Sunday inspired

Inspiring me this past week:

:: a stomach bug forcing me to slow down

:: kids who let me rest

:: friends who care and offer help

:: spring seeds for planting

:: Easter Basket prep

:: spring skirt making

What’s inspiring you these days?

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Restorative yoga–announcing new classes!

Never heard of restorative yoga? Oh…you’ve been missing out. It’s a wonderfully restful, restorative (hence the name), and relaxing form of yoga. Each pose is held for 10-15 minutes allowing the body to access each pose more fully. The poses are fully supported with all sorts of yoga props, so that the body is completely supported, as well. Needless to say, it’s a very passive form of yoga. I find restorative yoga to be ideal for most people recovering from an injury; athletes in recovery or augmenting their training program (especially just before a race); and–really–anyone that simply wants to slow down and let the poses do the work.

Remember the pose I discussed yesterday? Legs up the Wall? It’s one of many lovely restorative poses.

I’ve taught restorative yoga for the past 2 years. First at Rise Yoga (thank you, Ann) and currently at Capital Athletic Club. I’m so excited to announce that beginning April 5th, I’ll be teaching 2 restorative classes a month at RiverSong Meditation in Sacramento! I’ll be teaching the 1st and 3rd Thursdays of the month from 7:00pm until 8:30pm.

There will be lots of quiet. Lots of props. Lots of time to be still and rest. (And lots of instruction and help if you’re new to restorative yoga.) I would love for you to join me!

For more information, please visit my yoga page or leave a comment here.

Yoga pose: legs up the wall

So, if you know me, you know I love yoga asana, which are the poses and physical expression of yoga. I appreciate and practice other parts of the big Yoga, but asana is my most active practice. To help spread and de-mystify yoga a bit, I’m going to try (emphasis on try) to share a yoga pose a week. I plan to explain how to get in and out of the pose, what to do while in the pose, and explain the benefits of the pose a bit. Most of this will come directly from me and what I’ve learned over nearly 15 years of practice and almost 3 years of teaching (which, by the way and as a form of disclaimer, isn’t very long at all). I’ll also provide a link or two with other teachers’ versions of the pose.

First up, Legs up the Wall. In Sanskrit this is known as Vipirita Karani. I love Legs up the Wall. This is my go-to pose whenever I need a little recharge in the middle of the day,  if my legs and hips are a bit tired from a run or picking up a 36-pound 3 ½-year-old, or if my yoga practice is really leg-heavy.

How-to: This is the hardest part. Really. Place the short end of your yoga mat (or a blanket or towel if you don’t have a mat; although a sticky mat is best since it won’t slip) against a wall. Check to make sure there isn’t anything sticking out of the wall that would be uncomfortable to rest against. Now sit sideways with your right (or left) hip right up against the wall. No space. Get cozy with the wall. Place your hands behind you. Slowly lower your back toward the floor. As you do this, start to lift your legs up the wall. As your back goes down and your legs up, start to swivel your hips so that your legs can rest against the wall and your back along your yoga mat.

Wiggle around a bit. Ideally the backs of both legs are fairly fully touching the wall. If you’re hamstrings are tight, however, you may have to back your buttocks from the wall a bit to accommodate the tightness. In this case, just your heels may be touching the wall.

Get your back and hips comfy. Notice if there’s any pinching anywhere and gently move to elongate your spine to help relieve the sensation. Play with a couple of different arm positions to find what feels best. Maybe the arms are outstretched like a T or overhead like a cactus. Or perhaps the hands rest gently on the belly. Breathe.

Once there: Close your eyes. Alternate pointing and flexing  your feet and then let your legs get heavy into your hip sockets. Notice the backs of your hips touching the mat (or blanket, or floor). Feel rooted there. Take some deep breathes into your belly, letting the belly fully expand. As you exhale, invite the back of the body to ease into the floor a bit more. Try to stay here for five or 10 minutes. Maybe set a timer?

How-to get out: Slowly bend your legs, bringing your knees into your chest. Pause there for a minute. Keep your eyes closed. Let your legs and body adjust to not having the legs up the wall. Start to rock side to side very slowly. Eventually roll all the way to one side, coming into a fetal position. Pause for few breaths. Gently and with care, press yourself upright.

Benefits: As I mentioned up above, this is one of my go-to poses and perhaps one of my all-time favorites, as well. It can help reduce swelling and fatigue in the legs. I also find it helpful in re-setting—so to speak—tender SI and hip joints along the back of the body.  Legs up the Wall also calms the sympathetic nervous system which has a big hand to play in our fight-or-flight response.

When not to do this pose: Yes, even in yoga you need to be careful. Judith Lasater—an expert in restorative yoga—doesn’t recommend this pose if you have a hiatal hernia, have sciatica, or are menstruating. Other sources, however, believe that it’s okay to do the pose at that time of the month–and if you’re pregnant–as long as the back and pelvis are grounded on the floor—as I’ve described here—and not on a bolster.

Other resources:

Please let me know if you have any questions. And enjoy!

 

Running

I started running again about a year and a half ago. It’s the easiest exercise for me to do given my current life. I don’t have to drive anywhere to do it. I just lace up my shoes and walk out my door. And I only have to run for 45 minutes to get a decent workout.

Despite my current dedication to running, I’ve always had a love-hate relationship with the sport. When I run, I pound myself into the ground—well, concrete, generally. That’s really tough on my body. On my joints in particular. At the same time, my metabolism loves it, as does my mind. Once those endorphins kick in, it’s hard not to enjoy the sensation.

What I love most, however, is how running also requires me to be very mindful—just like my yoga practice. If my form isn’t just right, I get hurt. I really do. My body is very sensitive because it simply is and because of my years of yoga. Yoga has tuned me into my body. Nothing goes unnoticed (whether or not I do anything about it is another thing, of course). I’m constantly adjusting the position of my body, and encouraging my mind focus on the task at hand and not everything else going on in my life.

It’s this juncture of mind and body that helps make my running practice a good fit for my yoga practice. They complement each other at this stage in my life. And running provides all sorts of fodder for my daily asanas.

So, I’m making peace with running. I’m enjoying this current phase of athleticism and mindfulness…and scheduling a massage soon (well…my body is telling me I need one).

Grief

One of the teachers at my son’s school died unexpectedly yesterday. She taught my son and his classmates movement once a week for a short amount of time. She was 32.

I grieve for a life so short.

I grieve for her family and friends and co-workers that knew her best. They’ll certainly be feeling the loss of her presence.

And I grieve for the kids that were told this morning. That they will know grief.

This song came to mind this morning.

The change of the season

The kids and I have a ritual with the change of every season. We collect all of the books that have anything to do with the new season and place them in a basket in the living room. The books from the previous season go back on the kids’ book shelf. We also decorate one of our fireplace mantles with things that remind is of the new season.

Spring starts in just a couple of days. We’ve had a very mild and dry winter. Until now. Two days before winter is suppose to end. Part of me wants to pull out the spring books. Part of me wants to enjoy winter–finally–despite what the calendar says.

A few weeks ago–when it did feel like spring–there was much talk at our house about how it felt like spring but technically it was still winter. (David Mas Masumoto had a lovely and hard essay about the way the changing of the seasons is changing in yesterday’s Sacramento Bee.)

Technicalities. Because the kids don’t really care about technicalities. It just is what it is. The kids do what feels right. Rain boots if it’s raining. Sandles if it’s warm and dry. Finding joy in the moment whatever that moment holds.

I don’t know when we’ll pull out the spring books. I think we will at least acknowledge the technical start of spring which may inspire the kids to request the spring books. With spring comes rebirth. New beginnings. Growth. Change. Regardless of the season, these are all good things to keep in mind.

Inspiring me these days…

:: new yoga books

:: daffodils

:: the rain

:: new music found through friends’ spotify accounts

:: a gluten-free diet for the next month or so (yes, inspiring)

:: empty coffee sacks ready to be made into something (thanks to Insight Coffee for the sacks)

:: Taproot Magazine

:: friends with common ideas and a willingness and interest to share (namely Mamasattva and Building Better Bodies)

:: tantrums–because I don’t know how else to positively spin a 3 1/2 year-old’s or a 6 1/2 year-old’s breakdowns

Maitri Mama

Loving one’s self–maitri–in Buddhist lingo. Easier said than done, right? There’s always that little voice in the back of the head trying to sabotage confidence, love, and compassion (and a myriad of other things). And if you’re a mama, there’s a whole ‘nother layer of things to beat ourselves over: breast feeding or not, co-sleeping or not, raising your voice at your kids, working or not (…and a myriad of other things…).

Whew…it’s exhausting. And hard. And it takes practice. After the birth of my second child, I started meditating. I don’t meditate every day and never for very long, but I do it. And when I’m not meditating I try (key word: try) to be mindful of what I’m doing. It helps. A lot. Most of the time time.

A couple of years ago my friend Christine and I met. Christine’s the real deal when it comes to mediating and mindfulness. She struggles like the rest of us, of course, but she looks at everything through the lens of mindfulness due to her years of Buddhist study (she use to live at the San Francisco Zen Center and even met her husband there). A month or so ago, Christine–who also writes the blog Mamasattva–asked me if I’d help her start a mama’s sitting group. Yes, yes, and yes!

I excitedly introduce Maitri Mamas. The group will provide a safe, non-judgmental place for mothers to come together to meditate, offer support, and share about living/parenting as mindfully as possible. Mothers of children of any age are welcome as are mothers of any religious affiliation and meditation experience. Beginning April 12th, we’ll meet the 2nd Thursday of every month from 7pm-8pm at RiverSong Mediation in the Sierra2Center complex in Curtis Park. Here’s a flier with more specific info:

MatriMamasFlyer-1

If you’re mama. If you’re interested in mediation. If you’re looking for a bit more space and breathing room in your life. Please join us.

(A big thank you to Beth Johnson of RiverSong Meditation for letting us use her space. And to Marijke Melman for helping us with the flyer.)

A Year of Handmade

Last spring, I had the pleasure of meeting Anne of Flax and Twine at Squam–an art workshop in New Hampshire. Since then, I’ve been happily subscribed to Anne’s blog and constantly inspired by her ideas, enthusiasm, and skills.

For 2012, Anne has committed to making all of her gifts. Yep, a year of handmades. I love the idea. I made many gifts last year, but hope to make even more this year (family and friends, you’ve been warned). I love receiving handmade gifts. I so very much appreciate the care and thought that goes into something made with intention and time. As Anne mentioned in her blog, “It is this effort that bestows handmade gifts with value in ways that store-bought gifts just cannot have.”

I also want my children to grow up to appreciate handmade things. Receiving, yes, but  more importantly making and giving. I want them to have confidence in their creative ideas and abilities and to find enjoyment in the process.

With Christmas 2011 over and an entire year ahead of me, I’m also committing to a year of handmades. Are  you in?