The Approximate Yogi

Conquering life one breath at a time


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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.

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The Secret to Happiness in Your 30s

I’d like to share my article that came out yesterday at Rebelle Society. It’s not quite about yoga, although my yoga practice and yogic philosophy has definitely influenced it.

I wanted to share it with you because it is a piece I spent a lot of time on, and a subject I have given a lot of thought to as a 32-year-old.

http://www.rebellesociety.com/2013/07/18/the-secret-to-happiness-in-your-30s/

I’d love to hear your thoughts on it, and any secrets you have for me on happiness for decades yet to come!!

tree in the Canyon

tree in the Canyon


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Springtime in Maine is a Great Time to Cultivate Patience

Springtime on the calendar and on the ground are two very different things in Maine. I have been IMG_4337waiting –willing those little buds to grow bigger and pop out little leaves. Although, really, let’s move back even further –when the calendar said spring, I was still waiting for snow to melt. I was craving that beautiful green glow that, finally here, covers everything. Springtime green is a different shade of green than at any other time of year, especially on those misty days when the deep blue sky is so full of rain, intensifying this glow.

And now, finally, everything is flowering. So too, it feels like many things I have been waiting for in my life are beginning to flower. However, there is still more waiting left to do, still more patience needed. But waiting is boring, and hard, and tedious.

trillium

trillium

I am finding that cultivating patience is to push beyond the need to wait, to slip back into that present moment, to shift your own movements to fit it.

I work with children, and when I tell people this, often the first response is, “Oh, you must have so much patience.” When I first started hearing this, it took me aback because that was never necessarily a label I gave myself. I think because when you have patience, you don’t notice it. Now, don’t get me wrong I’m not bragging about my patient soul, because I have plenty of times in my life when impatience sneaks in. So I like to examine the times when I at least look like I have patience to see what it is, and if it will generalize to other situations.

When I am “patient,” I would actually label myself as “observant.” I appear to have patience with the children I am working with because I am not waiting for them to do anything, but rather watching all of the things they are doing, studying them.

So when I applied this observation, this slowing down to watch, to other aspects of my life, patience became a little easier. Spring, for example –this year, I decided I would slow down and just watch what was going on around me, without longing for the fruits and flowers. And I discovered I actually enjoyed where we were in the year –enjoyed the little bits of crystalized snow mixing with mud as I ran through them, enjoyed the colors, shapes, and sizes of the buds on different types of trees, celebrated the slightly different shades of brown in every field.

5.26.13 (4)

cherry blossoms

Now, there are other areas in my life where turning waiting and longing into patient observation is a little more challenging. But I know that picking out times where it is possible to do this is good practice for those other times. So that, when I am ready to tackle them, I will have a little bit of experience to draw from.

If you are needing to cultivate a little patience in your own life, here’s some things you can do:

Use Shuni Mudra: In yogic philosophy, each finger represents a different quality. The middle finger represents patience. So, in joining the middle finger with the thumb (representing the ego), you are connecting yourself with patience.

You can meditate using this mudra. You can also place your fingers in this mudra any time during the day you’d like to channel a little extra patience. Under the table at a particularly frustrating staff meeting, for example. Or place your fingers in this mudra around your steering wheel while driving or sitting in traffic, instead of using that middle finger for a less patient gesture.

Meditate: Meditation is a practice in patience –cultivating a patience with yourself and your ego. To accept all those thoughts in your brain, to observe them, rather than react to them and run away with them.

I particularly like Meditation for a Calm Heart, found here. This simple meditation puts you into a place of calmness, peace and receptivity. It allows you to calm your emotions, so that you quietly observe a situation and act from your heart.

I also wanted to leave you with this amazing Rilke quote that goes along with my ideas on patience.

Lilacs

Lilacs (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This is from the fourth letter of “Letters to A Young Poet,” and if you love this, the whole small book is filled with this amazingness!:

I would like to beg of you, dear friend, as well as I can, to have patience with everything that remains unsolved in your heart. Try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books written in a foreign language. Do not now look for the answers. They cannot now be given to you because you could not live them. It is a question of experiencing everything. At present you need to live the question. Perhaps you will gradually, without even noticing it, find yourself experiencing the answer, some distant day. Perhaps you are indeed carrying within yourself the potential to visualize, to design, and to create for yourself an utterly satisfying, joyful, and pure lifestyle. Discipline yourself to attain it, but accept that which comes to you with deep trust, and as long as it comes from your own will, from your own inner need, accept it, and do not hate anything.

Resources: The Aquarian Teacher, Level One Instructor Textbook, by Yogi Bhajan, PhD;
Letters To A Young Poet, by Rainer Maria Rilke, translation by Joan M. Burnham