Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Too tired to say I can't #365Yoga

My long-time yoga teacher, Tracey Ulshafer of One Yoga and Wellness Center in East Windsor, New Jersey, often told us that breakthroughs in her yoga practice happened when she was too tired to tell herself she couldn't. After having plenty of my own exhaustion-inspired breakthroughs, I've taken that to heart and shared it. My first lift-off into Bakasana came at the end of a long vinyasa workshop that followed a sleepless night of riding trains to New York City and back. (Don't ask.)

Like pushing through the "wall" when running, at some point during a physically demanding yoga practice your body decides thinking is using too many precious resources, and redirects them to your muscles. Your brain still works, it's just gone on autopilot. And you don't have the energy to say "I can't."

I've been exhausted for months thanks to my uncooperative ear, but I haven't been asking much of my body. For weeks I've been relegated to supine, non-dizzy-making poses. And, since it's still pretty cold here in the North Country, most of those supine poses have been practiced under my fluffy quilt...which is on my bed.

Anyway, today I did something my feisty life coach Annie tells me to do sometimes - I took a "f*ck it all pill" and had myself a real, physical, sweat-producing yoga practice. I practiced Surya Namaskar with no dizziness, no nausea, no ear pain. Woohoo! Then I took advantage of my recovering equilibrium to play with a home practice sequence I tore out of Yoga Journal months ago and promptly put someplace I'd be sure to never see it again, unless I had some time on my hands due to lack of practicing and cleaned my desk.

I was enjoying myself, thinking of ways I could adapt the sequence for my varying levels of flow classes until I wore myself out too much to think. When the paper said Bakasana, I flew. Then I read the next step. (Yes, while balancing on my hands I was reading from the magazine page. Yoga does have its perks.) It said to draw my chest forward and float my feet back into Chaturanga Dandasana. Countless times before, when a yoga teacher said "jump back from crow," I quietly put my feet down and stepped back into plank.

But today I taken a "f*ck it all pill" and I had made myself too tired to say "I can't." So it did what it said. And it worked...almost. I went a bit sideways and only one foot found my mat. But the second time it worked just fine. And the third, and the fourth. Then my brain woke up and sent me into Balasana.

When my forehead hit the floor, a big chunk of something (use your imagination) slid down the side of my throat. I swallowed before I realized what I was doing. Gross. But when I swallowed, my ear didn't make the crunching sound I'd gotten used to hearing. So I swallowed again, just to be sure. I'm not positive it opened completely, but something definitely changed in my ear.

At the Colorado Yoga Journal Conference a few years ago, David Swenson told us that we would, at times, be visited by the yoga fairies who would sprinkle us with fairy dust and we would suddenly be able to do whatever asana had been eluding us. He also pointed out that the yoga fairies had a sick sense of humor, so after achieving that challenging asana, we'd probably not be able to do it again the next day. So I won't be surprised when I wake up tomorrow and my ear is cracking and I can't jump back from crow to low plank.

But today, when I was too tired to say "I can't," I had it.
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Tuesday, March 19, 2013

A gift to special not to share: Dance #365Yoga

dance with the wind
dance with the wind (Photo credit: cambiodefractal)

The first class of yoga teacher trainees graduated from the True North Yoga Advanced Yoga Studies/200-hour Yoga Teacher Training program on March 10th. I had an amazing six months with these women, learning as much from them as I hope they learned from me. The time we spent together felt like weekends with old friends. The love and support these women offered each other was incredible and I feel blessed just to have been able to create the space for them to come together.

The "final exam" for the program was to teach a yoga class. Each class was unique as the personalities and experiences of each teacher came through in their words and asana sequencing. One new yoga teacher wrote a poem for the others in the group and shared it at the end of her class. It was touching, meaningful and embodied the author in every way. I asked her if I could post it and she agreed. Enjoy this gift from yoga teacher Alexis Sandiford-Fisher:


My wish for you
is that you take the time to...

Dance with the earth, draw your strength from the strong roots that keep you
steadfast in the face of adversity.

Dance with the wind, blowing your cares away and ushering in the breath of new life and ideas.

Dance with the flames that fuel the desires of your dreams. Move with them as they rise and wrap
themselves around to shape and reveal the truth in your heart.

Dance with the rain, let it wash over you clearing your body and mind of all negativity.

Dance with the rays of the sun, with your bare toes in the grass and flowers all around.

Dance with the falling leaves while colourful dreams swirl all around you.

Dance with the snowflakes - even if there's slush in your boots -  let them kiss your
nose and caress your cheeks.

And finally... Dance with your children - or significant other - whether 2 legged or 4 legged 
because there is nothing sweeter than this.

AFS  3/13

Thank you, Alexis, for giving me the gift of your friendship, your presence, and your energy. And thank you for the lovely poem. I danced with the snowflakes today. Lots and lots of them.

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Thursday, March 14, 2013

Surrendering does not mean giving up #365Yoga

Eustachian Tube (PSF)
Eustachian Tube (PSF) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Six more days until the Spring Equinox. I, for one, am happy to see this winter end. Don't get me wrong. I like winter, normally. But if you've been reading my posts like this one and this one you know that I haven't been having the best winter. If the nine lovely ladies who were going through my yoga teacher training program hadn't given me a reason to get out of bed I probably would have burrowed under the covers and hibernated until spring was well and truly here.

I actually spent quite a bit of time in my bed, thanks to a series of head colds and fatigue that I just couldn't shake, even with a daily dose of vitamin D and my Isagenix shakes. I could have fought off the fatigue with caffeine, but I try to stay away from that. Instead, I surrendered. I took naps. I read books. I forgot to do stuff or decided it wasn't worth doing anyway.

And I whined. WHINE, WHINE, WHINE...  sigh.

Two weeks ago things changed. Unfortunately I didn't wake up one morning cured. Instead, I woke up with a stuffy head, still tired despite sleeping for 10 hours, like always, but that morning I also had an ear ache. It wasn't a typical ear ache either. This was deep. There was pressure inside my head and a burning down the side of my throat.

Great, I thought, another ear infection. I started putting garlic oil in my ear and reacquainted myself with my heating pad. I tried to get out of bed and the room spun. The room spun when I got out of the shower. The room spun when I tried downward facing dog (my favorite yoga pose).

After a few days, I surrendered again, and went to the doctor. The diagnosis was serous otitis media. "Serous, not serious," the doctor said. Really, he said that. He's lucky I think he's a good doctor.

Anyway, what I have is eustachian tube dysfunction, which, while annoying, is not, in fact, serious. Unless I happen to get dizzy, fall down and injure myself. Basically, one of my eustachian tubes is chronically blocked, causing pressure and equilibrium problems and, most likely, a bunch of middle ear infections with head cold-like symptoms. Hmmmm....

The doctor believes my ear problem is caused by allergies and has been going on for at least six months, since I was at the office last October for an ear infection. I'm using a nasal spray and have been told it will be six to eight weeks before it clears up.

I guess I'll be practicing surrendering until May, which is when I plan to start training for September's Adirondack Marathon. I have not given up on my plans to run my first full marathon this year.

Surrendering does not mean giving up. It means giving in when necessary to heal, process or find balance (literally in my case). And I'm having a great time in Balasana, where I can't fall over and my head drains very nicely.

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Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Breathe in Moonlight

Taken using full digital zoom on Nikon CoolPix...
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Since we began having new moon circles at the True North Yoga studio, I've been reconnecting to the lunar cycle. I've always noticed the moon in the sky, when it's visible, but I went through a period of not noticing mindfully. Over the past couple of years I'd forgotten how the moon speaks to my spirit and I'm glad to feel it's pull again.

During the last full moon I was guiding a yoga class into deeper breathing when I was struck by how the moon's cycle mirrors the cycle of the breath.

Try this:

Sit comfortably and lengthen your spine. Breathe in and out through your nose. Make each breath a bit deeper, a bit longer, until you are using all of your lungs.

Notice your inhale. Notice how the lungs fill slowly, taking in more and more air until they are full. The inhale is like the waxing moon, growing from a sliver in the sky to an orb.

Pause at the top of your inhale, holding your breath in gently. This pause, with your lungs at their full capacity, is like the full moon hanging in the sky for a night. Savor it's power and sweetness as your body takes in oxygen.

Slowly exhale, noticing the emptying of your lungs. The exhale is like the waning moon, gradually releasing all of it's energy and light as it shrinks to a crescent.

For a brief moment, pause at the bottom of your exhale. Notice the emptiness, like the lack of light in the night sky during the new moon. Be aware that the emptiness is ready to be refilled, and with an inhale begin the cycle again.

At our new moon circles we revel in the emptiness, for the moonless night signifies a readiness to begin. It is the time of potential unmanifest. When the moon is new on March 11, pause for a brief moment and invite in all that you are ready to create in your life.

And when the moon is full, breathe in moonlight and savor the sweetness of your creative power.
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