Reblog: yoga, run, yoga

Runners, hikers, joggers and walkers of all stripe can benefit from yoga.

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I wrote a brief article for Wanderlust this summer about the best yoga to do before and after a run. There’s a lot of information available on this topic, but you’ll find my take succinct, clear, and practical. Not a runner? No problem. My suggestions here would work great for walkers and hikers, too.

Love a good run? Joggers and serious runners can benefit from the movements and deep stretches offered by yoga.

Your yoga practice doesn’t have to be about getting into the deepest, most dramatic yoga poses. Instead, look at yoga as a complement to your already-active lifestyle. Running and jogging are sports of repetitive motion; because of that, runners tend to get tight, sore, and stiff in the muscle groups that are being repeatedly taxed. (You know the feeling.)

Running has become more and more popular in recent years, with over two million people competing in half-marathons annually. And for good reason: Running is excellent exercise and fantastic cardio—and for many runners, it serves as moving meditation or deep-thinking and processing time. Read more…

 

How yoga empowers you

“Above all, be the heroine of your life, not the victim.”– Nora Ephron

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The late writer Nora Ephron said this: “Above all, be the heroine of your life, not the victim.” When I happened upon that quote years ago, I instantly connected to it. I was at the confluence of several life-altering events, and I was feeling hurt and injured by circumstances that were not in my control. I had been victimized.

Around that same time, I was beginning my yoga journey.

Ephron’s quote resonated because it, like yoga, gave me a chance to see that victimhood is often a choice—a way we’re choosing to frame our personal narrative. Her quote reminded me that I could choose to be the master of my life, despite what was thrown my way. Her quote became a personal intention. I wrote it in my journal and often recited it to myself in meditation or at the start of my yoga practice. It was my mantra.

Victimization is very real. In our society, we’re having an important discussion right now about the myriad of ways white culture victimizes minorities. Women have talked for 100+ years about the ways that patriarchy oppresses. LGBT citizens can now legally wed in the United States, but they still aren’t protected by equal anti-discrimination laws in every state. Not all oppression is equal, and I’m not suggesting we make light of systematic, cultural oppression. Being victimized is a great equalizer, though: it isn’t a unique circumstance. Everyone is a victim at some point: a victim of interpersonal cruelty, infidelity, abuse, neglect, dishonesty, or poverty. It’s not a pleasant, comfortable, or safe role. But it also doesn’t have to be a defining one.

“Above all, be the heroine of your life, not the victim,” because despite circumstances, despite limited power over much of your life, despite your family, wealth, health, or background, the perspective you choose becomes your narrative. Your perspective, your personal choice, determines if you’re going to be the victim or hero of your life story. You get to choose.

Yoga helps us see this choice, too.

In The Yoga Sutras, Patanjali defines yoga as the ability to control the mind. In Sutra 1.2, we’re told yogas chitta vritti nirodha: yoga is the quieting of the fluctuations of the mind. The Sutras continue, and a path (and potential obstacles) are explained. But what’s clear immediately is this:

Your meandering, anxious mind causes suffering.

There is a way to quiet your mind and find peace.

The steady and dedicated practice of yoga is that way.

You can choose to be a victim of the internal pushing and pulling or you can choose to forge another path. The root of your suffering is within you. The path to contentment and peace is within you, too. It’s you, yoga says. It’s all you. Whether you suffer or you find peace, the choice is yours. Whatever happens outside your mind, you can cultivate control of your mind and your perspective. What could be more empowering ?

“Above all, be the heroine of your life, not the victim.”

You get to choose.

 

 

 

 

Reblog: your feet are the seat of your practice

As you age, having healthy feet is paramount.

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I’m really enjoying writing for YOGANONYMOUS and Wanderlust. Both of these sites have large readerships, and I have the satisfaction of knowing that the thoughts I offer on yoga philosophy, healthy aging, and practice may reach people who need them. This recent post for YOGANONYMOUS was no an exception: I wrote a short article about why healthy feet are so important as you age. I included a brief overview of the best yoga poses to keep your feet healthy and I suggested a few things to add to your practice to continue to strengthen and maintain mobility in your feet. Enjoy!

How often do you think about your feet? If you’re young, worrying about your feet may never have even occurred to you. But as you age, having healthy feet is paramount: Pain-free, strong, and flexible feet mean you’re more likely to have good balance and avoid falls. Your genetics might play a role in what you can expect from your feet. The height of your arches and foot problems like bunions are genetic. Talk to your parents about their feet so you know what you may have inherited. Read more…

 

The push and pull of attachment and aversion

Raga and dvesha are at the heart of your suffering.

In yoga, the self-derived causes of suffering are called kleshas. There are five of them, but the two I’ve been thinking a lot about lately are raga and dvesha: attachment and aversion.

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Raga

Raga—attachment—means, essentially, attachment to pleasant things. There’s nothing wrong with enjoying life and all the sweet parts of it. Raga occurs, though, when you suffer because you want pleasant things. At the heart of raga is unmet desire: raga occurs when you experience suffering because you can’t have what you want. The enjoyment of good things is fine; the attachment to good things is problematic.

When I think about raga, I recognize a particular (routine) moment in my life: Sunday night. Without fail, on Sunday night I feel down, mournful, cranky. On Monday, the week begins again, which means less time with my family and more time doing work. Even though I enjoy my job, I’d still rather be experiencing leisure. I’m attached to the pleasant experience of the weekend. I suffer because I can’t have more of what I desire: the sweetness and ease of lazy, connected family time.

Dvesha

Dvesha—aversion—is the inverse. You probably have things, experiences, and people that you find unpleasant. Like any normal person, you generally try to avoid these things, of course. You probably don’t enjoy having to come face-to-face with unpleasantness. But because life inevitably makes you confront sources of displeasure, you suffer. You experience suffering because you are averse to these particular aspects of life.

When I think about dvesha, I think of the tasks that have remained forever at the bottom of my to-do list. I keep avoiding them; I keep putting them off. I find more enjoyable tasks to complete whenever I’m doing work. But these unpleasant things really need to be done; these things I don’t want to deal with must eventually be dealt with. I suffer because I have created an aversion to these necessary, normal tasks. The problem is with me and my attitude.

So, what’s to be done?

At the heart of most change is this: awareness. Recognizing the cycle you’re in begins to change the cycle. That’s the miracle of mindfulness. You get to slow down and see what’s really pulling and pushing you in various directions.

In the Yoga Sutras, Patanjali tells us that the way out of the kleshas is through meditation. Sitting in stillness, choosing to let go of the thoughts that come into your mind isn’t easy. But practicing meditation is just that: a practice. It takes time to get comfortable with sitting in quiet, but the effects continue long after you leave your seat. Whether you choose a formal meditation practice or you just take some time to sit quietly, observe and breathe, this little bit of space will allow you to get more perspective on the pushing and pulling of your mind. The next time you experience suffering connected to the idea of “I want” or “I don’t want,” you might find a little buffer: that’s your chance to choose a different path than the habits of raga and dvesha. It’s your choice to choose not to suffer.

 

LIFELONG YOGA, coming summer 2017

Yoga is an important tool for living a long life of health and vitality.

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Sage on the left, me on the right. Same hair everywhere.

When I started doing yoga, I loved the fast and hard stuff: flow yoga, power yoga, hot yoga, Prana yoga. I liked moving, sweating, heaving (ujayyi) breath, and feeling like I’d arrive in savasana physically taxed after a killer workout. I still really enjoy this type of yoga from time to time—it’s fun! But as my weekly running and gym hours stacked up, and years and injuries came and went, I realized that in the long run, my yoga practice needed to complement my already-active life. My yoga practice needed to be something sustaining; something that would nurture me as I continued to run, and as I continued to value all sorts of movement practices: dancing, hiking, and racing.

And so, my yoga practice changed. I started doing and teaching yoga for healthy aging and yoga for aging athletes—and both focused on how yoga is the key for injury-prevention and aging well.

I started talking to my mentor, friend, and yoga for athletes expert Sage Rountree about this new approach. Her interest in yoga had taken a turn in this direction, too.

Collaboration makes things more fun. It gives you a fresh perspective and as Sage puts it, it reduces the workload by more than half. She generously suggested we collaborate. First on a blog, then on a book, and who knows what will come after that! The joy of working with Sage is that she’s knowledgeable, patient, and really wickedly funny. We both get to bring our interests and strengths to the table, and because Sage is more experienced in writing about yoga and has more teaching under her belt, I get to learn from her along the way.

So, the exciting news: North Atlantic Books is publishing Lifelong Yoga next summer.

This is a book for anyone who wants to continue or begin a yoga practice at any stage of life. The emphasis, though, is on how yoga can be a boon for the changes we experience as we move into our 40s, 50s, 60s, and beyond. It looks at yoga as a complement for an already-active life and sees yoga as a tool for living a long life of health and vitality. You can expect a lot of what you find on our blog, only in even more detail and with more explanation. We’ll have chapters devoted to the common ailments of aging (and how yoga can help!), sequences that will help you solve problems (“What’s the best yoga before a golf game?,” “How can I prepare for a weekend with my grandkids?”), and photographs of the most useful poses for healthy aging.

I promise to let you know when preordering is possible! I hope you’re as excited as we are.

 

Reblog: Postnatal Core Strength

After baby comes, building core strength will make you feel better.

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38 weeks pregnant with baby S!

A few months back, I chatted with with the folks at Fit Bottomed Mamas about the best ways to regain core strength after pregnancy. This is helpful stuff for new moms, and I promise this information comes your way without the attendant “get fit now!” drumbeat behind it. Postnatally, building strength and reintegrating your core will make you feel better. But be sure to do it on your own terms and in your own time frame. When you’re ready, here are some useful tips about regaining core strength after baby.

Post-pregnancy, it’s completely normal to feel like your entire midsection is a big ball of mush. Think about it: Your muscles have been stretched farther than they’ve ever been and your pelvis has been supporting lots of extra weight. Not to mention you’ve got a little extra fat stored that has and will continue to provide for your wee babe. While you may be most concerned about looking like you did pre-pregnancy, the more important issue should be regaining your core strength and stability. Read more…

Yogaville retreat: a retreat for everyone

Getting away to meditate, breathe, and reconnect to your practice is easier (and cheaper!) than you might imagine.

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Yogaville, 2014

You deserve to get away, take time to breathe, meditate, and think. It’s challenging to find the time, space, and finances to make this happen. That’s where Yogaville comes in. Later this month (the weekend of July 29-31), I’ll be leading a Yoga for Athletes retreat at this beautiful Virginia ashram. My weekend program is incredibly affordable ($240 for the base retreat; a little more for a dorm, private room, or tent site), and it includes 4 long yoga-and-athletic philosophy sessions with me (Friday evening, twice Saturday, and Sunday morning), all of your meals (awesome vegetarian fare), and additional (free!) yoga, kirtan, and meditation sessions. You’ll also have plenty of time to hike, run, walk, and enjoy the beautiful mountainous landscape. Join me! You don’t have to be a student of yoga or even an athlete to enjoy this offering. This is a retreat designed for people who like to move and want to know a little more about how yoga can complement movement.

07.29.16 Alexandra D. Yoga for Athletes V2