As most of the Bay area goes back to work after ski week, I thought I'd share with you a favorite skiing story of mine. Some of you will be familiar with it from class last week.
At the very top of a mountain I once saw an old man hunched over his ski poles looking out across the valley watching the sun set. His eyes were sunken. His face was rough and wrinkled like a man who'd been beaten by life. He looked defeated. Maybe a man of that greatest generation. He looked as if he no longer belonged at the top of such a mountain. A relatively thin trail led straight down to several options for the run to the bottom. All options were very difficult.
I almost asked him if he was okay. I watched him. He motionlessly watched the sun and the mountains as the wind blew. And then, as if he'd had enough, he purposefully stood up straight and begin to ski straight down the ridge without turning. He took his hands straight out to the sides like in capital T, opened his heart, and looked up at the sky like he was just absorbing that moment. He then made a sharp cut to the left and starting bobbing and weaving down the mountain like an unbridled, young pro.
I realized two things immediately: 1) he was a way better skier than I was. 2) He was full of life. It was one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen. He quickly went out of site and I never saw him again. Who knows what went through his heart in the moment. It could've been his last run ever. If it was, it was surely a fitting end, but I don't believe that.
For me, there's a thrill to skiing. There's a thrill in the moment where the mind has a one pointed focus. Everything else falls away and there's a focus on the bumps, jumps, ice, slush, and the puzzle coming at you at speed. There's a bit of zen in that. There's the thrill of being alive, the creativity of the moment, the feeling of being connected with something greater. There's a little risk. Harnessing something so massive, yet feeling so humble and open. For me it has a way of cutting to the core of what I might be feeling about my life.
Yoga does this to me too, albeit at a slower speed. There's a bit of a puzzle, a bit of zen, a bit of risk, a little fear, a connection to something bigger than ourselves. Work to stay healthy. To experience. To be full. Be full, friends. Happy ski week.
We're spreading the love, y'all. Our signature yoga class, Rainbow Flow, is hitting the road to other studios in the Bay Area. The first workshop in this new series will be a donation based workshop at Groove Yoga.
Spread the word, and spread the love!
March 10, 2012
Rainbow Flow is designed to celebrate diversity and the LGBT community, where Yoga meets Lady YoGa-Ga. Rainbow Flow puts a clubby spin on yoga complete with dance music for the club kids at heart. Be prepared to sweat and have a ball. All levels are welcome.
This workshop is designed to bring the LGBT yoga community and supporters together to benefit LGBT causes while strengthening and conditioning our bodies and minds. All proceeds from the donation based Rainbow Flow workshop at Groove Yoga on March 10, 2012 will be donated to GenEq Berkeley, CA.
Donation based to benefit GenEq (Suggested donation is $20)
Groove Yoga 2240 Oxford Street Berkeley, CA 94720
If you’re an experienced yogi or have always wanted to try it there will be something for you at this workshop. If you have any additional questions please feel free to contact us @ (510) 280-5092
Not Monday. But, you know, long weekend. : )
Let me introduce you to my 80% rule: On the first practice after a longer than usual break from yoga because of [enter life altering event(s) here] only give it 80%. The last two weeks I've traveled for work, gotten sick (twice!), and worked way more hours in my day job than normal. I haven't practiced much. Turns out for me there's been more than one 80% practice.
It's unlikely that on the first practice back I'll be able to pick right back up where I left off. So I bend my knees a lot. Sometimes I drop a knee and take an easier alternative for poses. I'll skip any arm balances or inversions that feel like a stretch. I focus on the breath.
These are some of my favorite practices. There's so much freedom in only going 80%. Don't get me wrong, 80% with a lot of vinyasa and core work can still be sweaty. It can still be a good workout. But if I flop around in balance poses I give myself the benefit of the doubt. There's no ego. There's no expectation. There's so much joy and fun in spending time back on the map that nothing else matters.
It's unfortunate that every practice isn't an 80% practice, but life is too short to cruise through it at 80% speed. Sometimes it's time to go full bore; sometimes it's time to rest. But when that practice is over I simply try and hold on to the joy and fun as long as possible.
A few weeks ago, Will and Aaron took us on a team training excursion: aerial yoga in Campbell. I envisioned Cirque du Soleil type trapeze stuff, I was all about it. The second we arrived in the studio, Stasha and I just started playing... getting a running start, we'd swing in the hammocks, flip ourselves upside down, and take boat pose just inches off the ground. It was SUPER fun.
Once class started, we all felt pretty awesome. Like, even though we've never done this before, we can totally do aerial. We're yogis. We can pretty much do anything. When the instructor complimented our bulldog-style breathing ("I love a class that can breathe!") we felt pretty confident. We used the hammock like a strap to open our shoulders, which felt amazing. We did chaturangas with our feet in the hammocks, which made them infinitely harder. I, being the accidental-yoga-slacker that I am (I always forget to engage SOMETHING that should be engaged, even when I focus), felt my core fire up way more than normal. Perhaps this is what it should always feel like? Hmmm. What a thought.
After warming up, it became clear that aerial yoga is not just fun, it's HARD. We started doing the upside down stuff. This is where it got a little difficult for me. Don't get me wrong, I LOVE going upside down, but I hardly ever do it for more than a minute at a time. In aerial, we spent a lot of time upside down, and it was significantly more than I was used to. I'd have to come up and let the blood drain back into my body, I'd have to shimmy around and get the hammock to sit more comfortably on my hips, I'd have to raise my hands above my head to get them to stop feeling so puffy. I turned red as a tomato, and sometimes forgot to breathe, and wondered if I was the only one in the room who felt like my head was possibly going to explode.
Then I saw Stasha totally rocking her upside-down-dancer's pose. It was beautiful, she was hanging upside down, her face calm, both feet gripping her foot behind her, letting the motions of the hammock twirl her gently in the sunlight. It was just stunning.
"Wow," I said, "That looks awesome. How can you even do that?"
"You can do it too," she said, "Your foot is right there, just grab it."
I flailed my fingers around a little, felt something warm and chubby, and felt a tingling sensation somewhere just above my head.
"Holy shit," I said, "There's my foot!"
And right then, I felt like I "got" it.
Maybe I had to give up my dream of Cirque du Soleil (s'ok, Loran's going to go represent us all) but I did learn something from my afternoon upside down. Literally, it came in the form of my foot: I can never quite reach my foot in eka pada rajakapotasana, but for some reason, I could when I was inverted. More importantly, it was fun to play around, and to step outside my comfort zone, push the boundaries of the familiar. It gave me a sense of heightened awareness, a freedom to fool around, and permission to say Umm, that feels weird.
So. Would I trade my vinyasa flow for aerial? Probably not. Would I do it again? Definitely. Was it awesome to bond with the very people who make Yoga Belly the amazing, quirky studio that it is? Umm, yeah, because anytime your ass is spinning around upside down offering all your neighbors a panoramic view, it, well, builds some trust. Did I learn that defamiliarizing something you love can open up possibilities that you didn't know existed? Absolutely.
And that, ladies and gentlemen, is why it's important to, on occasion, step outside of your comfort zone. Even if it's just with a baby toe. Like, a baby toe, in your hand, right above your head, which is upside down.
Let's just all pretend that made sense.
Oh, and savasana in a giant hammock-cocoon thing? Best. Thing. Ever.
Tuesday afternoon, my brother's wife went into labor. It was a long and difficult birth: the baby was "sunny side up," and after eighteen hours of no "progress," the doctor began to suggest other birth options. He gave her one more hour: if she didn't "progress" after sixty more minutes, it would be time to re-think things. It was a scary moment for everyone.
For some reason, I decided to go to yoga. I needed to calm the hell down and clear my head. It wasn't pretty, I was distracted and tired and thinking of my sister with every breath that I took, but it helped. At the end of class, everyone said three Oms to welcome the new baby into the world. I was surprisingly overcome: crying in yoga class, check. Never thought I'd be that girl. Whatever. It was so beautiful, the day actually seemed warmer and brighter when I stepped outside.
Minutes after class, I got a text from my mom. The baby had just flipped, and my sister was pushing. The end was in sight! I drove to the hospital like a crazy woman, and made a sweaty, stinky first impression on my beautiful niece. She is so lovely, and fuzzy, and loud. Even the doctor said, That girl is going to be a firecracker!
Now, you can believe what you like. I don't know what to make of the whole baby-turning-right-at-the-moment-we-were-Om-ing. I guess I don't really care. She's here, she's beautiful, and my sister was lucky enough to have exactly the kind of welcome-to-the-world experience she had hoped for. In short, she's a warrior. They both are.
The world is a strange and beautiful place. That's all I know.