When I think back to some of my most favorite yoga classes where I had a defining a-ha moment, one in particular came to mind this past week as I started the new year. At Easton Yoga (where my yoga journey began) there would often be a short dharma talk given by the teacher before class started- it gave the students something to focus on and think about to drown out the external noise of all they had going on in their lives or on their busy to-do lists. It helped me to remain present, focused, and in tune with myself and my practice. It was also a really cool way to add variety, personality, laughter and point of view to each class. Sometimes they were based on excerpts from a book, other times – musical instruments were played.
This particular day the story was about selling the goat and I thought what better way to start 2018 than by selling some goats….so today we worked on this in class. The story goes – there was a man who had five children, a difficult job, a house, a wife and property to take care of and he was feeling overwhelmed so he went to ask the local town wiseman for help. He told the wiseman “I have five children to feed, a wife, a hard job, and property to take care of and I don’t know what to do?”. The wiseman told him to “Buy a goat”. He went out and bought a goat and 2 weeks later came back to the wiseman looking quite panicked and said to him “I still don’t know what to do. Now I have 5 children, a wife, a hard job, property to take care of AND a goat”. The wiseman said “Sell the goat”. A couple weeks later the wiseman ran into him at a market and he looked quite jubilant and the wiseman asked him “How are you?” and he shouted “Great, I sold the goat!”
This got me thinking about that air of rejuvenation I often feel when something gets lifted from my to-do list. For example, if I travel and don’t have to prepare and clean up after EVERY meal, I feel a sense of lightness OR if the pup gets the runs and I find myself feeling dragged down with cleaning poo for a few days…then when he is better – it feels as though I am lighter as well. And this all for me, goes back to keeping things in perspective which can often fall to the wayside in a busy life and a busy world. So during our practice, with every inhale we took in light free clean fresh oxygen to fill our lungs with life and light and love and with every exhale we let go of something we no longer need that weighs us down – it could be guilt from what didn’t happen last year, thoughts of maybe not being enough, or possibly the extra donut you had the other day while standing in line at Dunkin’ Donuts because you missed the US of A (Present company excluded – ha!!). As you move the body, engage your muscles and relax into the breath – you can really reap the benefits of a yoga practice. So whatever may be bogging you down as you begin the new year, chose to let it go (sell the goat), come back to the present and enjoy each and every moment.
Last week during class we spent some time in malasana or garland pose, the yogic squat. While this pose may feel foreign or uncomfy at first, when practiced regularly, it helps one get connected to their root, aids in digestion, strengthens the lower half of the body, and taps into our downward flowing energy. This pose used to be more present historically (child birth, eating, potty breaks) but in modern day societies, we rarely sit like this. Malasana is a very calming and grounding pose that is beneficial when leading a busy lifestyle. It helps bring us back to our center or our root.
Over the weekend, I saw on Facebook one of my favorite yoga teachers back in Easton PA post an article about the forgotten art of squatting. See full article here: https://quartzy.qz.com/1121077/to-solve-problems-caused-by-sitting-learn-to-squat/
The article helps explain the benefits of the squat and how rare we are in this position and the downstream ramifications of not squatting over time. Synovial fluid in our body is what helps lubricate our joints and keep us a fine, healthy, well oiled machine. If we do not continuously use and bend our joints in all directions and ways then production of this fluid is stopped leading to tension, reduced range of motion, and eventually maybe even injury not to mention slower digestion, lack of focus and rootedness. The more we root down, the more we rise up.
So if you don’t want to lose it – use it. There are squat variations for those of you that are super tight and cannot get into the fullest expression of the pose. With time and practice, many of you shall. The beauty of the body is it’s ability to adapt, change, and heal.
Below are some pics to help you bring back your squat!
I hope you all enjoyed a lovely FALL BREAK and found some time to breathe and maybe even take out your mat and yoga!
This coming week we will focus on twists so before we begin on Monday, I wanted to write a blog post on the numerous benefits of twisting. Before I get all yogi and technical though, today I started thinking about all the different twists that brought joy to my heart. And I made a list:
1) The infamous Chubby Checkers Let’s “Twist” Again
2) A vanilla and chocolate ice cream cone with the flavors “twisted” around and around until the peak forms at the top and just screams lick me
3) The way my Zumba instructor on Tuesday “twisted” her hips like Shakira
4) Vines and foliage all around me with “twisted” curling branches
5) Garland twisted around Christmas trees (it’ll be here before we know it!)
As this imagery came into my head, the best one a teacher has used to describe what a yogic twist does for the body is the ringing out of a dish towel. Twists help cleanse the internal organs, stimulate digestion, and circulate new blood flow to areas that help naturally detoxify our body from the wear and tear of daily life and aging. There are physiological benefits to the circulatory system and internal organs, structural benefits to the musculoskeletal system, and focusing benefits to your consciousness. Enough said right?
And the beauty of them is you may think that you have to twist your body into a pretzel to release these benefits but there are a few seated and laying down twists that are great for beginners and to do at nighttime before bed or upon first waking up. Don’t forget to breathe length into the body during these twists and on the exhale see if you can twist deeper without compromising the breath or causing any pain. You want to feel something but you don’t want the face to cringe in agony. Find your twist sweet spot and build from there using your breath.
Below are a few photos of some twists that we will dive into this week. Hope to see you in class on Monday! Namaste