Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Jan. 22, 2013 - Update

Bare with me, I'm writing via my phone. So I just wanted to post a quick update. Aside from being sick, I have acquired a new injury. I've separated/dislocated my 9th rib at the CC junction (superior cartilage). I'm sad to say it but my practice has been put on hold for the next 6 weeks. Which I fully understand because even breathing is painful, let alone trying to bend. This injury is not related to my practice. In fact it happened at the most ridiculous time. I was shaving my legs!! Lol. Come to find out I have minimal space between my 11th rib and my hip bones. So here I was shaving my legs, bending from the mid section of my torso just to avoid smacking my face on the shower wall. In this position, my ribs compress on my hip bones, the further I bend to shave, the higher the pressure on my ribs until a ever so faint pop, followed by intense pain, and a unfamiliar lump sticking out. There isn't much that can be done at this point, just time to heal and avoid any risk of further injury. As for my big hips, well that's one of the perks of being a mom. Unless they interfere with daily life, I doubt any corrective measure will be taken. Only time will tell. So from now on, I will not be shaving in the shower. It must of been that karmic debt I gained from eating BBQ ribs the night before. Well played karma, well played.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Jan. 16, 2013 - Yuck.

Caught a nasty bug. Sore throat, stuffy head, and just generally tired. I did manage to practice today. Been working on my ROM in my shoulders. Anyways I can't bring myself to type anymore, so I'm gonna get to bed. /pout

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Jan. 15, 2013 - Undivided Attention

           I want to start off saying thank you to everyone who gave me feedback about yesterdays post. The information gained was up lifting and helped me open my eyes to the benefits of classes, different styles of yoga, and teachers. While it will still take some more looking into on my part. I agree with taking a general yoga class (other than Ashtanga) in my local area. Diversity is always a good thing. I also have set my mind to seeking out a Mysore class down the road. Even though other styles might not be my prime choice, finding the right teacher who can guide me in the fundamentals and show me proper technique is in my best interest. Last thing I want is another injury. 

            So what about today? The positive tone was set when I woke up to my email account on my phone alerting me of new comments on my blog. After reading each of them, it gave me that smile and edge I needed. It's funny how people you've never met can have such an impact on our lives. So I took to my mat like a champion and gave it my all. 

           I was in the mist of Navasana  when I hear my youngest son screaming "MOM" from the other room. Followed by an even longer "MOMMMMMM". Around the 4th Navasana the door to my yoga room flies open, sending the door into the wall, and me to come off balance. I quickly turn around to see my son standing in the door way holding a empty bowl. Before I could even get a word out he demands "MORE" (orange slices, is what filled the bowl prior to me starting my practice). All I could do was sigh, knowing it was going to be a long morning. So I reached over and hit the pause button on my dvd player. I dashed through the house like a mad woman. I'm running around the kitchen doing the typical mommy check off list. More fruit slices, check. Blanket and pillow on sofa, check. TV on and toys in reach, check. I grab my son and the fruit, rushing into the living room. At this point I'm crossing my fingers that he will remain happy and comfortable until I'm finished. All was looking good, so I darted to my yoga room, heated back up my doing 4 Sun Salutations and pressing play on my dvd. I get all the way to Supta Padangushtasana, when again the door comes flying open, this time nearly missing my head by mere inches. There he is AGAIN! Only now he is demanding "Drink". In my head I'm thinking, "Drink?!? How could I of forgotten the (BLEEP) drink!". By this point, I'm totally flustered. Knowing my son is never this demanding, the only thing I can think of is he is getting upset about my lack of attention towards him. Which I can understand because prior to my yoga journey, it was him and I always snuggled up on the sofa each morning chilling out to cartoons. I do try to make up for the lack of morning snuggles but I'm sure it's not the same to him. We are both learning to accept this change in life. 
          So how does one practice undisturbed in the mornings when there is little feet running around the house? To be honest, I have no idea how I've made it work this far. It's more like trial and error. Each day trying new things. Finding what works best and how to balance the times it doesn't. Some days it even takes putting my practice on hold until he is off to bed. The only thing I can do is sit back and wait for the day he understands or reaches 18 and moves out. Whatever comes first. ;)

Monday, January 14, 2013

Jan. 14, 2013- Torn

After a very long and eye opening conversation with my friend today, I've come to ponder the idea of taking a class or two. She helped me understand that while my practice is good and I'm making the effort to apply all techniques that I can, there are still some things I need help learning in the physical practice. She gave me a ton of pointers on how to better my downward dog and other tips on the beginner poses. Some days I wish I still lived close to her. While the pointers on the phone are wonderful, I wish I had her close by to share this with me. But she suggested I take a few classes. Even though I'm totally head over heels with Ashtanga, in my local area yoga has not caught on like most metropolitan areas. There is only one yoga studio in town and they don't offer a style even close to my beloved Ashtanga. So what do I do? Do I take a class in a style in I don't follow or agree with? I'm really torn about this because I do need the extra help but at the same time I don't want to give up my spiritual side of yoga. Last thing I want to do is walk in a class where a teacher is yelling out "PLANK" "CHATURANGA" "PLANK" "CHATURANGA".. in the words of my friend "If I wanted to do push-ups, I'd go to boot camp!" .. But honestly she is right, that is not my idea of yoga either. I'm debating taking a class in San Antonio where they offer Ashtanga. However San Antonio is two hours away (right up the road in Texas terms) and money is tight these days but even then do I go straight for a Mysore class or try a guided primary or do I suck it up and go locally? So many questions, not enough answers. I know the practice is mine and I can make whatever I want out of it, but tonight I'm left feeling lost, alone, and torn. =(

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Jan. 13, 2013- Feet on the ground

             Another amazing practice this morning. It did not start off that way though. It started off more like "Do I gotta? I'm so soreeeeee" insert whiney voice. After about the 3rd Sun Salutation A, it went to more of  "OMG, Imma die if I do one more!", however, I kept pushing on. Took a few extra breaths, cleared my mind of that nagging voice of pain, and continued on queue with Kino's commands playing on my DVD. Talk about muscle memory because at this point I wasn't even thinking anymore, more like just flowing through the motions. It wasn't until the last S.S B, that I took downward dog and briefly looked away from the tip of my nose. To my amazement, I saw my heels on the floor. I was so taken back by this, that I lost all control and literally came crashing down on my face. After a few moments of laughing at myself for such a graceful exit to the posture. I was thrilled to note this small change. So like any other woman, I grabbed my cell phone and immediately sent a text to my friend, knowing she would be just as excited. She is the only other person I know personally who practices yoga and often gives me the encouragement when I don't think I can go any further. At this point, between the laughter and noise from me jumping around like a school girl, my kids come rushing in the room to see what was going on. I'm pretty sure they thought of me as a raving lunatic because they just stood there and watched like a pair of deer in head lights.  After settling down, my oldest son asks "what are you doing?" and out of my mouth comes "my feet were on the floor!". Without missing a beat, he replies, "well duh, your standing aren't you?" and walks out the door. My youngest is completely confused by all of this and simply says "I love you" in a concerned voice as he gently pats my back. Even though my kids think I have gone mad, I quickly shoo my youngest out the door and took my dvd back to the start menu. I couldn't help myself, I HAD to do it all over again. After finishing the series and working my hardest, I find myself still all smiles. Today truly gave the term "having my feet on the ground" a new meaning. 

            I wanted to end today with something cute I found online.......
"You know you're a yogi mom,
 when your toddler runs around chanting "Om"
and you find yourself calling out
when you need to wipe
his tushie after he has used the potty."

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Jan. 12, 2013 - Lesson 2- Finding the Balance

          So its Saturday which means a day of resting. It just so happens to be on the back of a Moon Day.  I woke up this morning and felt so stiff and sore. I managed to drag myself from the warmth of my bed and sat quietly on my mat. After a few moments of pure silence, I started reciting my prayers. I would of loved to stay in that moment for a while longer, but with children around on a non-school day things quickly turned to loud and chaotic. So giving thanks for the knowledge and guidance I was given. I got up and started my pot of coffee and just listened as my three year old and my ten year old started to fight over the smallest things. With a quick intervention from mom they calmed down and returned to getting along.

          As I turned to walk away, I couldn't help but note how everything in this world needs balance. From relationships to daily life. As a mom, I find myself always trying to balance everything. From household chores, to children fighting, to finding that inner peace, I mean I even find myself balancing on my head. So with screaming hamstrings, I find that I even need to balance my practice. Since I've started yoga, I find that mostly what I've been working on is to elongate my hamstrings and open my hips. After two days of not practicing and doing what my body has became use to, I'm stuck with soreness and stiffness. Why? Even the internal body needs balance. Just like with our forward bends, we back bend to counter that motion, bringing our body back into balance. We practice and rest, bringing ... you guessed it... BALANCE. Even my screaming hamstrings need balance; a concept I didn't even think about until now. All this focus on my hammies and now I'm paying for it.. Say hello to my new friend.. Icy Hot. 

            So how do we balance our muscles when one seems to be the prime focus? Just like all things in this world, even our muscles have an antagonist. If you don't use the antagonistic muscle, your throwing your body out of order. Like in my case, my hamstrings, what is the antagonistic muscle to them? The quadriceps. In yoga we both elongate and strengthen our muscles. But what happens within the muscles? We are really causing the fibers in our muscles to pull, thin, and rebuild. Thus giving us strength and flexibility. So by focusing on the protagonist, in my case the hamstrings, and almost ignoring the antagonist, the quads, my hamstrings are elongating and my quads are constricting. This can be very bad. By ignoring one or the other can lead to a very common injury, the ever so evil "pulled muscle". Pulled muscles are not fun, they are extremely painful and take their time healing. So the best way to avoid conflict is by targeting both the protagonist and antagonist. Bring balance back into play. 

            Best way method I've found for stiff, sore, tight hamstrings is what I call the "Burning Squat". I'm pretty sure there might be a yoga pose for my version of the burning squat but until I know the proper name for it, we'll just call it that, Burning Squat. It's simple and allows the hamstring to relax on its own by engaging the quads. I tend to use this on very sore days while I'm watching TV (like today).  Note: I'm not a teacher, nor am I responsible for any damages. If you try this, it is at your own risk! I'm just telling you what works for me. Begin by sitting down on a chair or the sofa with legs hips distance apart and knees directly over the ankles forming a 90 degree bend, fold forward with a straight back until your ribs are touching your thighs, fingers touching the floor in line with your toes. The key to this is the flat back and your ribs to remain in contact with your thighs. Now lift your bottom off the chair or sofa, and lift your toes off the floor with your weight in your heels. Maintain that flat back, coming up to your finger tips if needed. Now remain here for a while. You should feel your quads begin to burn, breath through it. I tend to take between 25-30 breaths here, or until my legs begin to shake. Now your hamstrings might burn a little at first, that is okay too. Once you've taken as many breaths as you can or can't stand the burning anymore simply return your toes to the floor and sit back down on your sofa or chair. I wouldn't remain seated for too long. It is best to get up and walk around to judge if your hamstrings are still tight and sore. If they are, simply repeat the burning squat until your hamstrings relax and release.  

            So the lesson for today... No matter how focused you are, always bring yourself back to balance.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Jan. 11, 2013- Getting to know Ashtanga

          Its a Moon day, which means no physical practice. Which makes for a lengthy blog post. 
          I've had a few readers and friends ask "What is Ashtanga?"or "What made you choose Ashtanga over another type of yoga?"..  I figured I'd answer these to the best of my ability. Now do not get things twisted, I'm not a pro-yogi or some master of what Ashtanga is. I'm a student of the practice. So I'm only able to answer these questions from my own view point and what I have learned. While there is a of Sanskrit in yoga, I will try to include the translation to English also to the best of my ability. So let's begin!
            I think it is best to get a grasp on what Yoga is first, in order to better understand what Ashtanga is. So what is Yoga? More often than not, if you ask someone that question they respond with "a form of exercise". They are not fully wrong, nor are they completely right. They tend of have this vision in their heads of a room full of sweaty people, twisting in to odd shapes, for no reason but a tone body. I can't help but to giggle at that stereotype. Yoga in the traditional sense is seen as upaya (path). Great, what does that mean? A path to where? Let's go a little deeper. Yoga originated in India. Its roots are deeply immersed in the Hindu religion. In fact yoga is spoken of in some of the oldest scriptures in the world, the Vedas, or sacred texts of  Hinduism. With that said, yoga is seen as a path to Atman. The Vedanta explain Atman as the soul of men, and all souls are a part of this infinite, almighty supreme singular spirit, or Universal Self. Yogis are taught Nishkama Karma (to perform actions without personal gain, and to offer all these actions to God). Patanjali (the founder of the science of yoga) tells us that "yoga is the process of ending the definitions of the field of consciousness" {- Patanjali Yoga Sutras i:2 }. Yoga gives us the means to find our true nature and through the practice of yoga we can find the Universal Self. That is my understanding of what yoga is. I'm sure there is more to the meaning and the word. I am not Hindu, but I see yoga as a way to find yourself by letting go of the "I" and "mine". It's also a way find a higher power, no matter what higher power you believe in. I'll give you a moment to process that all.
            So what is Ashtanga yoga? The word Ashtanga means eight limbs. These eight limbs direct us to finding the Universal Self. I will not go into much details with these but I just want to skim the surface so you understand them.
            I - The 5 Yamas- Or the Don'ts (Universal Morality)
                                    Ahimsa - Do not harm (Compassion for all living things)
                                    Satya- Do not lie (Commitment to truthfulness)
                                    Asteya- Do not steal
                                    Brahmacharya- Do not lose control of  Vital (bodily) Fluids (Mostly refers to romantic activity, to commit to one partner and use the relationship to foster our understanding of the highest truths, to avoid using this energy in any way that may harm another.)
                                    Aparigraha- Do not be greedy
            II- The 5 Niyamas - Or the Do's (Personal Observances)
                                    Shaucha - Purity and cleanliness
                                    Santosha- Contentment
                                    Tapas- Austerity (Discipline)
                                    Swadhyaya - Self Study/ Study of scriptures
                                    Ishwarapranidhana-  Celebration of the spiritual (surrender to god's will)
            III - Asana - Body postures (or physical practice)
            IV- Pranayama - Breath Control
            V- Pratyahara - Withdrawal of senses (reverting inward)
            VI- Dharana - Concentration (still mind)
            VII- Dhyana- Meditation (Devotion to the Divine)
            VIII- Samadhi - Union with the Divine (how a liberated soul can enjoy pure awareness with its pure identity, or ecstasy.)
            *It is said that through Asana and Pranayama that Dharana can be reached. Once Dharana is obtained, Dhyana and Samadhi can follow.
            So that is a little on the philosophy. So what about the physical practice of Ashtanga?
            The physical practice of Asana includes an opening and ending Mantra, Vinyasa (combining breath and movement), Rechaka (exhalation), Puraka (inhalation), Dhyana (meditation), Drishti (gaze), and the bandhas (or body locks, such as sucking in on the low belly, or called uddiyana bandha. There are three body locks; the anus, the stomach, and the throat.)
            Asana is to be performed in doors, is what is known as a Shala. Practice is be held 6 days a week, except Saturdays, and it is vital to observe "Moon days" or the new and full moons. On these days Asana should not be practiced due to the higher risk of injury.
            Surya Namaskara, or sun salutations, must be preformed prior to the yoga asanas. It is to attain the blessings of the Sun God, in order to live a healthy life. The best time to do surya namaskara is at sun rise, so you may greet and rejoice in the sun. Surya namaskara is also to awaken the inner fire, it helps bring the heart rate up and the blood flow to the muscles. In Ashtanga we do a total of 10, five surya namaskara A and five surya namaskara B.
            Once Surya Namaskara is completed, we move on to the Primary Ashtanga Series, which if I'm correct holds a total of 42 asanas, some having multiple variations. Some people choose to learn only one asana at a time until it is mastered, before moving on to the next. While some people follow all 42 asanas and variations strung together. The choice is really up to the solo practitioner or to the yoga instructor if you take classes.  If you take classes there two types. A led class where the teacher takes the whole room through the asanas strung together, or a Mysore class. Mysore style comes from Sri K. Pattabhi Jois (Guruji) where in the city of Mysore, India he taught a method from the usual modern way. In a Mysore Class the class is not led as a whole, instead it focuses on a one-on-one with the student and the teacher, where the teacher gives physical adjustments and verbal commands. In Mysore style, students practice Asanas at their own pace and skill level. The common chuckle most students get after attending a Mysore Style class, is they are left saying "My Sore Body".  
            That is about as much as I can sum up about Ashtanga right now. I know it was a lot and I'm probably missing pieces and I may even have a few things wrong. But it is truly my understanding of "What Ashtanga is". So if I'm wrong, I look forward to anyone who can correct me or give me further knowledge.
            As for the last question, Why I chose Ashtanga? I can't really say, to be honest, I think it chose me. I have always been told that if you are drawn to something outside of your norm, it's because in a past life it was who you were.  The only thing, I can really say about this path of Ashtanga and myself , is I'm truly grateful for it. I find it challenging and rewarding on so many levels.
Om Namah Shivaya
I bow to Shiva