Last week, I ripped out the last of the carpet in my kitchen. Yes, the kitchen. When I moved into my rental, the landlord had just installed new carpeting in the living room and continued into the kitchen- under the oven, fridge, washer and dryer.
I tried my best to keep it clean but it really wasn’t easy. As the tan color darkened into dingy over two years, I was embarrassed to have dinner guests and allergies got worse. After I spilled half a can of brilliant red enchilada sauce in the center of the carpet, I asked the landlord if it could go.
We struck a deal and the new hard kitchen surface is now in place. Cleaning now feels like cleaning and there’s never a spot that won’t come out. It feels like such a small thing, but what a difference it’s made!
Check out this week’s link for 20 great (and easy) ways to detoxify your home!
My 30 Day Challenge Begins! What is Bravery?
Well, sports fans, yesterday I began my personal “30 hot classes in 30 days” challenge with a rollicking double header – 2 hot classes in one day. (I received really good advice from a friend who said, “Knock out some doubles early on in case you need to miss a day”.) It was the first time I have done a double (which I have learned is different from a “back to back”, one class immediately following the other) and I admit today I am feeling it! In between rounds I ate and took a three hour nap.
In the first class, we were two breaths into the opening pranayama breathing when I had this feeling of panic: I looked in the mirror and thought, “OMG, am I really doing this? Am I really going to be on the second breath of the first set of pranayama breathing 30 times this month?! There is NO WAY …”
I am not an athletic type so I have been doing a lot of thinking about how to best support myself in this challenge with no external motivation or group prompting. I haven’t had a specific physical challenge like this since …. well, the Nixon administration.
There was this thing called the President’s Physical Fitness Challenge that involved … something, as I recall, both presidential and challenging. All I remember was failing at pull ups while Mr. Griest yelled at me and chipping a tooth (I can show you) falling off a skateboard I tried jump from the stage onto the slippery gym floor. This was just shortly after getting kicked out of Brownies (in the same gym) after 5 minutes for some comment I proffered on the para-militarism of Brownie uniforms and the ongoing Viet Nam War.
Now, in his defense Mr. Griest might have been shouting encouragement, but since this followed so closely on the Brownie expulsion incident, what I heard was something like the type of abuse heaped on enlistees in the Marines during the first few weeks when they weed out the weaklings as in early, scary scenes of the film Full Metal Jacket.
Ah, such fond memories of the gym. Is it any wonder it has taken me almost 40 years to arrange this first foray back into the realm of physical goal setting?
But I digress.
Somehow, by sunset yesterday, I was doing final breathing in the second class, and it is was okee dokee. I felt happy and rather empowered to have done something that (for me) feels brave.
How often do we do things that feel brave? Not stupid, but brave.
Now that I think about it, at the time, I thought the “jump the skateboard off the stage onto the gym floor” was brave. Now I think it was stupid. So time – and dental repair – can change a point of view.
But seriously, how often do we formally create attempts to brave? In real life few of us will face truly extraordinary circumstances, unless we are first responders or those who actually made it into the Marines or other armed forces. Most of our lives follow far a more mundane track. There are those who are thrust into extraordinary circumstances (think of those regular folks who ran toward the danger to help others in the Boston Marathon bombing), but most of us, most of time, don’t need to think a lot about conscious bravery.
This 30 challenge is nothing compared to feats of heroism or strength, but in my tiny world it represents a chance to be a little bit brave. As Christina Sell writes, ”the victories and the challenges we encounter in our yoga practice become instructions for how to live more skillfully.” Further, she says, “During this challenging phase, as our fears and flaws surface, we have a chance to work with those aspects of our personality that get in the way of knowing ourselves on a deeper level.”
Maybe someday, when I face a life challenge or need to be present when someone else does, I’ll be able to offer a little more courage then, too.
-Rabbi Chava Bahle
I often struggle with “monkey mind” in yoga class, particularly during slower movements and floor work. The stresses and oddities of life creep in and then, like spiders, build webs to more and more thoughts and it’s a vicious cycle. I know that I should be in the moment and a large portion of my work is mental!
Last week, in a mentally challenging vinyasa class, I found that I’d gone through most of the class without the regular chatter between my ears. It was so odd to me that I wondered if I’d found a way to cheat and short-circuit my brain!
This week’s link is an essay from a college yoga teacher who is also wrestling with cheating in the yoga studio:
Recently I witnessed behavior that almost shocked me. It was definitely a lesson for me, but in truth I haven’t fully processed it…
I never dreamed I’d look up to catch someone cheating on a 10 point yoga quiz!
What do you think? Is it possible to cheat in yoga?
“I am ugly,” he said as he choked back tears. The emotion surfaced so quickly with those three simple words.
My throat instantly felt tight, and my hands were clammy. He couldn’t look us in the eye. “I need a minute,” he whispered as the tears began to fall from his eyes. He got up and left our circle. There were five of us remaining. Silently we looked at one another, each one of us obviously affected by his words and stunned by his vulnerability. I felt him—his pain, his anguish, his fight.
While many yoga classes across the country seem to cater to the youthful enthusiast who wants to sweat his or her way through an hour-and-a-half workout, a growing number of longtime yoga devotees are raising questions about the best way to safely continue a yoga practice into midlife and beyond.
Weight-bearing exercise, including yoga, has been shown to help protect achy joints, strengthen balance and reduce bone loss in adults. In this article from the New York Times, practitioners and teachers sound off about the wisdom and headspaces of middle-aged yogis- read the rest here !
The mind that turns ever outward
Will have no end to craving.
Only the mind turned inward
Will find a still-point of peace.
Now that I am returning to yoga after the SUPER YUCKY sciatic episode, I am ready to dive in more deeply to my practice. Next month I plan to start a personal 30 Day Challenge – 30 hot classes in 30 days. To prepare, I am doing a lot of noticing and making ready. I am going to have gird my yogic loins – so to speak – if I am really going to do this!
My starting point: turn within.
(More on the 30 in 30 gig in future blogs.)
One of my yoga teachers once described the bones in my hips, legs and ankles as a having a “profound inward rotation” to explain why certain hip-opening and feet-outward postures are difficult for me. At the time I felt a little sting of shame: my body just isn’t right, it is “less than”.
Of course, you will say, “Well, you are how you are” and “Just do what you can do, not what you can’t do” and you will be right, but there is a part of me that feels, from time to time, like there is something profoundly, inherently “wrong” with me because certain postures do not come easily, even after years of work. Perhaps there is a glimmer of change but not so you’d see it on the outside.
Zen teacher Cheri Huber has built her life’s work around addressing this inherent sense of “wrongness” that many people feel: we go around feeling like, on some deep level, we are profoundly flawed. Not just “imperfect” but as if there is something wrong with the very state of our being. Huber’s book There is Nothing Wrong with You (For more on her work, click here.) is based on the idea that many of us “spend a good deal of time, energy and money trying to improve ourselves, wondering what is wrong with us and trying to change ourselves in order to make your life work.” It is a painful and tiring way to move through the world.
In the last few months I have decided to try to make peace with how things are. I recently read a quotation from Dainin Katagiri that read: The important point of spiritual practice is not to try to escape your life, but to face it – exactly and completely.
So I have a profound inward rotation? Perhaps there is a gift in this. Perhaps it is time to read this not as a failing or defect but as a hint about relating to reality. Ancient traditions around the world support this notion: rather than trying to constantly alter “what is” to make life fit some conception of perfection, the real work is to meet what is with grace, patience and courage.
I may never be able to do certain postures the way others with neutral rotation can, but perhaps my physical structure can be a clue for a spiritual structure: the natural inclination to turn inward.
-Rabbi Chava Bahle
Yield: 36 cookies
Banana, Mashed 1/2 C.
Peanut Butter 1/2 C.
Agave Nectar 1/2 C.
Quick Oats 1 C.
Whole Wheat Flour 1/2 C.
Nonfat Dry Milk Powder 1/4 C.
Baking Soda 1/4 tsp.
Walnuts 3/4 C.
Cranberries 1/2 C.
Golden Raisins 1/2 C.
Vanilla 1/2 bean
Salt 1/2 tsp.
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
2. In one bowl, combine banana, peanut butter, agave nectar and vanilla. Mix well.
3. In one bowl, combine oats, flour, dry milk powder, baking soda and salt. Mix well.
4. Combine mixtures. Add walnuts, cranberries and raisins.
5. Scoop and place on a greased non-stick pan. With a wet spatula, gently press dough.
6. Bake until lightly golden brown.
Tips from Chef Laura:“I froze my bananas and would thaw them in the microwave when needed (making them easier to measure and mix). If you want to make these cookies a vegan option, just skip the dry milk powder. They taste great either way and the absence of this one ingredient doesn’t alter the recipe. As Michiganders, I know we love our maple syrup! If you don’t like the taste of agave nectar, use maple syrup instead. It’s a great alternative. I hope you enjoy making these cookies at home as much as I did for my friends and family at Yen Yoga & Fitness. When I visit the studio in the summer I’ll have some fresh cookies waiting for everyone. See you all soon!”