Alone in a cabin in the mountains, I put the kettle on the stove. My husband left yesterday to return to the city, and I have a few days to myself before more relatives arrive. I want to take this time to better develop my “home” yoga practice.
After hot oatmeal, tea, and a refreshing shower, I’m ready. In the past, I would quickly find myself intimidated or overwhelmed at the thought of practicing yoga without a teacher and other students, but I recently read an article that put me at ease. It suggested starting with one pose – just one – and building from there.
Well. In that case, Child’s Pose.
So that is what’s on my agenda as I walk over to the blue mat rolled out on the floor. It seems appropriate to “open” my practice, so I sit with my legs crossed and chant three Oms (can you believe it – no other voices to drown out mine).
Then I got on my hands and knees and folded back into Child’s Pose. I stayed in the active position instead of the passive position.
I’ve always loved this pose. A wonderful stretch. Also – and I’m not sure if the yoga experts would agree here – but to me it feels like a gratitude pose, bowing down and saying Thanks. Finally, it’s a relaxation pose – not just for the body, but for the mind.
I try to let go of my worries. I can hear the fire crackle in the woodstove behind me. I feel it’s warmth on my back. I sink into the Earth as the tops of my feet and the palms of my hands press into the ground. After a few minutes I lift my head. For awhile I turn around and gaze at the yellow flames through the woodstove’s glass door.
Not bad for my first day, I think. Tomorrow I’ll really shake things up with Child’s Pose and Tadasana.
Staying at our retreat home in the mountains of Colorado has me thinking about water. I constantly see large vehicles with oversized plastic containers strapped into their truck beds, full of water. Water is hauled all over the place. It’s dry out here.
I’ve actually become a bit paranoid about water. What is the healthiest way to drink it? Should I gulp tap water and risk consuming substances like chlorine and fluoride, not to mention whatever else the water might be picking up as it flows through the pipes? Or should I buy water in a bottle and risk consuming leeched chemicals from the plastic, not to mention hurting the environment (plastic water bottles take 1000 years to biodegrade)? And if I do opt for store bought water, what should I purchase? Spring? Distilled? Glacial?
The more I read about water, the more confusing the facts. I find this to be the case with fish too (Eat it – it’s good for you! Don’t eat it – tuna contains mercury, fish handlers get infections when capturing rockfish, etc.!)
Here’s my current theory: instead of devoting myself to one type of water (tap, spring, well) I mix it up. That way, I figure I’ll get a variety of chemicals but (hopefully) in miniscule amounts. I take the same approach with fish. I’ll eat tuna on occasion, but not too often. Same with salmon and shrimp and sole. So that’s my theory and I’m stickin’ to it.
I glanced at a weather map of the United States today and it’s orange, darker orange, and red all over. In other words, it’s hot.
I tend to have a high tolerance for 90 degree weather, so I revel in it, but my yoga teacher says the heat makes a lot of people irritable.
She thought we should focus on cooling poses in class today.
We worked on variations of Downward Facing Dog – using a chair, then a wall, then the regular way – and then spent some time in Child’s Pose, Uttanasana (Standing Forward Bend), and Paschimottanasana (Seated Forward Bend*).
“Forward bend poses are great for settling you down when you’re feeling agitated,” the teacher said. “You may sweat while you’re in the pose, but they’re calming on the nervous system.”
I must say, it is amazing how as the class continued I felt myself grow into silence as I streeeeeetched out, my heart resting peacefully inside.
So if you find yourself snapping at people (including yourself) or not tolerating the traffic or noticing that things that you usually don’t mind are bugging you, take heart. It might simply be the heat. Try breathing a few times . . . and don’t forget to bend.
*In Seated Forward Bend, I have to sit on two blankets and lasso a strap around the balls of my feet to hang onto and pull myself forward because I can’t reach my arms to my toes. The teacher looks just like the lady in this picture when she’s in the pose, but she mentioned that 18 years ago she had to use blankets and straps too. So. By my calculations I should be able to do Seated Forward Bend without props in 15 years. I wasn’t discouraged by this. I was excited. The human body is amazing. Anyway, I’m pretty sure you’re not supposed to think about those things in yoga class, but sometimes I can’t help it!
I have yoga homework.
My teacher wants me to practice Baddha Konasana (Bound Angle pose) every single day. Then she wants me to lean back into Supta Baddha Konasana (Reclining Bound Angle pose).
It’s supposed to help me relax.
The good news about Bound Angle pose is and Reclining Bound Angle pose is that I can do them anywhere – watching TV, before bed at night, as an afternoon break in my home office.
I told her how I’ve tried to establish a home practice in the past before and wound up intimidated and overwhelmed.
“Sometimes just showing up on your mat at home and pretending to practice is a practice,” she said.
Sounds like a good place to start.