Tree Pose (Vrksasana) Recap from Fundamentals

vrksasanaSo, I’ve been slacking off on getting my Fundamental Yoga class recaps posted, and since we’re gearing up for our final 5 weeks, I thought I better get a move on!  I am going to try to post on every other day until I’m caught up.  After that, I want to start writing on some other topics including a reoccurring series called “Eat like a Yogi.”  I am excited about that one as I used to have a food blog and miss it, kind of.

Alignment/Tips for Vrksasana (Tree Pose)

Stand on your mat with your feet hip distance a part, toes facing forward.  Ground all four corners of your feet into the mat (base of the big toe, inside of the heel, base of the pinky toe, outside of the heel).  Spread your toes.  Feel the energetic lift of your arches reaching all the way to your groin and continuing through the crown of your head.

Begin to switch your weight into your left leg. Lift your right foot off the ground, as you start to bend your knee.  Place your foot on your ankle, calf or thigh (never the knee) as you open your knee out to the right.

For added support, press your foot into your standing leg and your leg into your foot (this is easier if done with the foot on the calf or thigh as the ankle may not feel stable enough).  This will help to create a new focus for balance.  From that place lengthen all the way through the crown of your head.  Bring your hands together in prayer position.  Relax through your shoulders, drawing the shoulder blades together to create openness in the chest.  Make sure your ribs aren’t pushing out.  Gently draw your belly button in towards your spine.  Breathe.  Once you feel stable grow your branches by raising your arms out over head.

If you can, practice in front of a mirror, notice if as you place your right foot on your calf, did your right hip hike up?  If so, work to lower that hip so it is even with the left side.  I worked with one lady who experienced the opposite.  Her right hip actually lowered and she had to work to raise that hip.

In class I was asked about the lifted leg being completely parallel with the rest of the body. (Think about standing up against a wall and your whole lifted leg being flesh against the wall.)  This is something that could happen over time as psoas muscles and hips begin to release the more you practice yoga.  Or, it may never happen as everyone’s bodies are different.  For now, work on your balance and even hips.

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Eat Like a Yogi: The One Bowl Method

Thanks for visiting! This post was written before I adopted an intuitive eating/anti-diet approach to eating. However, he idea of eating from one bowl still intrigues me, and it must also intrigue others as it continues to be my most visited blog post! I no longer write here at YogawithsShawnee.com. However, I recently started a new blog called Sunday Morning Yoga at www.sundaymorningyoga.com. I’m considering a regular One-Bowl featured post in the future. Please hop on over to my new blog and give me a like and a follow so you don’t miss out when it happens. For now, enjoy The One-Bowl method.

You know when you have one of those profound ideas – one of those ideas in which you are absolutely certain nobody else but you, in the history of humanity, could have possibly dreamed  up.  I had one of those thoughts recently.

This idea that I should just eat like a monk kept circulating in my mind.  I had no idea what it meant.  I just had this picture of a monk sitting in silence, getting his one bowl filled with food, expecting nothing else and being totally content.

one bowlI thought, that’s a perfect a book or cook book.  I’m gonna do it.  I’m gonna eat like a monk.  So I googled it.  Turns out there are countless articles about how eating like a monk is very beneficial to your health and can reduce weight, heart disease and cancer.  There was also a book written in the 70s called “One Bowl” and there are a few cookbooks based off of a monk-inspired three bowl eating.

Shucks.

After letting the disappointment that I did not in fact have a totally unique idea soak in, I decided to investigate further.  Turns out there is a Catholic Monastery where the monks use two bowls, and it is traditional of Buddhist monks to use three nesting bowls at each meal.

After checking out “One Bowl: A Guide to Eating for Body and Spirit” by Don Gerald from the library and reading through the first chapter, I discovered the idea of eating from just one bowl actually stems from Buddha himself.  When he started his pilgrimage as Siddhartha, he took just one bowl with him and relied on others to fill up his bowl at each meal.  I am guessing there were some meals where he went without.

The goal of one bowl, two bowl or three bowl eating is to eat in a mindful, appreciative and quiet manner, helping you to become better attune to your body, to your food, to those who prepared your food and to the earth.  It’s kind of a sweet practice.

For the past three days I’ve been eating from just one bowl.  I have a smaller two cup bowl and a larger bowl that I am designating for salads and less calorically dense food.

Today I actually used two bowls for lunch.  I had a small leafy salad in my small bowl and in my large bowl I had chicken bone broth with two small gluten free toast boats carrying two roughly poached eggs.

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It was beautiful , nutritious, and incredibly comforting on this rainy March day.  And I did find myself more mindful of my food.  I thought about the organic spring mix growing in rows; the chicken roaming on the farm; my mom gathering the eggs; and the bone broth I let simmer all day long.

During the past few days I’ve been trying this idea, I’ve found myself drawn to nutritious foods.  Since nutrition is very important to me, I want to fill my bowls with food that will be the most nourishing to my body and soul.

As I continue this journey, you can follow my one bowl eating on Instagram.  Additionally, I hope to share a few one bowl recipe ideas and a book review on my blog as well.

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Eat like a Yogi: My One Bowl Conclusion

About a month ago, I set out on a solitary, one bowl eating journey. I planned to eat from my one bowl, like a monk.

A fitting photo from Yoga Journal’s short article “Make Peace with your Plate.” February 2013.

Content. Peaceful. Honoring life. Honoring my body.
Well, one path lead to another and I quickly changed routs. I got through about the first four chapters of the book, “One Bowl: A Guide to Eating for Body and Spirit” by Don Gerald.  Turns out it’s more of a workbook, trying to get you to journal your thoughts and feelings about your relationship with food.
By all means, it did make me think. And my thoughts were very profound. But no man and no book, could ever get me to journal. I dream about beings journaling fool…but apparently not in this life. This is where I lost interest with the book and found that other path, just off to the left, hidden behind some bushes…
I’ve toyed with the idea of going Paleo for a while now.  Ever since I was diagnosed with Hashimoto’s disease and told to cut gluten.  But I could never quite get past that emotional connection to eating grains.
In the four short chapters I did read of “One Bowl,” I partook in quite a bit of soul searching about my connection to food and my emotional dependency.  So my discovering One Bowl eating wasn’t for naught.  One Bowl eating was my final turning point to embracing the grain free, paleo lifestyle.
So how can one be a yogi and follow a hunter- gatherer, caveman eating lifestyle?  It would make an interesting blog topic wouldn’t it?  Stay tuned my friends, and I’ll gladly share my thoughts.
P.S.  You can follow me eats on Instagram, if you’re curious: Instagram.com/yogishawnee!
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Finding Your Energetic Balance

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This month in my Hatha classes we’re working on balance.  Funny, since I am finding balance to be somewhat difficult to obtain these days.  Not physically, I actually have a rather good sense of balance (except when in Uttitha Hasta Padagustasana and scanning the class to see how my students are doing).

My lack of balance is more mental than anything.

I just feel like there are 1000 and one things I need/want to do in a day, and I can’t seem to resurrect my college-like, Cume Laude time management skills.  There are the things I need to do: toddler care, cleaning, errands, running a yoga business, yard work, cooking, etc.  There are the things I want to do: raise a smart/intelligent/godly daughter; home yoga practice; read God’s word; yoga blog; not just cooking but planning and prepping; cardio; write a novel; study anatomy; read for pleasure; scrapbook;  renovate my home; organize; etc; etc; etc.

Ahhhhhhhhhhh! *pulls hair out*

“When you stand with your two feet on the ground, you will always keep your balance.” –Tao Te Ching

I giggled when I found the above quote while searching for some inspiration for my balancing practice. In yoga we often balance with only one foot on the ground, or maybe just our hands on the ground.  So how does this apply to yoga or to life?

In specific yoga asanas when we don’t have both feet on the ground, we can utilize other “feet.”  For example, our breath, core strength or imagining a flexed foot is pressing against the ground or wall are all stabilizers.  We can also use props, allowing these tools to become an extension of self.

Finding mental balance in this out of sorts world may not be so easy.  One place to begin keeping our “mental” feet on the ground is by letting go of our attachment to perfection.   Maybe letting go of our attachment to perfection means literally letting go of something or many things on our to-do list.  Or perhaps, it means letting go of what we need to achieve in a day.

“Don’t hold on too long, but don’t let go too soon.  Find a balance” –Morrie Swartz

For me, it’s time to take a deep breath and let go of my perfection while still holding on to my core values.  Even if I don’t balance everything perfectly every day, at least I can come to my mat or my breath or prayer and just let go.

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Bend and Be Straight

Me in Dhanurasana (Bow Pose) on a cliff overlooking the ocean on the Oregon Coast.

Me in Dhanurasana (Bow Pose) on a cliff overlooking the ocean on the Oregon Coast.

Last week I posted about my heartbreak over a decade old friendship that ended, in my opinion, rather abruptly.  But, since that writing, my friend and I remedied a couple fissures, leaving our relationship on a good note – a potentially open door for the future, and keeping in touch in the meantime.

While my heart is still heavy, I am ok.  God, yoga, friends and family have helped to make this scary new journey less scary.  I may be short a close friend, but I am still so loved, making me not really short at all.

Speaking of yoga…

For the month of June in my Hatha classes we’ve been working on balance.  This past week I shook things up a bit and added a little back-bending into the mix.

And like always, there’s a lesson.

I found a passage from the Tao Te Ching that offers a playfully-wise list of opposites or, rather, balances.

“Yield and overcome;
Bend and be straight;
Empty and be full;
Wear out and be new;
Have little and gain;
Have much and be confused.”

Bend and Be Straight.

How fitting for back-bending, yoga and life!  In our physical practice we are basically contorting ourselves into various postures all for the benefit of a lengthened spine, lean muscles and flexibility.  We’re bending to be straight; we’re yielding to produce; we’re humbling to blossom.

I feel as though this is happening in my own life right now.  By letting go of this relationship with an open heart and mind, I feel as though something wonderful will soon produce fruit in my life.

Already I’m experiencing a blossoming desire to not let other relationships slip away.

 

It’s like I’m letting go,

To find my way

And to experience truth

And beauty.

Out with the old,

In with the bliss.

A refiner’s fire.

Just bending to be straight.

 

Yup, I’m gonna be fine. Just fine.

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The Yoga of my Portable Dishwasher

DSC_0047editedSome weeks yogic lessons are hard to come by.  Not that the lessons aren’t present, more like I’m not present in my own  life and therefore don’t experience the lessons.

 

Last week, however, my lesson was yelling loud and clear.  I don’t think I was any more mindful, but sometimes God makes things obvious.

 

It started with my husbands ok to purchase a portable dishwasher.  I’ve been washing dishes by hand for 3.5 years.  Let’s just say I was a little excited.  The only problem was that we aren’t really in the financial position to spend $700 on a new one.

 

Don’t worry, that’s not gonna stop gal.

 

I immediately hopped on Craigslist and found 3 in our price range (that would be the lowest price range).  I inquired about 3, and I purchased one from the first person who responded.

 

Not hasty at all.

 

We picked it up that day, but unfortunately we couldn’t test it out until the next day when we were able to purchase a faucet-dishwasher adapter.

 

I became instantly anxious.  I wanted to know, now, if it worked.  See, waiting and being patient have never be a strong point for me.
I kept wondering what I had done.  We spent cash out of our already limited home repairs fund.  If it didn’t work, we couldn’t just buy another one.  Through an act, which can only  be attributed to God, (no really, I had several people praying for me) I was able to get a full night of sleep.

 

Luckily, once we got the adapter, the dishwasher worked just fine.

 

Though a long process, I think yoga teaches us to wait; to take a pause; to slowdown and stop being so hasty.  Yoga also teaches us to recognize when we are not being mindful.

 

This lesson definitely reminded me to slow down.

 

One of my favorite ways to slow down and find pause is through a breathing technique I learned during my teacher training.
Try this: Sit or lay in a supported-comfortable position.  Close your eyes and begin to focus on your breathing.  After several minutes of watching your breath enter and exit the body, bring your awareness to the natural pause that happens at the end and the begging of the breath.  This pause is not forced or created, it just happens.  Remain here for several minutes focusing on that pause.  Allow it to become your own mini sanctuary, anytime you need a break or to just slow down.

 

“Be still and know that I am God.” Psalm 46:10 <–I always need reminding of that.

 

Thanks for reading!  I’m gonna go not do the dishes, because they are all clean or in the dishwasher…seriously…all of them.  😀
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This post is super-awesome

awesomeLike any good blogger, once I’ve finished writing a post and before I hit publish, I list all my categories and tags, and check the boxes that need to be checked. One of those boxes, I kid you not, is “This post is super-awesome.”

Super-Awesome

This is an extremely hard title to live up to. What if I don’t have an inner Barney Stinson!? What if when I get sad, I just get sad, and I can’t be awesome instead?

I want to. I want to be awesome all the time. More than just being awesome, I want to believe I’m awesome so that even on those days I really am not that awesome, I can still feel awesome.

I want to check that box for every. single. post.

But am I really that person? Is it dishonest to check that box every time? What if I think the post is super awesome, but it’s not? Will somebody find out that I checked the box, when my post is not that awesome?

Perhaps I am reading into the box a little too much. Maybe it’s WordPress’s way of virtually high-fiving me for having posted at all; A little pat on the back for posting once every four months.

What if as soon as soon as I got out of bed in the morning I was met with a giant floating check box that said “This day will be super awesome”?  Maybe then, as soon as my feet hit my slippers, I’d be pepped up enough to tackle the day with an attitude of super awesomeness, even if I wasn’t really all that awesome all the time.

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(bring it back to yoga)

The consistency of my yoga practice isn’t all that awesome all the time. What with life, teaching, writing, baby, cleaning, it is what it is. But that doesn’t mean I can’t have a super-awesome practice when it does happen.

I roll out my mat, turn on some tunes, do some breathing, and get ready to strike a Down Dog. Baby cries. Let baby cry for one more minute. This is going to be the most awesome Down Dog ever.signiture copy copy

Yoga for Diabetes

Me doing Twisted Hand to Big Toe Pose... This will definitely build some heat!

Me doing Twisted Hand to Big Toe Pose… This will definitely build some heat!

In class this morning we discussed and centered our practice around diabetes. Unfortunately, diabetes is a disease that runs rampant in our society. There is type 1, which is an autoimmune disease and then there is type 2. Type two is the most common, but type one is on the rise. Now I’m no doctor and I know this is controversial (especially to those who don’t want to hear it) but I like to think of type 2 as being a lifestyle disease. Time and time again I hear of people reversing or controlling type 2 through their lifestyle: exercise, healthy eating, yoga maybe…

If you struggle with diabetes, insulin resistance or sensitivity, with regular practice yoga can help!

Here is how:

Yoga helps to keep stress levels under control. When you’re under stress cortisol and adrenalin is raised. Both contribute to overeating, increased belly fat and insulin resistance.

Balancing poses, core strengthening poses and flow (Sun Salutations) help to build heat in the body. Heat is good for those whose Aruvedyic Dosha is Kapha (generally, a heavier and more sluggish individual). Building heat and focusing on the core also helps with burning more calories, hopefully targeting belly fat.

Standing poses help to evenly distribute fat on feet. Many people with diabetes suffer from problems with their feet, such as sores, open wounds etc. Standing poses, with a focus on using the whole foot, helps to keep the fat evenly distributed to help lessen issues with feet.

Promotes mindfulness. One thing that can’t be forgotten is that yoga helps to build a sense of body and mind awareness. Many students, including myself, claim that yoga has helped them to pay more attention to their body and how it feels. After practicing for a while you may start to cue in to how certain foods or substances make you feel. You can also become more tunes in to satiation levels.

Here is a short stress-reducing, fire building yoga sequence to get you started:

Start with 5 – 10 minutes of breathing in an easy seated or lying position.

Several rounds of cat/cow

1-3 rounds of Sun Salutations (Surya Namaskar A)

1-2 rounds of Surya Namaskar B

From a forward fold step to Warrior 1 –> Warrior 2 –> Reverse Triangle (repeat on other side)

From a forward fold step to Warrior 2 –> Triangle –>Warrior 2 –> Half Moon (repeat on other side)

From a forward fold step to High Lunge (R)–>Goddess Pose –> High Lunge (L) –> Goddess Pose –>Wide leg Fwd Bend

Downward Facing Dog

Locust Pose (Arms forward, then to out the side, then along your side body)

Downward Facing Dog

Pigeon Pose (R & L)

Boat Pose

Lying Twist

Baby

Savasana (no more than 15 minutes if you’re a kapha type)signiture copy copy

Why do we hate Tess Holliday?

Image Credit: Torrid

Image Credit: Torrid

By now we’ve all seen her, Tess Holliday, the size 22 model.

She’s beautiful, don’t you think? When I read the articles and saw the magazine covers I was marveled by her gorgeousness. But it was all spoiled by reading the comments. People literally hate her and what she supposedly stands for: an unhealthy lifestyle.

Eat a salad; Go for a run, they said. Many commenters spouted nothing but negativity at this big beautiful woman.

But why? What is it about her that makes us, as a society, want to hurt her with hateful words and bigotry?

Here’s one reason:

Loving our bodies as they are, as Tess Holliday loves her body, means we’ve giving up on ourselves. It means we’ve given up on our health, on how we look, on our futures, on our love life, ect. etc. etc. Or that’s what we think, and it’s scary.

We (the collective we) hate Tess Holliday because we fear Tess Holliday.

Society tells us how we should look, how we should dress, and how we should live. If we follow these examples set by multibillion dollar corporations, then we will surely find happiness in this lifetime. But, if we embrace and celebrate our individuality, we’re doomed to live a life of ugliness and depression.

As all my years of yo-yo dieting were coming to a peak, I struggled with the idea of being healthy for health’s sake and not for the sake of losing weight. I thought if I started being kind to myself and letting myself experience grace, I would NEVER lose weight and it scared the Hell out of me.

Why? Because skinny = happy.

If I could just lose weight, I wouldn’t struggle with depression or confidence issues, I’d earn more money (because thin yoga teachers do), and I’d have more friends (because thin-happy people are more fun to hang out with).

Here’s the yogic truth in all of this: It’s a bunch of bull.

If I embrace my size 12, like Tess Holliday has embraced her size 22, and allow myself to be and feel beautiful what would happen? I’d obviously be eating cheese burgers and whole bags of chips at every meal. I’d never exercise and I’d generally stop caring about life all together.

Right?

No. Again, bull. You CAN embrace yourself no matter what size, or height, or awkward physical feature and STILL maintain a healthy lifestyle. In fact, if the goal is to really love yourself, you’d likely take better care of your body. The hard part comes in embracing yourself in this current moment and being kind to yourself through the whole process.

The real yogic truth comes in being in the NOW — living in the present moment. At this current moment, there is nothing I can do about being a little soft around the midsection. But I can love myself. I can love myself like Tess Holliday loves herself. In my mind she’s not promoting an unhealthy lifestyle. To me she is clearly promoting being beautiful in this moment, despite health and wellness goals. signiture copy copy