I was teaching a yoga class this week and was sharing a portion of Eric Schiffmann’s work “Moving into Stillness”. The paragraph I was reading had to do with shifting from thinking mode into feeling mode to live in the now. I love this precept and many of the students did as well.
Afterwards a student came up to me and said, “I don’t like that idea of living in the now.”
I laughed, mentioned yes it can be a struggle and went to the washroom. While I was in there I started wondering what she really meant. I had to find out.
“What did you mean by that?” I asked.
“Well, my Mom had Alzheimer’s disease and she lived every moment in the now.” She replied. “She only knew the now, no past, no future. We were thankful on some levels because when we told her my dad (her husband) had died she simply said oh that’s too bad. There was no pain, no recollection. It could have been anyone who died. But then we’d say things like I love you Mom and she’d say I love you back without even knowing who we were.”
It was then time to teach meditation and my mind was still whirling from the 5 minute conversation.
“Is living in the now important?” I asked the group.
“Oh yes,” was their vibrant response.
“I don’t know of any other way to live!” replied another.
“Is living in the now a bad thing?” I was still trying to get my mind around how the ‘now’ could be bad beyond dealing with the obvious issues of the disease.
“Is this a trick question?” asked one.
I told them I would explain in a moment, as I was simply working on figuring a conversation out, but was very curious what they thought about living in the now.
“That’s the bad thing with kids then,” Suggested another student. “They are always spending all of their time focusing on what to do in the future.. planning, planning and more planning so they never live in the now.”
“Not that you are wrong,” I explained. “But planning is a necessity. It is about being present with what they are doing.”
Then a lightbulb went off!
“That’s it! We have to be present. Someone with Alzheimer’s is not present. They are not even ‘in there’ for the most part.
So instead of thinking of living in the now maybe we need to shift this for some and say be present in the now. Our gift of presence is key. Whew.. took me awhile, but now I’ve got it! I’ll have to remember to pass this along to her.
I just posted a video on my YouTube channel about sleeping and how to help with sleep. And one thing I mentioned was legs up to help relax the body. Which leads to the question…
Ok, here’s the thing about Shoulder stand (Sarvangasana), Legs up the wall (Viparita Karani) or any inversion really when it comes to your period.
If you have a scanty period or if you are wanting to bring on your period (say it’s late with no chance of being pregnant) then you may want to do these asanas (poses).
However if you have a heavy flow already, then stay away from them. Wait until your period is finished.
When we do inversions the blood that pools into the legs is sent back to the heart to be replenished with fresh oxygenated blood. However during you’re period it will increase the blood flow. It’s not necessarily dangerous by any means, but if you do not want more blood flow, then it’s best to avoid doing it.
Basically think of gravity. Take a half full (optimistic thinking… lol) bottle of water and turn it upside down – obviously all of the water will flow to the bottom. Same thing goes when we do inversions.
Now some people even have this ‘issue’ when it comes to little bridge pose (Setu bhandasana) so it too is a pose you may wish to avoid.
Most women however will not have increased flow (that is noticable anyhow) from little bridge, but will definitely notice it from the other postures mentioned.
So as I said, if you’re period is late or if you wish more flow then by all means get those legs up! But if not… well… there you go.
Yesterday a new student came to class. She mentioned that she has done tons of yoga over the years. Recently she had taken an advanced class with a studio in town and in her words she “tried to keep up”. Turns out she re-injured her shoulder.
“I didn’t know yoga could be such hard work,” she said.
Ok… so many things to discuss from our 5 minute interaction.
Here it goes….
Yes Asana practice (yoga postures) can be challenging. Whoever told you yoga was easy was wrong! I’m not sure where this type of thinking began, but I will say it’s not easy regardless of the class you are in.
The Sutras speak of holding postures with “Steadiness and ease.”
Ease… not easiness….
Whether we are not being present enough (which really is key to this discussion) or the posture is beyond us – it is work. And some days will be better than others as we experience the ebb & flow of the practice.
We should never push our bodies further than they are ready to go. Never ‘try’ to keep up with an advanced class. We really need to learn to listen to the body.
I say all the time (to the point I’m sure I sound like a skipping CD) “We must be students of our body.” Just because the Yogi or Yogini beside you can touch the floor in Uttanasana (standing forward bend) doesn’t mean it’s right for you.
Play with the edge of your stretch, your openness and never go deeper than is appropriate for you.
So many of us work with the ego rather than the body. It’s the whole, “WOW.. LOOK what I CAN do!” analogy. Later that day or within a few days DOMS (delayed onset muscles soreness) sets in and we wonder what we did.
Cursing the teacher in the back of our minds everytime we bend or twist. It’s easy to drop into the blame game, “They pushed me too hard!”
In reality you pushed yourself too hard.
You weren’t listening or if you were you weren’t hearing.
Remember to approach every yoga class with a beginner’s mind. Even if you’ve heard the instructions 40 million times, you need to remember that today is not yesterday. Just because you could do something on the mat yesterday doesn’t mean you can today (or that it’s right for you today). Learn to be present. To engage in the now.
PS. Oh yeah and…We should always tell the teacher what is going on. This is key. Chances are this woman would not have re-injured her shoulder if she had told the teacher of its weakness beforehand. And if you do hurt yourself in class… again talk to the teacher about it. I’m sure whomever taught this “advanced” class would not be happy to hear the person got injured. However, if it does happen talk to the teacher. Based on their experience and the issue…. remember we aren’t magicians; they should be able to help you on your path to recovery.
A question I often hear in yoga class is “When will I get good at this?” We are referring to the physical postures here. Here is my response:
Getting ‘good’ at yoga is something to NOT strive for. Being present is. The most impressive yogi or yogini is one who is fully aware of their body and being fully present within it.
Flexibility will come with time. We need to remember that yoga is about balance and has nothing to do with being flexible. The flexibility is simply a by-product of the practice. As they say in the Sutras “Practice with steadi-ness and with ease.”
Release the need to struggle with your practice. Release the struggle with your body. That truly is key.
Those who are less flexible are made to be more present. A profound statement, isn’t it? Some would very likely to disagree, however here is the reasoning behind it….
Those who are very flexible are less likely to listen to the body. Why? They can always go deeper into the postures. This isn’t always necessarily a good thing as injury can result.
Those who are inflexible have no choice but to listen. Their bodies tell them as they spill forward into janu sirasana (seated forward bend) there is a limit to what they can do. Hamstrings probably scream-ing, “NOOOOO!” In this way they are forced to be more present. They have no choice but to listen to what their body has to say.
Even looking at Savasana (corpse pose) can show us many of the issues we face on a daily basis. How often have you came to savasana and not been able to relax? It hap-pens. The conscious relaxation process takes time to learn. And you will have good days and bad days. It is the ebb and flow of the practice. This is key to keep in mind during your personal or public yoga classes…. It is a practice.
So to sum things up when will you get good at it? When the time is right. When you are able to fully ‘be’ on the mat with yourself and not get drawn into distraction.
Public classes are places where distraction can be everywhere; traffic noises from the street, people coughing (or emitting other bodily noises… yes this happens in every yoga class); even the music can be distracting.
Remember you are a spiritual being having a physical experience and cut yourself some slack.
Be fully with your body and connect with the breath.
Remember as Rodney Yee says, “If we are not focusing on the breath and simply moving we may as well be doing gymnastics.”
To sum up….
Breathe, be and enjoy the gift of your presence.
I teach many seniors yoga. Most of them I don’t consider to be seniors and you wouldn’t believe how well their bodies move.
One of my students is an 87 year old male. He found yoga a year ago and has been practicing with me weekly and on his own several times a week. He asked me what CD’s he could purchase to continue as he doesn’t want to come to class for the winter months. He’s concerned he’ll risk a fall on the ice.
Here’s the thing, there are a lot of books, CD’s, DVD’s etc., on the market. And some of them are accessible for all.
Yet some of them I can’t even do. If you purchase any of these products be sure to review it before you practice it.
And most importantly listen to your body first and foremost and never push it to any extreme!
I adore yoga bags. In fact I have about 10 of them which I used to trade up per season. They make carrying your mat around much, much easier. Especially if they have an adjustable shoulder strap.
I have a pvc free mat that I use all the time. The trouble with the thicker mats is you do have to find a bag that fits it.
Many times the thicker mats will get stuck and will not slide down into the bag. Or if you get it into the bag it may be too long to squeeze it in so it won’t close.
Some bags offer a little zipper pouch that allow you to carry other things with you.
They truly are a matter of preference.
Some tips when choosing a bag:
1) Find one that is aesthetically pleasing; it will make you want to carry it and therefore encourage you to GO to class!
2) Be sure you know the dimensions of the bag so you aren’t disappointed if you’re mat won’t fit.
3) You may have to spend a bit more money to find a good quality bag so it doesn’t fall apart.
4) I’d suggest finding one with an adjustable shoulder strap so you can be comfortable while carrying it around.
5) Consider if you wish to have spots on your bag for additional storage; do you want it to hold your water bottle, keys, membership cards?
Remember to wash your bag occassionally and hang it to dry to so it won’t shrink on you.