Opening My Heart to Today

The November Yoga Challenge I’m doing on Instagram is going well, though it is showing me, among other things, how out of practice I am. Proof: I seem to have slightly hyperextended my lower back. I think it was either the forward fold or the downward dog that did it, or both. It was starting to feel better until I did many, many Warrior III poses yesterday, trying to get a single good picture (which I did not). At any rate, I’m trying to be gentle with myself while working my way back into a steady practice.

Today’s pose – Utkatasana, or Chair Pose (what I think of as Lightning Bolt Pose, which is another name for it) was one I find surprisingly challenging, given how simple it looks. It is awkward, for one thing (actually, I believe another name for it is Awkward Pose). And it’s dynamic – meaning, I find it takes quite a bit of intention to hold it, there are little movements that seem to be happening in my body just in order to remain stable. This is usually more obviously the case when it comes to poses that require balancing on one leg; it’s a little more surprising when it’s the case for something that looks like little more than a mild squat. I find it requires a serious engagement of the core, which is good, because that’s something I really need to work on.

It turns out that, for me, this yoga challenge is not only a challenge to get into a daily practice of yoga. It is also challenging me to consider how I see myself. When I look at the pictures of my asanas (poses), my eye is always immediately drawn to: 1) what is wrong with my pose, and 2) what is wrong with my body. I know I’m not unique in this self-critical reflex. It’s nice to be pushed to post photos I don’t find particularly flattering, and to really reflect on my self-perception. For instance, in the photo below, I immediately notice my thick middle. But I am pushing myself to take notice, too, of my strong legs. This picture was taken right after I got home from the gym, where I had just set a personal record on the leg press – lifting 290 pounds (not counting the sled weight of 118lbs.). I’m proud of what my legs can do – so why do I focus first on what I wish my stomach looked like?

I can’t say I love this pose like I love so many others. But it does have a lot to teach me.

Utkanasana, the Chair or Lightningbolt Pose

Utkatasana, the Chair or Lightningbolt Pose

Today it is teaching me to open my heart, to be gentle with myself, and to love where I am.

Wishing you the same, wherever you are, whatever you are doing. Namaste, y’all!

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A thing I used to do quite a bit (Vinyasa yoga)

uttanasana - forward fold

uttanasana – forward fold

Several things in my life seem to have shifted over the last year or so, and that includes in the realm of physical activity. For a number of years, I considered “runner” part of my core identity. Even when I was injured and couldn’t run, I still thought of myself as a runner and was steadily rehabbing to make my way back. Last winter, when I discovered I was dealing with a particularly persistent injury, I decided to take a different approach, and, in the words of everyone’s favorite Frozen song, let it go.

I’m not saying I’m never going to run again and I’m not saying I’m not going to be a runner again, I’m just saying that I decided to quit holding onto that desire/hope/identity/wish/reality so hard. I chose to see my injury as an invitation, an opportunity to step into a different way of being and see what came of it. Some day soonish, I’ll talk more about this, including telling you more about what I’ve been doing instead.

In the meantime, there is this. I had something happen this weekend that served as another new invitation, and, unlike an injury, it was totally welcome – and exciting. I was scrolling through my Instagram feed, when I spied this pic in Lolly’s feed:

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I was immediately captivated and totally IN. I used to have a regular practice of Vinyasa yoga at a local studio here in Ann Arbor. I love the studio and love my teacher, but I got to a point, work-wise and life-wise, where I just couldn’t fit in classes anymore. I thought maybe I could keep up on my own, but I haven’t. At this point, it’s been about a year and a half since I have practiced. But it is calling to me now, and seems an especially good thing to supplement my other current physical practices (as well as my other spiritual practices). This challenge seems a perfect opportunity to bring yoga back into my life. I love that the focus of the challenge is on alignment. I love the gentle direction of the hosts. I love the push to just practice yoga wherever, whenever, and however I can fit it into my sometimes-chaotic life.

This is a picture I took a little more than six years ago, practicing Balasana, or Child’s Pose.

Yoga Baby

This weekend, I feel like a beginner again, at least when it comes to yoga. I am embracing my beginner identity, settling into my child’s pose, and prepared to see where this daily practice takes me.

I don’t expect I’ll be posting much about this over here on the blog, but if you’d like to follow along, you can find me on Instagram as earthchicknits – and join in, if you’re interested!

p.s. If anyone wants to recommend some great yoga leggings or pants, I’m interested! All my yoga gear is feeling kind of old and outdated. I have a fat gift card from Amazon waiting to be spent, so if I can purchase them there, all the better. But I’m not limited to that, so hit me with your best recommendations!