Sweet Summer Salutations!!!!
As many of you know when I’m not teaching yoga I freelance as a Teaching Artist: performing and teaching drama, creative movement, and musical theatre to students in the NYC public schools. Since I spend much of my day with kids, you can imagine what a treat it might be to teach yoga to adults. And it is! In fact, when I started teaching yoga, I vowed to myself that I would save my yoga and teach it only to adults; and so far I have. But I have had a couple of occasions to share yoga with kids and it has been surprisingly fun. Right out of yoga school, my niece Sam and I got together, tapped into our own creative yogic juices and made up a story through various yoga poses about Arjuna the warrior. And last year, my niece Alyssa and I got together for a yoga “session” through which she laughed herself right out of Tree Pose (Vrksasana) and delighted her way into a full wheel (Urdhva Dhanurasana). Most recently, I had the opportunity to create “Bath” yoga with my dear friends’ daughter Anika, who was truly not in the mood for a bath. However, bath yoga (whatever that was – I had no idea at the time), must have sounded intriguing to her because she was up the stairs and in the tub in five seconds flat. There we created lions with our breath, eagles with our arms, and even became drying Shivas!
Although I still prefer teaching yoga to adults, there is so much we can learn from kids (and bath yoga!). And THAT is a willingness to PLAY! As adults, it is so easy for us to get stuck in the loop of proving ourselves: showing we are worthy of a raise or a promotion at work, that we are desirable, fun, interesting to be with, that we are just as strong and agile at 40 as we were at 17, and on and on and on. So of course it stands to reason that we should try to show we are worthy to be on our mats in the 6pm “intermediate” yoga class, as we stand on one foot, hold the other foot’s toes and twist all at the same time. Heaven forbid we should bobble or fall! Somewhere along the way our willingness to play and explore gets lost. We become so dead-set on doing the poses right and perfectly that we forget to smile – our brows a–furrowed, our teeth clenched…this is yoga and I’m doing it and I’m doing it right!!!!!
The poses in yoga are not meant to be these frozen, perfected sculptures. They are meant to live and breathe and dance within us. So the next time you make your way into parivritta hasta padangusthasana – that standing-on-one-foot-while-holding-the-other-foot’s-toes-and-twisting-all-at-the-same-time pose – or any pose where you find yourself in the clenched jaw, furrowed brow, squinting, Clint Eastwood way…
EXPLORE AND FIND THE PLAYFULNESS
Let your practice be a refuge from the need to control. Rolf Gates, Meditations from the Mat
Do everything with a mind that has let go. John Chan
Imagine doing your practice (or better yet do it) on the beach or in the park or under a sprinkler or fire hydrant – anywhere that makes you feel light and allows you to touch the playful, curious child within. Let that kid out and explore your feet walking forward from downward facing dog (adho mukha svanasana) to a standing forward bend (uttanasana) like a big brown bear, or floating from one shape to another like peter pan. In other words, PLAY, have FUN, SMILE and LAUGH!
Be playful. Be experimental. Be curious about the feeling, the alignment, the breath, and the movement in each of these poses. For yoga poses are alive in your dialogue with them, not in their perfection. Rodney Yee, Yoga the poetry of the body
This is inspired by and adapted from a meditation practice in Rodney Yee’s Yoga the poetry of the body.
Take your seat with either your legs crossed or outstretched, wherever, however you can sit comfortably. Feel free to take a moment and wiggle around to let go of any tension so you can get comfy and simply sit. Set your timer or trust yourself to meditate for only about 5 minutes. Begin to observe where the mind goes – how it jumps from one thing to another, its day dreams, its stories. Become the observer of the mind’s many journeys and enjoy the ride.
Garudasana or Eagle pose
One of my favorite balancing poses is Garudasana or eagle pose. I love how this pose gets into my hips and into my upper back, opening and widening my whole back body. I always find it easier to be in this shape when I stop worrying about balancing and think about becoming an eagle – high up in a tree surveying the world around and below me, letting my breath become a breeze, lightly blowing around me, without a care in the world…just me, my branch, my land, my sky…
(if you have low back, hip, knee, ankle or shoulder injuries please be mindful – as with any physical/ exercise program you should always consult your doctor before trying a new practice)
Let your toes spread nice and wide.
Feel all 4 corners (inner/outer balls of foot, inner/outer heels) of your foot rooting deeply into the earth.
Draw up energy through your standing leg.
Hug your inner thighs in towards each other.
Feel your groins deepening behind you.
Curl your tailbone gently yet firmly toward your standing inner heel. Feel your low belly draw in and up to support your lower back.
Feel width across your upper back and breathe into that area.
Draw your left hip back so it is in line with your right hip.
Float your elbows up, in line with your shoulders.
Slide your shoulder blades down your back – away from your ears and toward your hips.
Move your forearms arms away from your face and hug them in toward each other so you find a little extra opening across your back body.
Feel the back of your heart opening wide and let that sense of openness spread out through your arms, hands and fingers. Allow your focus to shift to either the right or left of your hands to assist you in balancing. Enjoy being on your perch for 5 to 10 breaths and then play with it on the other side.
Thank you so much for reading the summer issue of this is bliss. Please feel free to share any thoughts, ideas, suggestion, or comments. And certainly feel free to pass this along to anyone else you think might enjoy reading it. If you would like to be removed from the mailing list, please email and let me know.
Happy hopping hula-hoops!
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