Tadasana (Mountain Pose)- Recap for Fundamentals Class

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When climbing life’s mountains it is necessary to provide for yourself a firm and solid foundation so you can get through the peaks and valleys with as few bruises as possible.  Tadasana (Mountain Pose) is one of the most foundational poses in yoga from which all the standing poses stem.  Just like in life, in yoga, it is important for you to have a steady foundation for a safe and magnanimous practice.

Here is some important alignment from the summit to the peak (aka from the feet to the head)…

Feet:

Stand on your mat with your feet hip distance apart, 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.

Knees, Thighs, Hips and Lower Back

Firm your thighs by lifting your knee caps (not locking them).  Draw your thighs back feeling your sit bones spread (place a block between your thighs and draw it back). Feel your tailbone reaching towards the ground without flattening your lower lumbar region (as you draw your tailbone down, you’ll feel the block move slightly forward).

Shoulders and Chest

Drop the tops of your shoulders away from your ears. Draw the shoulder blades down your back and then kiss the tips of the shoulder blades together.  As your shoulder blades spread across your back you should feel a nice opening of your chest and collar bones.  Be careful not to push your ribs out.  Think about your sternum (the bone that connects the ribcage) as a sword in its sheath.  A sword does not bow, but comes straight out of the sheath. This will help you lift and expand your chest, without pushing those ribs forward.

Neck and Head

Move the base of your skull back so that your ears come in line with your shoulders.  Keep your chin parallel to the ground.

Allow your arms to dangle at your side.  Welcome to Tadasana.

Come back next week as we tackle Vrksasana (Tree Pose).

Check out Yoga Journal for additional information about Mountain Pose.Image

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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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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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I eat meat. I do yoga.

I love cooking.  I once loved cooking, back before all these food allergies and intolerance made their greedy appearance in my life.

I even had a food blog. I used to get free food to review, and I got paid to host meals. It was fun. Until it wasn’t. Food blogging is taxing. Unless you’re very popular, the only people who read food blogs are food bloggers, and they only read your blog if you first have read (and commented) on theirs.  Irritating, right?

My food blog started to fizzle once I was diagnosed with Hashimoto’s disease (thyroid, auto-immune, sucks bad). Since then, I’ve tried numerous diets including 90% gluten free, vegan, vegetarian, didn’t give a crap, and finally paleo.

Meaty, meat, meat, meat.

If you’re not familiar with paleo it’s a “caveman” diet: meat, good fat (coconut oil, etc), veggies, fruit, and limited nuts. No grains, and I do strictly no dairy (due to chronic hives, yay me!)

The point is I eat meat, and lots of it. That’s right I eat meat. Un-twist your panties, yogis, I am still convicted to honor the practice of ahimsa (non harming). I chose to eat (mostly) meat that is organic and, has been pastured and humanely raised. I say mostly because sometimes its out of our budget.

But, I’m not going to flesh out my eating convictions too much here. Instead, I’d like to introduce a weekly food post. Don’t hold me to it, though. My 19-month-old makes me flaky sometimes.

I’ve recently made a vow to love cooking again — to re-commit to being paleo and share with my fellow yogis some of the recipes and meal ideas I love. ❤

Below is from my first blog, The Ex-Perfectionist. I didn’t do much paleo cooking then, but this looks like it was an awesome paleo meal. 🙂

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Paleo Scramble:

Scramble 1 all natural apple chicken sausage link, 2 eggs, 2 big handfuls of spinach, 3 asparagus stalks, onion, 1 garlic clove, tbspn fresh cilantro, salt, pepper and cumin.

Fruit: 1 banana, 5 strawberries and blueberries.

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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

Reigniting my Love of Food

I did it! I came up with a new recipe that I actually enjoyed. I used to do that a lot — throw things together and love how it turned out. It’s been a while. I haven’t really loved anything I’ve created, more like choked through.

Honestly, to get all yogic, I think I was having a bit of an emotional block or disconnect or denial, about the fact that my body needs to be paleo, and that I ABSOLUTELY can no longer tolerate dairy (of any form, of any amount).

OH, Lord, why hast blue cheeses forsaken thee?

Right before Thanksgiving, I went on a 10 day vacation to Disney World. I set out with intentions to at least eat strictly gluten free (though I kind of think there was gluten in the eggs and sausage I was eating at the hotel). I decided, since it was vacation, I would just pop a Benadryl each day and ignore my dairy intake. Yeah, I had stomach issues for days following and my skin… ugh, it was like I was 15 again. Ick. Luckily, I’m on the mend.

Anyway, I think vacation was an emotional breakthrough for me.  Turns out I absolutely cannot compromise myself any more.

I fully believe yoga, and the awareness it has brought to my body, is my path to physical healing. Without yoga, I wouldn’t have been aware to all the symptoms I was experiencing. This lead me to demanding my doctors do something, which lead me to being diagnosed with Hashimoto’s disease.

Without body awareness, I wouldn’t be in tune with my body’s cues –urging me to cut foods. Yoga helps me listen to my body.

Anyway, here’s that awesome recipe I came up with (forgive my lack of recipe writing)

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Paleo Asian Crock Pot Chicken

Prep time: 10 minutes

Cook time: 4 hours high, 8 hours low

Serves: A lot! (Hello leftovers!)

Ingredients

8 boneless skinless chicken thighs

1 medium onion, sliced into strips

5 celery stocks, chopped

1 small bag baby carrots

1 small bag (about 12-16 oz) fresh snap peas

1 8 oz can water chestnuts (I chopped mine a little smaller)

½ cup coconut aminos (or tamari, or soy sauce)

¼-1/2 cup honey

½ tsp garlic powder (or use a few fresh cloves)

Directions: Whisk together aminos, honey and garlic powder. Place all ingredients into crock pot. Cook on low 6-8 hours. (My chicken was still semi frozen and I was in a hurry so I cooked it on high for 4 hours, turned out great!)

The chicken should fall apart when done. Serve over chicken, veggies and a little broth over zucchini noodles or spaghetti squash. OR, if you’re a grain eater over rice. I made white calrose rice for my husband and daughter. I’ll admit, I indulged in a ½ cup! Absolutely scrumptious over rice. signiture copy copy

Why you couldn’t pay me to weigh myself.

Vashistasina in my space pants and feelin' fine.

Vashistasina in my space pants and feelin’ fine.

I don’t weigh myself. I don’t own a scale. I intentionally avert my eyes when being weighed at the doctor’s office. If I really wanted to I could get out my Wii Fit board and see the damage. But I don’t want to. I especially don’t want that damn little animated board telling me, “That’s overweight!”

Anybody ever flip off your TV? Cause I have.

I recently discussed this topic with a student of mine. We talked about how discouraging it is to see the number on the scale fluctuate: from day to day, from hour to hour. It’s like playing the happiness lottery. “Come on -1 pound, mama needs some chocolate!” I told my student how I refuse to get on the scale, and she told me I seemed to be pretty good about that kind of thing.

The truth is, I’m still learning to be “good” about that kind of thing.

Trying to undo 31 years of damage is going to be a life time of work, because until I can totally become immune to our society’s dysfunctional body image standards, my body-hate bucket will continue to be filled. Although, now, I imagine my bucket has a tiny, pin-point hole in the bottom, leaking out a little bit at a time.

I think I earned that pin-point hole about 2010 when I gave up dieting after reading “Intuitive Eating: A Revolutionary Program that Works” by Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch. (Side note: I both recommend and do not recommend this book. Please see my brief notes after this post.)

Following a miscarriage in 2009 I gained a ton of weight, maybe 30 pounds, and honest to goodness I couldn’t figure out why. So I did what any girl would do, I worked my butt off. I ran a few miles every day, and kept my calorie intake to 1200-1400. I felt like crud and gained more weight.

That’s when in 2010 I read that book and gave up dieting. I finally discovered in 2011 it was a sluggish thyroid and Hashimoto’s disease to blame. I continued with my non-dieting mentality and was able to maintain my weight.

Fast forward to 2012 post baby, I did eventually lose my baby weight and most my thyroid weight with a paleo diet. I didn’t consider it dieting, however, because I ate as much as I wanted and felt very satisfied. I had my energy back, and felt semi healthy and normal.

But during this time, I did continue to weigh myself. I felt good physically, but I mentally and emotionally I still felt like a failure. I was still a chubby yoga teacher and I couldn’t quite get back down to my pre-thyroid disease weight. At times I wanted to give up teaching yoga, all because my self-worth is/was wrapped up in three little numbers.

I’ll admit, I have recently gained more weight. And I partially know why this time: Stress of a big move, stopped my paleo diet, thyroid numbers being off, discovering a new health issue, etc. But I don’t know how much weight and I really don’t care to know.

I have not weighed myself or looked at a scale for almost a year now. So I am oblivious to those three little numbers.

Here’s what I do know:

*I am WAY stronger than I was a year ago. Hello biceps!
*My belly is deflating due to merging back to a whole foods/paleo diet lifestyle and the plank challenge.
* I bought my first pair of patterned yoga pants, which are slightly bigger than the last pair I purchased, but I don’t care because I LOVE wearing them. They make me feel wonderfully geeky and happy.
*I love teaching yoga.
*My health journey and struggle with weight and body image can actually be very helpful for my clients who struggle with similar issues.

Instead of the scale I choose to measure myself by how I feel. I reflect on how much love, happiness and strength I have gained. And, in a practical sense, the way my pants fit is the best, least frustrating indicator of how I am doing in the weight management department.

Despite not weighing myself, these self-defeating thoughts still rear their ugly little heads, but after a good cry and some chocolate, I get over it a whole lot faster.

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**A note about “Intuitive Eating: A Revolutionary Program that Works” by Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch. What I love about this book is that it can teach you how to know when you are truly hungry and truly full, which I do believe most of us have gotten away from. The book helps you overcome your fear of food being bad vs. good. There is also a helpful exercise helping you discover your real ideal weight. I found this to be pretty cathartic and eye opening. What I do not love about the book is that it doesn’t acknowledge food sensitivities or allergies, follows the government food pyramid, and doesn’t focus on a whole foods, clean eating diet. Let’s face it if I followed the government’s recommendation for portions, the Wii fit would be calling me obese. The science is from the 90s – when the whole low-fat thing was still a trend. They did just put out a new edition, but it doesn’t sound like the ancient science and food recommendations have been updated. Anyway, read at your own risk.

Because, Yoga: A story of body-hate, then love

urdvadahnurasana copyI have never been more excited about my yoga practice than I am right now.

In good ‘ole social media fashion, let me overshare my heart with you…

I, apparently, have had an emotional block, or disconnect with my yoga practice since, well, forever. I started yoga when I was 17, at the height of insecurities and body-hatred. I had recently lost about 40 pounds, and was looking and feeling smokin’. You see, my entire self-worth was wrapped up in how I looked.

My yoga practiced ebbed and flowed through college, marriage and first grown-up jobs. I was 27ish when I started giving yoga a second, deeper thought – when I thought maybe I’d like to teach. Even though it was close to ten years after I first discovered yoga, I still maintained all of my old insecurities (I could just hide it better), but I hated my body even more; because now I was sick and tired, and I didn’t know why.

All I knew was that I couldn’t sit behind a desk and keep my sanity any longer.

So, teacher training. Because, yoga.

I was still sick, and overweight. And public speaking was my biggest fear (second to giant house spiders). But through it all, teacher training lead me to diagnosing myself, which was confirmed by a real doctor, AND the training seriously helped me overcome my fear of speaking.

So then, teaching.

I was on the mend physically (minus lingering baby and thyroid weight) and I was ready to take on the yoga teaching world! I quickly landed a teaching gig and was given the opportunity to teach as much as I wanted. That was exciting.

But then, teaching.

I equally loved and feared my students. To be honest, I got a lot of judgement from students who thought a yoga teacher should look a specific way. It hurt, a lot. But I also had a group of AMAZING, supportive students who I loved. They encouraged me, and so I kept teaching.

But, I found myself in a giant rut. I was teaching in a way that catered to the athletic, able-bodied student, because I didn’t want to be judged. I think, however, teaching in this manner burnt me out, because my heart wasn’t in it. I didn’t realize how damaging and how draining it was to please a group of people who were not even my target. I wanted to quit so. many. times. I am ashamed to share that, honestly.

And then, body positive yoga.

One day, feeling down about myself, I started looking at Instagram photos for the campaign #whatayogilooks and #yogaforall. These yogis defy the U.S. standards of a beautiful yogi and can do some amazing things with their bodies. Instagram led me to blogs, which lead me to some blogging of my own, which lead me to the Yoga for All teacher training (which starts this Tuesday!!).

These past few weeks of focusing my intentions on body positivity and teaching in a more gentle and loving way, has rekindled my passion for teaching yoga. I’ve literally done a home practice every day for about two weeks straight (I was only required to do 4 days a week during training)! I am just so excited to have an area of focus for my teaching. My goal is to reach those people who have felt excluded by yoga “standards.”

If you’ve been looking for a place in the Longview/Kelso area to do yoga; if you’ve felt excluded in a yoga class; if you’re worried you won’t fit in or won’t be able to do the poses; come try out Yoga with Shawnee at Summit Studios! I will do my best to accommodate you, to modify you, and to make you feel welcomed.

I am SO looking forward to starting the Yoga for All training and saturating my classes in body-positivity and yoga inclusivity!

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Set goals, not intoxicated resolutions

If you have some resolutions/goals (I prefer to call them goals) in mind for 2016, and you’d like to, you know, actually stick with them, may I make a suggestion?

 

Don’t make a last minute, semi-intoxicated toast committing to your resolutions. Cause guess what? You won’t keep them (there is also the possibility that you won’t even remember them come January 1).

 

1476a7ee-15aa-4cf9-baba-d52e0829fce1Instead, take some time to make a realistic plan for keeping your resolutions. Sit in a quiet place, with no distractions, with a pen and paper and jot down your goals.

 

Then, put them where you can see them every day. Make it pretty and put it in a frame if you have to (that’s what I’m going to do!). Yay for pretty things! Consider also making bite-sized steps for your goals. Break it down into bullet points or mind mapping, if you prefer.

 

Once you’ve had your brainstorming session and have your resolutions written down, commit to them daily.

 

Here is a tip I picked up recently: Every day write a to do list. Prioritize three things you MUST do that day. At least two of those things should contribute to your yearly resolutions. Next, you can prioritize your list by things you probably should do, and then things you’d like to do if there is time.

 

I’ve been practicing this method this week and I have found it very helpful. Honestly, I don’t even get to the “things to do if there is time.” I keep my list short, no more than 5 things. This doesn’t include day job tasks, this only includes tasks for at home or for my yoga business.

 

My three things typically look like this:

 

Morning Routine, which includes daily chores, exercise, and de-cluttering. (One of my goals for 2016 is to put more effort into being more efficient in my morning routine, which has always included exercise and de-cluttering.  I’ve just always seen these things as “I’ll do it if there is time.” Well, this past week and this next year, it’s going to be #1 on my list! My other goals are to move my body more and to de-clutter my home.)

 

Yoga Business related task, such as plan lesson, post a blog, boost Facebook post, etc.

 

Errand/Other necessity, so far it’s been doctor’s appointments or grocery shopping/meal planning.

 

By listing out my three must do’s for the day, I feel so much less overwhelmed. When I make to-do lists, I  make TO-DO lists. Often times my list will include 20 things I feel I should do in a day. But, I get so overwhelmed, I freeze.

 

Perhaps I’m resolving to have a shorter to-do list too! 🙂

 

Ok, to sum it up make resolutions/goals, but DON’T “wing” it. Brainstorm and write them down. Put them in a place where you can see them every day. Commit to doing something (even just one thing) toward your goals daily!

 

Now…718c4457-2721-4812-ace3-485685ec179d
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