Yoga for non-yoga people, Yoga to relieve stress

5 Reasons to not skip yoga this Super Bowl Sunday

Hey, is there something going on this Sunday. JUST KIDDING. I was born and raised in New England so you can imagine my friends and family “back home” are excited to see their team on the green (again) for the big game. I could take it or leave it, although as a family we usually have a fun dinner and watch at least the first half of the game and the halftime show. This year will be a bit different because I’ll be teaching a Hatha class in the afternoon. I’m a little worried attendance will be low, so I decided to put a list of reasons why we all should make time to get to a class this Sunday.

  1. More Nachos. Or pizza. Or wings. Pick your poison. Beer? Wine? Mountain Dew? Chubby Hubby? Generally you can expect to burn 200-500 calories in an hour of yoga, depending on your size, metabolism, and the type of yoga. According to one calorie calculator, I will burn at least 300 calories practicing this Sunday, and since I’m the teacher, I can plan some extra scorching poses (chair, anyone?) to up the burn. Whatever your caloric vice, making it to class will buy you at least a larger serving.
  2. Personal Space. A standard yoga mat is 24 inches wide and 68 inches long. If you own a deluxe mat, chances are, it is even larger than that. Add space to spread your arms wide, and it doesn’t matter how crowded the studio is that day, you will certainly have more space to yourself in class than you will on your couch when Uncle Leo and your husband’s golfing buddy show up for the game.
  3. Blood Pressure Control. Maybe you’re pulling for the Pats. Maybe you’re rooting for the Rams. Maybe you had to Google which teams are playing Super Bowl LIII (like me!). It could be a nail-biter of a game, or you might be stuck referee-ing the kids while everyone else is glued to the game. Whatever your role may be, science tells us you might be able to lower your blood pressure using tools you use in yoga class.
  4. Feel Good, Look Good. Get your sweat on, meditate a bit, and you know you’re going to feel amazing. Yoga days are good days. Whether you have a date to watch the game, or just imagine Todd Gurley or Tom Brady can see you through the TV, you probably want to feel and look good. Rock those yoga pants!
  5. It’s NOT The Game. Yoga is a reprieve from all the things. From groceries, from laundry, from the subway, from the internet… and from The Game. Football isn’t everyone’s thing. I have to admit I have only ever watched it tongue-in-cheek, though I have family, friends, and a spouse who really dig it. It’s OK to ignore or protest the sport. We all have our reasons, and they are all valid. Come to yoga. Hope to see you there!

Note: not my photo! Found it on Instagram and haven’t located original source.

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Pondering, Yoga off the mat

Flexibility, fostering growth

I was talking to a friend about her knee pain, suggesting she stretch because sometimes knee pain means tight hamstrings, quads, or even the hips, the back…

“A little every day is better than a lot one day. Build up to longer holds and deeper stretches…” quoting myself here.

It occurred to me this is a good mantra for most days. A little every day is better than too much. Don’t expect too much right away. Learn to pause, be still, take time, be now.

My YTT, Yoga on The Farm

Starting small, planning, growing

A force that pushed me to yoga teacher training, and drives me to write about yoga, is the desire to share yoga with “non yoga people.” To clarify, yoga is for everyone! But it isn’t obvious to everyone how to find class or teacher that fits their needs and style, and booking a class in a traditional yoga studio can be intimidating. As with so many things, “fit” matters.

Within days of sharing my mission, a member of my local community offered space on their developing farm for me to teach yoga while I am in training. We have become friends, and I have been visiting the farm to get a feel for the space. There are chickens, cats, and a Labrador named Scout. There is a pond, relatively flat and clean grass, and a barn with a fridge, sink, and bathroom. It’s perfect.

Growing up in Maine, I spent my fair share of time on farms, and countless glorious hours outdoors. I treasure my connection with the land, and am thrilled to have this opportunity to teach plein air, to borrow the artist’s term.

Starting small and familiar feels right to me, because connecting to the land, to my students, matters. I am developing a five class summer series for the farm, and inviting a few friends to join me. Yoga is about practice, and I am grateful for this space and the support of my friends on this journey. Who knows where this will lead?

On Aging

Inspired by the women at the gym

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No, no, no. I am not inspired by the young, Instagram-ready bodies. I could care less about gym fashion.

I am inspired by the older women in the gym. Those who are in their sixties and seventies, sharing the locker room every day. Some of them are water fitness groupies, some attend Zumba and HIIT on the regular. Some are on the mat in the same room with me, and others stick to chair yoga.

Your bodies are strong, still carrying you. Your smiles are weathered but wide. Your eyes tell me you have been through a lot. You are still here, wearing that swim cap, Jazzercising to Maroon 5. Thank Silver Sneakers. Thank the free coffee in the hallway.

We greet each other in the locker room, maybe chat about the weather or a coming holiday. You might mention “the last time” you had cancer. Or your son who never could catch a break. Or the husband you outlived. “Can’t complain,” you’ll say. And I’ll agree.

I don’t expect my body to ever match that of a Kardashian or even a middle-aged starlet, you know the ones… they look so good for their age. No. I want to be at the gym, the day after my seventy-fifth birthday. Breaking a sweat. Cracking jokes.

Thank you, old ladies. Sure, you can sit here on this bench. Let me move my stuff.

My YTT

What does it mean to be ready? 

My YTT program begins Saturday. I am pumped. I’m also a little bit nervous. I gather that is normal. We are jumping right in with two full days.

I’ve been reading, keeping up with my practice, and gathering things I want and need. My friends and family have been incredibly generous with support, time, and love. Everyone asks, “Are you ready?”

What does it mean to be ready, paricularly for a journey like this?

1. I need to be and stay healthy. I can’t afford to lose any time to illness, mine or the kids’!

2. I need to be limber. I have some ideas and expectations, but I’m trying to let them go. My hamstrings and quads are tight as hell, and I’m working on loosening them.

3. I need to show up. My husband and kids are prepared to have me away from home a lot more than usual, and I am grateful for their understanding my need to do this.

Are my bags packed? No. But I’m as ready as I’ll ever be. Except for one thing. I’m going to pick up some Epsom salts for sore muscle soaks before Saturday.

My yoga teacher said...

When We Do Things Slowly, We Notice the Details

File under: things my yoga teacher said that spoke to me.

“When we do things slowly, we notice the details.”

In twelve years of off and on practice, I came to realize, the slower you move, the tougher yoga asanas will be.

If we move too quickly, we will not notice when we are out of alignment, or if we are going beyond what is helpful to us. If you use velocity and momentum, you may achieve the pose, but the pose itself is never the goal.

The goal is the experience, to feel each millimeter as you glide into position, and to stop just at the edge of comfort and pain. We do not practice asanas to perfect our form.  It is when we slow down, and even stop, that our body and mind connect. With subtle movement, we can know that YES, this is where we are meant to be. This is how we move. And just when reaching that stretch that feels like a little too much, at the edge of pain, we stop. We hold. It is here we are meant to be.

Notes on today’s practice
Attended a beginner class. I did not break a sweat but did achieve some needed stretching, learned more about the benefits of child pose on the lower back (keep knees together if you need to open the lower back… knees apart and big toes touching puts the lower back in a more neutral “resting” position). Essential oils used during savasana: tangerine and sandalwood. Teacher L recommended I read “Autobiography of a Yogi,” at least I think that was the title.