Category: Leg Strengthening Practices

Episode 28 – “Sit on That”

Impact vs. Intent. Its an interesting conversation. Does the intention of an individual really make a difference in how wrong their actions are, when those actions have a negative impact on another person? Does it really matter if they didn’t intend anything negative to result from their words, their deed?

Eh, not really.

I mean, yea, there’s a difference for the person at the intention end of the deal.

A person who accidentally pops a champagne cork into a fellow party go-er’s eye is a significantly less shitty person than if they had done so on purpose.

But does the fact that they “didn’t mean to do it” save the victim’s eye? Nope.

I mean seriously, it doesn’t.

We often feel like it does, though. While I was trying to build up the courage (I’ll get to that in a moment) and discipline to actually sit down and write this, I thought doing a little field research might help. It did! I read this really awesome article by Melanie Tannenbaum for Scientific American and you should totally read it because she says some really great broad-perspective stuff on why and how we consider intent when deciding how bad the impact was.

Since Melanie did such a rad job explaining the whole phenomenon, and you can read all about that in her article (and tons of others) I wanna take this in another direction.

I have to admit that I had some difficulty sitting down to write this. I keep finding myself so busy and scatterbrained with all the goings-on of a new “main job” working in a café, juggling subbing classes and trying to keep my own dance and yoga practice alive and well. So yes, there’s finding time to do it, and there’s the general begrudging procrastination of not staying in constant practice upon the page (er, computer keyboard). But this has been hard for another reason.

I started seeing “Impact > Intent” in response to the recent US Presidential election and saw some statements made that really made a lot of sense.

See, I totally support anyone standing behind a candidate that they feel has the best policies. Even standing behind the candidate they feel has better policies than the others even though all the policies aren’t ideal. Hell, I still think you should stand behind the candidate that has even just slightly less-shitty policies than the other shitty candidate policies if that’s your view on what you think should be going on in whatever you’re voting on.

And I totally respect your right to do so. I may not like it – but I can respect it.

Here’s the real problem that I (and many others) have with the President Elect…

Regardless of anything that he is doing or intends in his speeches, rallies, twittering escapades, “locker room talk,” or whatever it may be:

What his is doing is impacting other people.

He’s setting a terrible example for our nation and our children. That example is leading many people to feel like racism, misogyny, xenophobia, and mistreatment of the LBTQ community is on some level acceptable. And all of this is creating feelings of concern, anxiety, and even actualized instances of a loss of safety for minorities, women, LBTQ – in other words, you know, PEOPLE.

Anyways, why has that lead to me having a really hard time sitting to write and share my thoughts on this? Because I know and love a lot of people that voted for Donald Trump.

Like really love these people. They are wonderful human beings. The thought of offending them, saddening them, alienating them, or misrepresenting them with this blog is just gut-wrenching for me.

There’s a part of me that has all of the best intentions of just keeping everything in my world even-keel and serene (in a rather sterile sort of way) by simply remaining silent and avoiding the subject.

But what’s the impact of that?

Nothing.

Nothing happens. Nothing changes. No information gets shared, no communication comes about, no new perspectives are shared. Essentially my cowardice on approaching the subject might as well be my agreement of current circumstances.

Let’s consider this with regards to Satya or “truthfulness.”

It’s hard to balance the necessity of honesty with the desire (and yes also a very worthy goal) to be kind and happy with everyone. Sometimes it’s a delicate thing to have to tell someone that sweater really does look awful, or that they have lipstick on their teeth. But if we do it compassionately, we can step out of our uncomfortable cowardly shield of “I’m just trying to be nice!” and let the truth set us all free.

I once walked by all 45 members of my college’s dance company from the dressing room to the wings of the stage (smiling and talking to almost everyone) before one dancer finally said “Girl I know you’re not about to walk out on stage with that lipstick all about your teeth!” It would have been nice if he had said it with some kindness rather than sneer at me, but I’m still pretty grateful he had saved me further embarrassment.

No one wants to walk on stage with lipstick on their teeth. No one wants to be called a racist, a misogynist, a person who promotes hate (OK some people might but we’re just going to go with the assumption that most people would like to see those things eradicated from our culture – especially people we know and respect). Therefore it is our duty to find a balance of both Ahimsa (non-harm, compassion) and Satya (the truth) and find the courage to engage with each other about these issues.

If my intention is to maintain balance in my relationships, but the impact is that I’m not standing up for what I believe in, not helping to make any changes or share what might eventually be valuable insight… my good intentions mean squat.

We should always try to have the best intentions. Carefully aim every arrow before we pull back and fire. But we need to keep an eye on whether we’re actually hitting our mark. If our arrows are missing the target – perhaps hitting our fellow archers instead – then we need to grab the first aid kit, apologize, and adjust our aim.

I didn’t say it’s easy to have these conversations. It’s not easy on either end (when was the last time you graciously accepted that you had unintentionally done harm? It’s hard, isn’t it?). I suggest taking the time to prepare yourself for these conversations with some meditation. Do something to clear your head.

If you’re into movement to clear the head, maybe check out the video below.

Cheers, friends,
Xoxo

April

 

Episode 27 – “Connection for Growth”

“United we stand: Divided we fall”

Heard that one before?  It’s a statement that dates back seemingly to Aesop, but Americans have stood by this credo since our inception as a nation in the late 1700s.  Throughout our nation’s history we have been divided in belief and agenda across a myriad of issues.  The post-election climate we find ourselves in is no exception to our history and no exception to the truth of these words.

Can you count how many times you’ve seen someone on social media exclaim “unfollowing!” “unfriending!” (or a blatant “screw you guys!”) over the past few weeks?  Yeah, me neither.  It’s an epidemic.

And while I stand whole-heartedly behind the need to remove oneself from unnecessarily unpleasant circumstances, walling ourselves off from those who disagree with us might not be the best answer.  It’s not changing anyone’s mind or creating any understanding between parties for us all to just insult and isolate each other.

We need to communicate.  Compassionately and patiently (even though this is really freaking hard).  

I feel the need to make an obscure movie reference here… bear with me…

In the 2001 Horror/Thriller “13 Ghosts” a character is killed off by being sliced through his middle by a vertically descending pane of glass.  The dude is just standing in a hallway one minute, and in the next minute the front and back halves of his body begin to slide down their own sides of the glass and crumple to the floor.

Standing one moment.  Divided and fallen the next.

OK, I told you it was an obscure reference — but do you get what I’m saying here?  We can’t just slam a wall in between ourselves and our community, friends and family.  No one gets what they want, and nothing gets fixed.

My advise? (And for the record the advise that I’m trying to follow myself)

Set aside some time to really think about what you think you need to articulate to the people on the other side of this divide.  Then think carefully about what you think their perspective is – what they would try to articulate to you about what they’re standing behind.  And develop a dialogue on even ground with them.

Preferably not over the internet.  Body language and voice inflection make such a difference.  I can hold your hand, look meaningfully into your eyes, and show that I’m genuinely listening to you if we’re sitting together.  But I just gently laid my hand and looked with meaning at my laptop as I posted this and it’s not getting across to you any more than FaceBook comments spilled at the spur of the moment are getting across to those you’re commenting to.

We’re in for a rough time, America.  We are divided right now and we need to work on that.  We face a lot of difficulty as a nation.

I don’t think I have a conversation with a single person here who discovers I’m an American and doesn’t ask about our political circumstances.  The world is watching us, the world feels for (and fears for) us.

We cannot divide and segregate and allow ourselves to fall to this struggle.

Oh yeah, the yoga… the physical yoga…

You may recall me mentioning (or have heard it from tons of other yoga teachers) that the physical practice was designed to prepare our bodies to be able to sit for meditation.  So do that!  Do this practice, and sit in contemplation of compassion and communication and connection with your fellow man.  (Alliteration seriously not planned but I’m just going with what my fingers are spilling at this point.)

Enjoy!

 

Cheers, yo!

xo

(by the way, if you have anything to say or want to talk about how this election has impacted you, your feelings of safety, your relationships, anything at all — I’m a safe space.  #safetypin)

 

 

 

Episode 18 – “No Wrists No Worries”

Ah yes, reggae rock.  The anthem of lazy days and summer time.  It’s also the anthem of this week’s practice, coming at you from Ancient Elephant.  You can check out their jams on Soundcloud and iTunes.  Huge thanks to those guys for giving me permission to use their tracks in this video.

These laid back grooves have me inspired to follow the Rastafarian edict “No Worries, Mon” and just get lost in a good flow.  My favorite medicine for anxiety and feeling the weight of the world is to direct my attention elsewhere.  My favorite place to direct my attention is towards movement.  My mind starts focusing on what my body and my breath are doing,

No major pose to work towards, no stress.  Well, there will be some challenging transitions for some of us — gotta keep us on our toes, right? — but there will definitely be no stress on the wrists.

That’s right — NO Chaturangas and NO Down Dogs in this practice!  Because (contrary to popular belief) Vinyasa doesn’t mean “do push ups and stand on your hands till you’re ready to cry and ice your wrists”.  It actually means that there is a flow of movement between poses, coordinating and connecting with the breath.  Thankfully, there’s a whole lot of transitions and breathing that we can do without the hands on the floor, so I’ve got a lot of good stuff for you this week.

Now, if you do wanna add in some more upper body work by doing a couple sun salutations, I’m certainly not going to stop you.  But make sure you’re taking care of yourself…

  • Make sure you’re not collapsing into your joints and down into the floor.  Activate the legs, arms and core, so that you can push down into the mat and feel the lift through the body that comes in response to that push.
  • Use the whole hand!  Don’t fall onto the heels of the hands, use your fingers too.  Try to distribute the weight evenly towards your fingerprints and knuckles.
  • Spread your fingers out so they take up more surface area and providing a steadier base.
  • Speaking of knuckles, I find we’re often letting the index finger knuckle float off the floor as the weight in the hands rolls towards the pinky finger.  Get that index knuckle down there, it’s a strong finger, use it!

Agh! I should totally just post a video about all this, shouldn’t I? You’re right! Look for that next week. I’ll spend a little time breaking down hand/arm positioning so that maybe you’ll have some more resources for building up strength to ease back on wrist pressure.

In the mean time, let’s get off those wrists, get lost in the movement, and practice a little “Haku-namaste.” (It means no worries… You got the rest, right 😉 ? )

Oh, and when you’re done, go ahead and fire off some comments to me and let me know what you think of this flow, and any other requests for future focus or concerns about your practice.

AND ALSO TO LET ME KNOW ABOUT YOUR BAND! Because I wanna put your music in a future episode. Let’s talk tune-age.

Cheers, yo!
-*- Namaste -*-
April

 

 

Episode 13 – “Twisting and Tidying”

OK I’ll be honest, I’ve been so caught up in The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up that I haven’t put a lot of thought or left a lot of time to put up a real write-up here.  It’s sunny now, and I’m going out to play with my dog because I have Yoga-ed and Tidied and Organized and Sparked Joy just plain enough already.

Entry update to come.

Also, check out Windhand’s Bandcamp because Relapse Records is super awesome for allowing me to use their music for these videos and I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!  Leave me comments and let me know what you think about the new format and any suggestions for future music, poses, focus, things for me to read.  Have you tidied your own home? Thought about it? Scared? (I was!) Talk to me dude.

Cheers, yo!

-*- Namaste -*-

April


Episode 11 – “Open Up and Find Paradise”

I had a nice little laugh at myself this week when I read a very well-known statement from the Buddha…

“The root of suffering is attachment”

And immediately my thoughts became “Yes!  Exactly!  I’ve been suffering in pain because of an attachment… the attachment of my torso to my legs, my hip flexors.” Also, as I’m experimenting with finding a way to heal the pain and prevent it from coming back, I’m finding that gripping and compression are major culprits.  So, this class has some focus on supporting the hip joint from the butt and the legs to avoid placing all of the attention on the hip-flexors, which in my case are getting too much focus right now anyways.

Its amazing when we get so attached to ideas of what we want or what we want to get away from.  It starts to consume us.  We get tunnel vision, and suddenly we’re losing track of everything else.  I was practicing with total tunnel vision on “how does my psoas feel right now?” and another teacher, my friend, comes over several times to realign my totally fallen-in knee and remind me to get my shoulders out of my ears.  If you know me, these are things I’m always really keen on when practicing and especially teaching.  It became very clear to me then that I was way too attached to what was going on in this one part of my body that I was neglecting the rest of my practice.

Yada yada, enough talk.  Check out this week’s video!  I talk a bit more about the benefits of non-attachment and we get into not only some work to support the hip flexors but also some neat back tricks and Bird of Paradise!  Also, in the main video we kind of just push through to Bird of Paradise but I also did a short segment on some modifications and adjustments to access the pose so you should check that out, too.

I’d love to hear from you about your experiences with attachment, maybe any tips and tricks you’ve discovered for your own body for the attachment of the hip flexors or any of the poses we explore in this practice.  Also, got any requests for body stuff or poses you’d like to work on in the coming weeks?  I love playing with new ideas and connecting with my students about what they’re needing.  Leave me some comments!

Cheers, yo!

-*- Namaste -*-

April

 

Here’s the full practice…

Here’s the clip on bird of paradise…

Here’s just the dharma…

Here’s just the warm up…

And if you just wanna get into the main flow, I got that for ya, too…

Episode 6 – “Feel Free to Fidget”

I’ve always been in love with moving.  It just feels awesome, feeling muscles move together, dancing or running or even working out (yes, I’m one of those people).  The “happy dance”? That’s totally a real thing in my world.  I even have a tendency to groove around in my seat when eating some good grub.

I know I’m not alone on that.  Not only are there plenty of other “adults” who assure me they can identify with my need to be in motion, but I also see it in the kids I do outreach classes with.  No matter how well-behaved and engaged the group is, there’s always an arm flying out, a head bobbing, someone facing the other side of the room… and always a teacher apologizing to me for the kids and their fidgeting.  But kids fidget, man, they move, and I totally understand.

I subscribe to a theory that we are born with “all the answers” and we’re raised to “forget” the real truths of the world and what we truly need from it.  So why can’t kids ever seem to sit still?  Maybe it’s because we’re not supposed to sit still.  We’re seeing all of this evidence that sitting and working office jobs is so bad for our bodies — it’s because we’re supposed to keep on the go.

Also, it’s hard to sit still.  The body’s systems are constantly in motion – every cell within you is hard at work at all times.  It takes a lot of strength to remain sitting with proper posture for any length of time.  That’s why yoga was created.  Because there is such a huge connection between the body and the mind that in order to quiet the mind and seek a better headspace, we need to quiet the body and improve upon its physicality.  We need to cultivate both strength and flexibility in order to pursue meditation for any length of time.  Even if you don’t meditate (*ahem* you should start) then you still need to be able to rest easily and efficiently (oh yeah, a good yoga practice can totally help you sleep better!).

As Patanjali stated in the Yoga Sutras, “Sthira Sukham Asanam”.  For us English speaking folks, he was telling us than an asana (what we call a yoga pose) is a steady, comfortable seat.  Notice he didn’t say a stagnant seat, a ridgid seat, or a frozen seat.  If a pose is steady, we can still work to find our fullest expression of it through mindfulness and engagement.  As far as comfortable, well, often some adjustment and modification is necessary in order to find that in the pose.  Often it takes a really long time to become comfortable with certain asanas, and perhaps its more reasonable to shoot for being “at peace with” the pose much as we might be with a frustrating co-worker or the neighbor’s noisy mean dog.

My point?  Yoga is awesome because it helps work out the body so we can chill out.  And if it’s not chill for you, do what I call “purposeful fidgeting”.  Which means move.  Explore the posture, ask questions of your body like “Hey, dude, what can I do to make this less terrible?”  When that issue is addressed, the question becomes “What can I do to make this really awesome?”

Click on the video — let’s get moving and get awesome together!

Oh and if you’re still feeling like fidgeting your fingers around the internet, click here to leave a comment on the YouTube channel, and subscribe while you’re there so that you get updates about future episodes.  I’m also working to create shorter sections as well as full episodes to roll out every week — thoughts about that?  Leave me some comments and let me know!

Thanks so much for sticking with me long enough to get all the way down here to the end of the page.  I’m already movin’ and shakin’ on to next week’s adventure…

Cheers, yo!
-*- Namaste -*-

–April

Episode 3 – “TED Talks Anonymous”

Remember that whole gratitude and joy meditation deal from last week?  Well, let me start off by saying how much I am grateful for TED Talks because of how much joy they bring me!  I’ll talk more about this specific TED Talk in my video, but after we do some yoga here together, go check out Caroline McHugh’s discussion on “The Art of Being Yourself”.  I’ll put a link below.  I’m pretty much just paraphrasing (not quite as eloquently and with a much less cool accent) the first part of her talk, but what she has to say about being larger than ourselves is really profound.

Dancing absolutely makes me feel larger than life. ©Crystal Amaya Photography.

Dancing absolutely makes me feel larger than life. ©Crystal Amaya Photography

By growing “a foot larger in every direction” we create space to use the body more efficiently.  Physical expansion and lengthening can open up compression and help us “un-stuck” ourselves.  We’re stronger when we’re open (muscles work by pulling, after all) and we’re capable of finding greater rotation when we avoid the compression of condensing the body together.  I’m finding a lot of success in my classes and my personal practice by lengthening in rotating poses to avoid painful compression and better balance the body in standing poses.

In this week’s video, we’ll explore some thigh opening and strengthening, as well as some creative use of blocks (or large heavy books – I might be the only yogi in history to go on camera with Cthulhu between her thighs).

By the way — I’d love to hear from you!  Leave me some comments on YouTube, let me know what you think of these videos and if you have any requests for future content.  I love connecting with people, making sure I’m providing something that is beneficial for the people who are practicing with me.  Thanks for being here, and thanks for being your fabulous self!

Oh yeah – that link!  Check out Caroline McHugh’s TED Talk right HERE.

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