One of the biggest lessons yoga has taught me is being grateful; it started for me to be grateful to practice yoga and grateful for what my body can do, not what it cannot do. On this day of gratitude that is celebrated, mostly in the United States, I am grateful for being able to take a walk this morning; the sun was bright and the temperature was about 40 degrees. I enjoyed the views I had and felt inspired to walk up and down those stairs (well only once).
After finishing Yoga Revolution (created by Adriene of http://www.yogawithadriene.com), I began to trust myself more with my yoga practice. Aside from a few sun salutations in the morning, I mostly practiced with DVDs or YouTube videos. The language Adriene uses in Yoga Revolution remains etched in my mind and body. She speaks about trusting yourself and to move from a place of connection to “find what feels good.” So I have been practicing with just myself and my knowledge of asanas . And it feels good to trust myself and the choices I am making. I am also discovering what I think are cool transitions and I am sure have been done before (from Lizard Pose to Warrior II or Half Moon, Standing Split and then Tree Pose).
Here’s to trusting yourself on the mat and trusting yourself off the mat; the latter is always harder, isn’t it?
When Athena is on the mat and you do not want to move her, but you need to.
I have heard this phrase so many times since I started practicing yoga. Traditionally, yoga was taught one on one, with a teacher and a student. The teacher would give the student asanas, philosophy, pranayama, etc., when he (they were mostly men) felt the student was ready. I think this is where the phrase comes from. I believe this was also how many students became yoga teachers – their teacher suggested or asked the student to teach a class because he/she felt the student was ready. Yoga teaching began. I believe this was before any formal teacher training program.
This phrase never resonated with me because I think we are all teachers to each other. We learn so much about the world and ourselves through our interactions with our human colleagues. I learned about the mind and body connection from a three-year-old girl and she inspired me to learn more about yoga. I learned so much from my yoga teachers during my trainings and also my fellow students.
Another teacher appeared for me in the form of a wonderful, nurturing yoga instructor named Adriene (www.yogawithadriene.com) from Austin, Texas. One of my friends told me about her, and her YouTube channel. She has so many different yoga practices and various lengths. Practicing with her is like practicing with an old, dear friend. I feel her warmth through my laptop when I practice with her. I recently completed her 31-yoga day Revolution program, and it helped me get back on the mat each day. She teaches us to “find what feels good” (her wonderful phrase) and move from a place of connect, on and off the mat. She is also hilarious and makes you feel less alone.
I recommend practicing with Adriene.
The yoga nerd in me shares this:
Since the beginning of January, this has been my morning ritual. I used to practice at night, but when your pulmonologist tells you to do more cardio, you do more cardio, and most of my evenings are at the gym. A morning yoga practice it is.
Even though I am more stiff in the morning, I have come to love practicing in the morning. It is peaceful right now before the sun rises. I get up to feed Athena (my cat) and then go unroll the mat. I try to do 30 minutes, but some mornings a few rounds of sun salutations works out just fine.
Do you have a morning ritual?
Kula. I never heard this word before until my yoga teacher training in 2011. A kula is a group of people who share goals and common interests and come together. It is usually associated in the yoga world, perhaps a yoga class, an ashram, and definitively a yoga teacher training program.
When I think of a kula, I also think of a school community, support groups (AA, Weight Watchers, just to name a few), business offices, and places of worship.
I recently found a kula in a place I never expected to. It is, what I call a boot-camp, gym. I joined this gym last summer because my pulmonologist told me I needed more cardio. (I was diagnosed with scoliosis in my very, very, very, post-teenage years, and the way my spine curves, my lungs are affected and more cardio is the answer.) The gym has high intensity workouts. I like the term boot camp because the classes can include jumping jacks, bear crawls, push-ups, sprinting, jumping rope (I am in the learning phase) and box jumps (or in my case step-ups), mixed in with core work and strengthening, with or without weights. Some of the classes include boxing as well, which takes me out of my comfort zone, way out of my comfort zone. The only boxing knowledge I had prior to this gym was that Mike Tyson and I share a birthday; yes, the same year month and day. (We were both also born in Brooklyn, and may be at the same hospital, who knows.) I take about 3-4 classes a week, and there is something about seeing the same people each week. We do not have to talk for a long time, but just exchanging hellos and wishing each other a nice weekend or evening has done wonders for me. Plus, the gym is in my neighborhood, so I feel like I have found a community in my home area.
I have noticed physical and emotional benefits since I joined this gym. I do not think I could have belonged to this type of gym without having a yoga practice. Pre-yoga, my experiences at gyms included me comparing myself to the other women there, saying things in my head, she can lift more weights, she comes more than I do, where did she get that gym outfit, or I can’t wear that outfit because I need a better bra than her. Not very nice things, but my yoga practice prepared me for being okay with learning how to jump rope or sprinting slower than my peers.
I think a kula has so many benefits because it connects us physically and emotionally to others. Specifically, in my boot camp classes, we are sweating and moving together with the goal of feeling good in our bodies. .
Where do you find your kula?
I live in Brooklyn, New York, and like so many others, I commute daily to New York City for my job. I admit I can get a little anxious riding the subway – the thought of terrorists and the recent slashings that have been happening in and around New York City – and this is why I like to notice happy moments on the subway.
During my commute home earlier this evening, a little girl, about five years old, in a Hijab sat down (her older sister was standing near her) and started talking to a young man, who reminded me of B.J. Novak. They spoke about colors, numbers, Frozen and apple juice. She asked him if he liked her book bag. He did, the beginning of the Frozen discussion. I think she was impressed that he identified Ana and Elsa. She asked me if he was a daddy or a brother. When he told her that he was not a daddy or a brother, she said “Teacher”? Her stop came and she gave him a high five. The people who were standing and sitting near them were smiling, including myself. It was such a sweet moment, among strangers that transcended culture, sex, adults, and age. Just a sweet conversation between humans.
Yoga teaches us that we are all connected. In a public class, people are moving and breathing together, whether someone is doing a handstand or someone is in child’s pose (usually me). We all want the same things in life to find peace and ease. It is nice to recognize this connection on the subway.
So open your eyes, you never know what precious moments you will witness.