Sunday, May 27, 2012

The Discipline to Show Up

I was born 26 years and 26 days ago. Maybe it's the waves of change that have salted the water of my life recently, but this year seems especially celebratory for me. This got me thinking about what has happened to get me here, 26 revolutions around the sun, and very grateful for each one.

It takes about 274 days to grow a human that can very likely survive outside of another person. Note the always exciting feat of birthing this little being - the hours of labor, any post-operatives for baby or mother, etcetera.

In the first few moments of life post-utero, we arrive, charged with the incredible work of taking our first breath. If this doesn't sounds that noteworthy, consider that we basically have to suck air into a dense, fluid filled cavity that is locked shut with the force of hydraulic pressure, through a passage not much bigger than a  coffee-stirring straw...

Approximately 25 million air sacs are contained in a newborn's lungs, all designed to help extract oxygen from the environment in order to fuel so many processes in the body.

This is remarkable and stupefying at once. To consider that at some point in a past that we probably cannot remember, we chose to go through this be born, to exist just mind blowing, unfathomable, too abstract to adequately conceptualize, and maybe even a trigger for skepticism.

I [and you] grew for the better part of a year, the same amount of time it takes to travel millions and millions of miles around the Sun [which is millions and millions times larger than our entire planet]. We breathe, we live, we relate, we change shape. It's remarkable and not always easy.

Sometimes the hardest part of a yoga class is just getting there, of dragging yourself off the couch, out of the warm snug of a lover, away from the interwebs, whatever. Sometimes it's just hard to show up. Sometimes it's easier to finish a to-do list then sit and meditate on the sound of your own breath. Sometimes the hardest part is showing up...but the silver lining is that the really hard part is already over. We've taken the most difficult breath already. All the rest are automatic.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

How Do You Hold Yourself?

Since my last post, Earth Day and my Birth day have passed, along with several other exciting things. First, I was accepted into the 300 hour teacher training at Black Dog Yoga. This means that in about 1 year I will be a certified 500 hour Registered Yoga Teacher!!! Following this, I began the first step (of many) on this journey 3 days ago, participating in a workshop lead by my mentor, Sigrid Matthews [].

Here is some of what I am dissolving from these last few weeks: How do I hold myself? Where do I hold too much? How do I stand in my life, on the Earth, in my body?

Taking from the incredibly precise and concise teaching of my mentor, I have been talking a lot about core alignment in my classes. Specifically, how to connect the abdomen to the rest of the body. "Drop your mid-spine into the floor," while students are on their backs, "move your frontal hip points toward your low ribs," "draw your belly button toward your spine as you exhale," etc. We experienced this a step further in the headstand workshop this past weekend, where Sigrid talked about "suspender abdominals." Simply put, we are closing the ribs, engaging our deepest abdominal muscles, and breathing like a yogi.

It is simple, but not necessarily easy.

I instructed these same cues tonight in a Gentle class where students stay on their backs or bellies the duration of the practice. Several of the students spoke with me after about how much work it is to keep the core connected! It's really true. Even though the body isn't moving in a gross or high-impact way, there is a lot of conditioning and alignment happening on subtle levels. As one student said, "You always feel it the next day."

It is interesting to see how these principles translate across planes, like when you move from your back [where it is easiest to feel your spine grounding], to standing [where you are moving against space]. More often than not, the body will lose the structure over a shorter period of time. Sit up tall where you are right now, and notice how much time passes before you are slouching your shoulders or leaning forward with your chin. What is supporting you? Where do you need more support?

In our yoga practice, we move from the core and aim to clarify this in all of our movements. In our daily life, we also move from a center point; a point of view that supports a belief, an attitude that supports a point of view, a pattern that holds us in a particular shape. Do these things support your neutrality? Do they support your most optimized state of being?

Here recently, I am asking myself all of these questions and not always coming up with solutions. At least I know that much of this will become clear as I continue to practice.

Cheers to studentship!