Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Squeezing It In - The Morning 15

Here is my new mission - fit in 15 minutes of meditation in the morning. For a while, I was making it happen. I would get up and spend a half hour doing pranayama or meditation. For some reason (perhaps the winter) I have been unable to do so lately. I had a light bulb moment - what if I do my ironing in the evening? That will get me 15 minutes in the morning.

I have been reading a book about mudras and plan on working with a few mudras during this time. I am excited to get started! I will let you know how it turns out.

Adventures in Vegetarianism - No Meat in Middle America

Earlier this month I had the pleasure of visiting a small town in the mid west on business. When I say small, I mean that the town has less than 2000 people. (I know, small). This is my second time traveling out there and this experience was even better than the last trip. Everyone out there is very welcoming and friendly and down-to-earth. Overall, I had an incredible time.

That being said, being a vegetarian out there was incredibly difficult. The town is on the Canadian border and the temperature can drop well below zero. (I checked and the today's low was -22). For this reason, I am assuming, they like a lot of stick-to-your-ribs meals. Every meal has two staples - meat and potatoes. Potatoes come with everything. I ordered macaroni and cheese there and it came with french fries.

For some reason, I still have a hard time explaining my vegetarianism to people - especially around a lot of meat eaters. It is easy to feel strange when you are at a table of 15 - all of whom are eating red meat - and you are the only one who is different. To make matters worse, there were not many alternatives. We went out to one restaurant where the entire menu is as follows:

  1. Fillet
  2. Prime Rib
  3. Chicken
  4. Shrimp
  5. Fish
So what did I have? A baked potato. Yup that is it. It is hard to feel like one of the group when everyone has a large piece of meat, a big plate, and takes 15 minutes to eat - and all I could have was one potato on a very small plate. I know that I shouldn't let it bother me, but I can't help but feel different from everyone else - I don't even know why that is important to me. These particular challenges may seem petty, but I cannot help but feel separate.

I managed to get through the trip and two giant bags of trail mix. Vegetarianism is a challenge, and I considered this week to be a test. I got through it and am proud of myself. I suppose my work now is to be ok with it.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Getting Creative: Chair Shoulder Stand

Iyengar Yoga provides many great alternate poses to help teach us the mechanics of a pose. One of these great alternates is chair shoulder stand. In chair shoulder stand, the practitioner is inverted with their shoulders on a bolster and arms clasping the chair rungs at the back of the chair. The tailbone is resting on the chair seat with either the legs resting against the wall or raised toward the sky.

One question I have received in the past when practicing chair shoulder stand is, "why not just get into the traditional shoulder stand?" The reason is that this alternate version of the pose provides us some education that we cannot get from coming into the full pose. In traditional shoulder stand, there are many variables to think about: coming up high on the shoulders, supporting the back and neck, moving the tailbone in and legs back, rolling the legs towards one another, flexing the toes, etc. The chair helps us to get into the pose in a supported way, so that some of these variables are instead put onto the props.

Being able to really access the tops of the shoulders is a blessing that this pose provides. By having the tailbone supported, and the chair rungs, the student can continue to turn their arms out, bringing the shoulder blades in, and are able to come onto the tops of their shoulders. For many new students, it is hard to access this without the use of props. More often than not, new students are actually standing on their upper back, not their shoulders. By utilizing these props, students can not only access the pose, but also get a greater understanding of where the base of the pose is.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Loving the Un-Yogi – Hoarding

Recently I was sitting in on a regular Yoga Sutras discussion group and we were talking about sutra 2.39:

aparigraha-sthairye janma-kathanta-sambodhah

This sutra discusses the 5th YamaAparigraha. Aparigraha is defined in many different ways. Some define aparigraha as non-hoarding, not being acquisitive, or not lusting for possessions. I have always taken this yama to mean living simply. The yogi does not need to find joy in possessions. The Sutra actually says that letting go of this need “unlocks the real purpose” of life.

This particular yama is very difficult to discuss for me around the holiday season – and not for the reason you may think.

When my partner and I decided to live together, the first thing he asked me was, “What Christmas decorations do you have!?” Apart from being shocked by his excitement, I was surprised that this was such a concern.

“None” I said. “Why? Should I have Christmas decorations?”

Then I learned his dirty secret. We (and by we I mean he) has 14 large bins of decorations for Christmas alone. To top it off, he is always looking for more. Before the holidays, after the holidays, throughout the year – the need for holiday “accent pieces” does not stop. I secretly call all of this “craft” – “What a bunch of craft” or “what a load of craft.” I just don’t understand why all of it is necessary. And why the need for more? We have a total of 3 rooms that are fit for decorating.

Living with the non-yogi can be difficut, especially when you have differences like we do. How do I keep my life simple when there are so many decorations clogging my home? I do not get wrapped up in it. I sit back and allow the holiday magic to happen around me. We have discussed our differences and I do not take part in the decorating. I help out a little and allow the rest to happen.

The hard part is hoarding my thoughts during this time. I try not to get upset with the complication of it. It is easy to get upset, but the real test is finding peace with the decisions of others who are not trying to live the yogi lifestyle.