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Saturday
Jul072012

CONTROL

Control is a tricky issue.  We love to feel in control of our lives.  I have witnessed many yoga students attempting to control their bodies by forcing themselves into yoga poses.  I'm definitely guilty of it at times, and it's what most commonly causes injury.  Many of us are all too familiar with that yogi in the studio who is grunting and straining to get into poses (maybe YOU are that yogi).  

Quoting from Judith Lasater's book, Living Your Yoga:

It took me many years to realize that the practice of yoga has to do with letting go of control much more than gaining it...

...We must be willing to do the pose as it is today, not how we think it should be.  We may not like it, but it is the bedrock truth for us in that moment.  Refusing to acknowledge this will create conflict.

So many of us focus on what others are doing in the class, what they look like, and how we look compared to them.  Don't worry about what the final pose is supposed to look like.  It's called a personal practice for a reason.  Get out of your judgmental head and just do what your body will let you do that day.  Just because you are usually very flexible in your forward folds doesn't mean you will be every time you practice your yoga.  Your body and brain are in a different place every single time you step onto your mat...so be gentle and kind with yourself.  

The more we try to control every step our lives take and every pose we do in the studio, truly the less control we have.  It's when we learn to let go and listen to our body's needs that day and simply stay present with what is, oddly the more control we have.  

Wednesday
Jun202012

TIME OUT FOR TURMERIC

I've decided to start posting blogs that aren't necessarily alllll about yoga.  To me, it's all related.  So whether it's a book, a recipe, or just a thought about life, I wanted to branch out and offer you all some tidbits about what I love and enjoy.

Today's topic is on turmeric.  It's a culinary spice, and a major ingredient in Indian curries.  Accumulating evidence suggests that this ginger relative is a promising preventative agent for a wide range of diseases, most likely due to its anti-inflammatory properties.  

The National Institute of Health lists 24 current studies on the effects of turmeric.  Recent research ranges from reducing the levels of heterocyclic amines (carcinogenic compounds that are formed when meats are barbecued, boiled or fried) by up to 40 percent, it can inhibit the growth of certain types of skin and breast cancers, and it can even help prevent brain decline which may explain the low rate of Alzheimer's disease in India.  Turmeric has even been used as an arthritis treatment.  

I found this great recipe for creamy turmeric tea.  It's best to choose an organic brand of powdered turmeric as excessive pesticides are often used in commercial turmeric cultivation.  This tea is great any time of day, but also a really pleasant way to end a meal.  This slightly sweet, almost savory drink is a real treat and has so many great health benefits!  Don't get turned off by the combo of ingredients...at first glance they don't seem like they can go together, but somehow it works!  

 

Servings: 1 cup of tea

-8oz (1 cup) of almond or coconut milk

-1/2 tsp. of turmeric

-1/2 inch wide round slice of ginger root peeled and finely chopped

-dash of cayenne pepper

-1/2 to 1 tsp. of honey or other sweetener

-optional: a dash of cinnamon, a couple of cardomom pods


Gently warm the almond milk on the stove.

In a mug, combine the remaining ingredients.

Drizzle a teaspoon of the warmed milk into the mug and mix until the liquid is smooth with no lumps.  Add the rest of the milk and mix well.  You can leave the pieces of ginger or cardomom in the tea, or strain it out before drinking.

 

Enjoy!  And the only side effect I've noticed is the very temporary staining of the lips and tongue due to the beautiful yellow color of the turmeric.  So if you're headed out on a fancy date, just give yourself a good brush and you're good to go.

Tuesday
May082012

THE PAIN GAME

Pain functions very differently depending on the person.  Some people are very intimidated by pain.  The minute they feel even just some discomfort, not even pain, they scare away from what they're doing and never want to do it again.  Another group can get almost addicted to pain.  They tend to push themselves past their limits, and if they're not really sore after a workout, then they're not sure they're pushing hard enough.  

What I've learned is there are many different types of pain...many different colors of pain on the pain spectrum.  Pain is a voice in your body's information system.  A stronger painful sensation will tell us "Stop!," while a different pain will tell us, "You can do more of that, but please go slowly."  If we've injured our neck for example and we want to turn our head to the right, either from pain or actual inability to move, our bodies won't allow us to turn our head.  Pain's voice might be saying something like, "I listened to you before and look what happened!  So try what you want, but I'm protecting myself.  Push any further, and I'll yell really loudly!"  

It's when we learn to connect and cooperate with our bodies and respect its innate intelligence that we can move slowly and sensitively within our practice by listening and responding to the body's feedback.  Yoga should never be "painful."  But throughout the practice, you'll be faced will challenges that your body has never tried, isn't used to, or has difficulty with.  If you ever feel sharp shooting pain, you should immediately stop what you're doing.  But discomfort may be a different story.  Because pain has many layers and colors, when you're in a challenging posture, see if you can tune into what the body is trying to tell you.  Does it say "Stop!," or does it say, "Okay, I'm okay with this for now," and see if you can breathe and almost coax those muscles into relaxing and letting go, eventually being able to move a little more into the posture.  

Like it was cheesely stated in G.I. Jane, "Pain is your friend.  It lets you know you're still alive."  We need pain because without it, it's very dangerous and makes us very vulnerable to injury.  Learning to have a more respectful relationship with pain, to make it your 'friend,' allows you to use it during your practice.  Pain announces and guards our edges and limits.  Learn to listen to what it's telling you.

Saturday
May052012

PRACTICE MAKES PRACTICE

One thing to keep in mind about yoga is that it is called a practice for a reason.  There is no such thing as perfection.  The minute you think you've perfected a posture and can think to yourself, "Yes!  I've finally done it!," you're limiting yourself.  There's always room to grow and learn.  Of course the more you practice a posture, the better it might get, but try to avoid thinking about what an asana is supposed to look like.  Think of how that asana will work best for your body and abilities.  The postures are supposed to be used as tools to assist in creating a healthier, connected body and mind...not used as end goals that must be met.

Additionally, yoga is not just a practice, it's a process.  As you grow with your yoga practice, you have to check in and ask yourself what are you doing to adjust and refine your own practice?  For example, if you're a very flexible person, are you only doing yoga because you can bend into all those fun pretzel poses, or are you also working on balancing your practice with more strengthening postures that might be more challenging for you?  Or if you like to really push yourself, recognise that you can't go 100% with every practice...work in more gentle, soft days as a counter balance to the stronger harder days.  Think about what can help you grow as a yogi.

Thursday
May032012

YOGA IN AND OUT OF THE STUDIO

I believe one of the many reasons people are attracted to yoga is because of its comparisons to our every day life.  In many ways, our bodies are going against reflexes when we're doing yoga.  When you stub your toe for example, there's instant surging pain, we usually tense all our muscles as we reach down for our hurt toe, and hold our breath until the pain subsides.  When our bodies aren't used to a particular posture or stretch in yoga, or when we find ourselves in a challenging asana (yoga posture), our muscles tighten and don't want to move as a way to protect itself from injury.  

Learning to breathe and let those muscles go a little to be able to release into the pose is a huge accomplishment.  Of course you're never pushing or straining into a posture, but listening to that innate intelligence within your body to see how far it will let you stretch.  Instead of holding your breath and tensing while you're in a pose, learn to breathe through the challenge and possible discomfort.  When certain life situations are challenging, bring those tools from the yoga studio into the everyday...learn to breathe through difficulty and adversity.

Many yoga lessons are applicable to life.  One of the lessons when it comes to balancing postures is that balance is not a state or place to arrive at...it involves constant adjustment and attunement to the changing conditions of the moment, hence the oh so familiar wobbles we get in tree pose for example.  There is rarely a time in our lives where we can say, "well, I've made it."  We're constantly reacting and adjusting to the conditions around us and altering our path accordingly.  Whether it's in the studio or out in the world, pay attention to those transitions in and out of those 'postures.'  It's not just about that final perfected asana and what it's supposed to look like, or that final life goal you met...it's about the journey right?