Spring Cleaning for Yogis

A couple of weekends ago my friend and yoga teaching mentor, Chrissy Carter, held a three hour workshop at my neighborhood YogaWorks to clean up our standing poses. I remember having my mind blown when I learned in teacher training back in January that our pelvis wasn’t supposed to be squared to the side in trikonasana (triangle). BOOM. I’d been taught early in my yoga career to “pretend you’re in between two panes of glass” so I’d always been squaring my hips to the side. Same for ardha chandrasana (half moon). So, at the last minute, I decided to get up and go down to the studio for a reminder about these seemingly “basic” poses and two my teacher trainee friends showed up, too.

Here’s some of what I was reminded of:

Trikonasana:

  • Let your greater trochanter turn in a little bit – otherwise your femur is going to be running into your pelvis and you won’t be able to tilt your pelvis.
  • If you hinge your pelvis too far, you’ll be sinking your great trochanter into your hip joint. Ow.
  • Key actions include: front thigh turning out, back hip point rolls forward, rotate your torso to the sky.

Virabhadrasana 2: 

  • Your pelvis should be level. You can achieve this by swiping your front great trochanter downwards.
  • The back frontal hip point rolls forward so you can align your knee over your ankle.
  • The back leg appears to be internally rotating, but it’s neutral.
  • Key actions include: Back thigh rolling out while hip point keep rolling forward,  keep lifting your back thigh upwards, the weight in your front leg should be in the heel, not the toes.

Virabhadrasana 1:

  • It’s a neutral standing pose (because the front leg is neutral, duh).
  • The pelvis is in external rotation; it will never be squared forward.
  • Your back leg is externally rotated just a bit.
  • Key actions: Press the back thigh back by lifting your back inner arch while keeping your front knee over your front ankle; roll the back ribs forward.

Parivrtta Trikonasana:

  • Your pelvis IS squared forward in this pose because the stance is shorter so the stretch on your quad is less intense.
  • You can let your back thigh drop just a tiny bit.
  • But like the last two poses, aim to keep your back thigh bone moving backwards the entire time.

That’s just some of what we spent 3 hours on a Saturday reviewing. The whole concept of your back frontal hip point rolling forward while your back leg is externally rotating is still a mind blow for me, but I’m working on it.

Meditation for Prosperity

Five or so days before my yoga teacher training started, I was attending a ton of yoga classes, including kundalini yoga. I was still partially freaking out all the time about OMG WHAT AM I GOING TO DO AFTER TRAINING so when my kundalini teacher said, “We’re doing a kriya set for prosperity today!” I was all, “Yessss.”

She advised we do this for 40 days and then it would help bring us prosperity. I believe we’re all energy so anything to change my energy in the direction of prosperity sounded all good to me. I decided to try it. I was supposed to be done the day before Valentine’s Day, but I missed a few nights here and there so I continued doing it through last Friday. 

Now it’s over and I feel good about having done it for 40 or so days. Hopefully the ‘prosperity’ part will kick in soon. The actual meditation is past the jump!

Sit comfortably, placing your left hand over your left hand on your heart and close your eyes. For at least 3 minutes (11 minutes maximum), repeat to yourself: “I am bountiful, I am blissful, I am beautiful. Excel, excel, fearless!”

After that, flip both of your palms so the pinkie sides of your hands are touching and on your next exhale, flip the palms so the index sides of your fingers touch, and your left thumb is crossing over your right thumb under your palms. 

The word you chant, out loud this time, is “har,” which when pronounced correctly sounds like “hud.” So, for 3-11 minutes, chant “har” on your exhale while flipping your palms to face up and down. 

They say that doing this for more than 11 minutes is considered greedy, but 3 minutes is the absolute minimum.

Happy chanting! 

Week 1: Done

I can’t believe week 1 of teacher training is over. I was so nervous the night before it started that I barely got any sleep on Sunday and apparently my teacher, Chrissy, didn’t either. I’m sure it was the same for a lot of people. We all sat in a circle and nervously surveyed who else was in the class. By day 4, when we sat in a circle in the studio at the end of the day, Chrissy said something like, “Can you believe how well we’ve all gotten to know each other in just four days?” And it’s true. We really had.

There were pose myths debunked. Super long asanas flowed through. And we learned the secret formula for YogaWorks sequencing. Personally, my mind was blown to find out that our hips are not squared in Trikonasa or Ardha Chandrasana. I was also blown away to find out that there’s a specific method to the madness of YogaWorks’ sequences. From here on out, I’m pretty much going to be keeping an eye on my teacher’s sequences to see if they break any of the rules. I’m annoying like that. We’ve had a ton of anatomy lessons, too. I’m going to really have to work hard to became even the tiniest bit memorized with some of the names.

We’re reading the yoga sutras by Patanjali and they’re so interesting and relevant even in modern times. 

The group of men and women (okay, there are only two men, but that’s okay!) are so incredibly diverse, from all parts of the world, and I’m so happy to be getting to know all of them. 

By Day 4, I was incredibly sore. And after the long asana yesterday, I was even more sore, in addition to exhausted. Today I woke up at the incredibly late hour of 9am and took a bath while doing some anatomy reading and then I stretched and flowed a little. 

And now it’s snowing, so I’m watching the snow out my window while J reads and Playbill sleeps. Happy Saturday!

Snow Day!

I honestly don’t know anyone in the city who loves a good snowfall like I do. I mean, obviously it’s ideal to be able to sit in your apartment and watch it fall, rather than commute to work in it, but I love it regardless. All you need is a good pair of boots and you’re set. It gives you an excuse to go buy (or make!) hot chocolate or extra coffee because there is no better time for hot chocolate and coffee than a snow day. 

I am currently sitting in my living room watching some light, but consistent, snowflakes fall from the sky while my cat sleeps on the windowsill and I’m trying to decide whether or not to go to a yoga class at 11am. I’ve been trying to let my strained knee heel for the last week and a half before teacher training starts (on Monday, OMG). Shockingly, constant yoga classes weren’t helping, so I took Friday off and my knee is feeling a bit better (it hasn’t been in excruciating pain, just extra sensitive). 

Annnnnnnd I think I’ve just talked myself out of going. Thanks, blog and free-writing mind. I’m going to do some light flow and stretching in my apartment before I go to help to administer a survey at In Transit’s matinee (90 minutes, no intermission!). It should be an interesting piece, or at the very least it’ll be different.

And I hadn’t planned on it, but Anjellicle Cats was at a loss for a volunteer tonight so my bleeding heart for cats said yes, so I’ll trudge back out in the snow later tonight to play with some cats that are waiting to find their furrrrever homes. (Have you adopted a cat lately? If not, I seriously think you should.)

In the meantime, get a good pair of boots and enjoy your snow day. 

New Year’s Things

I just did 5 yoga classes in 3 days. I am sore and took today, Friday, off. I’m going in for one more class before the final holiday of the year tomorrow morning, which should kill me. My knee is acting up but I think it’s strained from overdoing it in King Arthur pose on Wednesday night so I’ll have to go easier.

I was thinking about New Year’s resolutions and I didn’t know what they should be. J said that because I’m doing yoga teacher training, and that’s a big commitment, that I should basically be absolved from making other ones, but I still wanted to think of something. Here’s what I came up with:

  1. Volunteer more – this will likely be in the realm of volunteering with cats, something I’m already doing, but let’s do it some more, shall we?
  2. Go on Facebook less – like 15 minutes a day or less. If I have a question about something, I’ll just have to Google it or reach out to actual human people I know. Facebook is a super fucking waste of time and it makes people depressed, so let’s cut it out. 
  3. Read – I read 14 or 15 books this year. Let’s do it again in 2017. Or make it 20. Why not.
  4. Be healthier – Cook more, eat out less. Get back to drinking once or twice a week and no more. Basically try to feel good. 
  5. Make a vision board – I keep meaning to and then I’m like, “Ooh, NVM, let’s watch My Cat From Hell…”
  6. Figure out what I want to do – I don’t think a 9-5 desk job is for me (unfortunately) so I need to figure out WTF I want to do instead. 
  7. Rock teacher training – Duh. Maybe I’ll be able to master a headstand, too, finally. But hey, just because someone can do a handstand doesn’t mean they’re a good teacher.
  8. Watch less Netflix – This goes for HBO Go and Amazon Prime too. I want to watch less TV so I can read more. 
  9. Be more patient – with my partner, my friends, family, and especially strangers. I currently have no patience, so cultivating any patience would be a miracle. 
  10. Be less judgmental – I would like to look at someone that I’ve never met and not make 10 assumptions about them based on what they look like or what they’re doing. 
  11. Travel Somewhere New: One new city in America (we’re planning on Denver, at the very least) and three new cities in Europe (ideas that have been thrown around: Reykjavik, Dublin, Edinburgh, London, Budapest, Bucharest, or wherever they film the Bond movies in Croatia).

I think that’s good for now. What are your resolutions? 

A Leap of Faith

Ever since I was surprised by a layoff in early November, I’d been contemplating doing a 200 hour yoga teacher training intensive with one of my favoriteeeee regular teachers (the inspiration Chrissy Carter!) for the month of January because it just so happened to be almost perfect timing. I just need a way, other than unemployment, to sustain myself until then. 

But then I’d been woo’ed by a recruiter to take a temp HR Generalist position at a tech start-up. The pay was pretty low, but it looked like a cool company, so I said I’d do it. The recruiter also said it had potential to be permanent and as soon as I saw the office and they gave me a bag of swag, I was like, “OMG I’M STAYING FOREVER,” and my yoga teacher training dreams disappeared faster than the color from my cheeks from the 4 AVENUE WALK from the subway to the office that the temp job was in. 

After about two weeks, I started to get pretty miserable though. It became clear that this wasn’t becoming a permanent thing in addition to the pay being stupidly low, and despite my “boss” being a lovely person who I had things in common with (meditation! rose water spray! rolfing!), she arrived late every day (her own schedule, whatever!), spent most of the day in meetings, and couldn’t answer my questions as she didn’t know a whole lot about HR – she had been thrown into her role with no flotation advice just as I had been. She gave me projects to do with no instructions and she wasn’t there to answer questions.

As I sat at my desk last night, I realized I was miserable. I knew I didn’t want to stay and I definitely wanted to have another plan, which was a surprise to everyone, including myself. Ever since college, when I interned and/or went to classes during the day and worked selling merchandise at Broadway shows at nights and on weekends, in addition to volunteering to do other production related things, I looked forward to the day when I’d be able to have a “regular” 9-5 job after which I’d be able to have my life and see shows, do yoga, and whatever else I desired. 

But after the last couple of weeks, I started to kind of admit to myself that maybe that’s not what I want to do after all. Maybe, as much as it kills me to say it, a “regular” job isn’t what’s right for me. Or maybe I was just in the wrong field. But instead of trying yet another job, I decided to sign up for yoga teacher training. I input my credit card number, submitted my application, forwarded the confirmation to my yoga teacher, and left for the day after offboarding someone.

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I arrived, as previously scheduled, at my yoga studio that night for class with my teacher and when she arrived she gave me a hug and told me congratulations. Shortly after, I received a phone call from the recruiter telling me that my assignment was over because they’d hired a generalist. The universe had my back and things all synced up. I’d found a job for the interim weeks before training and now I was free from it. 

I’m really excited for the training. It’s a big step and it’s a big commitment, for sure, but it’s better than sitting around and taking another job that I might end up hating. All of the reasons that I didn’t think I should do it are still there (I don’t really want to be a yoga teacher, per se; I’m not flexible enough; I can’t even do a handstand!; It’s expensive!; My arms are short!; I’m not fit enough!) but they’re at least fading into the background now that I clicked the ‘confirm’ button.

If you’ve done 200 hour yoga teacher training before, I’d love to hear some tips and insights, if you have any. 

Yoga Guinea Pig & Fresh Eyes

I was invited last Saturday to be a ‘student’ at an advanced teacher training class. I would get an hour and a half one-on-one class for free. I was totally stoked as I’d never had a private class before. I have regular teachers who know my strengths (and more importantly, my weaknesses) but in busy classes, it’s difficult to get feedback. 

My teacher-in-training was DeeAnne and she was great. She was already a certified teacher, but looking to gain a 300-hour training certificate. I told her I’d wanted to work on bakasana (crow pose) and adho mukha vrksasana (handstand). I almost have crow pose already so she just taught a better way to get my knees on top of my elbows.

After a few vinyasas, she told me my chaturanga (plank) was awesome, which I was pretty excited about as I’ve worked hard to perfect but since there are no mirrors in the studios, I’ve never had the chance to see it. 

When we got to handstand, she put a strap around my forearms and I immediately had trouble. I wasn’t used to having my arms shoulder distance apart (they’re usually wider) so I was having trouble with my outward rotation and my balance. She also made me try a L-shaped handstand, which I can usually rock, but with my arms at such a narrow position, it was way harder and unable to rotate my arms, I was barely able to get into the pose.

So in the four classes that I’ve taken since last Saturday, I’ve focused on narrowing my arms. I got into a handstand today with help from my teacher with narrower arms, but I felt very, very light on my arms. Oh well. Like everything else, it just takes time.

just keep kicking, just keep kicking…