family each month. I visit both my Dad and relatives (in New Jersey) every other month or so, and my adult children (in Virginia) the other months.  Often they will meet me at my Dad’s and so I get to see them even more often.   These monthly trips not only allow me to see my family, but also give me 12 mini vacations throughout the year.

Friends –This year I made a point to spend more time with friends by setting up at least 2 lunches or dinners each month with friends.  By scheduling the time, rather than just saying, “Oh, let’s get together sometime” I was able to actually do it!  I’ve been able to re-connect with old friends, deepen some friendships and even begin to nurture some new friendships.

Spirituality—This one is hard, perhaps because it is very personal.  Apart from yoga and self-help books, my spirituality is lacking.  I was raised in a formal religion, and for a few reasons, I have drifted away from that religion, although I still firmly believe in it and its teachings, I just don’t quite live up to them, and so attending church seems hypocritical to me.  I have begun to explore some of the more “new age” teachings, which really aren’t new at all, and I am learning that if you take away the labels, many of the principles are the same.  I also know that this line of thinking is totally contrary to my religion and that gives me a little cognitive dissonance!  Still much more exploring to do here!

To sum up my theory on Balance I would have to say:

Enjoy what you do and do what you enjoy!

 

I’d love to hear your thoughts on how you strive to live a balanced life.

A Bikram Start to the Day

This morning I was both excited and apprehensive about going to a Bikram yoga class.  While I’ve been practicing yoga fairly regularly, I haven’t been to a Bikram class in a long time.  I practiced Bikram yoga for 3 months in early 2011 and I found it very hard; and so needless to say, I was a little nervous!

But, it was great!  I really enjoyed it.  I was able to do, and hold the postures.  My breathing was comfortable and easy, and most importantly, I was able to stay focused.  I’m sure the whole experience was easier for me because I have been doing yoga and I’ve learned to breathe correctly.

I don’t think I’ll practice Bikram yoga on a regular basis, but it was fun and invigorating today and I feel very proud of myself for doing it!