Wednesday, June 17, 2009

I'm Moving

...over to That Yoga Psyche

where we can talk yoga, my teacher-training experiences and what it's like to be a Psych grad student. Thanks for reading and hope to see you there!

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Of Rainy Days and Lattes

...well, a dark mocha frap with raspberry syrup, anyway.

I don't know what's up but my body has been so out of whack lately. I went to class last Tuesday and did my regular practice. I didn't do anything different. In fact I think I even missed the Padmottanasana set. For some reason, I found myself so fatigued the next day that I couldn't get out of bed. I could barely get myself to stay awake IN bed. I just felt like my body needed to sleep and sleep and sleep.

The next few days were a little better, but my mind was not very alert and I was frequently falling asleep. This all happened when the storm came, so maybe that was it? Now that I mention it, the weather was really freaky too on those days. It wasn't a typical typhoon where it rains and strong winds blow all day until it blows itself out. This time, it was like the world couldn't figure out what it wanted to do and the climate was battling it out with itself. It was pouring and howling one minute then completely silent the next. On and off it went for like 3 days. Like I said, freaky.

I've never really been a coffee drinker, but today was something else. I've had coffee nerves before, once when I made a cup in college and put 2 tablespoons in - like I said, not a coffee drinker so I didn't know the proper mix. It was an all-night study session for my final on the brain and I was basing the mix on how much powdered Tang I put in a glass. I digress. Anyway, I got the nerves again about a month ago when I ordered a grande caramel macchiato at Starbucks. At least then the nerves came when I'd drunk most of it. Today, I felt the tremors when I was just a little over halfway through my grande frap. It's a frap for crying out loud!

Geez, what's happening to me? Can I blame it on the moon day?

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

How Do I Love Me? Let Me Count the Ways...

We used to kid around in the office about how we were narcissistic. A bunch of intelligent, confident women who all liked how we looked physically. We were achievers. We liked ourselves, or so we proclaimed.

But now I've been trying to figure out if I love myself...and I really don't know. Do you love yourself? Not in any narcissistic or negative way, but can you say that you truly love yourself? What does it even mean to love oneself? How would you know whether you do or not? How do you show it?

I was thinking that markers for me would be:
  1. Taking good care of my body
  2. Taking good care of and stimulating my mind
  3. Really listening to my feelings without always trying to be so rational
  4. Doing things I enjoy
  5. Standing up for myself, my opinions, desires and beliefs
  6. Affirming myself, my being and my self-worth
What more would you add?

I don't know, I think I respect myself a lot, but I have to work on loving myself more. I listen to my mind a lot but maybe I should get to know the rest of me better too...

*above portion cross-posted on Wickednesse

As I was meditating last night, I realized that I couldn't really expect to feel unconditional love for all if I couldn't feel it for myself.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Fortuitous Answers

I'm reading more of the Bhagavad-Gita. It's uncanny how I'll be wondering about something, getting ready to write my question down to ask about it during the next class, and the answer turns up on the page. This has happened to me a few times before, although I can't remember the exact circumstances. Today though, my question was about breathing.

See, in Pranayama practice, we're encouraged to develop a particular style of breathing to prepare the mind for meditation. The exhale must be twice as long as the inhale. I was a little concerned because I noticed that I would often start out this way, but once I started focusing internally and reached the state of meditation my breathing would sometimes be so shallow that it was barely anything. Sometimes I'm pretty sure it would stop completely, although I can't be a hundred percent sure because I would only notice it once I made a conscious inahalation. I was concerned that there was something wrong, though I hadn't figured out how to be focused on both the action of breathing as well as the stillness of meditation.

A few minutes later, I turned to page 79. "When the mind is still, the breath is still," and a little further on, "It's natural retention." This reminded me of the fact that the inhale:exhale=1:2 measure is only a pre-cursor to breath retention. Page 79 also reads, "It can go the other way also. If you can't still the mind and through the mind, stop the breath, then try to stop the mind by quieting the breath." So that's why we're working towards retaining the breath in Pranayama. Nice to know nothing's wrong with my breathing. :)

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Intoxicating or Quiet Peace?

Because of everything in my previous post, I've pretty much been practicing at home lately. Last night marked my first class at Yoga Manila in quite a while. I was struck by the effect going to class had on me.

A personal home practice is just that - very personal. I find that practicing on my own gives me a quiet sense of peace. It's lush with meaning and fulfillment that I had not noticed before in the class setting.

Before all this, I usually practiced in class so I had no real opportunity to make a comparison between sangha (community or group practice) and individual practice. Last night, as I was about to fall asleep, I realized how intoxicating the experience of class had been with the energies of my friends (had such a nice time chatting with you, Mel and Chona!) and my wonderful teacher (whom I bugged with questions to no end - Thanks for your patience, teacher!). I was riding on such a high that I now see why it was so hard to develop a home practice before. Without the focus and sensitivity to the very subtle benefits of personal practice, sangha can really be very addicting.

I'm glad that I'm now able to enjoy both types of practice and know the benefits of each. Today calls for practice at home, but I can't wait to see everyone again soon.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

A Fledgling Home Practice

So I've finally buckled down and managed to carve out my own practice.

It's not perfect by any means. I'm still adding on the other poses in intervals to get back to where I was, but I've been able to practice fairly regularly-practically everyday. Some days I only manage a half hour asana practice, but I make sure I do at least some pranayama practice too; even if it's only Shitali, Brahmari and inner focus when I can't do a full hour's practice. Istill don't practice at a set time, but I make sure to practice sometime during the day - or night. I still wake up late. (Starting tomorrow I intend to wake up at 11am every weekday and move that up by 1 hour every week until I hit 7am the week before I leave - let's see how that works out.) Baby steps, right? The point is, I've found again my conviction that this is what I want to do and what I want to focus my life on right now.

What amazes me is that even with such a fledgling practice I can already see the changes. In such a short span of time my body feels stronger. My arms are stronger during vinyasa, so is my core as it holds my pelvis up. Aesthetically, my abs are flatter - not flat, but flatter. :P They also feel tighter. The standing series, which has always been the most difficult for me, no longer seems so dauntingly long and difficult. It's also so much easier to get myself onto the mat now.

One thing I've been wondering about is the fact that my appetite seems to be decreasing as I continue to work on my practice. Meals generally keep me full for longer and I tend to prefer lighter meals, especially at the start of the day. I also find that water, brewed iced tea or juice seem to be able to fill me more now and I eat less because of it. Anyone know what's going on here?

Happily, I've got my groove back - a much happier and healthier groove, I think, than where I was before. I know that I'm due back in class soon. I was planning on Tuesday and Wednesday, but my car's been acting up so hopefully it's okay by then. Class will present it's own struggles though. I know the energy of the group will help me move more quickly back to where I was in the Primary Series, but that brings with it the physical exertion required to get to those poses and the struggle to not be attached to completing all of those on my first few tries. Physically, I've slipped and I don't like admitting that to myself, even less to my teachers and friends. I'm working on letting go of these emotions because first, that I slipped is the truth, second, it's what happened and I can't do anything about the past, and third, because I think this whole experience helped me to progress internally so I really should be happy about that.

On a lighter note, I'm closer to binding in yoga mudra. I did it once on my own but even when I'm not so successful, I'm closer to it than ever before. But hey, binding comes and goes, right? Yay!

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

How Do You Redo Something

when you don't know how you did it in the first place?

Months ago, I found myself deciding to try and be a vegetarian because my body didn't need to be put through all the extra hardship. I gave up drinking because I didn't need the extra toxins. I was never a smoker and I haven't really been one for sweets since I was little. You get the idea though, I suddenly found myself deciding to be healthier because my body deserved it and didn't need the extra hassle of dealing with all the unhealthy stuff. Just like that. One day I decided it wasn't worth it, and I was pretty successful for a while. (Click here to read about it back then.)

I lost most of this control over the holidays last year and have since been working to try to re-establish them. I still don't drink very often anymore, to the great shock and disbelief of my friends. I'm still trying to eatchicken and fish and avoid beef and pork, though I give in every once in a while now.

The things is that I didn't consciously do anything to make it all happen back then. It was just like a little light switch had been flipped in my mind and everything followed from there. As much as I would like to take credit for it all, it wasn't really a conscious decision. Now, I would like it to be, but how do I make something again when I don't know how I did it the first time? 

The Breath is Everything, They Said quickly we (or I) forget.

The popular notion of yoga is that it is an exercise for a great body and gravity-defying behind. Those who have studied a little more, know that this is true, but that these things are actually only a side-benefit to a practice that is more than just streching and with benefits that go far into the mental and spiritual realms. Be that as it may, when practicing asana - especially such a physical practice as Ashtanga, it is so easy to get caught up in the physicality of it and lost track of what's going on within.

I realized last week that I'd fallen into this trap and had lost that connection that had always drawn me to this practice. I no longer felt the special peace within; the happiness that just came after practice even seemingly without a cause. I felt lost and found myself asking, "Why am I doing this, again?"

I talked to my teachers Connie and Jon after class at Yoga Manila last Saturday. It made such a difference to be able to open up to and talk with people who understood what was happening and gave me tips on how to find my way out of it. Thanks for the support, you guys! Thanks to their advice and to the pranayama workshop session I had with Jon yesterday, I feel much brighter now.

I realized that although I knew in my head that the breath was everything, I had forgotten to apply it in my practice. I had been focusing on the poses, going deeper into them, getting them "right" - I thought, and moving on to the next one. I had forgotten that practicing yoga is focusing on the breath, focusing internally, concentrating, withdrawing, reaching a state of meditation. All the physical practices, these poses that we do, are just preparations to help our bodies be able to sit and focus inward.

I found the connection again in doing pranayama, now I think I have to take some time for slow asana practices and try to keep focused on my breathing. It's funny how it's these simple teachings you learned as a beginner that you keep coming back to, having to relearn time and time again. Each time you "relearn" them though, it's always like learning something new because you learn them in a new way, with new applications and with a new depth. Somehow the same thing is never the same old thing.

Mesibesi...errr...meseebesee...erm...Messy Bessy

I love my Jade Yoga mat, but because it's made of open cell rubber, I've been looking for a good way to really clean it without it getting all foamy and squishy. One day after class, I saw Jon spraying something onto his mat before wiping it down. I asked what it was and he told me...well, let's just say I heard"mesibesi" which totally didn't make any sense to me. I had to ask him to repeat it like 3 times, each time my brain was trying to figure out what he was saying - meseebesee? messiebessie? What in the world?

Well, now I know that I'm a very visual person. Jon had to show me the spray for me to read the label and see that he was talking about the Messy Bessy all-natural cleaner.

Jon was using The Little Warrior, since it was portable and he was at Yoga Manila Ortigas. For those of you who carry alcogel or alcohol with you at all times, this looks like a much healthier alternative, not to mention better for the planet since it's biodegradable and all-natural. They didn't have any when we went to get get some at Cafe Isla in Serendra (now I know that you can order for delivery or pick-up via their website - and it's about 50 bucks cheaper) so I picked up the Minty Orange Surface Cleaner and I have to say I'm loving the stuff. Aside from being a great cleaner, the vinegar in it is a natural disinfectant and is anti-fungal. The orange oil in it is an antiseptic and a natural stain remover. My mat is now both physically and biologically clean, and it smells good too. I have to say that I'm not normally a fan of citrus scents, but this stuff smells clean without the overwhelming citrus smell.

I also have to add that this stuff really works on anything. I went on a cleaning spree yesterday and even my flip-flops are clean and smell great!