Monday, September 24, 2007

Getting Back on Track

Well, the babe is officially four weeks old today. Sleeping and eating times seem to be settling into a routine, but I'm still having trouble imagining myself back up at the front of the yoga classroom in three weeks. Despite having practiced (and taught) into the eighth month of the pregnancy, I still feel like I have a ways to go to get back into shape. I've been trying to come up with a good "re-entry" practice that is gentle, but still strength-building, to lead up to a regular series of standing poses, etc. Here's what I've come up with, so far:

Gentle Abdominals
Obviously, everything in my torso is out of wack, so I'm working on sitting poses that require a lengthened spine. Sukhasana (Easy Pose) is an obvious one, but Dandasana (Staff Pose) is proving quite challenging not only to my middle, but also to the fronts of the thighs. Keeping the legs extended and engaged is not so easy and when you add the work required to lift the side ribs and open the chest, there is a lot going on. I try to include Hastasana in both seated poses, to get the shoulders open and engaged.

Chest/ Spine Openers
Although it wasn't a problem during pregnancy, with all the hunching over a wee one, my upper back is killing me. So, I've included some chest openers in my practice to counter my urge to slump forwards. A good pose for this, is Viparita Karani (Legs-Up-The-Wall pose). This is an inverted, more supported version of Staff, with the added bonus of releasing the lower back. I've added a gentle stretch to the backs of the legs by lifting one leg at a time away from the wall (sort of a Supta Pandangustasana --Hand-to-Big-Toe). Stretching the arms overhead engages the shoulders and also opens the chest.

Uttanasa (Intense forward bend) against the wall (feet about a foot or so away, bum resting on the wall, knees soft) is also a nice release for the back and stretches the backs of the legs as well. If I'm feeling especially open, I interlock my arms and let the added weight of the upper body deepen the stretch. A Seated Twist is also a nice way to stretch out the muscles on either side of the spine.

A great opener, but only if I've warmed up with all the others, is to just drape myself--face up--over my exercise ball. At first, I keep my arms at my sides but with each breath I try to move them up and out to the sides, letting the breath open the spine to allow the arm lifting. I also have to work on releasing my neck, but after this stretch I feel especially open and can feel the blood moving around my spine.

In addition to these restorative poses, I've been walking. It feels like I have a long way to go, but hopefully all of this will jog my muscles' memory and things will start coming back together. What about you all--have any of you had to come back to yoga after a long hiatus? What were your favorite poses to ease back with? If you teach, how do you help post-partum (or post-operative, etc) students adjust? I'd love to hear some other ideas for getting back on track...

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Your Ego and Your Teaching

Just a quick link to my latest article for Yoga Journal's My Yoga Mentor newsletter called "Your Ego and Your Teaching." (Check out their new website, especially the "Build Your Own Sequence" feature). The research and the interviews for this piece are what inspired the postings for the last month or so. It was very hard to condense it all into 750 words, so you got some of what I had to leave out. Even if you aren't a yoga teacher, there is some good advice for how to deal with one's inner control freak ("I put that woman down hours ago...").

Also, please be patient with my erratic posting these days. I am trying to juggle the responsibilities of mother-of-two-hood and, although I have a lot of help from my parents right now, I only have about a half an hour every night to do anything non-child related (which is usually taking a shower). Hopefully I'll get it together a bit more in a month or so and be more regular ("Don't hold your breath, sister," laughs all of you out there with two or more kids).


Sunday, September 09, 2007

A Buddhist Thought...

For my three-year old's second birthday, I bought a book called Zen Shorts, by Jon J. Muth because I loved the watercolors. The story is very sweet--about a peaceful panda that moves into a neighborhood--but we never got through the book. Eamonn just wasn't interested in koan-spouting bears. However, lately he has been picking it as an early morning read, so I finally finished it. One of the panda's parables is so appropriate to all my vairagya discussions, I wanted to post it. Since I am one that tends to stew, it is especially useful...

A Heavy Load
Two traveling monks reached a town where there was a young woman waiting to step out of her sedan chair. The rains had made deep puddles and she couldn't step across without spoiling her silken robes. She stood there, looking very cross and impatient. She was scolding her attendants. They had nowhere to place the packages they held for her, so they couldn't help her across the puddle.

The younger monk noticed the woman, said nothing and walked by. The older monk quickly picked her up and put her on his back, transported her across the water, and put her down on the other side. She didn't thank the older man, she just shoved him out of the way and departed.

As they continued on their way, the young monk was brooding and preoccupied. After several hours, unable to hold his silence, he spoke out. "That woman back there was very selfish and rude, but you picked her up on your back and carried her! Then she didn't even thank you!"

"I set the woman down hours ago," the older monk replied. "Why are you still carrying her?"

Monday, September 03, 2007

My New Guru

I've been a bit lax in my posting lately, while I've finished up a project I've been working on for the last nine months. Alexander Scott was born Monday, August 27 at 5:17 in the afternoon. He was a good-sized 20 1/4", 7lb. 14 oz. guy. The delivery was quick and I owe much of the speed to ujayii breathing and the pranayama focus I've been practicing the last few months. That and some good-sized hips.

So, give me a week or so, and I'll be back in the game. Juggling a 3-yr-old and a baby ought to be good for all kinds of yoga thoughts and lessons...