Taking two yoga classes in a row? Why I no longer think that’s nuts..

YS17Why do you do that?” my hairdresser asked me this morning when recounting my recent marathon of back-to-back yoga practices and teaching stints.

How do you do that?” a student currently going through yoga teacher training asked after my Monday class.

Fair questions. And not so long ago I thought it was nuts to take two classes in a row. Other teacher pals raved about the joys of doubling up, but I wrote it off as an unnecessary time and energy drain. Why not just haul ass-ana in the first class and get it over with already? A strong 75-minute practice in a hot room is surely enough to transport a committed and focused yogi to a feeling of completion and relaxation by the end of class. At the end of Svasana, it’s time to get up off the mat and go about your day or evening.

But not always. These days I sometimes stick around for the second class. Because I realize now, that sometimes, despite having already stretched, balanced, and engaged every muscle fiber to capacity just moments before for a full 75 or 90 minutes, I need to go deeper. Not because the first class didn’t deliver, but because sometimes, the real magic – or even miracles – occurs in the second class. That’s the simple answer to why I stretch back into Downward Facing Dog at the end of Svasana to begin anew.

The how warrants a lengthier explanation, which perhaps will provide further explanation to why I occasionally do it.

Surrender. Like most former competitive athletes obsessed with progress, results, improvement, and winning, surrendering to anything – be it backing off a yoga pose or allowing the jackass who cut me off in traffic to do it again – is no easy feat. But when your body is drenched in the sweat from the previous class and another simple Chatturanga feels akin to scaling Mt. Everest, you have no choice but to surrender. To quit resisting. To stop clenching your jaw, your muscles, your knuckles, and all of a sudden – magic – you glide gracefully into that pose you never thought you could do.

Focus. The work I’ve just done in class number one linking my breath to movement, locking my gaze on a singular point, and internally visualizing (no mirrors needed) where my back heel, top arm, shoulder blades and front knee are in space, I’m connected to my body in a way I can’t begin to describe. Not a marathon, nor a 200-mile bike ride or mile swim produced that kind of understanding of my own physicality in the past. Not to mention mental or emotional state. During class number two, I am clear as ever about what physical sensations I’m experiencing, what they mean, and how to get closer to whatever it is my heart desires.

Love. I don’t use this word loosely. I’m a pretty practical gal – and frankly I don’t see ever finding love in Double Pigeon pose – more like a big f*** you coming from my outer hips. What I adore about this amazing practice, however, is that there are countless other poses to bring me love. By the second class, with a razor-sharp focus and relenting muscles beyond the point of resistance, the poses that naturally come easier to me deliver a love toward myself that I seldom find elsewhere. Standing split, Wheel, Half Moon – these are poses the Gods above (and a nice twist of genetic fate) have bestowed upon me. And allowed me to, if even for just a moment, truly fall in love with myself all over again.

Try it. Double up classes some time. And if anyone says you’re nuts, just pass them the jar of almonds and roll out your mat.

 

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What military corners on a well made bed did for my practice, and my day

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Adm. William H. McRaven

Woke up stiff and achy after taking back-to-back Power Flow practices from my mentor/teacher Linda Domino at YogaSoul yesterday. Knowing I had several hours to go before teaching my own class, but past the point of sleeping any longer, I brewed a cup of coffee, burned my favorite incense, and sat cross-legged on the carpet. Beyond that I had no will or drive to do anything at all. Didn’t want to make my bed. Did not want to practice. God no! My hip flexors felt like cinder blocks and getting up off the floor proved challenging enough. And the bed? Just close the door and fuggedaboutit!

But I couldn’t…I called to mind a commencement speech published in the WSJ I read a few months ago by Adm. William H. McRaven, who shared with the graduating class at University of Texas lessons acquired in Basic SEAL training and beyond. Several stood out, but the simplest stuck with me:

  • “If you make your bed every morning you will have accomplished the first task of the day.  It will give you a small sense of pride and it will encourage you to do another task and another and another.”

After opening the door, facing the disheveled heap of sheets and pillows, I went to task. Tugging and folding the corners tight, straightening the comforter, and fluffing the pillows. No one would see my work. And I doubt anyone would care one way or another. But after completing that task, my attitude shifted big time.

  • “By the end of the day, that one task completed will have turned into many tasks completed. Making your bed will also reinforce the fact that little things in life matter.”

I crawled on my mat, slowly stretched into my first Downward Facing Dog, and with the same precision, commitment, and follow through I executed on my bed-making practice, I flowed through what may have just been the most powerful yoga practice of my life. Creaky shoulders, stiff hips and a back that took more time than usual to bend freely took me to a more meaningful place of deep connection. Connection to caring for my physical body (when to nudge forward, when to back off); connection to my emotional state (shifting from apathy toward gratitude and even inspiration); connection to the power of small things…

  • “If you can’t do the little things right, you will never do the big things right.”

I don’t know how the remainder of my day will unfold. But having made my bed, it will surely end better than if I hadn’t.

  • “And, if by chance you have a miserable day, you will come home to a bed that is made—that you made—and a made bed gives you encouragement that tomorrow will be better.”

Try it yogis. Make your bed and see what it does for your practice.

*Click here for the full speech: Commencement

 

Two cats are about to test my strength

Our kittiesNot my physical strength. Neither kitty weighs more than a heavy bag of groceries. But emotionally, I’m about to face the music – or in this case, the meows and purring. Until moving east with my now husband three years ago, I always had a pet. A big, goofy standard poodle, a snuggly black and white kitty who bore her green eyes into mine every time I dared leave her alone.

Since volunteering at Main Line Animal Rescue, I’ve had ample time to fall in love with dogs and kitties of all sizes and dispositions, but kept telling myself ‘later’, justifying my twice-weekly volunteering time as enough to satisfy my need for some furry companionship.

But after peeling back a few layers of emotions I realized I was resisting owning a pet because it meant facing the inevitable memories about to burst forth: my Bentley’s poofy ears offering a place to bury my tears as I weathered a very sad divorce process; Maumbo’s soft meows and nudges as I tried in futile to figure out how to redirect a career trajectory and love relationship that had gone completely sideways with no chance of getting back on course.

My pets could see it all. Feel it all. They knew, without any explanation, what I was robbing myself of, where I was holding back, and what I needed from them in any given moment. That kind of honesty, while extraordinary, is a little scary. During those latter days of my 30s living in Seattle, I grew adept at masking my pain, insecurities, and fear through presenting a poised, impeccably groomed and in control persona to the professional and social circles I ran with at that time in my life. But alone, in Maumbo and Bentley’s presence, I dropped the masks. Surrendered to what was real for me, what needed to change, and how I had to take the first, frightening step toward a brighter future.

So after to sitting on the bench at the rescue’s kitty room recently with my sweet man, I knew I had the strength to face past memories of the special pets who kept me true to myself. Knew, as Abbott and Serafina climbed onto our laps that we’d be creating many special memories together just as soon as they arrive in our home a few weeks from now.