Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Bathing Buddha

Buddha, Kamakura, Japan
Image via Wikipedia
Were you looking for a large man in a speedo? Sorry, that's not what this post is about. But I appreciate your imagination.

The yoga studio is closed this week, and I am on vacation. No, I haven't gone south to get out of the snow or to some exotic yoga destination. I'm having a "stay-cation" at home. It's just a week to catch my breath, catch up on some projects and permit myself a day or two of laziness.

Today I was in the studio, not practicing asana but washing the floor, scrubbing the toilet and, yes, giving Buddha a bath. All the statues got washed, rinsed and dried before they went back to their places of honor, dust-free. I also touched up the paint and had an in-depth discussion with my father about how to fix a sagging curtain rod.

Yes, this is a yoga studio owner's vacation.

No, I haven't spent my entire vacation scrubbing floors.

Last week I took, and passed, the ACE personal trainer certification exam. My personal training services will focus on at-home training for outdoor activities - running, hiking, cycling, kayaking - and will, of course, incorporate lots of yoga.

Since I'm on the topic of at-home training, I have to admit that my own training suffered before the exam. I was getting up early to study rather than to train. Then I was having those lazy days I mentioned earlier. I am back on track, though.

I've made an addition to my training schedule this week. After having a long sit-down with my calendar, counting back from the planned half-ironman distance triathlon that I have decided to attempt, I realized that I really don't have enough time to build to a 1.2 mile swim if I can't start swimming until the lake melts. There is no pool, so that's not an option. I'm sure I could finish the swim - eventually - but I don't want my day to start pathetically slow.

What I decided to do was design a dry land workout that would strengthen all the arm, shoulder, back and hip muscles that are used in freestyle swimming. By doing lots of reps with fairly light weights, I can build up the endurance of those muscles so when I do finally get into the water I'll be able to focus on form and speed without getting too tired (hopefully).

I'd been doing some resistance training already, but the additional moves tapped muscles that haven't been worked in awhile. It may not have been the best timing to start that the day before my studio cleaning frenzy. My shoulders reminded me of the workout with each circle of the rag on the floor.

During my vacation I also got to spend a lovely evening with my dear friends life coach Anne Gregson and freelance writer Beti Spangle while they put the finishing touches on their plans for this weekend's Adirondack Women's Empowerment Retreat. I'll be teaching yoga classes to a full house, because the retreat is sold out! Anne and Beti will be helping the participants to create a plan for their lives based on their values and inspirations. It's going to be an amazing weekend and I am so happy to be spending the end of my vacation watching an incredible group of women transform their lives.
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Tuesday, January 3, 2012

A Tale of Two Spoons

First, a very quick training update. I did a workout this morning on the bike trainer. It was my first workout in ten days. Having my husband and kids home for Christmas week really messed with my routines. Excuse? Not really. But the new year is a clean slate and I'm back on track after a 240-hour rest day.

Now, on to today's adventure...

This morning's 31 Days of Adventure email asked me to consider going to work by a different means of transportation or a different route. If these adventures had started on the first of May, I would have happily ridden my bike to work, but with January temperatures creeping down towards zero my bike is staying on the trainer in the basement. I could have bundled up and walked, but, again, it's really cold and I'd have to walk really fast to beat the school bus home after my afternoon yoga class.

Another route? Honestly, there is only one way to get from my house to the yoga studio without turning a 1.7 mile commute into a 15+ mile drive, and I can't do that to the environment.

But the purpose of today's adventure wasn't really to find a new way to work. It was to get out of the rut of doing the same thing, day in and day out. And so we come to the spoons...

On Christmas morning my stocking was stuffed with, among other things, new wooden spoons. Nothing fancy; they're just the basic wooden spoons for stirring stuff. After Christmas they were put in the appropriate drawer.

This morning I had to stir waffle batter, so I opened the drawer to look for .... my old spoon. I've had it forever. I'm not sure if it was mine originally or a hand-me-down from my mother or grandmother. The handle has worn smooth and the spoon part is cracked. It's dark with oil and age. I use it every time I make pancakes or waffles. It feels good in my hand and is just the right size for the small mixing bowl.

This morning my old spoon wasn't in the drawer. (I found it later in the drying rack.) What was in the drawer was one of the new spoons, which happens to be the same size and shape. But the new spoon was, well, new. The handle was rough and the edges sharp. It didn't have the same weight.

I remembered today's adventure and used the new spoon. The waffle batter mixed up just fine, my son had his breakfast and my day went on, although I was left wondering how many other ruts I've gotten myself into without knowing it. I thought about how I couldn't get my workouts done during Christmas week because the routine changed. And I realized just how badly I needed some adventures.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Little Things

The second email from Lydia and Amy at 31 Days of Adventure arrived this morning. It told me to pause and notice the littlest things. Easy. I teach that. Pause. And notice. Notice the way the your ribs lift and spread when you breathe in. Notice how Utthita Balasana (extended child's pose) changes if you stretch just your middle fingers forward a bit more. Notice, like we did in class this morning, how your shoulder blades move onto your back if you externally rotate your arms.

Little things make a big difference in a yoga practice.

While my adventurous spirit was busy looking for little things, I was reminded of a New Year's Eve conversation. My husband, my friend and I were recalling a Saturday night just over a year ago, when a llama walked into a bar and some of the people in the bar chose not to notice.

I'm serious.

The llama was in town for a holiday celebration, part of Santa's entourage. When the kids went home the llama's handler stopped into a local bar for a beer. The llama, a friendly beast, followed him in and, after saying hello to a few people, sat quietly on the floor.

My husband, my friend and I happen to know Santa personally, so we'd already been introduced to the llama. We sat with him in the bar and watched as people wandered in and, without even glancing at the llama, climbed onto bar stools and turned their backs on the livestock in the bar. Occasionally someone would notice and would make a big deal about petting or kissing the llama. Those who chose not to notice never turned around to see the shenanigans going on behind them.

You thought I was making this up, didn't you?

Why did today's adventure make me think of the llama? I can't help but wonder if people who can ignore a somewhat smelly, six foot tall, hairy and definitely out-of-place bar patron could ever notice the little, wonderful things that are part of every day.

If they can't see the llama in the room, would they ever notice the light spilling through a pine tree?

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Jumping In, Looking Up and Moving Forward

It's New Year's Day, which means it's time to declare my affirmations for the coming year. But first, I'd like to share a bit of my first day of 2012 with you.

Jumping In

After morning yoga classes, my aunt and I dragged the rest of the family to Lake George, New York, where they kick off the new year with a Polar Bear Plunge. So if you were looking for "jumping in" in the metaphorical sense, as in starting a new project, I'm sorry to disappoint you. My aunt and I literally jumped in - into a not quite frozen lake. The water temperature was 34 degrees, not cold enough to freeze the surface but certainly cold enough to make my first polar bear plunge interesting.

Twenty-four hours ago I wasn't even thinking about the plunge. Then, standing on our town's beach watching First Night fireworks, someone mentioned it. And the idea got stuck in my head. When I dressed for yoga this morning, I put my bathing suit on under my clothes, just in case. Between classes I received a message from my aunt that she wanted to do it, and the next thing I knew we were driving thirty minutes south.
This is me waiting in a very long line to register.

That's me the arrow is pointing to. My aunt is in the turkey hat in front of me.

They gave me a certificate. My husband thinks I'm certifiable.
When I ran into the water it felt like thousands of needles were jabbing me. I was in for maybe 30 seconds, long enough to dive in and get wet up to my shoulders. My aunt and I agreed to try for a full minute next year. (Yes, we're doing it again. I've already got it on my calendar.)

Looking Up

This morning I woke up to find the first prompt for 31 Days of Adventure in my inbox. Today's adventure was about seeing things from a new perspective. It asked me to take a photograph of something familiar from a new angle. Since my husband is the photographer in our family (I don't even have a camera except the one in my cell phone) this assignment was a bit daunting. But not being one to back down from an adventure, I borrowed my husband's camera while we were walking back to the car after the plunge and I snapped this picture of a light pole topped with a lighted snowflake holiday decoration.

Two things struck me in the picture - the blue in the sky, because I hadn't noticed when the sun broke through on what had been a grey day, and how the decoration, which looks so magical when looking at it from the front, appears so mundane when I looked up from underneath. All I could see was what looked like an old-fashioned TV antenna. It's like watching one of those "making of" specials about a movie I loved. I may never look at those holiday lights the same way - until next year, when a spectacular display again takes my breath away.

Moving Forward

And now it's time to create 2012. As I said last year, resolutions are for sissies. I make affirmations. I create a vision for the year and state it as if the vision already existed. So, here are the affirmations that I'm offering the universe to shape the new year:

I am crazily creative.

I help others create a healthy lifestyle through teaching yoga and personal training.

My yoga practice is part of every day.

I am strong, healthy and fast.

My routines make space for my creative spirit to shine.

I surround myself with members of my tribe.

I feed my need for adventure by getting outdoors often.

I live joyfully and blissfully.

I am divinely unique.

Some are new. Some have been my affirmations for years. Each has an important place in the manifestation of my new year.

I wish you a new year filled with peace, love and joy.

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