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…

 

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.

 

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

Reblog: improve your balance

Being good at balancing translates into grace in movement on and off your yoga mat.

This week, I wrote a short article for YOGANONYMOUS about ways we can improve our balance. Looking to build strength in balancing and keep a strong sense of equanimity as you age? This is the article for you!

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Being able to stand firmly on one foot is important. For one thing, being good at balancing translates into a lot of grace in movement and stability on and off the yoga mat.

But it’s also important that we maintain confidence in balance as we age. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, over a third of all senior adults fall every year. Regardless of your age, good balance for life starts now.

In addition to helping us achieve long-term health and stability, balancing poses are important because they offer challenge in a space of stillness. When we balance, we must be still and steady, letting the rhythm of the breath be the focus. Balancing creates a necessary meditative headspace, and it gives us a chance to practice staying in discomfort for just a little bit longer than we really want to—a helpful lesson that we take with us off the mat. Read more…

 

The art of not wanting stuff

We’re subtly taught to believe that buying something will fix something else.

Aparigraha is fifth of the yoga yamas. The yamas constitute the ethical rules of yoga, and as the last of them, aparigraha is focused on non-attachment to stuff. Non-greediness, non-grasping, non-coveting.

When we break the word down to its Sanskrit roots, the meaning gets even clearer: the a at the beginning negates—it’s sort of like adding “not” at the beginning of a phrase. Pari means essentially from “all sides” and graha means “to take.” All together: don’t take from all sides. Don’t take more than you need. Don’t be greedy.

That’s hard, particularly in a culture that constantly sings the siren song of more is better. There’s hope though: in recent years there’s been more interest in the concept of non-attachment to stuff. There’s the Marie Kondo-inspired movement of decluttering and a focus on simple, clean living that flies in the face of the dominant culture messaging that says buy, buy, buy.

The most insidious part of that consumerist message is the advertising that encourages us to see products as a solution. We’re taught to believe that buying something will fix something else. (And we fall for this message again and again, despite the fact that the previous product—and the previous one before that—was not the fix.)

At the heart, then, of our modern-day grasping at stuff is our erroneous belief that we need to be fixed. We need something, anything. We are flawed,  broken, or problematic, and the stuff we buy can solve that. Ahem.

If that’s the message we’re fighting, then obviously just telling ourselves to be less greedy or to let go of material possessions isn’t going to do much.

We have to begin by recognizing that we are enough. We have enough. We are whole.

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You are enough. You are balanced. You are whole.

We have to begin by seeing that the pattern of need-buy-repeat doesn’t offer any solution or make life any better.

We have to begin by seeing the limitation of material goods.

Now, hang on. I like to buy stuff sometimes. Do I have to give up all shopping as enjoyment? No new lipstick? No new earrings? No new *insert your happy purchase here*?

I’m not a monster, you guys.

We have to examine our intentions around buying and collecting and owning, not cease to do these things altogether.

When the impulse to buy something arises, look at it closely. If it’s an honest need or a healthy desire, you’ll know if you look closely and stay with that desire for a few moments. But if the desire to buy is there because you think on some subtle level that the purchase and ownership of this item will bring it all together, make it all okay, solve it all… well, then, it’s probably time to go to your mat and breathe and settle into a mantra like I am whole.

You are whole. Nothing else needed.

 

Have 20 minutes? Do some yoga!

Balance Your Body and Your Mind and Twist It All Away Sequence

  • Begin on hands and knees (Table) and move through Cat-Cow for 3-5 breaths.
  • From Table, move to Thread the Needle, beginning with the right arm. Hold for 3-5 breaths.
  • Repeat Thread the Needle, beginning with the left arm. Hold for 3-5 breaths.
  • Return to Table and on an Exhale, move to Downward-Facing Dog. Move arouna dn squirm in Down-Dog for 10-15 breaths.
  • From Downward-Facing Dog, walk your way to the front of the mat.
  • Inhale, rise into Mountain Pose. Exhale to arrive.
  • Inhale and raise your arms overhead.
  • Exhale and bend your knees to Fierce / Chair Pose. Hold for 3-5 breaths.
  • Inhale and draw your hands to your heart center.
  • Exhale and twist right, hook your left elbow on the outside of your right knee, if possible. This is Revolved Fierce Pose. Hold for 3-5 breaths.
  • Inhale and draw your hands back to heart center.
  • Exhale and twist left, hook your right elbow on the outside of your left knee, if possible. This is Revolved Fierce Pose. Hold for 3-5 breaths.
  • Inhale and draw your hands back to heart center. Exhale to land.
  • Inhale, reach your arms overhead, returning to Fierce Pose.
  • Exhale, straighten your legs and release your arms and return to Mountain Pose.
  • Move into Tree Pose, balancing on right foot. Hold for 3-5 breaths.
  • Move into Tree Pose, balancing on left foot. Hold for 3-5 breaths.
  • Return to Mountain Pose.
  • Step into Warrior 2 with your right foot forward. Hold for 3-5 breaths.
  • Return to Mountain Pose and shift weight into your right foot.
  • Move into Eagle Pose, balancing on your right foot. Hold for 3-5 breaths.
  • Return to Mountain Pose.
  • Step into Warrior 2 with your left foot forward. Hold for 3-5 breaths.
  • Return to Mountain Pose and shift weight into your left foot.
  • Move into Eagle Pose, balancing on your left foot. Hold for 3-5 breaths.
  • Come to your back on the mat and bend your knees. Drop your knees to the right. Hold for 30 breaths. Drop your knees to the left. Hope for 30 breaths.
  • Rest in Savasana for 5-10 minutes.