The Last Day of the Yoga Challenge

Oh, I am so very tired. It is almost midnight and I just got back from the Yoga Challenge Party which was so wonderful, as usual. I will write more about it tomorrow but I will leave you with a picture. I don’t want to break my streak here!  There are 2 people missing: Sarah Wunderlich who had to miss the very last day (!!) and Shelly Clark who taught on Wednesdays all month. I will rectify this! I swear I will get a photo with everyone before the end of May.

Front row: Sherry Mathews (plank queen), Jes Czako,

Second row: Pam Taggart, Linda Murray, Brittany Tice, Tom Moritz

Back row: Sandy McDivitt (teacher), Me (looking tired).

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Emotions.

Tomorrow at this time, the Yoga Challenge at Main St Yoga will be over for another year. One of the Challengers, and a fellow blogger, posted this on her blog today. She’s a terrific writer and her words touched me. Quite the testimonial, no? Thank you, Brittany! Much love.

Goodbye Ordinary

Today is day 29 of the Elite Yoga Challenge. It’s been a breeze this year. The hardest part has been juggling the kids and traveling for childcare on days that my wonderful fiancé can’t make it home from work in time.

I haven’t blogged daily this year (obviously) about the challenge. At first, I meant to. But then I came to the realization that I didn’t need the accountability like in past years. I simply NEEDED the yoga and the companionship from my yoga tribe. So I decided to be intentionally selfish and soak it ALL up myself instead of sharing it. “Be selfish to be selfless”. That sort of thing.

Now that it’s almost over I’ll admit that my (almost ever-present) anxiety is starting to flair up. I have issues. There are 59 days until my wedding. My to-do list for said wedding is still pretty long (though I…

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The Matter of Your Yoga Mat

When a student walks into my studio without a mat, the first thing I think is: newbie.

Not that there is anything wrong with being a newbie. We all started as newbies.

But the thing about walking into a yoga studio without a mat is, unless you are traveling, it means that you really haven’t thought about what you are about to do.

Maybe you are doing it on a whim. Just to see. And while that is okay, what I, personally, like to see from a Newbie is a bit of a commitment, a little bit of forethought.

Walking into a yoga studio without a mat says, “I don’t know what I’m doing or why I’m here.”

So, even if it is your first class, and you strongly suspect that it will be your last, buy a cheap mat. You can get one at any chain discount store for under $20.

Even if you never do yoga again, it’s not a waste of money. Believe me. Cheap yoga mats are good for lots of things. I always keep an old one in my car.     

Here are a few ways they’ve come in handy for me:

They make a perfect impromptu picnic blanket.

They give you a soft place to kneel when you look under your car to see what’s making that sickening, horrible noise.

You can lie on them to find your jack points, and they make the perfect place to insure those lug nuts don’t disappear when you change your tire.

They can double as a water-proof car mat for a muddy dog.

In other words, it won’t go to waste, so get one.

Whatever you do, don’t buy an expensive yoga mat until you are sure yoga is something you are going to be doing for the rest of your life.

When I first started practicing I wanted a Manduka Pro mat, but at close to $100 I couldn’t justify the expense. So I told myself that I would put $1 in a jar every time I practiced, until I had enough money to buy the expensive mat. That way I felt I earned it. If you do it that way you will know how serious you really are. If at the end of a year there is only $12 in your “Mat Fund” stick with your cheap mat.

My first mat was a purple Gaiam. Before that, I practiced on a beach towel on my living room rug.

Mats designed specifically for yoga are much better than beach towels or any other kind of “all-purpose”exercise mats.

Those “all purpose” exercise mats are usually too thick for yoga. They are great for padding your knees when you are doing push-ups, but they are a safety hazard during particular styles of yoga, especially “flow” styles. So get a mat that is expressly for YOGA. If it says it’s good for Pilates too, it’s probably too thick for yoga.

The other reason it is good to have your own mat, is for hygiene purposes. Even it it’s not the best quality, you know that it is YOURS. It has your foot odor on it, your sweat. You will find as you continue to practice, that you will think of it as “sacred space.”

Sometimes people have epiphanies on their mat. Sometimes they break down and cry. You don’t want to have this big moment on a studio rental mat, do you?

A lot of people have personal space issues around their mat, too, so be sure to avoid stepping on anyone’s mat if you can help it. If you do have to walk on another person’s mat, be sure to apologize.

If you continue to practice at a studio, you will hear a lot of talk about mats—their virtues and their vices. Everybody has their favorites. A yoga mat is a very personal item.

Every mat has a different foot-feel. Some mats are lighter than others. Some give better traction. Others are easier to clean. As you talk to your fellow yogis, you will find out a lot of information.

Sometimes if you ask someone about their mat they will let you stand on it, and even bust out a Down Dog or two. Thank them and take advantage of the opportunity for a little road test.

I own a lot of different mats so my students can try different ones out before they commit. That’s the ideal way to go.

The reason I have accumulated so many mats over the years is that I tend to practice “serial monogamy” with mats. I fall in love with a particular brand and style and pledge my undying devotion to it, until I go to a training and see some other mat, try it out, and fall in love with it, and then claim that, no, I was wrong about that other one, and THIS one is REALLY the one I love.

I am like the Zsa Zsa Gabor of yoga mats. Someone once called me a “mat slut” and they were right.

But I’ve been practicing on a Manduka Pro in the studio for over 11 years now. It’s a great mat.

My home practice mat is a Kharma Khare, though. I love it more than the Manduka in a lot of ways, but it is black and it gets really dirty so my lavendar Manduka Pro looks better in the studio.

I’m probably done with sleeping around with a lot of different mats. It’s about time I settled down, I think.

What mat do you practice on? What do you like about it? Let me know in the comments. Can’t hurt to look, right? *wink*

How To Own The World

The Healthy and the Focused are going run the world. They will be the only ones who will be able to. Who else will be able to run companies and businesses, create art, make breakthroughs in science and technology? Who else will innovate?

In addition, the Healthy and the Focused will  be the only ones able to parent healthy and focused kids, who will then become the next generation of world leaders and dominators.

Think about it: If you are always sick (and the population in general is getting sicker and sicker—hello Type 2 diabetes!) you won’t be able to work consistently, reliably, or well.

If you are unhealthy you won’t even BE at work half the time because you’ll be in bed, or running to doctor appointments all the time. And whenever you DO manage to drag your sorry butt to work, you will probably suck at it because you’ll be so depleted from being sick. You will have no energy and you won’t be able to think clearly. You will be nothing but a barnacle, a parasite, a worthless burden to your employer.

If by some miracle you are able to hold on to that job, good for you. But terrible for any enterprise that depends on your work, because your work will be miserable. Like you.

But say you are relatively healthy, but your problem is that you can’t stay focused long enough to get your work done. You have the attention span of a gnat. You spend all day putting out little brush fires, or dealing with office politics, or doing other tangential minutia–work that doesn’t ask that you sit down, focus, and try to solve a problem.

Lots of people think that focus isn’t a skill that needs to be learned and cultivated. Lots of people think that they can just make up their minds and do it: 1, 2, 3—Focus!

But this is a fairy tale. Focus is something that has to be cultivated. Like big muscles. You can’t have killer biceps if you don’t lift heavy things. You can’t focus on a job and stick to it unless you’ve trained your brain through meditation, or yoga, or even reading.

I read a great piece this morning called, “Why can’t we read anymore.” The answer?  Because we are addicted to the dopamine hit we get from social media and email. We are addicted to distraction.

The writer of this piece was bemoaning the fact that he himself only read 4 books last year, which is ironic because he curates 2 websites about public domain books, and making print and ebooks, and he even wrote a book about the future of books.

But even he has fallen under the spell of Facebook and Twitter and email because those sites give him a big dopamine hit of The new! The shiny! The exciting!  But he is also smart enough to know that this is the path to slavery and despair and he is now setting some boundaries around his media consumption to free up more time to read.

He quotes Werner Herzog as saying: “Those who read own the world, and those who watch television lose it.”

I live in a place where the diabesity epidemic is everywhere I look, and I am worried. Cops, fire-fighters, clerks in stores, cooks in restaurants, people who make the goods and services I consume and depend on, may all be sick and distracted most of the time.

Yikes. I hope I don’t have a heart attack or a fire. I cross my fingers that the chef in my favorite restaurant isn’t germing up my food. I hope the mechanic who fixes my brakes doesn’t overlook something.

If we are going to own the world, we have to stay healthy and focused.

Let’s work on that, okay?

Who Would Know?

Today I walked into Wegmans and the first thing I smelled was the coffee. It was a cold, raw day. I was tired. On the drive over I thought about stopping at The Soulful Cup for a latte.

In my mind I saw myself standing at the counter, ordering a latte, not to go, but in a big cup with a saucer.

Hot espresso

In my mind I took my cup to the back room, settled into a comfy chair among the books and the people working on their laptops.

And then taking a sip.

Mindfully.

Reverently.

Savoring the flavor, the aroma, the warmth of this heavenly elixir cradled in my cupped hands.

My naturopath Jennifer said last week: “Go 2 more weeks.” (without coffee)

This has been really hard. It has now been 32 days since I’ve had a cup. After the first 10 days, I thought I was through the worst of it.

And I am, really. On most days, I am really, totally O-Kay.

But not today. Today I felt like an addict.

I really needed something to perk me up and comfort me.

I told myself I was ridiculous. This was not cocaine, after all;  this was a freaking cup of coffee. Innocuous. Legal. And according to some research, really good for you. A health food, almost. Practically medicine.

I wanted a milky cup of warmth that would boost my energy and my mood. Hell, I would have settled for a nice Americano, I didn’t need the milk. But in my coffee fantasy, I saw the latte art, and it had me craving.

Who would know if I snuck into Soulful for a cup? I didn’t have to tell G or Jennifer. What would be so bad about having  a cup of coffee on a shitty cold day in April?

I did not make the right onto Market St and go to Soulful,  but went straight to Wegmans.

The coffee kiosk is right inside the front doors. And even though the coffee there is far inferior to Soulful, and the barista is a complete nitwit, and slow, and there is no inviting place to sit, so I would end up sipping as I shopped, still, I was sorely tempted.

As I tooled around the Nature’s Marketplace section picking up my spelt bread and my wild caught tuna fish, I almost cart crashed a couple holding big coffee cups.

Really. Who would know?

On my way out, I thought of the 30 minute ride home, the boring chore of unloading groceries, and felt no energy. I could get a cup to go and sip it as I drove home listening to my James Altucher podcast. By the time I pulled into my driveway I would be all perked up and ready for the tasks ahead.

Who would know?

Me. I would know.

2 more weeks. Good god. How am I ever going to make it?

*whimper*

Reading

I often catch myself wishing I could talk to someone who reads the same kinds of books I  read: non-fiction, self-development, new business paradigm-books.  Also, books about the latest in neuroscience or the positive psychology movement, or mindfulness, or the place where spirituality and technology meet.

Nobody I know reads those kinds of books. Nobody I come into contact on a daily basis reads anything, as far as I know. If they do read, they never mention what they are reading. What they are reading doesn’t seem to obsess them or it would probably come up in conversation, right?

I used to ask people what they are reading. I still do and it is surprising how few people are reading anything.

When I engage with a book for a while, writing in the margins, writing my own questions and thoughts about what I am reading, trying out those ideas in my life, I feel  enriched in ways that I never could be by just reading articles that happen to pop up on my Facebook feed.

I am reading Resilience by Eric Greitens now. I’m not even 50 pages in and already it is heavily marked up and dog-eared.

I am trying to muster energy to slay the resistance monster that is preventing me from finishing my book. I need to cultivate both focus and beginner’s mind again. Greitens says to begin with humility. He himself starts every day with this humility mantra:

“ I begin with humility. I act with humility. I end with humility. Humility leads to clarity. Humility leads to an open mind and a forgiving heart. I see every person as superior to me in some way; with every person as my teacher, I grow in wisdom. As I grow in wisdom, humility becomes ever more my guide. I begin with humility. I act with humility. I end with humility.”  ~P. 33.

Everybody has something to teach me. I need to approach people with that attitude, that orientation.

This is what is inspiring me today.

Namaste.

The Real Challenge of a Yoga Challenge

“Commitment is doing the thing you said you were going to do long after the mood you said it in has left you.”

—Darren Hardy, The Compound Effect

I think it is fairly easy to go to yoga every day. It might not be easy on the body, or the ego, but it is easy to surrender. Once you catch your breath and drop into the present, all you have to do, is what you’re told.

When people think about doing something like a 30 Day Challenge, I think the first worry is how their body is going to respond. Will it be able to do what the teacher  suggests?

Next they worry if they can persist. Can they stay motivated?

This year, the stated motivations of the participants range from trying to revive a dead practice, to curiosity to see if  practicing daily will make any difference, to wanting to shake off winter’s lethargy and revive their sense of self-command.

They quickly discover that it’s not the physical practice that’s the problem. The true challenge is fitting in the time to do it. Making time by making some hard decisions about what is more important, this? or that?

It takes a village to support a person in a yoga challenge. Everybody has to cooperate: bosses, babysitters, spouses, friends, and family all have to adjust their schedules, and their lives around you, so you can do this thing.

This thing you committed to.

This thing you were so looking forward to.

This thing that they encouraged you to do at the beginning, they are now sick of. They are looking forward to high-fiving you across the the finish line, and then going back to normal.

But here’s the thing: the person who is nearing the finish line?  They’re not done. They’re different now. They don’t want this to end. Maybe in this draconian format, but they’re not ready to break this streak they’ve built. No. The streak needs to continue. Everyone agrees about that.

They worked hard to make this happen, and they did the thing they said they were going to do even when, as Hardy says, the initial excitement wore off.

The challenge part starts now, after these 30 days are over.

The question now becomes: What is going to happen on on May 1st?

Will the mat get unfurled? Will the head bow? Will there be a conscious decision to surrender?

From my perspective as the teacher, what I want to know is if I’ve been successful in teaching them how to unglue themselves from linear time for at least an hour, and drop into real time, which is no more, or less, than this moment, this breath, this situation.

And then, can they make a life out of that.