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Special Occasions

The street is cleared of traffic, the tents are up, and the vendors are selling summer squash, cherries, and herbs. It’s the second week this season the farmers’ market has been open in town, and my husband escapes from the office so we can enjoy lunch together and wander by the open-air booths. We buy bread (baked from scratch) from one of our favorite vendors and discuss what we can grill, cook, and drink over the next few days.

As we walk, I start thinking about how I’ll be spending a lot more time at farmers’ markets this summer than I have in the past – it’s easier to find local, sustainably-grown food here than at the grocery stores. I’ve always enjoyed farmers’ markets, but I’ve tended to reserve them for “special occasions.” When I lived in Los Angeles my friends and I would load up with market goodies before going to a concert at the Hollywood Bowl, or for a picnic at the beach, or if we had guests coming to town.

With over 3500 farmers’ markets in the United States (visit LocalHarvest.org to find one near you) there are plenty here on the east coast where I currently live. I’ll be visiting more of them over the next few days to get a feel for the ones I prefer, talk to vendors, and gather local meat, eggs, and more fruit and veggies. I know I have my work cut out for me this summer as I learn how to prepare meals, can tomatoes, and make my own salad dressing. But taking the first step and creating the intent to eat clean is one of the biggest hurdles. Besides, it feels good to realize that what used to be a “special occasion” will now be a part of daily life.

Freedom

I was “birthed” into the world of yoga through the Iyengar style where precision and alignment are emphasized. My teacher would adjust our poses starting from our pinky toe (literally – she’d have us lift it up and try to spread it away from our other toes) all the way to the tops of our heads (which, she would tell us, should be lifting toward the ceiling, as if a string was attached to our scalp and someone was pulling).

I’m one of those follow the rules, read the directions, life is in the details type of girls, so I ate Iyengar yoga up. The fact that my hamstrings are tight, my shoulders are scrunched, and my hips are narrow make Iyengar a fitting practice because I benefit so greatly from the blocks and straps and blankets that are generously encouraged in that style of practice to help with proper positioning.

From time to time I’ve experimented with other yoga styles – this article describes various kinds – and recently I found myself in a session where the teacher was leading a flow with pretty much no regard to form whatsoever.

At first I was distraught.

“Beautiful!” the yoga teacher said when I moved into Virabhadrasana II (Warrior II).

“Oh, yeah, right,” I thought to myself.

In an Iyengar class, the instructor is always adjusting my Warrior II pose. I’m like a toy where you push one section in and another section pops out. If she moves my left thigh, my right knee tweaks to a different place. If she tilts my pelvis, my arms plummet. If she tells me where to fix my gaze – whoops – there goes my thigh again.

Anyway, I realized pretty quickly that I didn’t want to spend the entire practice mentally upset that this yoga teacher wasn’t going to focus on form. Other than calling out the pose, she was giving no instructions, and deep inside I knew that was okay. Because yoga really isn’t about form. Not at its core. It’s about being in a present state of mind. Finding a place where I’m not worrying about the future or obsessing over the past, even if those thoughts relate to yoga itself. As I continued the flow, I let go of the details and the precision and simply enjoyed the movement.

I felt warm and flexible and free.

Basic Equipment

I enjoy the beginning of yoga class because the opening is generally “easy” – well, at least physically (the meditating part can bring up its own set of challenges).

But before we practice some of the more difficult poses, we usually we open by sitting in Sukhasana for a few minutes. And then maybe move onto our hands and knees to practice Dog Tilt and Cat Pose. It’s a place for gentle movements. A time to bring awareness to our breath.

The other day at the beginning of class, we were on our hands and knees with a neutral spine (tabletop). The teacher asked us to lift our right arm off the ground and straighten it so it pointed forward. Both of our arms were engaged. The left one pushing the floor away, and the right one reaching for the wall in front of us (in a way where we weren’t scrunching our shoulder blade up to our neck). She had us hold that position. For a long, long time. It was hard. (Don’t believe me? Try it.)

“Some poses can be deceptive,” the teacher said. “Not as easy as they seem.”

I love that about yoga. I love that I don’t need an expensive gym membership or fancy equipment or special shoes to build flexibility and strength. I just need my body, my mind, and my spirit.Š

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