Saturday, January 31, 2009

Just Breathe

This morning I subbed for the prenatal yoga teacher. I like teaching the prenatal class. The room is filled with creative energy.

Because we are trying to help them through labor, we do some things that you don't see in a typical yoga class. Try this: Hold your arms out shoulder height. Keep holding them there and breathe. Hold the pose for two minutes, focusing on your breath. Unless you've got awesome deltoids, your arms are going to start to ache before the two minutes is up. Can you keep focusing on your breath and ignore the pain?

We do this for two minutes because that's how long a contraction usually lasts. This probably doesn't apply to you (if it does, congratulations!), but maybe we can apply it elsewhere. What else can you breath through? A cramp? Having a cavity filled? A deep tissue massage? A challenge at work? Hearing something hurtful from someone you love?

I needed to breathe today while I was trying to help my son build with Legos. My job was sorting through the tub full of sharp-edged pieces looking for tiny, oddly-shaped helicopter parts invented by sadistic parent-haters. Tristan got bored with the helicopter less than five minutes after it was finished. Ahhhh, just breathe.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Challenging Push-ups

I am doing the One Hundred Push-ups challenge. It's the fourth week, and I think I'm getting worse instead of better. Maybe it is my push-ups style that's killing me. This is how my workout usually goes:

One...two...three...oh my god...look at the dog hair under the tv cabinet....

Rest. Scoop up the big pile of dog hair and throw it away, then get ready for the second set. of Tristan's socks is under the couch...

Rest. Retrieve the sock and put it in the hamper.

One...two...three...four...five...what are those red bits in the rug?...eight...nine...which toy did the dogs chew up now?...

Rest. Pick small chunks of red rubber out of the rug.

One...two...three...stop licking my can't do push-ups if you lay underneath more...

Collapse on a dog and get growled at. Dog goes in the other room, finally., I don't know where you put your swim team jacket...five...have you looked in your closet? this wait 30 seconds?...nine...ten...eleven...great, now the other dog is licking my face...thirt....umph....

Give up for the day.

You should try this. I bet you get to one hundred before me.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

The Thundering Ego

On Sunday mornings I teach gentle yoga at the yoga center where I did my teacher training. I have a fairly regular core group, and others that come and go. This morning, we were joined by a woman who was trying yoga for the first time. While I checked others in, one of my regulars chatted with the newcomer, giving her the rundown of the classes available. I'm sure I wasn't meant to hear, but I overheard her telling the new woman, "Can you come to the other gentle class? Debbie's a really good teacher, but Anna's even better." Ouch.

I should have thought, "wow, she thinks I'm a really good teacher," but instead my ego took over and all I heard was that I'm not as good as Anna. I thought about it all day.

In truth, I am not as good a yoga teacher as Anna. I have been teaching for less than a year, and Anna has much more experience. She is twenty years older than me and, with no kids left at home, has much more time to devote to developing as a teacher. I do what I can, but with my full-time job, and a teenager and a kindergartner who need me, I can't always make yoga my first priority. I should be thrilled that anyone thinks I'm "really good."

I am naturally competitive, in a bad way. When I was younger, I avoided sports, musical instruments, and anything else that didn't come easy to me, because I hated to be told I wasn't good at something. Instead of motivating me to try harder, my fragile ego convinced me I didn't need to do those things anyway. I did well in class and was happy because, when report cards came out, I always beat the jocks. When my friends did better than me, I found new friends.

When I first discovered yoga, it took me months to stop watching everyone else to make sure I was doing each asana at least as good as them. Even in the safety of the yoga studio, my ego wouldn't rest. If a teacher adjusted my pose, I went home and cried. After more than ten years, I'm still competitive, but I've learned to compete only with myself - most of the time.

My ego came screaming back in teacher training, and I worked hard to make sure I was doing better than everyone else. I had the advantage of having the most years of asana practice and none of the physical limitations that seemed to plague the others in the group. I took the work seriously, and was the only one who consistently handed in homework on time. I loved teacher training. I felt like I was winning.

Now I am no longer in teacher training and I'm the newbie in a group of experienced teachers. I have to keep reminding myself that the only way I will ever be as good as the other teachers is to keep teaching. For the time being, I need to quiet my thundering ego and be where I am. I always tell my students to leave their egos at the door and practice yoga without self-judgement. I should follow my own advise.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

I Surrender

I have this love-hate relationship with running. I love the idea of running. Other people look so at peace when they run, and I want to be like them. Until today, however, I have hated the actual running part. I did not feel at peace. Instead, I felt my shins, my knee, my ankle, my hamstrings. My nose ran. When I ran at night I saw my shadow in the streetlights and thought, "wow, my butt is huge." I was approaching the run portion of the triathlon as something I just had to get through so I could say I did it.

Today's run was better than most. I set out to follow my usual route, but after a few blocks I headed down a different street. I had been avoiding this street, because it is heavily traveled and I was trying to limit the number of people who have seen me and my big butt running by, but today it felt like the right way to go. Maybe it was the distraction of the new route, but while running down that road I stopped thinking about all my various body parts. After awhile, I stopped thinking about anything at all and just surrendered.

We talk about surrender in yoga all the time. To surrender is to take all that limiting nonsense coming from your mind - "I can't do this," "I'm tired," "Something hurts," "Is it over yet?" - and let it go, trusting your body and some higher power to get you through. I've had some of my best yoga practices when I'm dead tired, so tired that my brain can no longer think. When I can't think, I just do, and I have breakthrough moments.

I once went to a 3 hour power yoga intensive after a long work week and a night with little sleep. It was at that intensive that I first did bakasana (crow pose).

I guess it shouldn't surprise me that after another long work week and a poor night's sleep, feeling drained before I even put on my running shoes, I had a running breakthrough. Once my mind stopped telling me I couldn't, I found that I could not only run, but run at peace. I ran 2 1/2 miles this morning, my longest run since I started training. When I was done, I still had enough in me to go to a power yoga class.

I've kept that peaceful feeling, and the energy, all day. I did hours and hours of housework, catching up after not being around much during the week. My bedroom, which usually gets left to last if it gets done at all, got a really good cleaning. Furniture got pulled away from the walls so I could vacuum every dust bunny. I dumped a throw rug that has been falling apart for months. Everything sparkles and shines. When I was done, I lit some candles and burned some incense, to clear the energy. I am looking forward to going to sleep there tonight. I am hoping I will sleep better and wake up refreshed instead of tired.

All I have to do is surrender to sleep.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Motivated to Train

I am following a sprint-distance triathlon training plan from the Beginner Triathlete website. Sprint-distance triathlons are the shortest races. My first planned race will be a 750 meter swim, a 20k bike, and a 5k run. My training isn't much compared to what more experienced triathletes are doing, but it is a challenge for me.

This was my workout schedule this week:

Sunday - 20 minutes on the bike trainer
Monday - 20 minute run (about 1 1/2 miles), push-ups
Tuesday - 30 minutes on the bike trainer
Wednesday - 25 minute run (I broke 2 miles for the first time)
Thursday - 40 minutes on the bike trainer, push-ups which should have been done Wednesday
Friday - rest day from triathlon stuff, so just push-ups
Saturday - 25 minute run

So far this week I've kept up with my training schedule. I've been working long hours, so some nights I've had to push myself to go out and run at 10 pm. I'm pretty tired after 12+ hours at work, but I haven't missed a workout. I am actually enjoying those late night runs. Running is a good way to let go of all the frustration and assorted craziness from work.

I'd like to spend more time on my yoga mat, but this week that isn't happening.

When I decided to do this triathlon thing, I assumed I'd struggle to find motivation to train, but I'm finding is that training itself is motivation to train. It feels good to be out there running or putting mileage on my trainer. I finally get that Nike commercial - "just do it!"

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

A Bit About Me

I promised there would be more!

I guess I should start by clarifying something. I am not, presently, in the Adirondacks. Instead I am in central New Jersey. I believe strongly in the power of intention, however, so the title of my blog is my message to the universe. I am ready to go. 2009 is the year we leave the traffic and the stress and the Jones we have no hope of keeping up with, and head north.

My favorite place in the world, or as much as I have seen of it, is a little town called Schroon Lake in upstate New York. Yes, it's a dumb name for a lake. It is a misspelling of an equally dumb name given to the lake by French settlers a couple hundred years ago, but what can we do? The name stuck. Schroon Lake is a very small town, of the "don't blink or you'll miss it" variety. There is one traffic light, at the north end of town, but it only blinks red so drivers don't miss the stop sign. This little town needs a yoga studio.

I know Schroon Lake needs a yoga studio because I taught classes there while I was on vacation last summer, and everyone who attended has been begging for me to come back. My parents live in town, and I get weekly email updates from my mother about how many people have asked when I am coming there full time. My answer is "soon".

Yoga has been the catalyst for many changes in my life. I have turned to yoga whenever life gets tough. It has always seen me through. Inspiration often comes on the mat. When I started teacher training, I only planned to use it to enhance my own practice. The first time I got in front of a class, I realized that sharing the wonderful gift of yoga was better than anything else I had done. Now I teach as often as I can, trying to balance teaching hours with a full-time (and yucky!) job. Part one of my 2009 dream is to open a small yoga studio and make teaching my full-time job.

Part two of the 2009 dream is to complete one, or hopefully two, triathlons. This part of the dream is alittle crazy. A few months ago, I woke up one morning and said, "hey, I think I want to do a triathlon." It does happen like that sometimes. I picked a race in June, in the Adirondacks, to keep with the theme, and started training. Other than yoga, I haven't done anything athletic for years, so I was really starting from scratch. Now I can run 20 minutes without taking walk breaks and ride my bike for an hour (on a trainer in the bedroom - it's cold outside). I start my swim training in February. I can swim, and practiced with my daughter in November when she was trying out for her high school's swim team, so my training will be to build up enough endurance to swim the distance.

Last week my husband got laid off. I am taking this as a sign that the universe is listening to me, and the next job he finds will be commuting distance from Schroon Lake. For now, he is spending his days at home working on the house, getting it ready to go on the market. My mom's weekly email told me about space for rent next to the new hair salon and spa in town. This is clearly another sign. Everything will fall into place, and, when the kids finish school, we are going north.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Hold this Spot!

Setting up this blog was one of those impulsive decisions made when I should really be working instead of surfing the internet. I'll write more later. I promise.
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