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It’s easy (especially in New York City) to get image wrapped up with yoga. Yoga has for many, become associated with upper-middle class skinny white women, and can seem from the outside to be very elitist.   Beyond even the comparisons of body types and ability, there is so much consumerism tied into yoga–so many cool yoga mats and props, so many pretty $180 stretchy pants. On one hand I get it, there’s a lot of opportunity to make money and a lot of people willing to spend it. On the other hand though it’s the thing that bothers me the most about yoga.

I truly believe that anyone from any background,  with any body type, at any age, wearing any clothes, standing on any piece of ground can not only do yoga, but benefit from and enjoy it. Which is why I found this blog post on Yoga Journal (by Erica Rodefer). Here’s the outline of the article, click the link to read the whole thing:

The 5 things that yoga does require:

1. An open mind.

2. The willingness to look silly.

3. An adventurous spirit.

4. A sense of humor.

5. Body, breath, and spirit.

I found this list and the entire post very refreshing, and I wholeheartedly agree– I espically love this line:

“It’s a comforting thought that you were born with everything you need to do yoga.”

I would add to the list though the following two items:

6. Patience. I’ve talked about it some already, but it’s really so relevant in all aspects of life and especially in yoga. My wonderful fiance only does yoga because he wants to support my teaching endeavors, and he gets frustrated with himself for not being able to get into some of the poses. He’ll say his body isn’t capable of doing those things, but it is– he’s only done yoga a handful of times, he (and all beginners) just have to keep trying, keep practicing, be patient.

7. A Teacher. This one could be argued, you can certainly learn yoga and pratice yoga all by yourself– and as many people in the “yoga world” will tell you, a good solo pratice is important. But I’d say it’s essential to have as least periodicity practice with a teacher. There’s only so much you can learn from reading or DVDs, and even if you’re practicing in front of a mirror, without a teacher you could have the wrong alignment and never know it. Tiny adjustments, guidance, someone to ask questions to and encourage you, I’d say those things are pretty essential to yoga too. (but of course I would say that, I’m a yoga teacher..)

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My fiance and I went to his home state of PA over the long weekend. At one of the small town stores specializing in what I refer to as ‘items of whimsy’ there was a bunch of signs with the quote “Life is About How You Handle Plan B.”

I didn’t think much of it at the time, but the words popped back in my head when we were returning from our weekend away and things started going wrong. Things, that in the grander scheme are petty inconveniences and minor injustices, but that  in the moment felt like one crushing disappointment after another. If the true test of my character is how I handled these situations, than I wasn’t getting very high marks.

The picture of a yoga teacher is typically that of some evolved and enlighted guru. And I’m not, not by a long shot. To quote one of my favorite cheesy movies: ” I wish I could live off creeds and mottoes and all that, but I’m in the real world here, OK?”*

I’m in the real world, and a “yoga mindset” is as much of a practice as the asanas are ( and truthfully a much more difficult one). Through my yoga training and practice I’m starting to become more aware of my reactions and both my ability and inability to choose how to react in any given situation.

One thing that I’ve noticed is how who I’m with can influence how I deal with problems. I’ve noticed that I’m my best self when in the presence of kids, whether it’s my 6-year-old nephew or my 16-year-old Little Sister. I put a positive spin on negative situations, I try to make boring things into fun games, I’m patient and gentle, fair and giving. On the other hand, when I’m with those who love me the most — my future husband, my mom– and something goes wrong, I let myself be upset and complain.

There could be several theories on why this is, and I doubt I’m the only one who has these varied reactions. Do you find yourself reacting differently when you’re alone? With certain people?

The point isn’t becoming perfect, or chastising yourself when you react in a less than ideal way, it’s awareness. Change comes slowly, and in small ways like deciding to use the two hour wait at the bus station to catch up on your reading instead of getting frustrated.

Sometimes though, you just need to scream into a pillow. We are living in the real world after all, and sometimes even adults need to throw a little tantrum.

*extra credit if you guessed the movie (1994’s Reality Bites)

So the much-hyped, much prepared for hurricane Irene was downgraded to a tropical storm by the time it visited NYC early Sunday morning. And while many trees were knocked down, and power did go out for some, by and large the storm just wasn’t what everyone was fearing it would be. Some people are complaining it was a lot of build up for nothing, or expressing disappointment that it wasn’t more exciting. It seems morbid to lament the lack of destruction, but what I think people are really expressing is the anticipation of something out of the ordinary.

Surviving in an actual crisis is anything but fun, but the idea of being removed from your daily routine can be really exciting and refreshing. At first it was annoying that all of my weekend plans were cancelled, but then the forced new approach–we couldn’t take the subway, the two times we left the apartment we walked through our neighborhood more slowly, noticing and observing  more. Saturday preparing for the storm was most an excuse to be lazy.

But Sunday, after the storm had passed,  while I was glad there was no damage, I was, like many not ready to let go of the publicly sanctioned break from reality. So I told my fiance that I wanted to pretend that the power was out (to my surprise he played along all day until we “used the generator” to watch a movie at 10pm). (Of course, we benefited from the power actually working keeping everything in the refrigerator cold.)

It was so peaceful to slow down like that, no music, no internet, no TV. So much of everything I do has some sort of background noise. But yesterday we could literally sit a talk, watching the wind outside the window. Mark read aloud as I made dinner by candle-light. I turned the clocks off, and we didn’t feel artificially rushed to do anything.

In the preparation for the worst a lot of people were reminiscing about past storms and the fun they had huddled in the basement playing board games, spending that oft talked about “quality time.”  If there had been no storm, Mark would have had his birthday party, we would have gone to a baseball game, I would have gone to my weekend yoga classes, we would have set the alarm, and kept to our weekend schedule, we would have had a nice weekend. As it was though, I enjoyed our break from reality.

I even suggested that we try to instate a “hurricane day” once a month or so. A day when the “power goes out” and you don’t know what time it is, when you have to slow down, really listen, really see. When you notice that everything looks more beautiful in candle-light.

The biggest thing people take for granted is their health. For most of us, most of the time, our bodies just are. We can disconect and live in our heads. But as soon as something goes wrong all of your awareness is on your health and body, you can think of nothing else. It’s really the base of everything.

I hurt my toe pretty badly on Friday afternoon, and the same day my wisdom tooth started aching horribly. I try to be more aware of my body than the average person, but I had never given any thought to my toe or tooth, I took for granted that they are just there, doing their jobs, not giving me any trouble. Now it’s difficult to think of much else. It’s amazing how such small forgotten parts of your body can seem so all consuming when you are in pain. It makes appreciate your healthy working body even more.