I was practicing yoga last night at my studio (I am a member at The Studio DC and I truly cannot recommend it enough. Two amazing studios one in Dupont Circle and the other in Adams Morgan) and I got to thinking about grace. Recently I was having a conversation with my mom, who is beyond wise, and she asked me why I have to make everything a goal? What is wrong with just enjoying something simply as an experience, instead of always striving to get better? That really made me think. Sometimes in yoga, I get so focused on improving the postures in which I struggle, I lose sight of the simple joys of more basic postures. I’m not exactly a dainty girl… graceful has rarely been used to describe me. Solid?Powerful? Yes. Graceful? Not so much. But last night in class, I tried to focus on one part of each posture that I enjoyed simply because it is beautiful or graceful. Then I thought I might share it with you:
1. The internal pinky rotation in Virabhadrasana I (Warrior I) – this looks beautiful and helps me keep my shoulders down and relaxed. Sparked and engaged fingers add a “ballerina” feel to this pose.
2. The forward / backward arm extension in Virabhadrasana II (Warrior II) – my arms should actually be more level but let’s focus on my hands.
3. The scapular engagement in Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward Facing Dog) – pulling down your shoulder blades and internally rotating your elbows not only looks beautiful, but it feels incredible.
4. The open palmed hands of Navasana (Boat) – I just love this pose. It looks effortless.
5. The cupped hands and connected feet of Bakasana (Crow) – gripping the floor with your fingers helps protect your wrists in this arm balance, but it looks so complete with strong hands and big toes touching.
6. The pelvic tuck of Utkatasana (Chair) – I love the lines of this pose when the pelvis is properly tucked under.
7. The shoulder allignment of Utthita Parsvakonasana (Extended Side Angle) – The straight line of the shoulders looks so beautiful tucked inside the front leg.
8. Everything about Vrksasana (Tree) – This pose is just gorgeous. You have this wonderful combination of opposing forces in the legs, and the beautiful extension in the arms. It’s such a basic balancing pose but it’s definitely one of my all time favorites.
I’m not saying I won’t continue to try and improve… because some of the advanced poses are just too much fun (see below). But it’s nice to stop and switch up your focus every once in a while. Namaste 🙂
** Photo credits to Sarah Jenkins. Thanks Sarah!!
So I was thinking this weekend how I’ve been trying to focus a lot of my successes recently. I am my biggest critic, as most people surely are, so I have been trying to make a conscious effort to shift my focus to the positive. But I think sometimes there is value in focusing on the failures, the things that challenge you. One area of my life where this is particularly true is in my yoga practice. For me, yoga is a journey with a ton of long term goals but also lots of really measurable, attainable short term goals. It is literally perfect for me.
Yoga has really taught me not to see “failures” as a negative, but an opportunity. At the beginning of pretty much every yoga class, instructors encourage students to set a “Sankalpa” or intention for their practice. My sankalpa used to be things like power and really pushing myself. Recently though, my sankalpa has been “satya”, which is the Sanskrit word for truth. I have found that I have made so much more progress by resolving to be honest with myself and my body during my practice, as opposed to forcing poses.
Today I thought I do a little round up of the poses that are currently challenging me in my practice and I’m REALLY looking forward to mastering 🙂
Galavasana (Flying Crow Pose)
This is one of the only arm balances I still cannot do. I do not have the flexibility in my hip / glute to shift my weight forward enough to get my back foot up off the ground. I have been told that this pose is never really “comfortable” so at least I’m not the only one…
Vrschikasana (Scorpion Pose)
I really enjoy forearm balance but I have an old shoulder injury that definitely makes this pose challenging for me. I may never be able to do this pose but I’m maintaining hope (and working really hard on my core)!
It kind of infuriates me that I can’t do this pose… I mean it’s a seated pose! But I have such a blockage here. My hips are very tight naturally, even more so with all the running I do. I don’t even understand how other people can do this pose, it feels SO unnatural. Hip openers are really uncomfortable for me, but I’m trying to be really disciplined about practicing them regularly.
Namaste, and Happy Monday 😀
Do you ever work really hard towards a goal for a really long time, only to achieve it, and then find yourself kind of thinking… now what? I’m a goal oriented person so as soon as the glow of marathon glory wore off, I felt kind of blah. The head cold I came down with this week might also have had something to do with my feelings of “blah”. Regardless, I got to thinking this week… what’s next? Since I enjoy goals so much, I decided to set some new ones. Here’s what we all have to look forward to:
- Running – I have one more half marathon and a 10K to finish out the spring racing season, but this summer I’d really like to focus on speed. I don’t plan to train for another marathon for a while. I’ll be sticking to the mid-distances for the fall and probably next spring. This is a good time for me to start making more of an effort towards my speed. I have never really thought much about it and I’ve been pretty singularly focused on distance. The 10 minute mile just felt like a good place for me, and I didn’t imagine myself ever breaking that barrier. But then I ran a half marathon this spring (back in March) and I mysteriously ran 9:45 min/mile. I don’t know how that happened. Then I ran a 10 miler at 9:40 min / mile and another at 9:15 min / mile. I feel like if I put some effort into speed, I might be able to get something going here! I want to try and get one track workout and one hard tempo run in per week.
- Yoga – My yoga has been seriously lacking in the last month because my schedule has been ridiculous and crazy. But the truth of the matter is that there are few activities I love more than yoga, even running! Yoga absolutely changed my life and continues to transform me all the time. I have barely written about it on the blog because it has felt so far from my mind this spring. I need to shift my focus back to yoga in a real and conscious way. While I would love to get to class every day, I know that just isn’t feasible. My goal is going to be a minimum of three classes per week, five if I can manage it.
- Strength Training – I used to do a lot more strength training when I was in college, but I really let it go for about a year and half after I graduated. I started getting back into it last fall because I injured my knee running and my physical therapist insisted on strength training as part of my recovery. I strength trained a good amount while marathon training, but I always held back a little on the power training to save my legs for running. My new goal is two – three full body strength training sessions per week with a real focus on power.
- Mental Health – My mom recently told me that she thinks of me like a whirling dervish… and she’s totally right. I go 100 mph all the time. I like being active. I do not enjoy sitting around doing nothing. However, sometimes I go overboard, and I don’t think that is always the healthiest thing for me. I really want to make an effort to slow down a bit, take a little more time to focus on resting and staying on positive head space. I think a part of this will be accomplished by getting back to yoga more frequently. I would also like to reserve one weeknight of every week to nest and take care of my personal needs (this could include doing my errands like grocery shopping, laundry, cleaning, cooking or giving myself a manicure or just catching up on a little TV). I was also thinking that I would like to shift some of my focus away from myself. Not that I think I’m an awful selfish person, but I have been very focused on myself while training for this marathon. I’ve had to be. But now that it is over, I was thinking perhaps I would try and do one community service activity per month. I really enjoy community service, but definitely do not do it enough.
Anyways… I’m sure all of these things will be showing up on here in no time. Now I’m off to Pittsburgh for the weekend. My amazing friend Haley is running the Pittsburgh marathon and we’re all going to cheer her on! I personally am SUPER stoked to be watching a marathon this weekend and not actually running in one 🙂