As I step into the shower the water first reaches my outstretched hands. Fingers tingling and palms open ready to test the temperature of the water shining down. Too hot. As I reach farther forward to turn the faucet cooler the front of my body gets hit with the warmth. I gaze down at my hands, now glistening from the wet. Its like I can see everything I touched today washing down my forearms, elbows, and into the drain. Down goes the bad and the good. My failures and accomplishments. My pains and my pleasures. No longer tired or energized. No longer covered in the day, the week, the month, or the year. I am completely neutral. Balance. Equal parts of everything that makes up me. No thoughts drifting to distract. Just clear perfect balance. I am that. That is me.
Archive for January, 2013
For some women, every month, the arrival of the painful menstrual cramps is inevitable. Cramps or “dysmenorrhea” can be anywhere from mild to severe. Mild cramps can be barely noticeable while severe ones can disrupt someone’s activities for days at a time. For myself, at least 1 to 2 days a month are accompanied by crippling abdominal pain and fatigue. Since it has been going on so long its one of those things that I have grown to accept.
So why are they so painful? According to medicenet.com
Menstrual cramps are caused by the uterine contractions that occur in response to prostaglandins and other chemicals that are present during menstration. The cramping sensation is intensified when clots or pieces of bloody tissue from the lining of the uterus pass through the cervix, especially if a woman’s cervical canal is narrow.
The difference between menstrual cramps that are more painful and those that are less painful may be related to a woman’s prostaglandin levels. Women with menstrual cramps have elevated levels of prostaglandins in the endometrium (uterine lining) when compared with women who do not experience cramps. Menstrual cramps are very similar to those a pregnant woman experiences when she is given prostaglandin as a medication to induce labor.
**Other factors that have been shown to contribute to menstrual cramps is emotional stress and lack of exercise**
Luckily through yoga I have learned ways to sooth the sensations of razor blades in my gut with a few helpful tools.
Exercise should be an important part of any healthy living but when Aunt Flo is visiting it can be challenging to stick with a regular routine. Here are a few postures that can help relieve some discomfort as well as provide some valuable exercise that isn’t going to leave you feeling more fatigued.
Wide-knee Supported Child’s Pose (Balasana)
Ohhhh I cannot express how lovely this pose feels especially during my (what my boyfriend refers to as) “lady times”. It is a great gentle stretch for the lower back and hips which can get tight and sore. With the support of a bolster or a few blankets you are able to completely let go here. Also anytime the belly is covered or facing down it can increase a sense of warmth and safety.
*Add* a hot water bottle or pack onto the lower back
Abdominal muscles can become very contracted from cramping. This wonderful posture can gently lengthen thighs, torso, chest, and shoulders. It helps in menstrual discomforts by opening up the hips and abdomen. It also aids in relieving mild depression, stress, and anxiety.
*Add* Ujjayi breathing to your movements helping to stay connected as well as cultivate a balancing heat within the body.
Reclining Bound Angle Pose ( Supta Baddha Konasana )
Mmmm! This is a beautiful opener for the hips and chest. This is also an amazing pose for reducing fatigue and headaches. Feel free to close the eyes or place a eye pillow over the eyes to help relax. If you feel too exposed here you can also rest a hot water-bottle on the belly or a blanket. Also a strap around the hips and/or bolster beneath your back, allowing the head to remain supported can aide in opening the chest and heart more fully.
*Add* Varuna Mudra- symbolizes water. It can enhance beauty, remove impurities from the blood and relieve painful menstrual cramps.
If you are feeling drained and in pain during this time treat your body with the respect it deserves.
In the first few days of your menstrual cycle try to find a restorative or gentle class and avoid inversions such as headstand.
Love your body even in the worst of times and it will love you back.
There are a lot of things that I love about yoga. If I were to write a column called “My favorite things about Yoga” it would take a lifetime because everyday I learn something new either about myself or the practice. Today the thing I love is the freedom to change and grow. To have new hobbies and ideas. To meet different people and open you up to new experiences. There is no pressure to do the same thing everyday and the desire to explore the practice is encouraged. So when I say my 5 favorite poses…. they are today’s favorites. Because who knows what tomorrow will bring and thats exciting, not scary.
When I woke up this morning and began to breathe fully and move my body inbetween the sheets an excitment for the mat and 3 poses got me to take the next step of getting up.
1. Sukhasana (Easy Pose)
For me and many others this is the place I am at the beginning and end of an asana practice. This is a place for centering and calm. A place for discovery and discipline. Even though it may appear easy to sit, it is where the challenges of the mind that can rise up.
Try: linking breath and movement by inhaling the arms up and over the head and exhaling the arms back down to your sides 10 times. If it resonates with you, also imagine surrounding yourself with a white light; clearing a space around you that is full of love and contentment.
2. Parivrtta Janu Sirsasana (revolved head to knee pose)
Side bends are extremely important to my practice right now. With the combination of sitting at a desk 5 days a week and mild scoliosis my pelvis and scuplas don’t live in harmony. Opening each side of the body with this posture benefits the Hamstrings, kidneys, liver, groins, shoulders, armpits, and spine all at once. It also plays a role in my own body of stabalizing the pelvis so that when I move into a seated or stand twist I won’t put any extra strain on my SI joint (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sacroiliac_joint).
Try: If it works with your body, add sidebends to your routine throughout the day. It is available sitting, standing or on the floor. Imagine expanding the sides of the rib-cage and sending breath to any place of discomfort.
3. Supta Virasana (reclining hero pose)
An absolutely amazing opener for the hips and ankles. Keep in mind if you have any serious back, knee, or ankle problems, avoid this pose unless you have the assistance of an experienced instructor. I love this pose right now because it really helps me to feel open. Not only in body but also in mind and spirit. It can feel very intense and exposing and making my way through those discomforts and anxiety’s associated with that is very satisfying. There is also room to explore by either lessening the intensity and sitting upright in regular hero pose or (if it serves you) deeping by bringing the arms up overhead to help with tight shoulders.
Try: If you are feeling too exposed try this pose with hands or a blanket resting on the belly.
Remember my 3 favorites (for today) are linked into a whole practice. If you are doing 2 and 3 make sure the body has been warmed with movement and breath and when it serves feel the freedom of exploration through postures.
*In yoga breath is always first*
What are your favorite poses today? Please share 🙂
January is “No Complaints” month and I have discovered a few things about myself and others as we approach the halfway mark of the month.
1. People complain a lot.
There is the less common full on complaints where someone may be getting all worked up and openly letting it rip over someone or something. Than there is the very common complaints where it is almost a form of conversation. I work in a busy office with a variety of people coming in and no matter what the weather is like someone’s got a complaint about it. When it’s raining… “Oh this rain! I wish we could just get some sunshine.” When its sunny… “Ohhh it is soooo cold outside. I can’t stand it.”
I am sure in a lot of these cases that people don’t actually feel this way but its a topic to fill the silence with as well as a conversation openner. Part of my resolution, though, is to reply with a positive stance on the subject .. “Yes it is a little chilly but we are blessed to have the sunshine.” or to not engage in these types of conversations at all.
2. My internal complaints are more abundant than I ever realized.
This was a surprise and I am happy to have my own positive Mantra to repeat when I those old patterns start to stir even when its something small. I feel like this is an important step to changing my habits because that small inner complaint can easily change to an outward behavior.
3. Not complaining as almost made the act seem trivial. My life is full wealth in its various form… love, happiness, beauty. However, the biggest struggle remains in the work place where the majority of my complaining takes place. Yes, it still seems trivial to complain but I have a harder time stopping the ripple of those types of thoughts since I am slightly encouraged by co-workers. In the end, however, it is solely my choice and my responsibilty and I will continue to put in the work.
I feel lucky that I am in an environment where I can practice these things and hopefully move closer to becoming a better me for me and a better person for everyone.
Its that time again. New year resolution time. We have all done it at least once before. Wrote out a list on a sheet of paper or out in our head. Maybe its just one thing and maybe is 20 things that you want to accomplish in the next year. Eat better, drink less, be kinder to others.
The resolution is easy to make but tough to keep.
The toughest part for me is sticking with something for an entire year. Most of the time I will forget any resolution I have set by the time March rolls around or have moved on to a new goal or changed my outlook. Thats life right?! And I enjoy life. A lot. I would even think as I was eating the most delicious piece of chocolate cake and then .. BAM! Shit, didn’t I resolve that I wasn’t going to eat this kind of stuff this year? Oops. Oh, and there comes the guilt which in turn just leads to more chocolate cake. Oh, well.
Well, this year I don’t want to “oh, well” and I also don’t want to set arbitrary resolutions that don’t really end in me becoming a better person. In yoga I am always setting intentions and with those clear intentions I do create positive change in my life and feel the happiness of those achievements. Even simple things like breathing more deeply lead me to greater goals and better feelings towards myself and others. So my resolution for 2013 is a new intention every month. Why? Because as time moves forward we change, we adapt, and our goals change. I feel like this kind of resolution is going to allow me to grow and move closer to spreading the love I know I am capable of cultivating not only towards myself but also for all those around me. Eliminating the judgement and expectation that sometimes resolutions create.
My goal for this month is to stop the habit of complaining about things as a form of conversation as well replace my internal complaints with a positive mantra. I hope that my positive intention can spread to others.
I have made a list of possible resolutions for the next few months but will decide on one closer as the next approaches based on what is going on in my life and what I think I need to bring inward and what I may be ready to let go of.
I always encourage others to share their resolutions as well as thoughts on my own. Share, explore, and unite.