Category Archives: Yoga

Good Vibrations

I’ve been in Downward-Facing Dog for awhile. My legs and arms are starting to shake. I’m always a little embarrassed when this happens.

The teacher walks by my mat and slows down.

“Feel that shaking?” she asks.

“Uh, yeah,” I say.

“That’s good,” she says.

“Good?”

“It’s your body’s energy.”

I stay in position and think, My body’s energy? Nope, I’m pretty sure it’s just my muscles on the verge of collapse!

“You may have the urge to try to control the shaking,” she says.

Yes, I think.

“Or you may feel the urge to let go and shake uncontrollably,” she says.

I nod upside down. Giving in and letting the shaking take over sounds even better.

“Find the balance between the two. You don’t want to block it, but you don’t want to over-indulge it.”

She talks more about the body’s energy, and I’m not sure I completely understand all she’s saying. But as my body stretches, strengthens, balances, and shakes, I stay with it. I stay true to the moment, sensing the balance between control and lack of it. Suddenly the shaking doesn’t feel so embarrassing; it actually feels kind of good.

Yoga Class in the Car

On my way to yoga class, I’m not sure which way to go. The road splits, and my instinct says left but Mapquest says right. I ignore my gut and follow the computer’s instructions.

Oops.

Turing around in the greater Washington DC area is nearly impossible. One road leads to a twisted mass of other roads and within 10 minutes I’ve crossed three borders, hitting Maryland, Washington DC, and Virginia. There are cars everywhere. Jammed along the freeway. Weaving in front of me as they merge. And my mind races with them.

In my head I’m caught up in the emotional turmoil of living in a new city. I want to move back to our original home in California where I know the streets like the back of my hand and can walk to yoga class. The clock is inching forward. By the time I figure out where I am it’s too late. I’ve missed the class.

I’m waiting at a stop sign when a woman in a minivan bumps the rear of my car.

Argh!” I yell (okay technically I yell a cuss word, but this is a G-rated blog).

As I pull over into a parking lot my instinct says stop and breathe. This time I listen. Just because I’m not in yoga class doesn’t mean I can’t practice yoga. I have my body, mind, and soul right here in the car with me — I don’t need a mat, a blanket, or the wood floor of a studio.

In inhale deeply and lengthen my spine. I meditate on my breath and seek inner stillness. By the time I step out of the car I feel a hundred times better. The woman in the minivan is apologetic and wants to make sure I’m okay and my car’s okay.

There is only a small scrape on the back bumper.

“Don’t worry about it,” I say. “This car is 10 years old.”

We wave goodbye to each other and drive our separate ways. On the way home I continue to practice my breathing. My blue mat is still rolled up on the passenger’s seat. And the roads are still packed with cars and noisy construction and confusing twisting turns. But inside, I’m slowly finding silence.

Donation-Based Yoga

When I first moved to Washington DC, I was surprised to discover the average cost of a drop-in yoga class was $20. Back in California it was easy to find classes for almost half as much – maybe because there are yoga studios on practically every street corner in LA. Working off of a freelance writer’s budget, it is challenging to come up with the money for regular yoga classes. If you’re also on a tight budget, good news: yoga classes are and can be accessible to everyone. Many places offer a free class if you’re trying their yoga studio for the first time, and some instructors volunteer to give free classes on a regular basis. Bartering might be another option — attending yoga classes in exchange for working a few hours behind the desk. Finally, keep an eye out for donation-based classes. This growing movement suggests payment on a sliding scale, allowing students to pay what they can afford. To find out more about what options are available, simply ask. And most importantly, don’t forget to pay it forward by sharing with others what had been shared with you.

In the Beginning

Thanks to all who have stopped by and/or left comments as the Wasa blog gets underway.

A couple people mentioned that this blog has inspired them to try yoga. I know the feeling. My husband inspired me to try yoga years ago after I watched him ease into a backbend with grace. I’ve mentioned that before, but what I failed to mention was the fact that I didn’t like my first yoga class. Or my second. Or third;

I knew the benefits of yoga – flexibility, awareness, inner stillness – were practices I needed in my life, but during class I couldn’t hold the poses. It takes time to find balance and build strength. Also, the teacher wasn’t a good fit. Plus, I kept slipping on my mat because I was wearing socks. Not to mention my loose-fitting t-shirt flipped over my head when I’d bend over for Downward Facing Dog.

So my first suggestion is to wear comfortable “stretchy” clothes. Slip off your shoes (and socks) before entering the studio. Bare feet help you “stick” to the mat. If you don’t have a mat, you can rent one. Sometimes they’re free, sometimes $1.

Okay, now you’re in the studio before class has begun. Believe it or not this can be the most intimidating part.

A few years ago I remember encouraging a friend to try a yoga class. We were traveling in San Francisco and the class was at 6am. I couldn’t attend because of another obligation (um, I believe it was sleep), but my friend was a super early riser and decided to try yoga for the first time. Ten minutes later she clamored back into the room complaining that when she walked in the studio all the students were gathering foam blocks, long white straps, and bolsters, and she had no idea what these were, if she needed any, and, if so, which ones she should take.¼br />

Oh gosh, I felt awful for sleeping in. I had completely forgotten how many times I’ve felt that exact same way when I’ve tried something new. Like the first time I tried a spinning class. I was standing in the cool dark studio when a group of women walked in all holding biking shoes (biking shoes? Oops! I didn’t have those). Then they began turning knobs, lowering the seats, and adjusting the handlebars. I was outta there in 30 seconds (I went back the next day – it turns out you don’t need biking shoes and the instructor showed me how to adjust the parts – but still).

Even just a few weeks ago I tried a new yoga studio and noticed the students folding blankets in a manner I’d never seen before. I’ve been practicing yoga for years and I still felt a bit out of place. I wasn’t sure if I should fold the blanket “my” way or “their” way. That question was answered when the teacher began class and showed everyone what she wanted us to do.

So, a few more suggestions: don’t worry about the blocks, straps, and blankets. They are props to help people (like me) adjust in certain poses. If you need a prop during a pose, the yoga teacher will bring it to you, or you can ask her before class begins. Also, consider brining a friend to your first class if that would make you feel more comfortable (a friend who has practiced before can show you the ropes; if not, you two can navigate the waters together).

Now class has begun . . . and you don’t understand a word the teacher is saying. Chaturanga Dandasana? Urdhva Mukha Svanasana? Virabhadrasana II? The same thing happened to me in a dance class once where the teacher was using terms I’d never heard. The students around me began spinning and hopping and twirling about as I stood there, motionless and a little annoyed (it was a “beginners” class). Finally I gave up and tried to sneak out of the room. A woman came over and touched me on the shoulder, “You just don’t know the lingo yet. You’ll get the hang of it,” she promised.

And I promise – you’ll get the hang of yoga lingo. I do, however, recommend finding an “intro to yoga” course if you’re trying it for the first time. After trying yoga and not liking it, I finally went to this 2-day orientation at Yoga Works. Instead of jumping right into sun salutations, we sat in a circle and talked. The teacher showed us how to breathe, answered our questions, and walked us slowly through the fundamental poses. That’s when yoga began to change to my life.

Welcome, Loved One

A few weeks ago I was in Tulum, Mexico for a week of yoga, meditation and silent beach walks. I arrived at night after everyone else had gone to sleep. Inside my cabana two flickering candles revealed a comfy bed draped in mosquito netting with a welcome card on the pillow. I picked up the card and read what was written. Holding it next to my heart I smiled. Then I crawled under the covers and drifted off to sleep.

The next morning as I was journaling in my notebook, I thought about the card and scribbled down what it had said: You are worth loving. I had a funny feeling that what I wrote wasn’t quite right, so I went back to my cabana to double-check. Sure enough, I had misquoted the card. It actually read: I am worth loving.

Notice the difference?

Why is it so easy to believe others are worth loving, but so hard to believe it about ourselves? Why is it difficult to say? To know? To live?

This isn’t a narcissistic kind of love; rather, it’s a “love your neighbor as yourself” kind of love. Eating mindfully, treating ourselves with kindness, practicing yoga — these are ways we can love ourselves by being stewards of our body and soul.

I began practicing yoga years ago after watching my then-boyfriend (now husband) ease into a backbend with grace. To this day I still can’t do that, but it doesn’t matter because self-love is about accepting myself for who I am, not what I can achieve. I will be blogging about yoga twice a week for the Eat Wasa Feel Good team (my partner, Zandria, introduced herself yesterday as the vegan blogger).

So here’s a warm welcome to you, loved one, and an invitation to join me on this journey. Feel free to post comments, questions or ideas. You can also e-mail me or visit my personal blog, Roughly Speaking.

Oh, by the way, my name is Jenny. And I am worth loving.

Napping Yoga

After a couple of weeks away from yoga, I wanted to ease back into the practice. So I went to a restorative class this morning. It was a new studio, and I wandered back to the office to sign in as “Drop In.”

“I’m a drop in too,” I heard another woman say. “This is restorative yoga, right?” the woman continued. “The kind where you lay around and rest?”

The yoga instructor smiled. “Yes. I call it napping yoga.”

It’s a fitting name because it’s so deeply relaxing. Today, we opened with a few side stretches and twists. The rest of the class we spent in Reclining Bound Angle Pose, Seated Forward Bend, Waterfall, and Savasana.

It was heavenly

Finding Flexibility in Inflexibility

Week 2 of my six-week stint at a newspaper is coming to a close. Four more weeks to go. It’s a blessing, as a freelancer, to have the opportunity to be a part of these projects (steady work! money! live interaction with creatures other than my dog!). But man, the corporate life wipes me out.

I get home from work about 7:30 p.m., make dinner, eat, and plop into bed by 9:00 p.m., exhausted, where I drag my laptop on my lap and spend another couple of hours swaying between vegging out and trying to keep up with my other assignments. The evening yoga class I’d planned to attend? Skipped again.

The other night during one of my zombie-like states, I was flipping through Yoga Journal magazine. The question of the month just so happened to be from a reader who wants to dedicate more time to a yoga practice but finds that work leaves little time or energy to do so.

The yogi who answered the reader question suggested three options (1) back off of a less fulfilling activity and replace it with yoga; (2) spend less time working and more time practicing (which probably means adjusting your standard of living since you’ll presumably make less money if you cut back on work); or (3) make yoga a priority in your free time.

For now I’m choosing option three — switching to a weekend yoga class instead of trying to cram a class in after work when I’m tired and hungry.

Do you have an inflexible schedule that makes practicing yoga more challenging? How do you adjust?

Dance of the Warrior

As few weeks ago, we had a substitute teacher in yoga class. He had us do a series of poses where we moved from one warrior position to another to another then back to the first one. And so on.

The Dance of the Warrior, he called it.

The dictionary defines warrior as “one who is engaged in or experienced in battle.”

The battle in yoga, I suppose, is with the anxious, unstable, and not-so-Zen side of myself.

Can I learn to stay centered in the face of fear?
Can I find my balance when life seems to be throwing me in loops?
Can I take action with insight and compassion?

In other words, can I find the way of the peaceful warrior?

As I moved through the series, my muscles trembled, my body wobbled, and my breath labored. At least, part of the time it was like that. At other times, I was calm(er) and stead(ier) and moving in rhythm. Slowly, I’m learning the dance.

A Place to Start

I have yoga homework.

My teacher wants me to practice Baddha Konasana (Bound Angle pose) every single day. Then she wants me to lean back into Supta Baddha Konasana (Reclining Bound Angle pose).

It’s supposed to help me relax.

The good news about Bound Angle pose is and Reclining Bound Angle pose is that I can do them anywhere – watching TV, before bed at night, as an afternoon break in my home office.

I told her how I’ve tried to establish a home practice in the past before and wound up intimidated and overwhelmed.

“Sometimes just showing up on your mat at home and pretending to practice is a practice,” she said.

Sounds like a good place to start.

Care of the Human Frame

“The doctor of the future will give no medicines, but will interest his patients in the care of the human frame, in diet, and in the causes of disease.”
–Thomas Edison

Yoga. Acupuncture. Herbs. A Clean Diet..

As I learn how to take care of myself naturally, all are becoming part of my life.

It’s a slow process. And a process that needs a ton forgiveness (the other day before the going to the movies I ate a “healthy snack” so I wouldn’t be tempted to eat candy – and ended up munching on a box of Jr. Mints anyway!).

Tonight for dinner it’s chicken tacos. Organic corn tortillas, free-range organic chicken, and a variety of vegetable toppings to choose from: tomato, avocado, black beans, dark green lettuce, salsa, etc. Also, some steamed spinach on the side (sprinkle the spinach with a little apple-cider vinegar and it is delicious).

I’m not some fancy chef, but I find myself cooking, thinking, and caring about food a lot these days.