My mom stayed with me for the past 3.5 days. I did zero yoga. But, we saw
theater: The 39 Steps, brilliant plot (it was a Hitchcock movie) and brilliant comedy
dance: Step Afrika, a tap/rap amalgamation created by college kids (also a horrible “modern” dance performance to the Sound of Music that was immature and incoherent)
art: Pietre Dure (Medici-era treasures in stone) and William Turner exhibitions at the Met; Salvador Dali exhibition of drawings in SoHo; Brooklyn Botanical Garden (with Japanese pond)
music: 200 Guitars was canceled, but we saw a fusion band at Lucky Cat and live music at Moto
food: The Olive Vine and Le Gamin, Enid’s and ‘Snice, Taipan Bakery bubble tea all make me hap-py
I was definitely a wee bit cranky by the end, I usually get yoga withdrawal symptoms around day two of no yoga, but we walked at least 20 miles so I was not too wound up. She had agreed to go to a hatha class on Saturday morning — I told her how slow hatha helps lubricate and strengthen the joints — but when I got up at 9, sluggish and ready to bail, she was already showered and dressed and we didn’t want to go. Plus, she thinks slow yoga is boring, and fast yoga’s too hard on her knees. Maybe I need to get her drunk first. The wine helped her walk…
So, last night I finally went to the park to practice. I ran three miles, all inspired by The New Yorker’s article on the marathoner Ryan Hall. But my usual practice spot was full of mosquitoes, and the whole park was crowded like it was Family Night, so I did no more than 10 minutes of poses. I did sit by the fence to meditate for five minutes. I’ll give myself one gold star for managing to keep my eyes closed as the teenagers and stroller moms walked by. At least I didn’t get clipped in the head by a soccer ball, like the jogger ahead of me.
I guess I didn’t do ZERO yoga — I stretched my feet and back every morning. But I’m not sticking to any of my previous goals. I’m such a compromiser that I’m not good at carving out time for myself amid family or work obligations. Serious practice requires serious naysaying to friends and family… and my mom agrees, my ringtone should be “I’m Just a Girl Who Can’t Say No” from Oklahoma. Which sucks, because habits dissolve so easily… I’ve heard it takes 4 weeks to build a habit, and only 1 day to break it. I need a 40-day boot camp to set myself up, then maybe I’d be better trained. The good thing is that I got back on my practice as soon as possible, I’m not doing binge-and-purge stints any more. Short, regular practice is better than longer, infrequent practices. But I think I need to be more specific and enthusiastic about my goals, I get caught up in this non-doing, process-oriented mentality and forget that it’s OK to have goals in yoga; it inspires practice. (But when it’s all about getting The Yoga Body, it’s maybe not so enlightened.) So, I’m going to do some layouts for The Book today, and that will give me some homework. I want to write a bit about each pose, and there’s quite a few I haven’t studied in depth.
Last week I vacationed w/family in the Outer Banks. A big shady deck with an ocean view might just be my dream yoga spot, and I don’t even like the beach. I have not felt so motivated to get up and practice in a while. Morning practice was easy, and daily! My aunt and sister joined a couple days, which helped. It reminds me of the importance of environment — and how weird it is to do yoga in a huge city.
On tired days, I started off with some reclined hip openers and seated spinal stretches. On energized days, I went straight into gentle sun or moon salutations, and did more standing poses, bends, and balances. I came up with a new warrior sequence that I liked a lot, I did it all week. Here are the chunks:
“I’M TIRED” WARM-UP
Wind Relieving Pose (hug the right knee into the chest)
Reclined Spinal Twist
Straighten leg to the sky and point/flex/circle the foot
Pilates Circles with the whole extended leg
Reclined Side Soldier (take Yogi Toe Lock and open the leg to the side)
Reclined Extended Spinal Twist (switch hands on the foot and take it across the body)
repeat on the other side
Single Leg Raises (10x, up and down to the count of 4)
Camel Ride (sitting with hands on knees, flex spine forward and back w/Breath of Fire)
Chinese Drum (hands on shoulders, twist left and right w/Breath of Fire)
Shoulder Shrugs (hands on thighs, lift and drop shoulders w/Breath of Fire
Sun or Moon Salutations (3-6 each side) with focus on BREATHING and LIGHTNESS
Triangle (both sides)
Wide-Legged Forward Bend
Extended Side Angle (right side)
Forward Angle (right side)
Forward Angle Bind (hands clasped behind back)
Humble Warrior (slide back foot back, drop head to floor)
Vinyasa and repeat on other side
BALANCE POSES (choose a few)
Topping Tree (from Humble Warrior, straighten front leg and lift back leg towards sky)
BACKBENDS (just the Sivananda basics)
Sphinx or Cobra
Seated Forward Bend
Seated Spinal Twist
Various Seated Twists (Marichyasana I-IV) after boogie boarding hurt my back
LONG-TIME POSES (essentials, held 10 breaths to 5 minutes)
Each day’s version varied slightly, and at no point did I do all poses listed above, but the general arrangement stuck. I lost my breathing practice, though. I did some Breath of Fire in the poses, but I only did Alternate Nostril Breathing once. (That instance, however, was delicious and way more appreciated after missing it.) I meant to do both this morning before leaving for the airport, but 5:45 was already way early for my freelax body.
I’m heading out to Amanda’s Sweat & Flow tonight… or the park?
This morning I did 3 rounds Breath of Fire, 5 rounds Alternate Nostril Breath, 3 rounds Sun Salutes. Then:
Wide-legged Forward Bend (the Ashtanga sequence starts similarly)
Triangle, each side
Forearm Stand (lifting up for 2 seconds!)
Seated Forward Bend
Seated Spinal Twist
All very brief. Probably 15 minutes to do the 9 poses listed. I was just intending to do one Sun Salute, to stretch my sore muscles (Yiannis’ class Sunday morning had a lot of challenging poses I hadn’t done in a while; Julianna’s class Monday night held the poses for at least 20 seconds each) but I fell into the Sivananda poses after that. Benefits of sequence-based practice.
Soon I will post a comparison of the most popular yoga sequences; I’m curious to see how they compare visually.
I actually did a decent sequence this evening in the park. I’ve been doing way more breathing exercises and meditation than “actual poses” lately, so it felt great to stretch. Although it’s always weird to practice in a crowded Brooklyn park, you feel so many eyes on you (even if they’re not). Here’s the part that flowed really nicely:
Prayer Pose (standing, w/hands together)
Forward Bend w/hands interlaced behind back
Bound Revolved Side Angle
Bound Revolved Half Moon
Airplane (low lunge with forearms on ground)
Hamstring Stretch (from low lunge, sit hips back on heel and stretch front leg)
Half Moon (circling arm forward and leaning onto front leg to come up)
Full Dancer’s Pose (both hands over head to grasp toe)
Then the other side. Tree into Flying Crow was also a nice transition. And I held a Handstand, unsupported, for 2 whole seconds :)
The nice thing about the park is that I can jog to warm up, so I don’t have to do Sun Salutes! I really hate them most of the time. Which means I’m doing them wrong…
Sometimes I add my favorite sequence ever: the Kundalini Spinal Warmup. It is great for days when you can’t bring yourself to practice vinyasa, or you’re really stiff, or you’re tired and can’t think, or your back hurts, or you have shoulder problems. Sitting in easy pose:
Hands on knees: Flex spine forward and back, with Breath of Fire (20 seconds – 2 minutes)
Hands on shoulders, elbows out: Rotate spine side to side, with Breath of Fire (20 seconds – 2 minutes)
Hands clasped in front of heart (Bear Grip), pulling on each other: Rock alternate elbows up and down, with Deep Breathing (20 seconds – 2 minutes)
Hands still clasped in front of heart: Inhale deeply. Exhale deeply. Raise clasped hands above the head. Inhale deeply. Exhale deeply. (3 times)
Hands on knees. Inhale and hunch shoulders up to ears; exhale and drop them, with Breath of Fire (20 seconds – 2 minutes)
Hands on knees. Tip chin to chest; inhale and roll head around in a circle, lifting from the jaw as it reaches the back. (5 times clockwise, 5 times counterclockwise)
Sit on your heels (Rock Pose) and interlace your fingers above your head, index fingers extended to the sky. Close the eyes and focus between the eyebrows. Inhale and think Sat (truth); exhale and think Nam (named), using Breath of Fire. (2 minutes)
I always skip the last one for some reason.
Another great wakeup exercise is Spinal Jump Rope. Sitting in Easy Pose, with the hands on the knees:
Focus on the navel. Gently start to spiral the lower back clockwise, making each loop a bit larger than the last. Inhale circle it forward and exhale circle it back. Visualize the navel like a sparkler tracing a circle in space. Continue for a couple minutes, then gently slow back to center and do the other direction.
Focus on the heart. Same as before, but making gentle circles with the upper back.
Focus on the throat. Same as before, but making gentle circles with the neck.
I did this a few weeks ago and couldn’t stop. My spine got really warmed up and the movement became completely unconscious. I was like a circling Sufi or something. Really weird.
Today I added 5 Sun Salutes; we’ll see if that sticks.
Today I was an art director, alignment coach, hair assistant, styling assistant, and fluffer (of a ponytail). Sabina, Brian and I did a photo shoot for our new yoga book at a beautiful studio on Hudson St. Over 100 poses, and we finished right as the parking lot was about to lock up. Funny how that works.
I got home and practiced a little, to stretch out:
Talking on the phone pose…
5 Moon Salutes (it was dark out)
Scorpion (inspired by Sabina’s 3-in-a-row rockness)
Seated Forward Bend
Easy Spinal Twists
Then a candle meditation for about 15 minutes, which made me realize I should post and track my hours tonight.
Here is my practice sequence from last week. I’ve been trying to rest a hip strain (the massage therapist and acupuncturist said it needs 4-12 WEEKS of rest), so this gentle sequence from Dr. Amrit Raj was much appreciated. (He was in town for a “Yoga & Ayurveda” workshop at Exhale.)
This is a light sequence, safe for anyone. We did about 10-20 reps each one. The numbers in front are just my mnemonic device. Start off sitting, with legs extended.
10 – Flex toes about 10x (inhale point, exhale flex)
9 – Flex feet about 10x
8 – Circle ankles about 5x each way
7 – Flex knee about 10x each side (clasp foot, bend knee to chest, then straighten leg)
6 – Flex hips about 10x (butterfly position — inhale up, exhale forward)
5 – Round spine and roll forward and back about 10x
4 – On stomach, hold bow pose about 30 seconds
– Rock forward and back about 10x
– Rock side to side about 10x
3 – Clench fingers about 10x (sitting, with arms extended up)
2 – Flex hands about 10x
1 – Circle wrists about 5x each way
0 – Circle shoulders about 5x each way (with arms bent, hands on shoulders)
1 – Turn neck left, right, up, down about 5x
2 – Turn eyes left, right, up, down about 5x
Then 5 minutes of alternate nostril breathing
Then 5 minutes of meditation
I did this every morning last week, and by the middle of the week a chronic charley horse in my foot was completely gone.