The Approximate Yogi

Conquering life one breath at a time


2 Comments

My Evolving Practice

As those of you who are regular readers have probably noticed, I’ve been a less frequent blogger over this past year and I’d like to try to explain why. After my knee surgery, I stopped doing yoga as I recovered. This was unexpected, as I often like to tell people that anyone can do yoga, no matter what the physical (or mental/emotional) limitations are. I still believe this to be true, but I now also see that it is a bit more complicated than that.

While my body weaned off pain medications (not a very long process), and then my physical body, along with the other 9 bodies, slowly recovered (a much longer process than I ever realized), I found that my yoga practice just did not fit into the current space my life was in. This did slowly change as I started to add a few poses to my day. But I still found that Kundalini yoga was still not a style I was interested in accessing.

After knee surgery, which may or may not be related, I began to process some emotions, and began a journey into my emotional state, through therapy that was intense and exhausting. While I still think Kundalini yoga can be a wonderful tool to process through emotions, for some reason it was not right for me at the time. I really needed a gentle approach to life. I continued a sporadic and almost luxurious hatha practice, in which I indulged my body in doing only the poses that felt right for it, without pushing myself. My knee was still healing, so many of the vigorous Kundalini poses, as well as many hatha poses still did not feel right, or I was incapable of doing them. I swan dove into sun salutations, and my practice mainly revolved around that, and the occasional silent meditation when I could muster it, for a long time.

I continued to take a break from teaching, because, since I am only certified in Kundalini, I felt I wasn’t qualified to teach the yoga I was practicing, and couldn’t honestly teach a yoga that I was not practicing.

This past month I decided to give Kundalini a try again. It was no coincidence that emotionally and spiritually I had finally come out of a place of turmoil and was now feeling strong again. I felt that I now had the space (and courage) in my life to begin to dabble back into Kundalini. I’ve been trying a few of my favorite kriyas, which are different for me now, with my new knee and less in-shape body, but also feel good in a new way. I have been especially drawn to the heart opening kriyas. I feel that New Lungs and Circulation is going to be an important one for me in the coming year. This vigorous (but not impossible) kriya works on opening the heart chakra, cleansing the lungs, and freeing up emotions, which seems to fit well with the space I’m in now.

letting go of shouldMy practice is a lot less rigid than it was before. I am only doing Kundalini probably every other morning, or less, and still indulge in those feel-good hatha sessions with some silent meditation on many mornings. Some mornings I don’t do yoga at all, but instead go for a run or a swim, or read or write.

This rhythm of practicing less yoga isn’t new, what is new (at least since I’d gotten more serious about my practice,post-yoga teacher training) is that I let my body dictate where my practice will take me. I listen to how I’m feeling that day, rather than to my mind telling me how I should be practicing. I do not feel guilt for not practicing enough, or not practicing in a specific way, or style, or certain routine.

This holds true for other aspects of my life as well. In other aspects of my life I feel like I am finally saying yes to what my heart and soul want to do, and no to how I think I should behave. It makes sense that my yoga practice is following suit.

In the coming months I will be taking an exciting new journey* that has nothing to do with yoga, but I’m sure that yoga will be a part of it. I have definitely learned through this last year (as I have discovered in other periods of my life as well) that yoga is always there for me. Even if I’m not physically practicing, I am still living the lessons I’ve learned on the mat, and my physical practice is always there quietly waiting for me, just as my mat quietly waits in its corner to be unfurled.

Yoga is not a part of who I am. It is a thing that I do. I think that is something I let go of this year. I had a lot wrapped up in the idea of myself as a yoga practitioner, yogi, yoga teacher. But yoga is not really a part of one’s identity. When I was able to drop that, I was able to drop the “shoulds” I had begun to insert into my practice and, with them, the guilt I felt if I wasn’t living up to what I thought I should be as a yoga practitioner or teacher.

Yoga is a tool that I use to support me in my soul’s journey through this life. I am not yoga. There is no practice I should be doing. There is only what I need to be doing.

As always,

In light and love,

Catie

*My husband and I have decided to hike the Pacific Crest Trail this summer, and continue on living in the Pacific Northwest upon finishing and see where it takes us!

DSCN2789 DSCN2824 Because I promised some wedding pictures too long ago, and because today is our six month anniversary!


2 Comments

Finding Balance in Imbalance

working on balance

working on my balance pre-surgery

Yesterday I attended my first yoga class since my knee surgery. One of the things I had been wondering about in my home practice was whether I should continue to do the full expression of a pose (my full expression anyway) on my left side when I can’t do it on my right side, specifically standing poses like Warrior III (Virabhadrasana III), and Triangle (Trikonasana). My teacher suggested I should maybe do the full pose on my left side twice a week so my body remembers it can do it, but that the rest of the week the pose on my left side should match what I can do on my right.

It’s funny I had been debating the pros and cons of doing each with myself for a while and hadn’t been able to decide what was the best choice. But I hadn’t once considered this compromise –that I could do both. Sometimes I can be very all or nothing in my thinking. Allowing myself to compromise often admits a dose of reality I can’t always see. Yes, as much as I want to move forward in my practice, I have two sides of my body that are doing two different things right now as my right knee recovers, and I have to acknowledge that.

Imbalance –this is my reality right now. My left side, specifically my left leg (but I’m starting to notice the difference is in more than just my legs) is stronger and more stable than my right. Yet now, my right leg/side is more flexible than my left, because to get over the soreness in my muscles and stiffness in my knee joint I did a lot of stretching. A lot, like when I got out of my car to pump gas, when I stood up from my desk, in clients’ driveways. I sneaked stretches in the bathroom, or in the corner of the grocery store. I didn’t always have the time (or, let’s face it, the desire) to stretch both sides evenly since the necessity was in my right, so now my right side is quite a bit more flexible than my left.

tree pose, finding balance, yoga

imbalance is a part of life

I hadn’t quite realized the full extent of this imbalance, both of the imbalances at once — strength and flexibility, until class last night. Then it hit me, that is the word I was looking for to describe how I’m feeling at work lately. And emotionally lately. Imbalanced. This connection to my imbalanced body suddenly gave me a sense of relief. Yes, or course I’m finding it difficult to gain balance in my life, I am still gaining it back in my body. That body mind connection is such a strong one.

And that’s when I need to come back to compromise and acceptance. I need to accept a less-than-perfect, less-than-balanced reality, and submit to it, allow myself to compromise.

dancer pose, finding balance through yoga

As I get back to a more consistent yoga and meditation practice, it is easier to accept that life is a balancing act. As soon as you think you are on even footing, something will inevitably happen to push things in one direction or the other.

That’s ok. That’s life.

And compromising is ok. It is a necessary part of life.

How do you find balance in the imbalance of life? Where might you need to compromise?


1 Comment

Meditation in Action

sTreeOfYogaIn my last post I discussed asana as I understood it through B. K. S. Iyengar’s The Tree of Yoga. But it is too big and beautiful a book to just stop at asana. Since I’ve finished reading it, I’d like to process a little more of it with you and get to the heart of it, the heart of yoga itself.

Yogic Background

Most of The Tree of Yoga is based off the source text of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras (next on my yoga reading list; let’s see if it takes me another 10 years to get to it!). In it, Patanjali breaks down yoga into its parts. Iyengar interprets these parts for us in practical modern terms.

According to Patanjali, yoga is an eight-fold path (eight limbs, which is where the name ashtanga comes from). These eight limbs can both be broken down into smaller branches, and put together into three larger parts.

Ok, stick with me for a bit!

Here are the eight, and their subcategories/principles that define them:

  • Yama –the five principles of which are: ahimsa (non-violence), satya (truthfulness), asteya (freedom from avarice), brahmacharya (control of sensual pleasure), and parigraha (freedom from covetousness and possession beyond one’s needs)
  • Niyama –the five principles of which are: saucha (cleanliness), santosa (contentment), tapas (ardour), svadhyaya (self-study) and Isvara-pranidhana (self-surrender)
  • Asana –“the various postures which bring the physical and the physiological functions of the body into harmony with the psychological pattern of yogic discipline (pg. 8).”
  • Pranayama –“the science of breath, which connects the macrocosm to the microcosm and vice versa (pg. 8).”
  • Pratyahara –“the inward journey of the senses (pg.8)”
  • Dharana –“concentration, focusing the attention on the core of the being (pg.8)”
  • Dhyana –meditation
  • Samadhi –“where the body, the mind, and the soul are merged with the Universal Spirit (pg.9)” or “diffusing the soul into each and every part of the body (pg. 73)”

These eight limbs can be divided into the three different levels of yoga:

1st: Yama and Niyama have to do with the social and ethical aspects of yoga, like the dos and don’ts of life in society.

2nd: Asana, pranayama, pratyahara have to do with your personal physical and mental practice, which lead to “the evolution of the individual, the understanding of the self (pg. 5).”

3rd: Dharana, dhyana, samadhi aren’t really part of the practice, but more like the product. They are the “effects of yoga which bring the experience of the sight of the soul (pg.5).”

Woah, I know that was more than a mouthful! But it had to all be said. The Tree of Yoga takes the rest of the book to go into more detail explaining these principles. The more you come into contact with these words, hear them repeated, and explained in different ways, they do all begin to slowly make sense and fit together.

I won’t go into Iyengar’s beautiful tree analogy here, you’ll have to read it for yourself. But these are the foundations of all yoga, no matter what the style or school. To me, it seems, the style or school (i.e. ashtanga, Iyengar, Kundalini) has to do with the interpretation of these eight limbs and where the emphasis is put.

The Nature of Meditation

Anyway, it was in a chapter near the end of the book,”The Nature of Meditation,” when this all seemed to click and I could see both the big and the small pictures. Iyengar’s main thesis of the book, it seems, is to place the physical practice of asana (hatha yoga) at the center of getting at all the other aspects of yoga, even meditation.

Before reading this I had always had the idea that the asanas are really just warm-ups for sitting down to meditate. Now, you can, and should, certainly be doing each asana with meditative mindfulness, but it didn’t seem like you could get at samadhi from asana alone.

Iyengar takes a different approach. He seems to see meditation, and everything in that third tier –concentration, meditation, enlightenment, as something that can be achieved during and through an asana practice. And this was finally making sense to me by this chapter.

The ultimate goal of meditation is not to reach enlightenment just while sitting on your nice meditation cushion in complete silence, but to maintain that state in everything you do in your life. Meditation is not wisdom, not the answers to all the questions in the universe we are seeking in a cave somewhere. Meditation is to help us live our lives the best we can, to live it through our highest possible Self.

So, I kinda had all that before (and when I say this, I mean “had” as in understood it on an intellectual level, not experiential, which is the tough part!). But Iyengar puts the body back into this equation –and why not, we can’t get rid of our bodies in this life. And by putting the body back into it, he activated it for me. He writes:

“When we become aware inside and outside, we can have the experience that meditation and physical action are not separate, that there is no division between body, mind and soul (pg.146).”

He goes on:

“You may practice meditation and develop awareness when you are sitting quietly in a park, and it comes quite easily. But when you are busy working, your life gets dominated by thought and it is hard to have total awareness. When you practice asana, pranayama and pratyahara, you learn to be totally aware –you develop awareness in your whole body while you are engaged in action. Then you can become totally aware in all circumstances. In a park, while you look at a tree, you forget yourself and you are one with the universe. Why can’t you learn to be one with the universe of your own world –that is to say, your self and your body? This way of looking at daily life is total awareness, total integration and meditation (pg. 146-7).”

maybe less of this?

maybe less of this?

Woah. This means my asana practice (as meditation in action) may more easily translate to meditation in the actions of the everyday than my previous idea of what meditation was.

I like this. I like it a lot. And of course you can see why you would need to practice yoga daily for the rest of your life! This isn’t something you just get one day on the mat and then “get” one day off the mat, and you’re done with yoga.

He ends the chapter with this lovely thought:

“You and I are runners in meditation, but we have not reached the goal (pg. 148).”

and more of this?

and more of this?

At least it’s a beautiful course! See you on the road.

But wait, am I totally giving up seated meditation? Probably not. But I like this new perspective on yoga that the book gave me. And there’s still more! He ends with two beautiful chapters on the art of yoga, and teaching yoga.

Do you have any yoga texts you love by other yogis? I’m looking for more good reading. 

(Note: This scheduled post was written on 3/16/14 as I take a break from writing to heal post knee-surgery.)

Resource: The Tree of Yoga, by B. K. S. Iyengar


13 Comments

My Yoga Family Tree

my new modified tree pose, coincidentally the shirt I'm wearing says "We'll get there eventually"

my new modified tree pose, coincidentally the shirt I’m wearing says “We’ll get there eventually”

I neglected to mention in my last post, since I didn’t want to sound whiny, that just about as soon as I returned home from my trip to Portland I got sick, and have been sick all week (the whole gamet –stomach bug to head cold to sinus infection, which is of course horrible timing. There, I’ve sufficiently held the pity party!).

So in this time of being laid-up, lacking any energy to do any yoga, I’ve been reading a lot about yoga instead. And since I process better when I write, I thought I’d share some of the things I’m reading.

Interestingly, I’ve been drawn to Iyengar-style hatha yoga as my knee is recovering and getting stronger, finding it hard to access the Kundalini kriyas. Later, as my knee got stronger, I probably could have physically accessed them, but there was something in my mind that was not interested in going there. I felt the need for static instead of dynamic poses, for moving slowly instead of the rapid movements characteristic of Kundalini. I was still very much enjoying exploring these hatha poses, remembering back to when I had first discovered them, and first discovered yoga. With this bum knee, it was like I was discovering the poses for the first time all over again.

So, as I waited for the library to get my new batch of books I requested, I opened up some old ones on my shelf I have to admit I had only read pieces of, rather than cover to cover. Both by B.K.S. Iyengar.

Light on Yoga

loyThe first I dug out as a guide to the poses –Light on Yoga. Now, I don’t think this book is really meant to be read cover-to-cover. Since most of it is a detailed list of poses with descriptions of how to do them, it is more of a reference book. But it does have a hefty introduction and a few other sections that I’d never read before. The introduction is really a great overview of ALL of yogic philosophy. For me, it was a nice review of concepts that I learned slowly over the course of my teacher training. If I hadn’t already learned them I think I would find it really confusing, but instead it was nice to refresh my memory, and come at it from a slightly different perspective (Iyengar versus Yogi Bhajan). It was somehow nice to affirm that all yoga (or at least these two styles) is the same and has the same fundamental goals and philosophy behind it, just different ways of getting there.

Tree of Yoga

Then, I moved onto The Tree of Yoga. A book, I have to confess, I’ve had on my shelf for probably about 10 years and still haven’t finished. I’m committed to it now and will finish this time! The book is based on lectures given by B.K.S. Iyengar on yogic philosophy, specifically how yogic philosophy and the spiritual aspects of yoga relate to and manifest in the physical practice of poses, or asanas.

Iyengar emphasizes again and again that the main purpose of yoga is union of body, mind, and soul, in order to create union with the Universal Spirit. I’ve always been drawn to Iyengar-style for its deliberate and slow experiences of each posture. That each posture in and of itself is a place of meditation, that a whole universe is going on in your body during each pose, and each pose is an entirely different universe. By this I mean, there is so much going on in the body and mind that we are often unaware of, slowing down in the poses helps us begin to be aware.

sTreeOfYogaThis awareness just deepens over time. When I first start practicing a pose, I am only aware of the muscles of action –the very pose itself. But slowly more awareness opens up. I then notice the muscles of inaction, and often discover they too are active in their own way, or sometimes reactive. There is balancing, stabilizing, stretching, releasing. Then I can start to focus on the breath in the pose. Then it can start to become meditative…and deeper and deeper.

I have to admit, most often I don’t get to this level of deepening. Practicing with my “new body” (post knee-injury) made me realize this again, and kind of relish in the slowing down, seeing just how slow I could go. My practice went from many poses to only a few in the same amount of time.

New things I gleaned about asana from The Tree of Yoga

Iyengar describes asana as pose and then repose, which really gets at what I described above. When I’m practicing an asana, too often I move on without the repose part. I pose, then pose, then pose, without taking the time to get at where the good stuff can be found –in the repose. He describes repose as:

“reflection on the pose. The pose is re-thought and readjusted so that the various limbs and parts of the body are positioned in their places in a proper order and feel rested and soothed, and the mind experiences the tranquility and calmness of bones, joints, muscles, fibres and cells.”

I love that repose has a double meaning, because this second step in the asana is a repose too –repose the noun: resting, in a state of calm and quiet. This is the time to connect body to mind, mind to soul. He writes:

“As the body is contracted or extended, so the intelligence is contracted or extended to reach every part of the body. This is what is known as reposing; this is sensitivity. When this sensitivity is in touch equally with the body, the mind and the soul, we are in a state of contemplation or meditation which is known as asana. The dualities between body and mind, mind and soul, are vanquished or destroyed.”

Good stuff, right?

Later, he adds to this idea of the asana that you must also taste it, taste its energy which I love.

“The essence, or taste, of energy has to be felt in the fountain of your body when you are performing asanas or pranayama.”

So we really do have a whole world going on in each and every pose. This is something I too easily and often forget.

Thanks for letting me process with you and I hope that maybe you were able to find it helpful too. I definitely recommend both of these books. The Tree of Yoga has many more beautiful nuggets in it, and covers all aspects of yoga. Asana was just the one on my mind tonight.

And, if it seems I have been focusing a lot on other yoga, besides Kundalini, it is because I have been. I haven’t abandoned Kundalini though. I am just taking some time to explore yogic philosophy in a broader sense, and through a different angle. I began my yoga journey in a more Iyengar-style class, so this has always been there, and there have always been aspects of this yoga that I miss in Kundalini. And aspects of Kundalini that I miss in hatha. I think I am now taking the time to reconcile the two in my life and strike some sort of balance.

Do you practice more than one style of yoga? How do you reconcile the differences? Or do you?

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this. Please leave a comment if you feel so inclined.

(Note: This is a scheduled post written on 3/15/14 as I take a break from writing to heal post-knee surgery. By the way, the surgery went very well and I am recovering nicely.)

Resources:

Light on Yoga, by B. K. S. Iyengar

The Tree of Yoga, by B. K. S. Iyengar

Related:

10 Things That Make Kundalini Yoga Different from Hatha Yoga

Styles of Yoga

Iyengar Yoga’s official web page

Light on Yoga (aka “The Book”)


4 Comments

Shaking the Snow Globe of My Mind

This morning was one of those rare blow-your-mind yoga practices for me –where mind-body-soul is given a complete release. These always sneak up on me unexpectedly. It had been a long while since I’d had a Sadhana like that, and I feel quite blessed by the experience.

Some back story: The saga of my knee injury continues… I found out about a month ago now that I have a torn anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) and a sprained medial collateral ligament (MCL) in my right knee. I have been getting physical therapy twice a week, with twice daily home exercises that take me almost precisely 40 minutes each time to complete. The MCL is finally healing quite nicely, and in the last week I have been able to walk with an almost-normal stride, sit comfortably for a modest amount of time with my leg bent at 90 degrees, and driving has stopped becoming a delicate and tender issue. I’ve also gotten a lot of energy back that I wasn’t even that aware I’d lost as I spent time healing. In a few weeks I will get surgery to repair the ACL.

That was a long back story, but my point is, my life has really quite dramatically changed in ways I’m still discovering and just now beginning to accept. For one, my yoga on most work mornings has been replaced by the PT exercises, interspersed with a few stretches here and there and maybe a quick meditation while I ice my knee. Many of my favorite yoga poses are not available to me right now, as they require bending of both knees. I haven’t done a full kriya in quite some time. I’m learning to accept and adjust to this, some days better than others.

This Saturday morning I had done my PT exercises, and wasn’t feeling particularly inspired to do much else. But as I casually browsed through this month’s issue of Yoga Journal while I iced, I felt inspired to attempt some poses that I was curious if this week’s new mobility may allow me to do now.

I slowly re-engaged with some of the simplest hatha poses, and found my way through my own very modified Vinyasa. My body moved much slower and more carefully as I gently tested the limits of my right knee. Slowing things down brought a new awareness … No, actually, practicing these poses brought an awareness to the new way my body is working. I noticed the strength and stretch of my upper body in downward dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana), a part I tend to ignore in favor of enjoying the stretch of lower back and legs. I experienced the need for modified poses, and inch-worming into them. The joy I felt just getting my leg barely into a warrior pose (Virabhadrasana II) as my toes hugged the mat. I felt my right leg working so hard just to hang on, and felt a tender almost pride toward it –“Way to go little leg, you’ve been working hard, and look what you can do now!” I felt the beauty in simple mountain pose (Tadasana).

Kermit in plank (photo credit: Google Images)

Kermit in plank (photo credit: Google Images)

Then after gingerly lowering myself into plank, I lost it –out of nowhere a burst of tears. Initially they were tears of sheer gratitude at being able to do these poses my body had been deprived of for the last month and a half. Then as the sobs continued I realized I was mourning my injury, mourning everything I haven’t been able to do, everything I won’t be able to do for quite a bit longer, just mourning the whole situation. And this wasn’t a pity party –this was my body releasing emotions I hadn’t let myself process. Getting it all out in the healthiest way possible –on my yoga mat.

Then a teary attempt at my favorite tree pose (Vrksasana), with my right leg as the very shaky trunk, my left toes still clinging to the floor, left heel barely off the mat resting gently on my right ankle. This is my work right now, this is my attempt at discovering a new balance.

I then sank into Savasana, with the mantra “This too shall pass” running through my mind. And it will. I feel a deep gratitude at the knowledge that these bodily and mental struggles my knee has caused me are temporary, and that eventually I will be doing every pose I had done before, every movement I had done before. And in the mean time, try to surrender to this healing process.

Meditation

I ended with the guided meditation in this month’s Yoga Journal, by international (and favorite of mine) meditation teacher and author, Sally Kempton, titled “Check Your Head.” The meditation is quite simple, and simply beautiful. The gist of the meditation is inhaling “I am.” Kempton writes, “Then with the exhalation, feel the space that these words leave in your consciousness. As your mind quiets, begin to drop in the question, ‘Who am I, without words? Without thoughts? Without memories or emotions?'”

Kempton recognizes this is no easy task, and many answers full of words may come up, but simply acknowledge them, and seek out those few seconds of stillness you may find. (Check out this month’s issue, March, 2014 for the full and beautifully worded meditation.)

photo credit: Google Images

photo credit: Google Images

It’s funny when I asked myself these questions, the things that first popped up were what I was not –I am not my knee. I am not this suffering. I am not this sadness. And then slowly, fleetingly, for a few seconds, here and there, between the words, I was the stillness, and it was beautiful.

I am now going through the rest of my day a little lighter. My yoga practice did not make the day any easier, or my burdens any less. I could now go into a thought tangent on energy movements and chakras, or ancient yogic philosophy, or new research behind meditation, but I won’t. Yoga does something to my insides that I can’t really explain, shifts things around in my head, shakes it up like a glittering snow globe. I like that, and right now that’s all I need.


Leave a comment

My Slowing-Down-Take-it-Easy-Keep-Me-Sane Yoga Practice

I want to share what my yoga has looked like for the past two weeks.

My knee is not quite doing its healing thing as quickly as I’d hoped. One initial ER trip, one orthopedist visit, and one MRI later, we are still not sure what is going on. I only have one more day until my follow-up appointment, where we can actually look at the MRI with the orthopedic doctor, and hopefully find out some answers. Until then, I am on the couch, counting down the hours. This waiting game would be a lot more challenging without yoga. Yoga is what’s keeping this typically active girl sane right now!

Despite the frustration of my situation, there is a lot I can find to be grateful for. I am very grateful my injury wasn’t worse, and that, for the most part, I am pain-free. It is also a wonderful opportunity to be present with what is, and really explore patience (more about this topic later, I’m sure). Since this is the first significant injury I’ve ever had, I am given the chance to really understand what it is like to be less mobile and bendable in a way I never could before (a real benefit to me as a yoga teacher).

And also, to my surprise, my hurt knee has renewed and deepened my yoga practice. In the midst of my “off-season yoga,” I have all of a sudden found myself steeped in the practice once again.

First of all, since I am spending a lot more time sitting with my leg elevated and lying down than I’m used to, by the end of the night there is a pain in my lower back. This gets me up and out of bed quite early in the morning. So right there, one of my most difficult struggles, just getting out of bed, becomes moot. I welcome waking  up, moving my body.

Since I’m up early, I have plenty of time to stretch out my quiet morning. I start by making some warm water with lemon. I then take the mug over to my dining table to cool, while I start my standing practice. It’s funny how I have developed a new routine to my morning practice, and how quickly I have come to rely on its ritual.

I then take a few deep breaths and tune in while standing, since sitting on the ground is still a challenge. I could probably find a kriya or two that I could do with some slight modifications, but I have just been doing a series of warm-up poses instead, which has felt right.

If you’re looking for a gentle yoga practice, especially if you have any knee issues, or for a good warm-up, you may want to try this.

Here is what I do:

Standing Poses

  • Mountain pose –Standing tall, I take a few breaths to feel my body grounding through my toes, testing my weight to find an okay balance between and within each leg
  • 1 forward bend, remaining in the position for several breaths, fingers reaching to the floor, until the backs of my legs and lower back are feeling nice and stretched.
  • 4 more faster forward bends in rhythm with the breath (inhale arms up, exhale swan dive them down to the floor)
  • Downward dog –from my forward fold I am able to walk my hands out into a downward dog (triangle pose in Kundalini terminology). I was so relieved to discover, after a few days, I could comfortably do this stretch, one of my favorites.
  • Side bends -inhale right arm overhead, exhale bend to left side, inhale left arm up, exhale bend to right side

Chair Poses (but not “chair pose”)

forward fold

forward fold

  • Seated in a chair beside my dining table with my good leg planted on the ground, my other leg is elevated on another facing chair, or on a low box in front of me. My meditation pillow is now a cushion for my foot. I lean back against the chair and sip my lemon water between poses.
  • Sitting forward fold – with both legs up on the chair in front of me, I bend towards them. Sometimes I hold the pose, sometimes I inhale to half-way up, and exhale to the deeper bend, repeating this rapid movement, giving a more active stretch
  • Spinal twists, hands on my shoulders, fingers face forward, thumbs behind, inhale left, exhale right, 1 minute

    spinal twist

    spinal twist

  • Shoulder shrugs, inhale up, exhale down, 1 minute
  • Neck rolls, 5 on each side

And that’s the hatha portion. I can’t say I don’t miss a more vigorous practice, but that’s where I am. And that’s where that patience practice comes in.

Meditation

I’ve been doing a combination of different meditations that add up to a total of 31 minutes. (After 31 minutes of meditation all of the cells and rhythms of the body are affected. The endocrine system is balanced. The chakras are balanced.)

  • Sometimes I start with five minutes of breath of fire, if I’m feeling like I need a little more energy, otherwise I end with five minutes of silent meditation or bi-furcated kirtan kriya
  • Then, Meditation to be Rid of Internal Anger. This is my new 40 Day Meditation. Another choice made by my knee, since I was originally doing a 40 day kriya that I can no longer physically do. I was planning to do this one after that. The universe said, nope, let’s work on that anger now, not later.
  • I end with 11 minutes of Healing Meditation (Ra Ma Da Sa), and send that white healing light to my knee, as well as others around me that could use this healing energy.

More on Meditation to Be Rid of Internal Anger

This is a 15-minute long, two-part meditation. In the first part, you use strong arm movements with clenched fists, chanting “Har.” The second is a still and silent meditation with hands calmly folded at heart-center. Read the full description here.

I am only on Day 12, so I don’t have a lot to say about it yet. Some mornings I really feel like I’m going deep into the anger in the first half. Cracking into that space of neutrality in the second half has been a bit more challenging, but there are moments.

Now, you may wonder why I chose this meditation. (It’s probably something I’ll be writing more about as the 40 Days continues.) I wouldn’t say I’m a person with anger issues, but often, if there is a negative emotion to go to, anger is it for me. My gut reaction to many situations is anger. This typically mild-mannered gal may have a bit of the Irish temper in her, that is, of course, and unfortunately, most often reserved for those she loves most. I did notice yesterday, during an instance that I would have normally gotten angry at myself, I stopped mid-thought and changed course. Could it be working? I had the realization that the first and worst anger is towards myself, and that’s the anger I need to let go of first as well. I’m getting there.

Do you have a story to share about an event in your life that changed your yoga practice? I’d love to hear about it. Post in the comments below.

<a href=”http://www.bloglovin.com/blog/11586339/?claim=44nuxd4q53k”>Follow my blog with Bloglovin</a>


Leave a comment

Happy Eqinox!

I decided to celebrate this special day of the year with a morning yoga class at Source365 with beautiful hatha teacher Sara Mulvey. On this day of equal light and darkness, the theme was balance. We practiced many delicious balance poses, including the one in the photo below that I played with later on this perfect and sunny early fall day.

smalls falls (8)

dancer’s pose at Smalls Falls (Route 4, near Rangley, Maine)

However, the pose that spoke the loudest for me today was wheel pose. I hadn’t practiced this in a while, knowing it to be a challenging pose for me (that’s also met with a little sadness since this was something that used to come to me so easily as a child and no longer does now that my back has experienced the weight of the adult world).

Today I decided to be brave and give it a try. With Sara’s support I was able to get up into the pose, and hold it by myself for a few glorious seconds. I know it was only two or three seconds, but this brief moment seemed to expand into space and erase time. My whole body felt tingly, expanded, joyful as I brought it back down to rest on the mat.

I loved that feeling so much I had to try it again in the afternoon, as my fiance and I played by a nearby waterfall and stream. Something opened for me in wheel today, both physically and emotionally, and I can’t really yet explain it any more than that (nor do I feel the need to). I haven’t had that powerful experience of a pose in a long time, and it was just blissful. I think I’ll add this into my morning practice and continue this experience to see where it takes me.

smalls falls (3)

wheel on a bridge on a stream

What are you doing to celebrate the equniox?

What is a pose that has opened up your life?

Share in the comments section above.

Related Article: Balance Is Not Static, and Other Things I Learned from Tree Pose

10 Reasons to Love Wheel Pose