Wednesday, June 27, 2007

More Silence

In keeping with the Silence theme, I wanted to post a link to my latest article in Yoga Journal's My Yoga Mentor newsletter, "Silence as a Teaching Tool." It's geared to yoga teachers, rather than practitioners, but I think there are some good comments about incorporating more quiet into your life. I am definitely one to talk rather than be silent, so there was a lot of food for thought from these interviews. Hope you find something useful in it!

Friday, June 22, 2007

Silence as a Living Tool

I’ve been editing another article for Yoga Journal’s My Yoga Mentor newsletter; this one is titled “Silence as a Teaching Tool.” It talks about the importance of including quiet in a yoga class so that students have time to experience the poses without a lot of external distraction. I interviewed Cyndi Lee, Rama Berch and Joan White. Each had many interesting things to say and I had to cut a lot out of my initial story so it was short enough.

I think the theme of the article is a good one for everyday life, as well. All three teachers emphasized the need to decompress after a day full of sirens, car horns, yakking strangers (and familiars) and just the general noise of life. They also pointed out that it can be very scary to be quiet, because then it is just you and your thoughts, without any distractions.

Joan White asked the rhetorical question, “Why do you need to fill the space with talk?”—which I think is an astute observation. What is so threatening about just being quiet? Why do people need to turn on the TV or music as soon as they walk into a quiet house? When there are lulls in the conversation, does some body always jump in to fill the space (well, at a cocktail party, yes, but what about a chat between close friends)? Even music during yoga practice can be distracting, if you are trying to go really deep.

My suggestion is to try and include a bit more silence into your everyday life—even just 15 or 20 mins. a day. I think it’s healthy to confront the voices in your head (or, even better, learn how to turn them off) and just let the natural sounds of your environment be your accompaniment. I suspect it will improve your power of concentration and should give you a nice sense of peace. You may notice something about your world, or yourself, that you hadn’t noticed when it was hidden by all the noise. It’s not easy—and I’ve been working on it for awhile (especially the quieting the voices, part)—but it is a worthwhile endeavor. Let me know how it goes and if you have any suggestions! ©Brenda K. Plakans. All Rights Reserved

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Tag--I'm It!

Recently I got "tagged" by Kris from Total Health Yoga...but I was still offline on the islands, so I didn't get a chance to respond. Here are my answers. It was fun to try and think of appropriate answers and I had to go get a snack while working on my favorite foods. So, some info about me that hasn't come up on the blog before...

Four jobs I have held (I’m counting only paying jobs for this one):
1. Favorite job ever—costume coordinator for the Washington Opera in Wash, DC
2. Best paying job—costumer for 1998’s Wild, Wild West (nite shoots are quite lucrative)
3. First job—slinging popcorn at Karmelkorn in the North Grand Mall in Ames ,IA
4. Current job and passion--Yoga teacher/blogger/free-lance writer and student

Four movies I can watch over and over (some of these I am forced to…):
1. Spirited Away (I love how imaginative director Miyazaki is)
1a. Eamonn has been very into Finding Nemo these days; it is also extremely well-observed…look at the different qualities of the sea water
2. Childhood favorite—Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory
3. Good laugh—any thing with the Marx brothers
4. Queen Margot—I saw this French movie in the early 90s and remember it as breathtakingly beautiful, but I haven’t seen it since. I’m a little scared to find out it isn’t as lovely as I remember.

Four places I have lived (since college):
1. Beloit, WI
2. Austin, TX
3. Los Angeles, CA
4. Washington DC

Four Categories of TV programming I enjoy (I am a slave to Netflix and don’t have cable):
1. Comedy—I am very into Arrested Development right now
2. HBO series—Sopranos and Deadwood (altho I wasn’t so crazy about Entourage or Curb Your Enthusiasm)
3. PBS Mysteries—every Prime Suspect

Four Places I have been on Holiday:
1. Maui, Hawaii (8 times and counting…including getting married)
2. Italy, specifically Tuscany and Rome
3. Japan (actually, I was on tour with the Opera—I was working—but we were in Tokyo for 3 weeks so it felt like a vacation)
4. Latvia, mostly Riga, but the countryside is beautiful in the late spring

Four of my Favorite Dishes:
1. Any fruit or veggie that is specifically seasonal—cherries, strawberries in June, peaches, asparagus, tomatoes, corn-on-the-cob
2. Japanese rice snacks—any of those bags of mix meant to be eaten with beer (although I’m not crazy about ika, the dried squid)
3. Cheesecake—maybe with a bit of strawberry sauce, but absolutely not flavored
4. Cheese—in general, and not just because I’m in Wisconsin
(although cheese curds are divine when fresh, wet and squeaky)

Four websites I visit daily (or at least frequently):
1. My various email accounts (3 of them)
2. (I love to see where visitors to GTTSB are from)

Four places I would rather be right now (I should say, I would rather be close to these in a short drive. Too bad Wisconsin isn't right in the middle of all of them):
1. Ames, IA-where my parents are
2. Iowa City, IA (Austin, TX as of July 15)-where my sister is
3. Washington DC-where many of my friends are
4. Research Triangle, NC-where some more of my friends are

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Chair Warriors

As I’ve progressed through the end of the second trimester and into my third, I’ve noticed increased soreness in my hips. Some of this is due to weight gain and some to the loosening of my connective tissue as my body produces more of the hormone relaxin. This hormone “relaxes” (hence the name, I assume), or softens, ligaments and tendons so that there more room for a certain some one to pass through my pelvis at the end of August. This loosening deserves special attention because it is much easier to dislocate the joints during exercise and stretching—it seems like hip openers should become much easier (and they do), but care should be taken so you don’t over do it.

A simple way to modify poses so that you can enjoy the hip-opening benefits of standing asana, is to use a chair. You can get your legs in the proper positions, but your hip joints no longer support the whole weight of the torso. The leg muscles still get a mighty stretch in Virabhadrasana I, II (Warriors 1 and 2), you can lengthen the side ribs and spine, and you can hold the pose for awhile without getting as tired. Hip, hip hooray, right?

Warrior 1, with a chair
Straddle a lightweight-but-sturdy folding chair, so that the back of your right thigh is resting on the seat of the chair. Bend your knee and place your foot so that the heel is directly below the knee. Extend the left leg behind you and turn the foot slightly out so that you can press your sole into the floor. Adjust your position on the chair so that the hips are square (hip bones—if you can still find them—are even) to the side of the chair and the pelvis is level. Stretch the arms overhead and interlock the fingers, if that is comfortable. If you get light-headed with the arms overhead, cross the arms at the lower back or bring your hands into the Namaste position behind your back to get a nice chest opener. Really focus on pressing the back of the left leg back and grounding evenly through the left foot to work the leg muscles. Keep the shoulders away from the ears. Then repeat on the left side.

Warrior 2 with a chair
Position yourself on the chair as before, but this time square the hips to the front of the chair, as in Warrior 2. The right knee is bent with the foot firmly planted and the left leg extends out to the side with the foot slightly turned in so you can rest the sole evenly on the floor. Line up your shoulders with your hips and your head with your tailbone. Lengthen the side ribs. From here, extend the arms to either side and turn the head to look over the right hand. As you hold the pose, keep extending the arms and lengthening the spine with each exhale. Repeat on the left side.
©Brenda K. Plakans. All Rights Reserved

Monday, June 11, 2007


Well, apparently WiFi isn’t as ubiquitous on the islands as I thought. Then, upon return to the mainland, our modem died, so I have been offline for almost 3 weeks. Forever! However, it was a lovely trip with lots of beaching, gentle hikes (to accommodate the 3 yr-old and pregnant lady), haupia--coconut pudding--ice cream, mangos, flowering jacaranda trees, geckos, birdsong, eucalyptus and sunrises across the West Maui mountains (courtesy of said 3 yr-old’s wake up time of 5:30am, ug).

A couple of milestones were reached while I was away: this blog had its first anniversary (May 22) and I entered my third trimester. I’m thrilled by the first, because I wasn’t sure I had the discipline to keep up with weekly entries; I’m also excited by the contact I’ve had with fellow bloggers stretching from Milwaukee to South Africa! The second is a welcome achievement, but I had forgotten how lumpy and awkward this phase of pregnancy is. My yoga practice is starting to change significantly and I have to concentrate on not grunting when I get up off the floor (especially as I start teaching again this week).

In the past year, I’ve tried to keep my postings of general interest. However, in light of this year’s development, I thought I’d focus a bit more on yoga and pregnancy for the rest of the summer. With the last kid, I noticed that the modifications I needed to apply were actually useful for anyone with mobility issues and could even bring awareness to yogis without any limitations, just by changing the pose slightly. So, I hope you all find this information and change of perspective interesting…it’s good to be back on the blog!